“God hates sluts, whores, and home-wreckers!” —A street preacher misrepresenting Christ’s love
For many years, the Church has struggled in its approach to evangelizing the world. We know that we are not to love the world system. Too often, we have forgotten that we are also called to love those who are caught in the world system. We have been quick to become like the Pharisees who brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus, hoping to incite a public stoning (see John 8:2-11). We are so indignant about the sin that we become hateful toward those caught in the trap of sin. But this absolutely does not reflect the heart of God toward those living sinful lifestyles.
In this chapter, I am presenting a challenge to love those who are caught in promiscuous lifestyles. If we are going to follow Jesus’ example, then prostitutes should feel loved by us and want to be around us. After all, they flocked to be around Jesus, and He was called a “friend of sinners” (see Luke 7:34). Jesus said that we must likewise love our enemies (see Matt. 5:44). Yet strippers, porn stars, and prostitutes do not feel loved by the Church (and they aren’t even our enemies).
Most individuals in the sex industry will never step foot inside a church because they fear our rejection or judgment. In addition, they feel dirty, and the concept of church that they’ve learned from us is not that of a safe place for those dirtied with sin. Unfortunately, the typical Christian response to this is, “Of course they don’t feel comfortable in church. They are sinners, and they are being convicted!”
Yet those who hung around Jesus didn’t feel condemned, dirty, rejected, or judged. Rather, many of them felt so loved and honored that they responded like Mary Magdalene (see Mark 16:9-10) and Zaccheus (see Luke 19:1-10), who were compelled by love to turn from their sins and find freedom in Jesus. Consider the immoral woman who felt so loved by Jesus and so safe with Him that she risked the scorn of the Pharisees in order to demonstrate her gratitude by anointing Jesus with her tears (see Luke 7:36-50). If we are going to be like Jesus, sinners should never feel judged or rejected or dirty around us.
NO MORE PICKETING
My friend Anny Donewald is a former stripper and prostitute who came to know Jesus and was set free from all her bondage. She now runs a ministry that reaches out to girls who are still working in the industry. Recently she helped bring resolution to a conflict in Ohio between a church and a local strip club. The pastor of the church clearly did not understand the heart of Jesus and decided to picket against the strip club every weekend; his church did this for four years! Eventually the dancers from the club decided to retaliate by picketing the church! The conflict escalated to the point of making the national news. That was when Anny Donewald got involved, but I will let her tell you the rest of the story in her own words:
It was a Tuesday when it all started. I was headed to my regular Tuesday Bible study/outreach in Grand Rapids, Michigan and had a question for the pastor of the church where we hold our meetings. I went into his office a little before we started, and said, “Hey. I think the Lord is telling me that we’re about to hit the press. I think we should do a press release on this ministry. How do I do that?”
He gave me the direction on how to do it and then said, “Hey Anny, before you go, have you heard of this story in Ohio? The church has been picketing a strip club for years, and now the strip club is picketing the church!”
I quickly replied, “Nope! Haven’t heard of it. That’s too bad. I’ll make sure I pray for that situation.” I left his office, and didn’t think twice about that story.
The next day was a Wednesday, and I had to take my sister-in-law to the airport in Chicago. The whole way there, my spirit was very excited. It felt like something was up, and I couldn’t figure out what. The excitement did not go away, but intensified, and after I dropped off my sister-in-law and turned around to come home, I started to pray. At this point, it was almost uncomfortable, and I realized the Lord was saying something. I said out loud, “God. What are You saying? I can’t understand! Send someone to call me, because I can’t quite get what it is that You’re trying to tell me.”
No sooner did five minutes pass and the phone rang. My friend, Sheri Brown, from San Diego, California, was on the other line, and the first thing she said to me was, “Hey girl. Did you read this story about what’s going on in Ohio?”
Immediately, I knew. I knew God was telling me to go do reconciliation with the club and the church. After I explained my “Ah hah” moment, Sheri said she wanted to come with me. So, as I drove back to Michigan from Chicago, Illinois, we planned. By the time I got home, it was less than 48 hours until we arrived in Columbus, Ohio.
Sheri and I got to the hotel within 15 minutes of each other. Immediately we started praying over the gift bags we’d made for the girls, and I started to prophetically write on cards a Word of God for each one of the girls. We prayed that each Word would be specific to the girls and their situations; whatever they were going through, God knew. Instead of waiting until Saturday night to take the girls their gifts, we got dressed, got ready, and off we went to the strip club, which was named The Foxhole.
When we got there, people were outside—including police and picketers; we walked right past them into the club. We weren’t sure how they were going to receive us because we were coming as Christians, but I met the main girl at the door and told her who we were. She was very happy to meet us and invited us right into the dressing room. We were in there for about two hours, explaining to them that we both had ministries, that I used to be a dancer and a prostitute, that God wasn’t picketing, that Jesus loves them, and that God told me to come specifically and rectify the situation. They loved us! And they loved their gifts. We told them that we’d come back the next day and bring pizza.
