During the difficult process of breaking my pride and reshaping me into the type of pastor he wants, God has been showing me the difference between being an attractional/ "if you build it they will come" church to a sent-out/ John 17:18 church. In the midst of thinking and praying about this idea of being sent-out, my wife got the idea of starting an outreach ministry to the ladies who dance at the two local 'gentlemen's' clubs. That sounded like a great idea to me, a great way to love people whether or not they're ever a part of our church. Erin reminded me the other day that she'd shared an idea like this with me two years ago (just before our church launched) but at that time I was still so focused just on getting people into our Sunday morning worship, that I didn't give the idea much thought. Have I mentioned God has been breaking and reshaping me?
Well, after a couple months of planning, praying and recruiting, we set last night as the date for our first trip to the two local clubs. Our plan was for a few ladies from the church to go to the clubs and hand out gift bags to the dancers, while a couple of us guys watched over them from the parking lot. God sent us some great help to prepare for last night. First of all, a bunch of ladies pitched in (along with some money from TF's budget) to put together some great gift bags. Last night's bags had a "movie night" theme; an AMC movie ticket, popcorn, pop, candy, and some other girly stuff I didn't pay much attention too, but I know it must've been good because Erin was very excited. Next month's theme will be "spa night" (whatever that means...)
The second serious help that God sent us was Harmony Dust and the Treasures ministry. I found Harmony's myspace page from the xxxchurch myspace. Ashley Vance had already shown us Harmony's Glamour article and I recognized the picture on her myspace.
Anyway, we contacted Harmony and she gave us some great guidelines and procedures for launching this ministry. And two nights ago, when Erin was getting some cold feet; due to the fact that several TF ladies who are helping with the the ministry had other commitments Friday night and all the unknowns from the bouncers being skeptical to what she'd do if she actually got in the club. But she called Harmony who encouraged her and gave her a solid plan of action.
But late Friday afternoon, it looked like we might have to postpone the trip to the clubs another week. Jaymie Beal was the only lady who was going to be able to go to the clubs with Erin and Jayme was really nervous about it, even more so than Erin. Taylor Johnson and I would be watching from the parking lot, but we wouldn't be following them into the clubs (obviously). As we were praying in my living room about 6:00 on Friday night, Jaymie shared how scared she was but also talked about how those who followed God in the OT put themselves into some dangerous positions, too, but they knew they were following God. Which fit with something I'd thought about during my prayer time Friday morning. I'd imagined (don't know if you could call it a vision) Erin walking into the clubs surrounded by God's presence. Not necessarily God's protection, but a comfort in knowing she's in the center of God's will - which is not always the safest place. We weren't sure how everything was going to turn out, but we knew we were following Jesus' example by going to the clubs.
And after we committed to go, just the four of us, we ended up getting some more help. Sarah Holmes, who had met us for prayer, decided to at least walk up to the door of the club, for some extra support. Jaymie's husband, Jason, showed up to provide some more parking lot security. And, as you can see here, Jason's a big guy. And them Amy Bottcher was able to meet us at the clubs at 7:00.
We also knew we would be supported by the prayers of our church, Harmony's group and those on the TF intercessor team.
So we loaded up the gift bags and headed to the clubs, everyone's stomach still in knots. We pulled into the first parking lot, the girl's took the bags and went right to the front door. Taylor and I were shocked to see our ladies allowing right through the front door. A minute or two later, the ladies came out empty handed and with big smiles.
The security guy at the front door seemed to appreciate the gesture and put the bags in a place where the dancers would later find them. First club was a success!
We knew the second club would be tougher though, since it had a much rougher reputation. Our ladies took all the bags to the front door and this security guy was a bit more skeptical. He said he didn't want the distraction that night and then asked "are you a bunch of Christians or something?" There aren't a bunch of paint bombs in here that will go off or something?"
Erin's response was beautiful and set the guy at ease. He took the bags and said he'd make sure to get them to the ladies.
So, last night couldn't have gone any better. We were able to get the bags to the ladies without having to go into the clubs. Erin was ready to go inside the clubs but was hoping she'd be able to leave the bags with security. We've made a first contact with the ladies and have established some rapport with security at both clubs. It was all over in less than 20 minutes and we were shocked at how easy and smooth the whole thing had been. I guess that's one more confirmation that we're following God's lead.
The goal of this ministry is to love these ladies. To let them know that there are some ladies in Gardner willing to pray for and encourage them. I'm not sure what will come out of this, but we're committed to showing up and bringing the bags for an extended period of time. We're committed to consistency. And we know that God will do as much or more in our lives as in the lives of those we're hoping to serve.