Jesus Loves Porn Stars - "Brittni's Rescue"

As a part of our "Redemption Stories" series, I'll be highlighting some pretty incredible stories over the next few days. 

Over the past couple of decades porn has become normalized and mainstream in our culture. The advent of the internet has perhaps been the greatest element in this surge. The adult industry annually rakes in billions of dollars. The math is fuzzy and totals vary based upon the group reporting, but it is universally agreed that the adult industry is a lucrative one. 

The glamour, money, parties and all that is promoted as "good" in the porn industry tend to be straw houses that dissolve over time. 

Churches and ministries developed over the years focusing on reaching and ministering to those in the industry. For many, mostly women, feeling trapped in the industry left them hopeless and helpless. Rest assured, God is not blind and His love never changes. He has been drawing these individuals to Himself (just like He's done for me and others.)

What happens when a porn star comes to Jesus?

This is happening. For years, the two-dimensional images of beautiful women in magazines and film were objectified to such a degree that the concept of eternity and personal salvation were far (very far) from the minds of those viewing such images. Since the objectifying of women (and men) is ultimately a practice in self-love and narcissism, eternal matters seem foreign to the subject.

But. . .Jesus loves porn stars and He is drawing many to Himself.

Jesus loves porn stars just like he loves every other depraved and sinful human being on the planet. 

Our friend Crissy Moran will be at First Baptist next Sunday morning to share her personal story of redemption and rescue. I've blogged about her journey previously and we will get to hear from her directly this weekend.

However, Crissy is not the only person to leave the adult industry behind after meeting Christ. Recently, Brittni's story made headlines.

This is what happens when a porn star finds God. . .

Brittni Ruiz was 18 when she started working in porn. She was going to college and working as a dancer when producers from a porn company approached her and asked if she wanted to do “romance movies.” She knew exactly what they were referring to, but wanted to find out more.

“The next day, they put me in hair and makeup,” she says. “They had me do a scene. They were telling me how much money I’d make … I didn’t even think about the consequences.”

She became Jenna Presley. She performed in hundreds of films, was named one of Maxim magazine’s top 12 female performers in porn, and placed second in Jenna Jameson’s American Sex Star on Playboy TV. She once raked in $13,000 for an eight-hour gig in Tokyo.

Ruiz had been working in the adult industry for four years when she first saw people passing out Bibles at an adult convention, the Exxxotica Expo, in New Jersey. She described the convention as a trade show that’s “like Comic-Con, but a different crowd.”

She’d spend hours in heels signing autographs and taking pictures with fans who’d often ask her to pose provocatively. It was tiring and draining, and fans could be “too comfortable” with her, she explained, but ultimately, “we would sell our product.”

The people passing out Bibles were from the XXXchurch, sometimes known at the expos as the “Jesus loves porn stars” people because of the banners, Bibles, and T-shirts at their booth with the slogan written across the front.

The gimmick factor certainly caught peoples’ attention, but adult conventions aren’t the easiest place to save souls. Still, Ruiz was impressed. “There’s just something about them. It sets them apart from every person,” she says.

Their Bibles aren’t like typical Bibles. One of their latest editions doesn’t have the word “Bible” anywhere on the front and is a New English Translation of the Book of John with a mustached man in aviators on the cover.

“Does Jesus really love porn stars?” the opening page asks. “Absolutely. Now, that may go against what you thought about Jesus, but it’s true. You see Jesus loves porn stars as much as he loves pastors, soccer moms, liars, thieves and prostitutes. In his eyes, we are all the same.”

“It’s fun; it’s provocative,” says Craig Gross, founder of XXXchurch. “You stop in your tracks … and then you have all these Bibles in front of you.”

Several years after encountering XXXchurch, things changed for Ruiz when a friend invited her to a church in San Diego. “I was invited to church and I felt the love of God,” she says. She brought a Bible with her on a flight from San Diego to Las Vegas, where she was going to shoot another film, started reading, and she knew it was time to leave. “I knew it was my last scene,” she says.

When she told the director in Las Vegas she was done, “He didn’t believe me,” she says, but, “here I am seven months later with a completely turned heart and have not looked back.”

Ruiz changed her phone number, deleted her Twitter account with more than 80,000 followers, and didn’t tell anyone where she was going. Not a single person from the industry ever called her or reached out to see what happened, she says. “Funny thing is, a lot of those men and women knew my real name and could have sought me out on Facebook, but they didn’t.”

