Erin Stevens never imagined what God had in store for her at the end of her 21-day fast for a new church building. Instead of money or land, she got a command from God to "go feed the strippers." Wife of Tennessee pastor Todd Stevens, and mother of three young boys, Erin was bewildered. However, in obedience she began taking meals and gifts to a local strip club. Since then her life has never been the same. She is now the head of Nashville Strip Church and coauthor of How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness. Erin talked with TCW about her unique approach to ministry.
What exactly do you do in this ministry, and why is it effective?
I go to the strip club every two weeks. I bring a meal, nice gifts, and my business card with my contact information and directions to our church if the women ever want to visit. But I never go in with a Bible or a gospel tract—I just go in to love those girls unconditionally. That speaks volumes to them because they're in an industry where they're showered with money. The men often buy them jewelry, or handbags, or shoes. But they're drawn to me because my gifts don't have any strings attached. I've had three girls come out of the industry, and now they go back to love their friends and show them life is possible outside the club. One of these girls said, "For the first time in my life, I believe Jesus would have hung out with someone like me."
How do you love strippers without glossing over the reality of sin?
I invite them to church. My job in the club is just to love them and be there for them. I minister to them by talking about their kids, parents, and school. In traditional evangelism we were taught to "pray the prayer" and "seal the deal." Although that's the ultimate step we're working toward, not everybody is there at the same time. So I encourage my girls through these acts of kindness to just take one step closer to Jesus. One of the girls comes to church and sits in her car during the service. Her child comes in, but she just sits out there because she's not ready yet. Someday her next step will be to come in to a service. And we'll be so glad when she does.
Congratulations on your book! What prompted you and your husband to write it?
I think Katie probably prompted that. She's entering the Police Academy, just led a Bible study in our church, and as we speak, has a Vacation Bible School in her backyard. This is a girl who was a stripper 14 months ago—now look where she's come! But the book is really about our church's principles of ministry. It teaches everyday people a different way to look at evangelism and outreach: doing acts of kindness and meeting needs. The effectiveness you can have in the kingdom by doing those two things is amazing.