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A Disco Ball... A Night Club... And A Church
"Mom, is that a disco ball!”
I looked up at the shimmering sphere hanging over our heads as we walk towards the front of the room and smiled. Yes, it was a disco ball and it was hanging right in the center of a room where I’d be speaking in just a few minutes.
My family and I had been intrigued when we’d pulled up to a New York City night club and walked in to find all the things you might expect inside the darkened auditorium – raised bar counters, light fixtures illuminated by dim red light bulbs, high stools, a couple massive chandeliers and, yes, a disco ball. This building, shifty and sinister on most nights of the week, housed the church that met here every single weekend.
For each of the 7 Sunday services and the 2 back-to-back women’s events on Tuesday evening, it was completely filled. Folks waited outside for a couple hours to get in and then filed onto the dance floor-turned sanctuary on the bottom floor. They sat in every folding chair that had been set out while the remaining hundreds – undeterred by unavailable seats - stood behind them on the back half of the floor for the entire service. Others climbed the stairs to the top floor and sat at the counter that lined the upstairs banister. More stood behind them; shoulder to shoulder with each other.
When the building was filled to capacity and beyond, anyone who hadn’t gotten in was given a ticket for first entry into the next service. Not one of those tickets was unused. Everyone who got a ticket waited patiently for the next service to begin. Nearly 5000 people in all went in and out of those nightclub doors before the weekend was over.
No space under the disco ball was untouched. People were everywhere – against walls, in corners, on the floor, even in the lobby of the club where they were unable to see the actual stage or anyone who would be on it that night. Men, women, boys and girls came in their skinny jeans and tank tops, flip-flops and sundresses and leggings with trendy blousy tops. Some had skin that was pierced or tattoed and some had hair cut and dyed in the most daring of ways.
The deep bass of eclectic music punctuated with lyrics celebrating God boomed loudly through the air and strobe lights blasted out from the sides of the platform. It looked and sounded like a club. . . .except it wasn’t.
Not with this crowd and their intentions.
Folks squeezed in next to each other, smiled and then made more room even when there wasn’t any. They grabbed whatever stray papers they could find and turned them into fans to cool their faces.
It was hot.
But, no one left. The lack of comfort didn’t dissuade any of these persistent souls from leaning in with eager expectation. The atmosphere was charged with an all-too-rare excitement and raw spiritual passion that was palatable. It was clear that these people hadn’t come to see each other or just to hear a speaker. They had come to hear and see God and fellowship with His body – the Church – even if the only place they could find to meet, in the high-priced real estate island of Manhattan, was a nightspot.
But this nightspot was now a holy spot where they could come as they were, be accepted and loved and meet the One who had changed them from the inside out.
Many of them, you see, have only just met Him. Over 1200 each week have come to know Christ as Lord in this night-club-church. Rescued from addictions and lifestyle choices that could have ruined their lives (or may have already), they are now in a passionate love affair with the Savior of their souls. They don’t have time to play church or have patience for those who do. They aren’t as interested in the aesthetics of the building as they are the state of their souls. They don’t need pews or carpet, crucifixes or hymnals, pipe organs or stain glass windows. In fact, those very traditional things might just be the undoing of a place like this.
Somehow, the dark corners, strobe lights and dance floors make people – including me – feel welcome.
So, we all came just the way we were without prejudice or pretense to meet Him underneath that silver, glistening disco ball.
My family and I were stunned and delighted by everything – the unique setting and the unique unspoiled enthusiasm by those gathered.
Somehow, despite the sweat rolling down my brow, I was refreshed.
Refreshed by the worship reverberating off the walls.
Refreshed by the sight of tattoed arms raised in radical praise to God.
Refreshed by a satiating hunger that made standing and fanning only a minor inconvenience to deal with.
Refreshed by the sense of anticipation that filled the room when the Word was opened.
This was passion – a passion this church girl from the buckle of the Bible belt needed to see and feel and experience.
Thank you Lord for showing it to me . . . .at church, under a disco-ball, in a night club.