Friendship Community Church, led by Pastor Todd Stevens, has experienced tremendous growth through acts of kindness. The church’s most radical kindness project is Nashville Strip Church, founded by Erin Stevens. Erin’s life changed when God told her to “go feed the strippers.” With home-cooked meals and gift bags, Erin shows dancers that God loves them. How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness includes the story of a dancer who has come to know Christ, left the strip club industry through Erin’s ministry, and is now serving with Erin to reach other strippers.
From feeding the homeless, to Easter egg hunts for special needs children, to ministering in a strip club, How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness provides exciting ideas for showing God’s love in practical ways.
- Stories from kindness outreach events, including Strip Church
- Ideas for showing God’s love in practical ways
- Inspiration to step out of your comfort zone to serve people
|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.70(d)|
About the Author
Todd Stevens is the pastor of Friendship Community
Church, one of the fastest growing churches in America. Friendship is known for finding creative ways to show God's love in the community, and over 90% of the regular attenders are involved in service opportunities.Todd is also a church consultant in the area of servant evangelism.
Erin Stevens is the founder of Nashville Strip Church, a ministry that reaches out to the employees of strip clubs. She and her husband Todd met while they were each pursuing their MBA. She enjoys spending time with her family,
reading, and homeschooling her three boys.
Refraction books speak to the most troubling issues we face today in a candid dialog that interacts with our culture through a biblical lens, utilizing a holistic approach of intellectual engagement, emotional vulnerability, and spiritual challenge for the next generation.
Read an Excerpt
How To Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness
By Todd Stevens, Erin Stevens
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Todd and Erin Stevens
All rights reserved.
We had no idea about the journey God had in store for us.
I'm a pastor, and my wife hangs out in strip clubs. I used to be a computer programmer, and she was a human resources director. We were respectable and successful people and had lots of respectable and successful friends. Then God showed up and wrecked all of that. I'm so glad He did.
When my wife, Erin, and I first started meeting with the group of people who would become the launch team for Friendship Community Church in 2006, we had no idea about the journey God had in store for us. The group that assembled for those first planning meetings had a shared vision for a church that would actively demonstrate God's love in our community in practical ways by meeting needs and doing acts of kindness. We believed God could use this type of church to change the face of our city.
Since that time, we've been blessed to see transformation begin in our community. We've had the opportunity to see hundreds of lives radically changed by the message of Jesus. But the change that has occurred in Erin and me has been even more radical.
Erin used to hang out primarily with other suburban moms, and the only dancers she knew were the ones on Dancing with the Stars. Now she leads a ministry called Nashville Strip Church, which is reaching out to the dancers and other employees of inner-city strip clubs with the message of God's love.
I used to spend all my time with people who had been in church for most of their lives. The closest I had been to any kind of addiction was my own infatuation with pepperoni pizza. Now my circle of friends includes addicts and ex-cons. When we first began the church, I'm not sure I even knew those people existed in my community. Now I can't imagine what my life would be like without them.
The purpose of this book is to share with you what we've learned along the way, so you can make an even greater impact for God in your community. I'll bet that reaching your community will even be easier and more fun than you think. I have no doubt God can use you to make a difference and advance His kingdom. If He can use me, then that proves He really can use anybody.
I (Todd) am doing the writing, and Erin will be looking over my shoulder and telling me whenever I get something wrong. I'll make whatever changes she suggests; then I'll change it back to the way I like it when she leaves the room. In case you were wondering, she's out of the room as I write this part, or else I would never have gotten away with that last sentence.
IT'S TIME FOR SHOW-AND-TELL
I always loved it in elementary school when we got to do "show-and-tell." This was my opportunity to show my friends the new batting glove I got for Christmas or to bring a picture of my grandparents. Then I'd tell them all about whatever I had brought. Those days were always fun and interesting, even though none of the third graders in my class were public-speaking prodigies. Their speech, or "tell," didn't have to be great, because it was accompanied by the "show."
The highlight from that time for me was when my friend Jim busted out his awesome baseball card collection. In case you're too young to have ever been excited about baseball cards, just imagine old-school Pokemon cards, except with actual athletes instead of some evolution of a Pikachu. Anyway, Jim was a hardcore collector. For some baseball seasons, he had the cards for every player on every team.
Jim had lots of good information too. He could talk about Dave Winfield's stats and why George Brett's rookie card was already worth so much. As he gave his speech, I could hold his cards in my hand and see them up close. I could see immediately that my cards, with their bent corners and frayed edges, were way inferior to his. I had a front-row seat to what could happen when a regular guy like Jim took better care of his cards. The combination of show-and-tell inspired me to make some changes. I knew I could do it because I now had the right information and a good example.
I've never been a bold, outspoken person who could just walk up to anyone and begin a conversation. As I grew in my Christian faith, I started looking for ways to share it with others. I wanted to do exactly what Jesus had commanded: "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:19–20 NIV).
Unfortunately, whenever I tried to "go and make disciples," I usually ended up feeling like a failure. I went to training classes and read books because I really wanted to help other people connect with God. I had no doubt that every person's life (and eternity) would be exponentially better if Jesus were in the center of it.