From Hunter Schwarz of BuzzFeed. Read the rest of the article here.

Porn star brittni copy
What a great reminder that everyone. . .EVERYONE. . .stands on level ground at the foot of the cross. In other words, no one is too far gone. 

Brittni's story, Crissy's story, others XXXChurch has reached, my story and your story are the same at this point. We all need the rescue. 

Interesting isn't it how the industry gave Brittni a new name. When she came to Christ, she reclaimed her true name. 

The name matters.

Here's Brittni's story from an interview with XXXChurch:

 


Time for a Reboot?

Sometimes, it's just better to reboot.

SpidermenThis summer the film "The Amazing Spider-Man" opens starring Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone. The trailer has been out for months and it appears the film will be good. At a minimum, it will make millions on merchandising. However, it appears this film is confusing for some fans.

For those who watched and were fans of the previous Spider-Man films with Tobey Maguire as the web slinger, this film is creating some questions, especially for the casual fan. Questions such as:

  • Is this a prequel?
  • What happened to Mary Jane?
  • How does this fit into the other three movies?
  • What about Harry Osborn?

The same type of questions were asked by movie fans when "X-Men: First Class" came out. Most fanboys are so frustrated with all X-Men sequels and spin-offs since X-2, they're hoping for another reboot.

I'm sure similar questions and frustrations will come when "Man of Steel" opens in 2013. The new Superman film is the latest attempt to reclaim some of the excitement of the original "Superman: The Movie" starring Christopher Reeve.

It's just a matter of time before most of the superhero movies being made will be rebooted. There are varied reasons for rebotting such as poor initial outing (anyone remember Hulk?) or weak writing (Fantastic Four), or less than stellar sequels (Batman & Robin). Most often, the decisions to reboot have to do with money. Go figure. In the case of some, it's related to ownership of the characters and the forfeiture of such if new projects were to cease. 

Sometimes, the reboot is a great idea. In the best case scenerio, the reboot doesn't take away from the original at all.

Take the Batman series for example. I'm not referencing the campy Batman film starring Adam West of the 1960s, but the Michael Keaton/Tim Burton film of 1989. While at the time, many were wondering if this Burton vehicle would be watchable, mainly because of the Keaton casting at the Caped Crusader, the box office results were incredible. It's artistic noir take was a hit and Jack Nicholson's Joker stole the show. The first sequel "Batman Returns" was successful as well. The remaining ones were. . .well, not up to par, but when Christopher Nolan rebooted the stories with "Batman Begins" in 2005, it proved that rebooting popular franchises, when done well, are worth the effort.

SO WHAT DOES THIS HAVE TO DO WITH CHURCH?

I tend to see everything through the lens of the church. That even includes superhero movies. Maybe that's a holdover from my childhood love of comic books.

Nevertheless, as I see how the film studios continue to reboot classic characters and stories, I begin asking questions about rebooting and new beginnings as it relates to the local church.

Businesses understand the need for change. Those who do not, soon find themselves fighting for survival and market share. 

Change is not an option when it comes to the message. The Gospel is the message and not up for change. The methods of sharing this message, however, have changed numerous times throughout the years.

The way churches are organized, staffed, scheduled, etc. often have more to do with tradition and historical expectations rather than biblical instruction or cultural impact. Consequently, we hire pastors to fill positions based upon task or people group. We staff small groups based on a structure that has worked well for years. In some cases we continue to replicate a strategy that was successful decades ago.

I have heard church strategists and godly missional thinkers speak on this for years. It's strange. I go to conferences where "Change the methods but not the message" is proclaimed and the crowd says "AMEN!" but when back home, nothing happens.

We continue to just do what has been done for years, even when the results (i.e. salvations, community impact, mission engagement) show that it's time to reevaluate.  

And the world we have been called to reach for the Gospel continues to be unreached.

I heard one leader say (I think it was Ed Stetzer) that most Baptist churches are perfectly structured to reach the culture of the 1950s. Wow!

We wonder why churches are not as effective in impacting our communities for the Gospel.

We are perfectly organized to get the results we are getting.

Maybe it's time for a reboot. Not a reboot of the message. Never. But a reboot of the things that we have added and created over the decades that may be keeping the message from being communicated and the mission field from being engaged.

