Learning How to Party Like Jesus
“The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, 'Here is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.' But wisdom is proved right by her deeds." — Matt.11:19
If there was one piece of evangelistic advice I would like to give to Seventh-day Adventists it is this: Adventists need to learn how to party!
I came to this realization while I was a Bible worker. Bible workers knock on doors inviting people to have Bible studies. To be honest, I don't like that part. But one night I was out knocking on doors with my wife, Danelle, and we weren't having any success. It was lightly raining. I was tired and ready to go home … but Danelle said, "Let’s try one more house."
We knocked on Joe’s door rather hesitantly. He was blaring rock music, and I was convinced this would be a waste of time. Joe opened the door and invited us in. He turned down his music and opened up to us. He was high on life (and other things), and he was the most friendly person we met that night. In fact, he was the only person who invited us in that day. Joe told us he was a carpenter, and he understood that Jesus was a carpenter. He figured maybe Jesus would have some work for him to do in heaven. He said he was open to Bible studies, and we told him we would come back.
When we came back the next week, Joe was blaring his music again. This time it was obvious he was having a party. I thought we should come back another time, but Danelle convinced me we should go in anyway.
It was a full house. We definitely weren't going to be doing any Bible studies that night, but we talked with and listened to Joe and his friends. They said they wouldn’t tell anyone if we had a few beers. We filled our cups with soda, ate some chips and "partied with Joe and his friends."
At the end of the night just before we were about to leave, Joe asked us to pray. Some of his friends thought that was weird (especially a guy named Dave), but we prayed with them anyway and told Joe we would be back. Following the prayer we met another of Joe’s friends, a lady named Danielle. She was spiritually moved and appreciative of our prayer. She gave us her number. We became friends and did Bible studies with her in the subsequent weeks.
With our third visit to Joe, we were determined to study the Bible with him, but as we pulled up to his place we could see there were even more cars than before. Joe was having a practice session with his band. We went inside and heard some amazing music. They were practicing for a weekend gig at a pub.
Joe was the drummer, Danielle was the singer, and Dave was the lead guitarist. We were offered food and were told to make ourselves comfortable. One of the songs they played was a Harry Chapin song called "Cat's in the Cradle." They sang it with such authenticity and power, I always think of that moment whenever the song comes on the radio to this day.
After a while, people started to leave, and then there were only about six of us left in the home. As we were talking, I had the impression maybe we should sing a song. I mentioned to Joe that Danelle played the guitar. She gave me a look that said, "What are you doing?" We had not planned to do this. Danelle plays the guitar but definitely not at a near-professional level like Joe and his band.
Dave handed Danelle his guitar, and I suggested to her that we play a song called "You Said." With a silent prayer and a moment of awkward nervousness, we started the song. I felt the Holy Spirit move, and I observed the effect on Joe, Danielle and Dave.
This was a breakthrough! After the song even Dave — the man who didn't want us to pray during our first visit — said, with tears in his eyes, "That was REALLY good. You guys have a gift!"
They told us we should play that music in more places, so more people could hear. Dave even said he heard four-part harmony. We weren’t singing any harmony, but I think God can use our feeble attempts and translate it into a glorious symphony. I think angels can party and sing with us, when it is for the right cause.
We hugged them. We prayed with them. We didn't study the Bible that night, but in that moment I felt we loved them like Jesus.
None of it would have happened if we weren't willing to party. Joe was right: Jesus was a carpenter. What he didn't know was Jesus also knew how to party.
Jesus didn't come to call the "righteous." He hung out with “drunkards." He partied with people the religious people of His day wouldn't be caught dead with. The biggest critique the religious crowd had against Him was that He was "a friend of sinners." Maybe that is what we are called to be as well.
Maybe before criticizing "sinners," the church as an institution … and religious people in particular … need to take the "plank out of our own eyes."
We need to connect with others before we attempt to correct others. We need to learn how to party like Jesus.