But whenever I would try to do evangelism, instead of making disciples, I was just making people uncomfortable. It felt as if I were putting on a shoe that just didn't fit right. Actually, a better comparison to my attempts at evangelism would be that it was like me as a two-hundred-pound-guy putting on pink high heels. Not only was it painful for me, but it was painful to watch. I was focused exclusively on the "tell."
When I first read Steve Sjogren's groundbreaking book Conspiracy of Kindness, I had finally found the shoe that fit. I'm wanting to make an analogy to being like Cinderella finding her glass slipper; but then that would be another analogy that has me wearing women's shoes, so let's not go there.
In his book, Steve unpacked the concept of servant evangelism. Servant evangelism is an approach to outreach that isn't just about telling people the gospel: it is about showing them too. I was intrigued. Could it really be possible to do evangelism without coming across as obnoxious or manipulative, as I had in the past? It occurred to me for the first time that this was what Jesus had done.
In his account of the life of Jesus, Matthew wrote, "Jesus went throughout Galilee. He taught in the synagogues. He preached the good news of the Kingdom, and He healed people, ridding their bodies of sickness and disease" (Matt. 4:23). He taught and preached the good news and he met people's physical needs.
If Jesus had only taught lessons and not done the good works, I think the crowds would have been smaller; and would have consisted mostly of intellectuals and religious people. If He had gone around healing everybody, but never taught them the truth about God, then crowds of people would have shown up to be entertained, but they would have never changed or grown spiritually. Jesus always did both.
Servant evangelism is about doing both—showing and telling. Words without good deeds lack credibility. Good deeds without words lack eternal impact. As followers of Jesus, we're challenged to do both.
As we serve people and do acts of kindness, their hearts open up and they often want to know more about why we're doing what we're doing. Whether we have an in-depth conversation or just hand them a card explaining that we're showing God's love in a practical way, they leave the encounter with a more positive view of Christianity and a tangible experience of God's love. Servant evangelism is about both serving and evangelizing, so we'll define what we mean by both of those words in the pages ahead.
For now, maybe an example will help. I eat lunch at Subway almost every day. I figure if Jared lost 250 pounds eating those sandwiches, then I can't possibly go wrong. A while back I decided to start paying every day for the person's lunch who was in line behind me. The employees have caught on and know I'm going to do it now. They get excited every time.
As I pick up the tab, I hand the person behind me a business-sized card and say, "Lunch is on me today. I just wanted to do this to show you God's love in a practical way with no strings attached." The card (which I ordered from ServantEvangelism .com) has basically the same thing as what I said on one side, and the other side has some basic information about our church.
Each day as I am driving to Subway, I pray that God will put just the right person in line behind me. Today when I went to lunch, my recipient was an elderly woman. At first, she didn't understand what I was doing. Then we had a nice conversation as we got our drinks. She told me a bit about the church she attends and thanked me for what I had done.
This evening I received an e-mail from a young lady who attends our church. She told me that her neighbor from two doors down, Dot, had come to see her this evening. Dot knew this young lady attended Friendship and wanted to tell her about the handsome young man who had bought her lunch today. Okay, I added in the "handsome" part.
Anyway, it turns out that Dot is caring for her forty-nine-year-old son who has Down syndrome and lives with her. Her husband died many years ago, and her daughter has just recently filed for disability. Even though Dot's only income is her Social Security check, she is now buying the groceries for all three of them. Do you think God put just the right person in line behind me to receive a free lunch as an expression of His love? I am continually amazed at the ways God uses my daily lunch gift.
That may sound to you like a nice thing to do for someone, but it may not seem to be evangelism. After all, nobody "prayed the prayer," and I didn't even mention what Jesus did on the cross. That is okay if it doesn't all make sense yet. By the end of this book, you'll understand just how potent a simple act of kindness can be in reaching people with the gospel.
There are lots of good ways to do evangelism. I think most of us want to be able to reach people and share our faith. If you are already effective in communicating the gospel to people so that they often understand and respond, then by all means please keep doing what you're doing.
If you're like I was, though, and are looking for a practical way to connect with people in the real world and to see them take the next step toward God from wherever they are, then perhaps servant evangelism will be the shoe that fits you just right. I think you're going to enjoy learning these concepts and seeing what God does as you put them into practice.
WE DON'T NEED A BUILDING, BUT OUR COMMUNITY DOES
Since its inception, Friendship has engaged in servant evangelism by showing God's love in practical ways with no strings attached. I kept a separate full-time job for the first year, so the church could devote more of its resources to meeting needs and reaching out in our community. I had an office in our basement and was the only staff at the time, so we didn't see a need for any additional space for our church besides the school we rented each Sunday for our worship services.
As the church began to grow, the size of our student group grew too. We kept shifting our growing youth group to bigger and bigger houses, until we finally decided they needed a space of their own for their midweek gathering. So we rented some space in a storefront that had a couple of large meeting rooms and some small offices on the side. We dubbed it the CITY—Christ Is Transforming Youth.
