The day I went to a strip club

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. 

13 thoughts on “The day I went to a strip club”

  1. Fascinating. Pretty brave you were. It is a shame you could not have followed the beginning of this contact through.

    Maybe you were worried that the local press would photograph you going in; ‘Small church pastor, big strip shame’. 😉

  2. Yeah, that would have been great. 😦 Frankly, I never thought about it, and I never told that story at that church because “Freddie” was attending. And I have often wondered what happened to him. Thanks for your thoughts. — Chuck

  3. So will you go to another strip club to invite the owner to church? Our churches are full of church people, me included, who don’t want to get out of our comfort zones, I appreciate the example. thanks

  4. Tunz, I don’t think God has called me to a strip club ministry, and fortunately we don’t have any in this part of Virginia. For me the experience was about following God’s prompt to go see a guy who happened to be in a strip club. So, yeah, I think if I had some leading to go to a strip club or bar or wherever to talk to someone, I’m not afraid to go. Nervous, maybe, but not afraid. Next time I might tell some of my leadership what I was going to do to make sure that if someone saw me going in a place of “ill-repute” I would at least have someone to verify my intent. See David’s comment above, which I had not thought about before. Thanks for dropping in with a comment. – Chuck

  5. Chuck,

    Long time, no see. I’ve been MIA in the blogosphere, but I keep up with what you are writing.

    First of all, great post.

    Secondly, I can’t help but think of Jesus and all the flak he took with the reputation of a glutton and a drunkard. He was with the sick people…and the righteous, “healthy” ones didn’t like it one bit.

    Great stuff…keep up the good work!

  6. Hey, Brandon, glad you’re among the living! Great to hear from you again. You are right, of course, Jesus was with the people the religious leaders wouldn’t be caught dead with. You think we might get it, but pastors are seldom with anybody but church folks either. Go figure. — Chuck

  7. True, sad but true. Any thoughts on how we change that? How we become a “friend of sinners” on the one hand, while tending the “flock” on the other? Might be an interesting conversation.

  8. Chuck,

    I agree, it would be an interesting conversation. I think it would be hard for most ministers to find a church that would accept him as a “friend of sinners.” I mean, he could be a friend of sinners, as long as he didn’t go to where sinners hang out. 🙂

    When a minister to truly be a friend of sinners, it becomes news-worthy. We see Jay Bakker on the news and I heard of a church in St. Louis that meets and talks theology and current events in a pub. News. It’s not the norm.

    I would say that we change it by teaching our churches, but after your first “lesson” on it, you might be shown the door!

  9. Brandon, yeah, I’ve seen a clip of Jay Bakker’s ministry — he smokes cigars, gets tatoos, and drinks pepsi — while he’s talking to people in a bar. I don’t think my folks would like that. But, maybe there is some less drastic way to cultivate friendships with people without compromising our own values or offending our members. Tough line to walk. Anybody else have any thoughts? — Chuck

  10. This is exactly the kind of ministry the world needs, “going to the highways & hedges (and venues of ill-reputation)” to seek & save that which is lost. Our church openly invites ALL to come no matter what and we shower them with God’s amazing love! We minister in the jails, prisons, elderly facilities, strip clubs – in any dark place we can find to shine a light. I pray God sent someone to water & harvest the seed you planted in Freddie. BUST OUTTA THE BOX PEOPLE; CHRIST IS COMING BACK & WE NEED TO GET THE WORD OUT TO A HURTING LOST WORLD!!! People are going to talk about you no matter what you do so make it count!

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