Here is something about our great team of people who lead some of our convention outreaches.
XXXchurch was founded on the idea of taking Jesus out of the church, off the pew, and into the world where He is needed most. There are few vices in our culture which have more perceived seediness to them than pornography, and so it made sense that XXXchurch’s first outreach ever should be to a porn show.
That history has been well-documented. But ever since that very first outreach, taking the light of Jesus into porn shows has become a foundational element of the work we do at XXXchurch. In many ways, this is the backbone of our ministry.
But what kind of person goes in? What do they do?
Can you do it?
According to XXXchurch porn-show vet Leslie Hawkins, who heads up outreaches in the Pacific Northwest, the answer to that last question is a resounding “yes.”
“I have nothing in common with people in the industry—except everything,” Hawkins says. “They’re people just like me. They’re women like me. They’re men like my husband. It’s easier than you think to find common ground, to find things to talk about with people at the shows.”
Over on the other side of the country, in south Florida, Tim Savage discovered the same thing about himself while his wife Sandra went with XXXchurch into a porn show in Miami.
“I told [my wife], ‘I’ll be outside praying for you,’” Savage says, recalling his own life-changing moment. “I was on the beach and got a word from Jesus, and he said, ‘I’m not holding you out of this place—you’re holding yourself out.’”
Indeed, both Hawkins and Savage have put their fingers on a universal truth about this type of outreach, which is that everyone has something to offer the people inside a porn show. Savage elaborates:
“It’s like a pirate ship—you have all these people doing different things; you know who’s leading and where it’s going, but no one thinks they’re bigger than anyone else or better than anyone. It’s a ministry of beggars helping other beggars find bread. It’s such a great group of people who aren’t looking for overnight, bite-sized relationships; we’re looking for long-term ministry and family relationships. We know Jesus is calling us to the same destination.”
Amanda Carrasco certainly understands Savage’s analogy. She is a self-proclaimed former “black sheep” who now spearheads XXXchurch and StripChurch efforts throughout Canada. Says Carrasco:
“At one time, I felt like I wasn’t good enough for the church. Like I wasn’t loved. And I needed to have those lies broken down, because that’s not true! So now I get to help other people identify those lies in their own hearts; that’s why they’re involved in what they’re doing, whether they’re producing or consuming [porn]. This is an amazing way to tell people, ‘Grace is good enough. You don’t have to clean up to come to church.’”
Carrasco didn’t start off with this level of understanding about who she would find at the porn shows, however. Her first exposure to XXXchurch came in 2009, when she discovered the website and had a far different feeling about it than she has now.
“I learned that they actually go to porn shows, and I thought it was ridiculous and the opposite of what Christians should be doing,” Carrasco says. However, after doing a little research on the team, she changed her mind. “I saw their whole heart for people who didn’t feel loved by the church or judged—and that resonated with me.”
Back to Savage, though, who spent ten years soaking his life in drugs, alcohol, strip clubs, pornography, and, in his words, “inappropriate relationships.” For him, going to a porn show has become personal.
“That culture is made up of people I really understand,” he says, calling porn-show attendees “my people.” “I was there. [Those are] people who are going after life really hard and fast. I do that now with Jesus, but only because someone took the time to trust me to hear from Jesus rather than shoving Jesus down my throat. [Now I can] lead and temper the conversations people have, trusting the Holy Spirit. Whether it’s a man or a woman, whether it’s a provider [of porn] or a user, they’re all in that bubble and I hurt for them.”
Savage continues, speaking with rapid-fire intensity, “I had to hit rock-bottom and drag myself into a church before I could meet Jesus—I never would’ve imagined someone bringing him to where I was. My life would be totally different if someone had done that. Anytime I’m in the middle of a convention, I get to do what nobody else did for me.”
For Rachel Collins, the motivations may be less personal but they are no less different. For the past eight years, Collins has been helping with porn-show outreaches in southern California, where she is also a youth pastor, and she loves the consistency she’s had—and the lifestyle changes she’s been able to see.
We have this beautiful situation where we can be with people along the journey.”
Doing outreach at a porn show may be rewarding spiritually, but it does require some financial backing, a fact that Carrasco knows all too well. When she first approached her senior pastor about investing in a porn-show outreach, her family had been attending that church for only five months.
“I was sure he was going to laugh me out of the building,” she says. But no, it went the other way as she began to see God’s hand of provision. “I told our senior pastor it was going to cost $13,000, and though he’d never heard of XXXchurch before, he agreed to give me $2000 to get us started and that was what we needed at that time. I put the rest of the cost on my credit card, and we were off and running! We didn’t have the money, we didn’t have a team, I was 38 weeks pregnant with our third child when we did the show… and God showed up. And He’s continued to show up every time over the last four years.”
“I had more non-Christians signed up to support me than I did Christians!” she says with legitimate amazement. “They may not believe in Christ, but they believe in people who are willing to step out and say that Jesus loves them regardless of where they are, or to apologize for what the church has done to them.”
“I’ve found that I am a lot more approachable now—even if people aren’t struggling with porn, but are struggling with something else. They think, ‘Amanda can tell people ‘Jesus loves porn stars,’ so maybe she’ll be able to talk with me about what I’m going through.’”
Take It Home
Over her years of involvement, Rachel Collins has become a sort-of Swiss army knife of ministry, providing a variety of needs and reaching into different areas as those needs arise, from porn shows to strip clubs to anywhere else she sees hurting people.
“I want nothing from these women,” she says. “I want to serve them. But then I also get to help people who want to do this ministry, and I get to show them how to love and respect and cherish these women, and not because of their bodies but because of who they are. I’m loving them with my life.”
It is that component of porn-show outreach—the part where new people join the team or come along for the ride—where many of the XXXchurch coordinators seem to come alive. Says Hawkins:
“My husband and I have led a group from our church for the last four years. We do it as a couple. We get together a group of several people, most of whom have never done this before, who are afraid of stepping out, who are afraid of the unknown. But it’s amazing to bring in these people who are so open and to train them up and to watch them become passionate about this ministry.”
That sort of passion is exactly what keeps people like Leslie Hawkins, Amanda Carrasco, Rachel Collins, and Tim Savage—and plenty of other XXXchurch volunteers—going, year after year, back to the porn shows. Savage especially appreciates the longevity of the relationships he’s forming.
“You know the truth will [win out],” he says, “and you know it’s a long-term investment. Once you’ve experienced it, you can’t go back.”
Hawkins agrees: “One thing we like to accomplish… is to let people know that they can do this type of outreach, that it’s not too crazy or out there, and hope they take that fire for God back home with them.”
***My buddy Adam Palmer did these interviews and helped write this one as well.