Partners With God

The following case study is taken from The Shaping of Things to Come, by Frost and Hirsch.

One of the great missional leaders in Australia is a man named John Smith. He has done evangelism in many schools, pubs, motorcycle gangs, parliament, and anything in-between. John tells some stories that exemplify mission-minded ministry–here is just one of them:

One day, after an evangelistic campaign, a beautiful young woman approached John and begged him to come and meet her. She was deeply moved by what he had said and needed to talk further. Sadly, John explained that he needed to go quickly to his next speaking engagement and couldn’t spare the time right then. But she was so insistent in her need to find our more about Jesus that he agreed to come and meet her later that night. She thrust a piece of paper in his hand, asking him to meet her at that address, and ran off. Later, when he checked the note, he realized that she had arranged to meet him at one of the city’s most notorious strip clubs. He was in a bit of a dilemma. It is John’s normal practice that whenever he is entering edgy places, he always takes another member of his team. But John thought this could well be a setup by one of the sleaze newspapers to take a photo of one of Australia’s leading evangelists going into a strip joint, so he decided to go, but to go alone.

And so he arrived at the striptease club, found a table, and asked the waitress to get Linda.  When the waitress returned, she brought him a drink, but not Linda.  Eventually he persuaded her to get Linda.

When she arrived Linda thanked John profusely for coming and began to tell the story of her life. She had always loved dancing and had always wanted to be a performer. At seventeen she met a Christian guy and fell in love. He took her to hear John at his church and that day she became a Christian. However, her boyfriend came from an ultraconservative denomination that looked down on all types of worldliness, especially dancing in all its forms. And so the parents forced the young man to end their relationship. It was dancing or him. She chose dancing. This devastated Linda, because she quite rightly associated Jesus with the actions of his people, in this case some exceedingly narrow people. Subsequently she gave up on the church, her faith, and devoted herself to a career in dancing. Life didn’t go all that well for her-she could get no jobs, dancing or otherwise; and against her better judgment she ended up stripping for a living, claiming that at least she could dance and that the money was good. It’s the story of so many in that sad industry.

As they talked about her family, her dreams, Jesus, and the meaning of things, she felt that it was time for her to come back to Jesus. John led her back to Christ right there in the club.

This might have been the end of a very simple story of a young woman’s journey back to Jesus but for the strange twist at the end of the tale. When it came time for her to strip again, she turned to the man who had just prayed a prayer of recommitment with her and asked him to stay and watch her dance. Not many evangelists find themselves in this situation because most of them confine their “witnessing” to churches. Here was Australia’s leading evangelist being begged by a recent convert to watch her routine. John thought this was taking it a bit too far, but again Linda prevailed, and he stayed for the dance.

Anyhow, she did her dance. The choice of the song was “Only Seventeen” by Janice Ian. The song is all about rejection and being an “ugly duckling.” She had woven the story of her loss of faith into her strip act.

Questions to consider:

  • Was Jesus in the strip club that night?”
  • If God was in the strip club, was it right for John to join God in his mission to reestablish His relationship with Linda?  Why or why not?
  • What would you have done?
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~ by Dave Smith on December 7, 2008.

4 Responses to “Partners With God”

  1. 1 – Ok…we know God is omnipresent – so yes, and He is at work in unexpected place – why not? But perhaps we have the wrong location? It seems the real location where God was at work was in Linda’s heart, not at the strip club.

    2 – Hmmm…this one is like going for it on fourth down. Easy to say yes after the fact since it “worked”.

    3 – Why not send a woman? Certainly this is not the first time a woman wanted to speak to him about the faith alone. Wasn’t he prepared for this eventuality? Why was he willing to break his own rule for this type of situation? Why was he willing to risk his personal integrity and the church’s if he felt it could have been a setup? How could he not be tempted by the sensuality he was exposed to?

    4 – Let’s not forget Satan was likely to be just as present in this situation. Linda’s tragic story and John’s compassionate response could have been a devious trap.

    5 – I would not have gone. John, or someone else, could have delivered the same personal message to Linda in another context with the same result and without all the risk. If this woman was serious (indeed she was), she would have agreed to meet John at another time in another context that was more neutral.

    6 – How does this situation relate to Luke 7:36ff?

  2. Yea, I don’t think I would have went as well…unless my wife was with me. I don’t know whether John is married or not though. (you present some good options here)

    Defintely God was at work here…but to really know that seems hard…but then again, I’m not John.

    Good call on Luke 7…that definitely raises some questions, and maybe equates a little of this situation with John.

    I have heard it said that we are too driven by fear instead of motivated by love (2 Tim 1:7, 1 John 4:18, Rom 8:38-39) and that we are more concerned about our own protection of sin than the effects of sin in the lives of other people.

    It definitely raises that issue of pursuing purity while simultaneously engaging culture.

    In case you are wanting to know what the strip club looked like, I have pictures here:

  3. One of the easy traps to fall into in ministry is to think that we, the minister, are central to the story. For John to believe that only he could have shown Christ’s love in that situation was a mistake that goes beyond the propriety of his surroundings.

    Don’t get me wrong—we’re long overdue for entering the world and meeting real people in real situations. But sometimes Wisdom tells us that someone else (a woman) might be better qualified.

    Ahh, but then we wouldn’t have the shocking story to put in our biography.

  4. Yea, definitely a tough one for sure.

    I wonder if John would respond by saying for him not to ride on the coat tails of what the Spirit was doing and have someone else go, would be making him too central?

    You can definitely rationalize away a lot of foolish choices this way, but maybe another way of looking at it.

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