We'd only had the space at the CITY for a few months when Middle Tennessee was hit by its biggest disaster since the Civil War. You may not have heard much about it because some national news outlets devoted only fifteen minutes of total coverage to the event. The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was already dominating headlines, and there was a failed car bomb attempt in Times Square on the day the rain started. But for the people who were impacted, the flood that devastated Nashville in 2010 will never be forgotten. The total cost of the damage was in the billions of dollars. By some estimates, it was the costliest non-hurricane natural disaster in U.S. history.
In retrospect, the strangest part is that in this era of high-definition Doppler radar and ten-day forecasts, nobody saw this coming. When the rain began to fall on Saturday, it was just another storm. By Sunday morning, there were a few roads covered with water, but I was still able to make it to the school to begin setting up for our weekend worship experience. Within an hour, we realized we had a crisis on our hands because every road leading to the school had completely flooded. We would be trapped if we didn't get out fast. So we canceled the service, told everyone to stay home, and posted the sermon as a podcast on our website.
Thirteen inches of rain fell in just thirty-six hours, and the rainfall ultimately exceeded seventeen inches. Just imagine if a foot and a half of water were dumped over your entire region all at the same time. There just wasn't any place for all that water to go. Houses and buildings were literally washed away, and several lives were lost. But the flood had a very peculiar effect on the people of Nashville.
Within hours, it seemed as if everyone I knew had updated their Facebook profiles with this mantra: we are Nashville. Instead of the chaos and crime that other areas had experienced in the wake of disaster, the community rallied and people did whatever needed to be done to help their neighbors. Best of all, churches were leading the way in the relief effort, and Friendship was no exception. Our church was literally the first on the scene in two flooded communities. We rescued people with boats and ATVs. We brought food and bottled water: Along with the supplies, we gave flood victims a simple card with our phone number and a message saying that we had volunteers standing by who were ready to meet whatever need they had.
Many of our people took days or weeks of vacation time from their jobs so they could serve the people around them. At the CITY, we set up a whiteboard that we used to log calls as they came in. Teams of volunteers arrived at our facility throughout the day to get an assignment from the board. Then they would head out to meet the need. Whether people needed someone to help them clean and dry their homes with a wet/dry shop vacuum, a team to come and tear out ruined drywall and flooring, or people with a truck to haul off ruined furniture and perhaps bring replacement furniture in, we did everything we could.
We are still so grateful for the churches from around the country that routed supplies to us as we provided aid for the flood victims. For a few weeks, the CITY looked more like a stockpile warehouse than a student center. The space was so full of inventory that at times it was hard to even walk between the aisles. Our relief efforts culminated with a completely free "yard sale" for flood victims, where we gave away everything we had received to our neighbors in need.
GO FEED THE STRIPPERS
After we got past the immediate aftermath of the flood, we assessed our response as a church and talked about what lessons we had learned. That was when we became aware for the first time just how valuable our leased space, which a few months earlier didn't even exist, had been in allowing us to serve our community. It began to dawn on us that even though we had always focused on meeting whatever needs we could, there were other needs our church either wouldn't be able to meet adequately or could not meet at all until we began taking steps toward a permanent ministry space dedicated to that purpose. This realization led to our dream for the Impact Center.
We began to envision a ministry mall where physical, relational, emotional, and spiritual needs could be met, all under one roof. This type of facility would allow us to increase our capacity to both meet needs and reach people with the message of Jesus. We could launch brand-new ministries that we had previously only dreamed about, like a respite ministry, which provides a parent's night out for families of kids with special needs. We would be able to expand existing ministries, like our food pantry for hungry people, our addiction recovery programs, and our job skills training.
Space could be allocated for other nonprofits with whom we already partnered so that together we could provide a counseling center, basic health care services for the uninsured, assistance for those with crisis pregnancies, and citizenship and language training for immigrants and refugees. The building itself would even be a disaster relief shelter, where we had our own volunteers trained and certified, so we could have a fully operational relief shelter within minutes of a disaster in our area.
In our community, when people are in need of electronics, they know they can go to Best Buy to grab a laptop or DVD player. If people here want sporting goods, they have two options: Academy Sports and Dick's Sporting Goods. When they have a craving for Mexican food, they probably just need to look left and right because we have more options for chips and queso dip than I can count. They are probably within a hundred yards of one at any given moment. But where do they go when they feel as though there's no hope? Where can they turn when there's a crisis in their lives?
Excerpted from How To Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness by Todd Stevens, Erin Stevens. Copyright © 2014 Todd and Erin Stevens. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Getting Started 1
Chapter 2 Build the Right Reputation 19
Chapter 3 Meet Them Where They Are 49
Chapter 4 Serve Them Sacrificially 79
Chapter 5 Sow Seeds of Kindness 113
Chapter 6 Don't Forget This Group 137
Chapter 7 Give Generously 157
Chapter 8 Tell God About Them 181
Chapter 9 Write the Next Chapter 203
About the Authors 211