Published September 22, 2013
One woman at a time, Erin Stevens is determined to lead every stripper in Nashville to salvation.
The 42-year-old pastor’s wife launched Strip Church in October following a 21-day fast during which Stevens claims God spoke to her directly, telling her to reach out to those farthest from a divine lifestyle.
“I just thought that I’ve got to do something,” Stevens told FoxNews.com. “So I felt the Lord say to me, ‘Go feed the strippers.’”
Stevens, whose husband is the lead pastor at Friendship Community Church in Mount Juliet, then began taking home-cooked meals to a local strip club in Nashville, Tenn., twice a month. In addition to moral support and general counseling, Stevens provided a nondenominational, judgment-free approach, she said.
“I told these girls they may not need God right now in their lives, but they will at one point,” Stevens said. “We never go in with a Bible and we never go in with a prayer sermon. We don’t try to change them, we just love them.”
Stevens said she’s met with roughly 100 exotic dancers among Nashville’s 10-15 gentlemen clubs, many of which are dens of debauchery leading to higher rates of drug use, alcohol abuse and potentially prostitution.
“A lot of them have pasts that they can’t get over, so I just say Jesus knows all that you’ve done and still sees you as 100 percent forgivable,” Stevens said. “His love is unconditional and that seems to resonate with these girls. I tell them, ‘God sees you as valuable and I see you as valuable.’”
Stevens points to a 23-year-old mother of two who stopped working as a stripper shortly after meeting her last year as proof that the approach works. The former dancer, whose name is being withheld to protect her identity, has since quit smoking and now wants to work in law enforcement after completing her degree in criminal justice.
“She wants to be a cop now,” Stevens said. “She has taken giant leaps of faith and she has really stepped up. She came to know the Lord; she left and didn’t even have another job lined up.”
The former dancer -- reached by phone by FoxNews.com -- said Stevens merely introduced herself the first few times they met.
“She didn’t even talk about the church at first,” the Nashville resident said. “She said, ‘I’m here if you need me, give me a call if you need any help. She said God still loves me, basically.”
The woman later worked her last shift as a stripper in April, thanks to a “peaceful revelation” powered by Stevens, she said.
“I had been missing so much from my life and had been hiding,” she said. “That day I kind of realized that this is His plan.”
Tara Ulrich, a coordinator for Strip Church’s national ministry, said Stevens attended the organization’s training session in Dallas and joined the network to launch her own ministry in Nashville under the moniker. The group has amassed a total of more than 60 ministries worldwide that reach out to strip clubs in cities like Denver, Chicago, Miami and many others, Ulrich said.
Stevens’ husband, Todd, said he’s noticed a stark change in his “unconditionally accepting” wife since launching the effort in Nashville, where, according to a 2012 study, more than 2,000 unique advertisements hawking sex for money were found on the city’s section of Backpage.com during a three-month period.
“She’s always had a heart for other people, but I’ve seen it go to a whole new level,” Todd Stevens told FoxNews.com. “She’s not afraid to be in very uncomfortable situations and looks forward to hanging out with people who are unlike her and not being worried about reputations at all.”