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The Naked Truth

Jesus meets us where we are in our brokenness. So many messages in the Bible ring true of this concept–the woman at the well, Zaccheus, the ten lepers. Michael Reddish and Emmaus Church Nashville are meeting strippers where they are–believe it or not, in strip clubs.

Michael and a few friends planted Emmaus Church with the intent to reach niche groups that most traditional churches do not reach. “I was a state leader of a denomination and I began to feel we had missed the point of being the Church. We were pretty much a ‘Christian fishbowl’ and everything we did seemed to be for people who were already saved.” Emmaus Church Nashville was borne out of Michael’s conviction and desire to reach for niche groups of people who were predominantly un-reached.

Jesus meets us where we are in our brokenness. So many messages in the Bible ring true of this concept–the woman at the well, Zaccheus, the ten lepers. Michael Reddish and Emmaus Church Nashville are meeting strippers where they are–believe it or not, in strip clubs.

Michael and a few friends planted Emmaus Church with the intent to reach niche groups that most traditional churches do not reach. “I was a state leader of a denomination and I began to feel we had missed the point of being the Church. We were pretty much a ‘Christian fishbowl’ and everything we did seemed to be for people who were already saved.” Emmaus Church Nashville was borne out of Michael’s conviction and desire to reach for niche groups of people who were predominantly un-reached.

Why strip clubs? Vicky, an Emmaus member, expressed a burden to reach out to girls involved in the sex industry. She came to Michael with an idea–start an outreach to strippers in Nashville. Vicky began research and found a ministry in L.A. called Treasures that was actively reaching out to strippers. She flew to L.A., trained with them, and worked with Michael to put together a program for Emmaus: The Madam Initiative.

“We asked the question, ‘who needs to hear the gospel in Nashville?’ One of the groups that so desperately needed the Good News was strippers. We had to figure out how to get a relevant message to them, yet be under the radar.” Michael explained.

The team, which is split into two different functions, gets together on a Friday or Saturday once a month. One team does the visitations. The other team is at the church praying. “We feel God has called us to go into the dark places in Nashville and shine the light of God’s love.” Because the dark places are sometimes very dangerous places, everyone goes through an in-depth and rigorous interview process. “I have to make sure that the individuals on the team are people who are ready for this kind of ministry.” Everyone is encouraged to fast for 24 hours prior to the outreach. “We want everyone to be very focused and aware of how God is leading them.”

During their gathering at church, the entire team assembles gift bags–velvet, drawstring bags filled with quality gifts. The bags contain mini-perfume bottles, cool jewelry, and lip gloss. There is a book of matches labeled with “We love strippers” and the Emmaus church website. There’s also a card stating, Madame, you are loved. The other side of the card reads: There are no strings attached to this gift. If we can do anything to help you in any way, let us know.

“We pray over the bags and pray for the women who will receive them.” Men drive the vehicles to the clubs, but only women are allowed to go inside. They hit three or four strip clubs per night and take the gift bags to the performers.

“We were a little apprehensive at first. We weren’t sure how we would we be received.” To their surprise, they were welcomed by many of the owners and managers of the clubs to the point that several relationships have developed. The ministry team is given VIP sitting areas in some of the clubs; they interact with the women for around 15-20 minutes and hand out the gifts. Once they are done for the evening, the teams come together, the fast is broken, and they enjoy a meal together.

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Vicky and the team have developed relationships with several of the strippers, and some have called the church for help finding a job or paying the rent. So far none of the strippers have visited Emmaus, but the ministry is having an impact and Emmaus is successfully re-branding Christianity. “We aren’t trying to get them to come to our church or to get the girls out of the industry,” Michael explained, “even though ultimately that is what we want for them, our purpose is to let the girls know that they are loved by an amazing God. That they have value and worth not because they can dance on a pole, but simply because they were created by a loving God, and THAT gives them immeasurable worth.”

The club most frequented by the ministry team recently closed its doors, and while some of the women have moved on to other clubs, some of the women that worked there have reconnected with family and haven’t returned to the industry. “I’d like to think we had some small part in that,” Michael said.

To learn more about The Madame Initiative http://emmauschurch.wordpress.com/we-love-strippers/

To learn more about Emmaus Church http://emmauschurch.tv/

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