Have you ever noticed how churches tend to add more and more things that are seemingly "good ideas" and over time become so fully calendared with "events" and "good things" that sometimes the "God things" aren't being done.

More is not always better. Just look at those superhero movies. In the original Batman and Spider-Man series of films the writers kept adding more and more characters. By the end run, there were so many costumed people on the screen, the story was muddied. Of course, I said more is not always better. Sometimes more works well ("The Avengers") but it's rare.

Rather than just hire staff for functions that have existed for decades, maybe it's time to relook at how we're organized to impact and engage the culture for the sake of Gospel and staff accordingly?

Rather than just fill a calendar with events that are "just like last year's" we need to look once again at how and when we do things through the church.

It's not so much that we need something new. In fact, there's nothing new under the sun anyway, so it's not about new.

It's about the Gospel. 

It's a constant challenge, but I'm just wondering. . .is it time for a reboot?


What the Church Can Learn From Netflix

Sometimes business decisions are made in board rooms that sound so very right, but when announced to the public become so very wrong. 

Netflix-Price-Hike Now, I have never sat in on a planning meeting or vision casting session with the CEO or board of Netflix, but just by watching the reaction of industry monitors and reading customer reactions on social media sites, it appears (at least to me) that Netflix made some very risky decisions recently.

In case you have had your head in the sand for the past six months, here's a recap:

  • Netflix is the number one provider of on-demand streaming media in the United States as well as flat-rate DVD by mail provider. Virtually on their own, Netflix moved Blockbuster video to the brink of extinction and redefined how Americans procured DVD films for home viewing.
  • In April 2011, Netflix announced they had accrued 23.6 million subscribers and expressed plans to expand to Europe in 2012.
  • In July 2011, Netflix announced a plan to separate its current subscription plans into streaming and by-mail DVD rental. This was not such a big deal until it became obvious this meant a price hike for subscribers. This was not met with positive results.
  • Social media sites were flooded with negative comments about Netflix's plans.
  • In early September 2011, Starz announced it's plans to remove Netflix streaming from its plans in February 2012.
  • Later in September 2011, Netflix announced the creation of Quickster. According to CEO and Co-Founder Reed Hastings, Quickster would be the name of the DVD section of the company and would also include the rental of video games. This in and of itself seemed like a good plan in that customers had been asking for video game rental for years. However, the public and industry reaction to "Quickster" was anything but positive.
  • Yesterday, October 10, 2011, Hastings announced the cancellation of Quickster and said that DVD-by-mail service would remain part of Netflix.

What?

This sounds like the "New Coke" strategy of 1985. That one also resulted in negative PR, though some still say it was an orchestrated plan to drive the stock of Coca-Cola back up after the re-release of Coca-Cola Classic. Who knows?

So, what can the church learn from this fiasco?

I meet with numerous pastors around our community. Some are in thriving churches and great things are happening almost weekly. Hearing their stories are encouraging and moving. However, many are frustrated. These men are in churches that are struggling financially. Some are close to foreclosure on their facilities and battling spiritually daily with church members (and in some cases other churches.) They are drained and burned out. It's heart-breaking. 

I was talking with one pastor recently and he shared how those in his church are constantly seeking the "secret sauce" to fix everything. This is dangerous and ultimately fruitless.

They seek a "fix" that will bring people into their fellowship. It may be a new building project, a community event, a new staff position or the replacement of a staff member, or any number of things except THE THING that is needed.

There are also those serving in churches that seemingly are running on all cylinders. They are seeing people come to Christ regularly. They are honoring the Lord through their worship and impacting the community, but they're restless. This restlessness leads to recklessness.

Since we live in a changing culture, I believe methodology must continually change and morph to best impact the community and world we are in with the Gospel. I do not believe the Gospel or the message should ever change or be compromised. To live missionally means that we understand the community around us, as missionaries are to do, and adjust methods to result in the greatest impact for the Gospel.

What Netflix did is what many churches do. They changed, seemingly, just for the sake of change. While there may have been good reason to change, apparently, they did not sell it well to their customer base. That's why they're backpedaling now.

One of the greatest and most difficult things we deal with as pastors and church leaders, is communicating the "why" of change within the church when it's necessary. I do not pretend to have this figured out, but I have learned that there is no "buy in" to the Kingdom movement if the people are not led to understand it. 

