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OTHER VOICES: Jay Guin


Here is a post from Jay Guin, elder at the University Church of Christ, Tuscaloosa, AL. He poses an interesting question about how we approach the “sinners” of the world.

The Naked Gospel: Two Stories

Posted on September 13, 2010 by Jay Guin

Image: Strip club supporters protest against church

First Story —

Bikini-clad strippers protest church in rural Ohio

Dancers counter congregants who have picketed the club where they work

On Sunday, four of The Fox Hole’s seven strippers and more than a dozen supporters garnered both scorn and compassion from churchgoers — and quite a few honks from pickup trucks and other passing vehicles.

New Beginnings is one of four churches in this one-traffic-light village of 900 people, 60 miles outside Columbus. There’s one gas station and a sit-down restaurant that serves country staples like mashed potatoes with gravy and Salisbury steak.

By JEANNIE NUSS 8/27/2010

WARSAW, Ohio — Strippers dressed in bikinis sunbathe in lawn chairs, their backs turned toward the gray clapboard church where men in ties and women in full-length skirts flock to Sunday morning services.

The strippers, fueled by Cheetos and nicotine, are protesting a fundamentalist Christian church whose Bible-brandishing congregants have picketed the club where they work. The dancers roll up with signs carrying messages adapted from Scripture, such as “Do unto others as you would have done unto you,” to counter church members who for four years have photographed license plates of patrons and asked them if their mothers and wives know their whereabouts.

The dueling demonstrations play out in central Ohio, where nine miles of cornfields and Amish-buggy crossing signs separate The Fox Hole strip club from New Beginnings Ministries.

Club owner Tommy George met with the preacher and offered to call off his not-quite-nude crew from their three-month-long protest if the church responds in kind. But pastor Bill Dunfee believes that a higher power has tasked him with shutting down the strip club.

“As a Christian community, we cannot share territory with the devil,” Dunfee said. “Light and darkness cannot exist together, so The Fox Hole has got to go.”

As reported in this story

Dunfee and members of his congregation have been protesting in front of the Foxhole North on U.S. 36 in Walhonding almost every weekend for four years. In the past, they have taken photographs and videos showing the license plates of the club patrons and posted them on a now-defunct website and once used an amplifier to shout at the patrons. Their intent has been to deter patrons from entering the club and to introduce the exotic dancers to Christianity.

Second Story –

Waco ministry reaches out to exotic dancers

By Erin Quinn / Tribune-Herald staff writer

Saturday July 10, 2010

Baylor University graduates Brett and Emily Mills of Waco spend their days, and many nights, reminding the city’s 40 or so exotic dancers that Jesus loves strippers.

The couple’s “Jesus Loves Strippers” ministry reaches out to individuals they believe the church inadvertently casts away.

Every month, the couple and about a half-dozen volunteers hit the Waco strip club circuit — Sonny’s BYOB, Show Time and Two Minnie’s — with bags of gifts from local sponsors filled with makeup, cookies, bandages and school supplies in August.

Wearing purple “Jesus Loves Strippers” T-shirts, Emily Mills and the female volunteers approach the dancers in their dressing rooms early in the night. They use the gift bags as ice-breakers and, more often than not, conversations flow from there.

The volunteers don’t bring Bibles. They don’t launch into talk about God.

Many of the strippers, they find, have long felt disconnected from faith.

“Only God can change a person,” said Emily Mills, a 32-year-old mother of three. “Our goal is not to go in and change them, but make them realize that God loves them no matter what they do and where they are.”

Instead, they talk about their children. Their boyfriends. School. Hopes for the future or just for the night.

Brett, 34, from Houston, and Emily, from Tyler, met at Baylor among 2,000 students in a large-group Bible study.

They met singing in the Bible studies and, together, questioned the effectiveness of what they were doing.

“For me, there was beginning to be a disconnect,” Emily Mills said. “Church was not relevant to everyday people. I feel like there were a lot of people out there who Jesus would have walked with that probably feel alienated by the church.”

They visited other types of ministries, including one in Austin that reaches out to strippers.

They were determined to build a similar ministry in Waco.

“The church can reach out to the homeless and the down-and-out, but it doesn’t know what to do with sex,” Emily Mills said. “It’s just so taboo.”

So, in 2005, they started Jesus Said Love, followed by its extensions, Jesus Loves Strippers and Jesus Loves Truckers — all divisions of Bartimaeus Ministries Inc., a nonprofit organization.

Brett and Emily also tour as a Christian music duo, but their full-time jobs are expanding the ministry.

With a pack of volunteers, they make their rounds at the clubs once a month, but spend the rest of their time developing the relationships with the women.

“Ninety-nine percent of them don’t really want to be there,” Emily Mills said. “Most say that they’re just going to do it for six months until they can make enough money to get on their feet. The danger is that it becomes a lifestyle. That’s when it takes a toll on a woman’s soul.”

“Brett and Emily deserve everything good that happens to them,” Bonge said. “They are absolutely not judgmental. If I need anything, any time, day or night, we know we can call them.”

The couple’s newest venture is Jesus Loves Truckers.

Brett, Emily and their volunteers set up in the parking lot of the Flying J truck stop with bags of burritos and travel essentials.

“We’ve had some guys come by who said they hadn’t talked in two days,” Emily Mills said. “Truckers are lonely.”

Everyone needs to be reminded that they’re loved by Jesus, they said.

Their other ideas to expand their ministry: Jesus Loves Doctors or Jesus Loves Housewives.

Strippers, truckers, doctors, housewives. It really doesn’t matter. Because reaching out to the seemingly very different groups would essentially be the same, the Mills said.

While society might discriminate, their message is that Jesus does not.

“I’m not going to save the world one stripper at a time,” Emily Mills said. “What I’ve realized is that I am her and she is me. We’ve both been broken. We both struggle. We’re all in need of more grace than sometimes we’re willing to admit.”

Which story is part of the gospel story?

–end of Jay’s post–

How do you react to Jay’s question?

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