Yes, that is the name of the book and it’s not what you think so hang in there with me. The subtitle of the book gives the “rest” of the story: serving people just as they are. I’m reading an advanced reading copy so the page numbers may not align with the final edition.
The author is pastor Todd Stevens of Friendship Community Church and his wife Erin. During a 21-day fast Erin felt God calling her to show his love to employees of strip clubs. She contacted the manager of the largest strip club in Nashville and asked him if she could “deliver and serve a fully catered meal at the club for the dancers, bouncers, bartenders, and managers.” (33) As she began to develop relationships with the girls they began to respond to her acts of kindness. On one trip she had 25 beauty kits which had been donated from a Mary Kay rep. These kits were valued at $150.00 each! The girls were overwhelmed with the gift. One girl asked, with tears in her eyes, “I know how much these kits are worth, why would you give everybody here something so valuable?” Erin told her “Because you are valuable to God and you are valuable to me. And I just wanted to be sure you knew it.” (34) The story continues with the girl leaving the industry and coming to Christ.
Contrary to what you might think from the title the authors cover much more than ministry to strippers. For example, the church has a vibrant Easter egg hunt with all kinds of ways of accommodating children with special needs. But there’s so much more: Bridge ministry (providing meals and other necessities to homeless in Nashville), Senior adult assisted-living facility, backpack programs, distributing shoes to people in need around the world, a refugee center for teens preparing for their citizenship tests, distributing Christmas gifts to a local homeless shelter, oil changes for single parents, and more. (107-10) The church works hard to have a reputation of love and care. Your reputation is not what you think it is; it is what others think of you. The book is brimming with ideas of acts of kindness that are simple ways of demonstrating God’s love “with no strings attached.” (120)
The goal of the church is “to invite people to take the next step toward Christ from wherever they are.” (66) “For some people, the next step be to stop cussing every time they get angry. For some, the next step could be to forgive someone who hurt them deeply. For some, the next step is to start reading the Bible for themselves. For some, the next step will be to just come back to church one more time as they try to figure out what they believe. And for some, the next step might be to quit their jobs at the strip club because they have just realized how much God loves them. Whatever a person’s next step is, we count it a win when he or she takes it and moves toward Christ.” (76)
The “next-step” goal applies to evangelism as well. Too many people want to know if a person “prayed a prayer.” Why can’t evangelism be as much a process as our own spiritual growth? “When our only approach to outreach is to present the basic facts of the gospel to everyone, we’re like a handyman with only one tool.” (71)
I’m actually enjoying this much more than I thought I would. However, I fear the title will hurt more than help. When my 14 year old daughter saw it she wanted to know what was going on. I had some explaining to do. Yes, it prompted a good discussion but that kind of opportunity isn’t always possible. I didn’t want to read it at the airport since I could just hear moms telling their kids, “Sally and Johnny, come away from that man!”
How to Pick Up a Stripper and Other Acts of Kindness is a paperback with 224 pages from Thomas Nelson and sells for $14.99. Watch for it in June.