In George G. Hunter III's book The Celtic Way of Evangelism, he describes Patrick's journey to the Celtic people of Ireland. The Celtic Way, amazingly is the missional way being espoused today. There is much to be learned here. This paragraph really grabbed my attention:

Indeed, the fact that Patrick understood the peole and their language, their issues, and their ways serves as the most strategically significant insight that was to drive the wider expansion of Celtic Christianity and stands as perhaps our greatest single learning from this movement. There is no shortcut to understanding the people. When you understand the people, you often know what to say and do and how. When the people know that the Christians understand them, they infer that maybe Christianity's High God understands them too. (p. 8)

It seems that Netflix leaders forgot the people. They didn't fully understand the customer base. They led to some possibly great changes, but left the people behind.

Churches sometimes do this as well. It's about understanding the lost around the church and reaching them with the Gospel. It's also about understanding the saved within the fellowship and leading them to be missional.

I'm all for change. My nature drives me to change. I get bored easily and the same-ole, same-ole drives me crazy. Yet, change for the sake of change is a waste of time and energy. Change when needed, communicated well and for the growth of the Kingdom is powerful. May we learn from Netflix and others. May this remind us that we are the church, not another corporate entity.


"The Butterfly Circus" - 20 Minutes of Inspiration

I saw this film about a week ago with a group from Lakeside Junior High.  I wanted others to see it and purchased the DVD.  Our family watched it tonight.  This film has so many messages at so many levels - grace, acceptance, the power of "us", transformation, life, etc.

I know it's 20 minutes long, but you would be wise to take the time and watch.  Perhaps, if we can get the licensing, we'll show it during one of our church gatherings.

 

I watched the special features on the DVD.  I always enjoy seeing the behind the scenes info and outtakes.

I knew some of the actors looked familiar.

  • Mendez is played by Eduardo Vera'stegui - Remember him as the star of Bella?
  • Will the "Limbless Man" is played by Nick Vujicic.  He's been featured on YouTube for years and you probably have had clips of his story emailed to you.
  • Otto is played by Doug Jones.  I've never seen Pan's Labyrinth, but I've seen stills from it.  he plays the character with eyes on his hands.
  • Poppy is played by Bob Yerkes - a stunt man who doubled for Doc Brown at the end of Back to the Future when the lightning struck the clock tower as well as the stunt double for Boba Fett in Star Wars: Return of the Jedi.  He said that he was typecast in this film as an old trapeze artist.  He's great as Poppy.

Apparently, they are making it into a feature film.  Can't wait to see the story unfold even more.

To order your own copy of the DVD, go to www.thebutterflycircus.com

 

 


There and Back Again - Lessons from a Hobbit

Sunday afternoon, after getting home from church and eating a big lunch, I found my place on the sofa.  There's nothing on television on Sunday afternoons this time of year, so I put in my copy of The Lord of the Rings:  Return of the King.  This is a great film and this version is the extended version.  I started watching it the day before, but it's four hours long and I fell asleep, so I put it back on and tried to finish.

I have owned this copy of the film for a couple of years but never got around to watching it.  So, Sunday looked like a good day to finish.

I had preached Sunday morning the first message in a series of sermons titled "Small is the New Big."  The emphasis is on noticing those things that are seemingly insignificant, yet greatly used by God.

There are biblical accounts of this principle throughout the Scriptures:  David, the slaying of Goliath, Zacchaeus, etc.

I didn't expect to be taught something by watching a movie.  I just wanted to finish the film, relax on the sofa and rest on this day.

As I watched the film, even though I had seen the theatrical version earlier and knew how it ended, I was taken by the fact that of all the huge, bigger than life characters in the film (Gandalf the Wizard, Aragorn, Legolas, etc.) that the key elements to the victory in battle were tied up in the smallest characters.

The four Hobbits in the film - Frodo, Sam, Merry and Pippin, were vital in every portion of the victory.  Of course, we knew Frodo would be.  He's the one given the task of destroying the ring.  He's the central character, but the other three proved valuable as well.

Throughout the story, there are jokes and statements made by other characters about the Hobbits, their diminutive size, their seemingly inability to make a difference, but when you get to the end of the film, you realize that all those other characters must eat their words.

The scene that did it for me was the one linked below (just click the image.)  What a great reminder that regardless of your size or seemingly insignificant role in the grand Story of God - you matter!  You are valuable!

Hobbits