Every weekend for the past four years the pastor at New Beginnings church in Ohio has led his congregation in protest outside the Foxhole Strip Club. Besides voicing their disgust, they also would videotape the license plate numbers of the patrons and then post them online.
The strippers decided enough was enough and decided to protest outside of the church. With signs that promoted their own scripture verses (Matthew 7:15: Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing) the girls showed up on the sidewalk outside the church in bikinis and super soakers. Although the squirt guns were for the purpose of playfully getting each other wet, I’m sure many of the men on their way into the church doors could have used cooling off.
The war of words has hurt a lot of feelings. One dancer, a married mother of six kids had this to say:
“These church people say horrible things about us... They say we're home-wreckers and whores. The fact of the matter is, we're working to keep our own homes together, to give our kids what they need.”
The pastor’s heart, like Pharaoh’s, seemed to only get harder.
"They [our church members] have now seen the evil firsthand. This has just made us stronger."
The Foxhole owner, who tried to sue the church to get them to stay away, sees it differently,
"They're just mad because their wives won't let them come to my club."
If this was the end of the story, I’d just make fun of the pastor for treating people the way he is while having the church name, “New Beginning Ministries.” Thankfully, it doesn’t end here.
After hearing about this conflict a ministry called JC’s Girls from Michigan met with the church and encouraged them to rethink their approach if they wanted to reach the strippers spiritually. Then they met separately with the dancers and had the opportunity to pray with them.
On Sunday when three of the dancers went back to the sidewalk outside the church they were surprised by a new warmer attitude from the congregation. The women of the church filed out into the street and began hugging the dancers, apologizing to them, leading to tears on both sides. When the pastor came he walked straight to one of the dancers with his arms opens. She responded that she wasn’t a whore and then accepted his embrace.
Unfortunately the story doesn’t end here.
Though people are treating each other with more compassion, the church can’t get past the morality of the stripping and plan to keep showing up outside the club and pushing for it to close. The club owners and dancers, not wanting to give up their paychecks, plan to keep hanging out in front of the church in their swim suits.
Personally, I doubt that Jesus would hang out in the strip club on Saturday night, but neither do I think he’d sit still for a message in this church on Sunday mornings.