When Dive Bars Become Sanctuaries

What constitutes a worship song? Is it lyrical content? As long as it has Jesus’ name in the lyrics someplace, it’s a worship song. Right? (Just one example of this not being the case “Jesus was a Crossmaker” by The Hollies. Beautiful song, totally not a worship song.)
Better question. What constitutes a worship leader? Is it a heart that loves the Lord? A heart that loves The Church? Okay, if that’s the case I went to a worship service in the back of sports bar last night. Confused yet? Okay.
My sweet friends are in a band called Whosah. I’ve written about them a few times on this very blog, but, last night I got to have some conversations that totally changed their context for me.
I got to spend a moment or two talking about life with my friend, Spencer. A some point in the conversation we got to talking about leading worship and dive bars. He said something really brilliant,
“That’s what so great about what we do. Dive Bar or Worship Set we get to be a light, you know?”
Y’all! Whosah leads worship. They might not be singing about Jesus blatantly in their lyrics, but they are humbling themselves before God to be a shout into the void, a light in the darkness. Whosah creates safe spaces.
When I was seventeen, I didn’t go to church. I did go to shows. I would stand in the back of shady bars and basements and listen to people pour their heart out in melodies, harmonies, drum beats and bass lines. The shouts into the void. It was at one of these very shows that I met Jesus.

Not because the person with the microphone said “Following Jesus is as simple as A…B…C” but, rather because I got thrown into a mosh pit (all five feet of Palsy that I am) and nearly knocked out.
The kid that pulled me out was able to use the safe space music created to reach into my darkness because He cared for me. He cared for me because he cared for Jesus. Since then, I feel the closest to God in the back of shows watching people experience safety, often for the first time.
So, what constitutes a worship song? Scripturally, God asks us for “joyful noise”. Not “pretty noise” not “well rehearsed noise” not even “musical noise”. And, I can’t tell you how much joyful noise I heard in that bar. There was laughter, singing, shouting into the void on major levels. I was humbled. I was nervous.

I was in the presence of Jesus in the same way I was on that night in October in 2004. I am thankful for the raw reminder of how much Jesus loves me and His people and those that create safe spaces.

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