The next day, we got up, got ready, sent out e-mails, called our families back home, went out to eat, and set out again for The Foxhole. There was a Little Caesar’s somewhere close to the club, and we stopped and got five pizzas. I knew I’d heard the Lord say, “Get one for the picketing Christians.” They were the last people I wanted to talk to. I was disgusted with their disgust. But, I was obedient and bought the church picketers a pizza.
We spent a few hours in the dressing room again. The Holy Spirit was all over the place. The prophetic was moving strongly on me, and I was able to give them words of knowledge about things that there would be no natural explanation as to how I would know. It removed the myth that God was mad at them, because clearly, He’d shown up in their dressing room. We prayed and fellowshipped about the truth of the Gospel, and then we ate pizza. Finally, when it was time to leave, I was so under the anointing that I saw the church people outside the club and hugged them and gave them their pizza too.
I was able to share my testimony with the men who were picketing and told them that it wasn’t the wrath of people, but the love of God, that transformed my life. I told them that the women in the club did not feel that love coming from them; their actions were making them feel defensive. They listened, we prayed, and then they invited us to speak at their church the next morning. Can you believe that?
We went back to the hotel room. I slept two hours, and Sheri didn’t sleep at all. We woke up, got ready early, and set out for a church called (of all things) New Beginnings. We were a bit early, and the press was outside the church ready to do their usual story. Soon, the girls from The Foxhole showed up to picket in their bikinis. We hugged, I invited them in, they said they didn’t feel welcome, and I told them I’d be out in a minute.
After sharing my story and Sheri explaining what she and Theresa Scher do (her coleader of JC’s Girls in San Diego), the church service concluded. Low and behold, as we walked outside, church people were hugging strippers, and strippers were hugging church people. The press was taking pictures, and Sheri and I were standing on the steps of that church with our jaws on the floor. We couldn’t believe what we were seeing. Mission accomplished. Or so it seemed.
Since then, the pastor of New Beginnings decided that it would be a good idea to continue to picket. I have not spoken to the pastor since we left that Sunday afternoon. It saddens me that this was his decision, but I’ve chosen to leave that between him and God. I was obedient to what the Lord said, and to this day, I am still in contact with the girls at The Foxhole. I still pray for them, and they still pray for me!
How were the girls affected? Out of six strippers, three rededicated their lives to the Lord, two made salvation decisions, and one is considering her future.
A MORE EXCELLENT WAY
The Church has always wanted to reach people for Christ, but some of the methods that we have employed have been absolutely harmful. Although I believe in power evangelism, friendship evangelism, presence evangelism, and servant evangelism, we need to return to the essence of the Gospel—love. Too often we have tried to address the problems of immorality by politically or socially attacking the sin (and sometimes the sinner)—as with the picketers in Anny’s story—rather than focusing our efforts on loving the sinners out of their sins. This does not mean trying to change them, but simply loving them with God’s love and trusting Him to free them. When we require others to change in order for them to receive our love, we are not conveying the heart of God.
Ironically, this attitude of self-righteous judgment, because it is not righteousness, often opens the door to sin in our own lives. Thus, as I mentioned previously, many believers outwardly condemn the sin while inwardly struggling with it. If we would learn to “fight” with love and compassion, prostitutes would be more likely to get saved, and Christians would be less likely to struggle with sexual sin.
It is time that we lay down our methods and listen to the apostle Paul, who said, “I will show you a more excellent way” (1 Cor. 12:31). He followed this statement by laying out an incredible description of the God-kind of love:
If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres (1 Corinthians 13:1-7).
On Christmas Eve of 2005, I had an idea. I purchased ten brand-new hooded sweaters, winter hats, gloves, and scarves. (Rochester, New York, has cold winters.) I put them into neat piles, each with a bow on top, and my friend Mark and I drove down to the area known for prostitutes’ streetwalking.
Mark was my driver and lookout. We drove up and down the street, and each time we found a girl , we parked a block away. Then I would grab one of my piles (sweater, hat, gloves, and a scarf) with a bow on top and walk briskly to the girl before she came to our car. We must have been quite a sight at first because, at the time, I was 22 years old, and the typical customer would have stayed in his car.
Upon meeting each of these startled girls, I would share with them that God had sent me to them to give them their Christmas present. Then I would hug them and pray for them. Without fail, every single girl cried and was touched deeply that night.
One girl I remember in particular. It was the end of the night, it was incredibly cold, and I had run out of gift piles. Mark and I were about to head home when I noticed the youngest girl we had seen all night; she was perhaps in her late teens, compared to most of the girls who were in their 30s or 40s. I hadn’t seen her before, but I saw that she had a brand-new hat on; it still had the tag hanging off, and it was one of our hats!
We pulled over and she yelled to me, “You must be Jonathan!”
