Why people are losing interest in the church – Case 1
Perhaps more Christians should be concerned about what’s going on in some churches today. The more I look, the more I understand why it’s getting hard to tell people about Jesus. We have churches making a mockery of what Jesus taught us. What are these churches thinking? I never read the author Anne Rice until she posted this on Facebook: “Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ as always but not to being ‘Christian’ or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to ‘belong’ to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.” I think I’m beginning to understand her point. In each part of this series, I want to look at what one local church is doing and then ask what Jesus might say to them. Your feedback and guest posts are most welcome.
You’ll be surprised to hear why these strippers are protesting on Sunday mornings at New Beginnings Ministries Church. The dancers say they're fed up with Bible-brandishing churchgoers who picket the club where they work. Pastor Bill Dunfee believes that God has called his church to shut down the strip club, the Fox Hole. "As a Christian community, we cannot share territory with the devil," Dunfee said. "Light and darkness cannot exist together, so The Fox Hole has got to go." So for four-and-a-half years now, members of the church in Warsaw, Ohio have been travelling nine miles down the road to the strip club in New Castle each weekend around 11pm in order to demonstrate with picket signs and bullhorns at the Foxhole strip joint. These church members invite customers and employees to their church but they also block traffic and attempt to shame patrons, asking them what their wives or mothers would think. And when those tactics fail, they take photos of patrons’ license plates to post on a "shaming" site.
Is it working? Well, one stripper named “Lola,” a mother of four children, said she made $30 instead of a couple hundred dollars last Friday with the protesters outside. "I'm not the most beautiful woman in the world," she said. "I go out there and I try to make my money." About seven dancers are trying to make a living at the club. Some of the women feel this is the only way they can make money in the tiny village of 900 people. They’re tired of being called “whores” and “homewreckers” and losing income they really need.
After four-and-a-half years of these demonstrations by the church goers, the club owner and dancers decided it was time to protest at the church. They didn’t match the tactics of the church members—no bullhorns and no intimidation of church attenders—instead they arrived with lawn chairs and signs which mostly displayed verses of Scripture. A few verses I could make out include Matthew 7:12, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” Matthew 6:44, “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” and a rather interesting interpretation of John 8:41-44, “I have been misrepresented by those who don't know me.” An Associated Press article described one scene at the church:
Laura Meske — known as Lola, stage age 36 but really 42 — hid behind a sign proclaiming, "Jesus loves the children of the world!" as the preacher extended his hand for a shake.
Two nights earlier, Dunfee and more than a dozen churchgoers stood outside the club, one of them calling out Meske's stripper name.
"He who casts the first stone ... ," Meske said Sunday.
The pastor cut her off and repeated, "Lola, Lord bless you."
"Everybody has sinned, and that doesn't mean I'm not gonna get into heaven," she said, the stud piercing in her chin shimmering in the sunlight. "I believe in Jesus. I don't believe what they preach. They preach hate."
Debi Durr, who attends the church, disagreed. "You don't stand up there for four years for hate. That's not hate. That's love," she said.
That’s the first case of what I think is a church causing people in their community to lose interest in the church and its message. (For an update on this story, see Religion Dispatches Magazine.) What do you think about what this church in rural Ohio is doing?
What would Jesus say to them? Perhaps the same thing he said to the self-righteous religious leaders of his day: “Truly I tell you, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you” (Matthew 21:31, TNIV).