Several years ago I was pastoring in North Carolina. A young mother with two kids started attending our church. Every Sunday morning the father would drop mom and the kids off at church, then return to pick them up after the 11 am service. Debbie worked in the preschool department and got to know the mom and kids. She also met the father as he would come and go, and commented to me about how much he seemed to love his kids. I asked around about who he was and what he did, and found out that he was the owner of our local “gentlemen’s club” — which is a misnomer because it was not for gentlemen. It was a strip club.
I began to think about how I might get to know the dad. I figured a guy who loved his family as much as he did couldn’t be all bad. But, obviously we did not run in the same circles. No one seemed to know much about “Freddie” (not his real name), except that he owned the strip club.
One afternoon, God just seemed to say to me, “Go see Freddie.” That was about the last thing I had in mind, but I couldn’t seem to shake the idea. So I got in my car and drove across town to the club. I was nervous as a cat. Needless to say — but let me say it anyway — I had never been inside a strip club before, so I had no idea what to expect. Well, I had some idea what to expect, but I was hoping not to.
I got out of the car, walked up to the door of the club, pulled it open and walked into a foreign world. I breathed a sigh of relief because the club wasn’t really open. No customers, no one on stage, no music. I walked back to the bar where a young woman, wearing a T-shirt and jeans, was cleaning up.
“Is Freddie in,” I asked, my voice cracking. “I’ll see. Who are you?” she asked. “I’m the pastor of the church his wife attends,” I said, only slightly less nervous. She disappeared through the door behind the bar.
In a minute, Freddie walks through the swinging door. I introduced myself to him. “Let’s go outside,” he said. He didn’t seem to be asking as much as telling so I followed Freddie out the front door I had just come in.
He walked into the parking lot ahead of me, bent over to pick up a beer bottle, and without looking at me said, “What do you want?” I guess he had met preachers before and was prepared for the usual. I, on the other hand, was not prepared at all. But do you remember that verse where Jesus said the Holy Spirit will tell you what to say when you need something to say? Well, I think he did.
I said to Freddie, “I thought if I came to your place, maybe you’d come to mine.” Freddie just looked at me. I looked back. “We’ll see,” he said. “Thanks,” I replied. Not exactly an evangelistic technique to write home about, but I felt that was all I could say. So I left.
The next Sunday morning at church I walked out on the platform and looked to my right. There sat Freddie with his family. He was a little “pimped out” in his shirt with some kind of gold tips on the ends of the collars, but he was there. And he returned every Sunday morning for several weeks.
I wish I could tell you the end of that story, but I don’t know how it turned out. A few weeks after Freddie’s first visit, I resigned to move to another church. I never saw Freddie again. But, at least for one moment, he and I connected. I met him on his turf, and he felt comfortable enough to come onto mine. The rest I have to leave to God.