A little startled, I asked her where she got the hat. She said that Donna had given it to her. (Donna was the last girl we had talked and prayed with). Donna had also told her that the hat was from God and that He loved her and wanted her to have a wonderful Christmas. (Apparently Donna was now a regional evangelist in the area. I am only half-joking.)
The young girl’s name was Ashley. I said to her, “You look really cold, I am sorry, but we have run out of sweaters.”
“Yeah, I am cold,” she said, “but you have already blessed me so much.”
Thinking quickly, I decided to take off my own coat. “Ashley, Jesus loves you so much. I can’t leave without giving you this.”
As I wrapped my coat around her, Ashley looked me in the eye as if she hadn’t ever received an act of love in her whole life. “Jonathan…is that what God is like?”
“Yeah, Ashley, that is what He is like.”
With tears pouring from both our eyes, we embraced, and I prayed everything I could think of over this daughter of the King. No, she didn’t change the course of her life that night, but seeds of love were planted in her heart.
A year later, Mark and I hit the street again to give out Christmas presents. This time we also brought teddy bears with us because many of these girls have children at home and wouldn’t be able to get them Christmas presents.
The best part of our second-year trip was when we pulled over and a girl came running to our car. She said, “Jonathan! I thought it was you. I had the feeling that it was you when you pulled up!”
“Ashley, is that you?”
It was! She continued in her lifestyle, but love had made a lasting impression upon her life. God came down and touched her, and she hadn’t forgotten. Love is the seed we must plant if we desire to have lasting fruit. Ashley needs more love. Like anyone who has gotten caught in the sex industry; she has come from a long road of brokenness.
A HISTORY OF PAIN
“According to former porn actress, April Garris, a counselor to ex porn stars: ‘In most every single case, there is some background of childhood sexual abuse or neglect.’”1 The recent documentary film, Very Young Girls, stated that, “The average age of when girls enter into a life of prostitution is 13 years old.” 2
Most shocking was when Anny Donewald told me of this survey finding: “The vast majority [of exotic dancers] (89 percent) were raised in a religious home.”3 These are church girls who have been wounded, hurt, and damaged. Statistics further show that most children are abused by someone they know and love, often a member of their extended family.4 The majority of these hurting women grew up in environments that should have shown them the meaning of true, pure love. Considering that one out of every six women in the U.S. is at some point in her life the victim of an attempted or completed rape,5 it is not hard to conclude that our world is filled with many hurting women.
Much of the reason why women end up in the sex industry is because of a love deficit in their lives. Whether from abuse or neglect, our sisters are hurting. They desperately need love, and Jesus’ followers are supposed to be known by their love! (See John 13:35.) It is time for us to remove our judgments and to make sure that our wounded sisters feel the love of Christ flowing through us. I would like to propose a plan of action.
Currently there are 3,829 adult cabarets nationwide in America.6 Also there are approximately 500,000 churches in America.7 What if we, the Church, as the representatives of Jesus in the earth, actively began to love the hurting sisters in our communities?
I am proposing the Adopt-A-Stripclub program. In this program, each church in America would find the nearest strip club and regularly pray for the redemption of the club’s workers and patrons. If all 500,000 churches in America took this idea seriously, there would be 130 churches praying for each strip club in America!
It is time for both Christian men and women in every community to communicate to the women caught in the sex industry that they are loved. The Body of Christ needs to tell those involved in the sex industry that they are not too dirty to come to church. Instead, we must let them know that, should they want to come to church, they would be loved and accepted, not judged and rejected. We must make our love known; we must not hide our light under a basket!
I am currently working with Anny Donewald to expand the Adopt-A-Stripclub program. If you would like help in training your people, bridging the gap between your church and the local club, and reaching your local club for Christ, please contact Anny Donewald through www.Evesangels.org.
All women are our sisters. We are to view them as family, not objects to be used for selfish pleasure. Yes they are beautiful and lovely, and as men, we will notice them for the rest of our lives, but there is a way to appreciate without defiling.
Evolution has taught us that man evolved as a predator; the truth is that God created men as protectors of beauty. This aspect of our identity must shift so that we can understand our role in relation to women.
Most women in the sex industry worldwide are victims of sexual, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. They know no lifestyle outside of fear and abuse; yet in their hearts they long for a protector to come to their defense. Will we remain cowards behind a computer screen, using our sisters for selfish purposes? Or will we fight for their freedom?All women are our sisters. We are to view them as family, not objects to be used for selfish pleasure. Yes they are beautiful and lovely, and as men, we will notice them for the rest of our lives, but there is a way to appreciate without defiling. Evolution has taught us that man evolved as a predator; the truth is that God created men as protectors of beauty. This aspect of our identity must shift so that we can understand our role in relation to women. Most women in the sex industry worldwide are victims of sexual, emotional, verbal, and physical abuse. They know no lifestyle outside of fear and abuse; yet in their hearts they long for a protector to come to their defense. Will we remain cowards behind a computer screen, using our sisters for selfish purposes? Or will we fight for their freedom?