A crowded room full of people, hands raised in the air, crying out for peace to fall down on the land,longing to experience something more than the mediocrity of daily life,strangers banded together by their passionate worship, they can’t help but dance, can’t help but sing, overflowing with joy they shout forth yelps of praise and clap their hands in agreement, praying that every moment could be as sweet as this….
Welcome to last Wednesday night in Eden. No, not the biblical garden or a metaphor for heaven: Eden is a nightclub in San Antonio,Ibiza. And, yes the lyrics accompanying the heavy beats literally cried out for peace (if I knew the song, I’d link to it). To quote one of the members on our short-term team, “there was a moment that night, where I was standing there dancing and I realized that there was no other place I wanted to be. It was one of the best moments of my life”.
Many dream of a day when the Church meets this description,but it is a much more common picture in nightclubs than religious services. Before I write any further, I know that for some this seems heretical. Think about it though: if you were to become more undignified in worship and let loose like King David did… would you be more likely to do so at the altar of your local church or on the crowded floor of a busy nightclub?
Last year at Pacha, when Bob Sinclar busted out“World Hold On”, I remember throwing my hands up and begging the Lord to bring it, crying out for the heavens to open and for the love of God to flood the place.
” Look inside, you’ll find a deeper love
The kind that only comes from high aboveIf you ever meet your inner child, don t cry
Tell them everything is gonna be alrightWorld, hold on
Instead of messing with our future, open up inside” – from “World Hold On”
A few of the best worship experiences of my life have been on a crowded dance floor, hands in the air,praying in the Spirit, unashamedly dancing, amongst a crowd of mostly non-Christians who were celebrating the music instead of the God who created it.
What would happen if we made the places where people meet altars? What would happen if we worshiped God and prayed in public venues? I’m not suggesting being a public spectacle like the Pharisees, but going along with daily life by practicing the presence of God in every task like Brother Andrew. Didn’t the early church meet daily in the temple courtyards – culture epicenters where people gathered? What if we to places where people are seeking passionate communities and life altering moments, and prayed that God would meet them in their euphoria? What if we brought light into the darkness, by declaring God’s redemption in the beauty of the communal party?
Didn’t the Lord create music? Didn’t He fashion dance? Why should the best of these arts be reserved for those who have yet to meet Him?Shouldn’t we celebrate these creative expressions? When we dance to the beats,dressed modestly, completely sober, and have a great time… are we not coming in an opposite spirit to the culture of drug induced hazes in nightlife?
I just finished reading a book called Night Vision. It’s collection of stories from those who dared to worship Jesus, pray for His love to be known, and serve people in the midst of the party culture. One of the contributors launches into a discourse pondering the question of why parties seem like such dark places. Why do some Christians discourage believers from going into clubs? Why do bars and dance floors seem like such dark places? The writer shares this reflection from John Stott (13):
“Our Christian habit is to bewail the world’s deteriorating standards with an air of rather self-righteous dismay… “The world is going down the drain.” we say with a shrug. But whose fault is it? Who is to blame? Let me put it like this. If the house is dark when night falls, there is no sense in blaming the house; that is what happens when the sun goes down. The question to ask is, “Where is the light?”. Similarly, if the meat goes bad and becomes inedible, there is no sense in blaming the meat… the question to ask is, “Where is the salt?” Just so, if society deteriorates and its standards decline… there is no sense in blaming society; that is what happens when fallen men and women are left to themselves… the question to ask is “where is the church? Why are the salt and light of Jesus Christ not permeating and changing our society?” - John Stott, Issues Facing Christians Today, page 85.
How do we expect there to be restoration of Light if we refuse to be present in the darkness? How can something become salty if we never keep salt far away from it? If I can worship God through a few cheesy rock songs on a Sunday morning, why can’t we worship Him through prayer and dance on a Saturday night? Did King David dance passionately secluded in his room? No, he ran into the crowds- and, didn’t his worship glorify the Lord and turn heads toward heaven?
Night Vision quotes a study that concludes 73% of all 18-24year olds regularly attend late night bars/clubs (11). If I am committed to loving, serving, and reaching my generation, how can I not be willing to bring Life into the party? How can I not share the love of Christ with those who are celebrating the creativity,community, and culture that He created? And if most clubbers are interested in discussing spirituality and the deeper questions of life (22), shouldn’t the people who celebrate their personal relationship with the Answer be there willing to offer companionship for the journey?
I’m more convinced than ever that my generation needs to be more intentional about being a conduit of Light, Salt, and Life in the places where people gather- and what better place to do it than one that will be even more undignified in celebration when the Good News permeates their lives?