Church is a Party
by Greg Hanson
Sunrise Wesleyan Church
October 20, 2002


In your Sunrise Update this morning you would have found a couple things. One is the communication card we’ve already talked about. The other is a handout that you can use to follow along with the message this morning. You can fill in the blanks and write any other notes on it that you need to. And what I want to do this morning is talk with you about the fact that Church is a Party.

Ask any teenager why they don’t want to go to church, what will they tell you? One of the great things about teenagers is that they’re honest. So if you ask them why they don’t go to church, what do you think they’ll say?


Yeah, it’s the “B” word. It’s boring. And it’s not just teenagers who think so. A lot of adults feel that way too. Because we have this mindset that there’s fun, and then there’s religion. There’s Saturday night when we can hang out with friends and have a good time, then there’s waking up Sunday morning when we have to get up and go to church and do the thing we’ve got to do. There’s good time, and then there’s Jesus.

The funny thing is, where would you find Jesus during His whole life? If you looked around a bit, you’d probably find him at a party. Dinner parties, wedding banquets, hanging out with friends… We seem to think that Jesus had this reputation as a “Holy man of God.” But reality is that he had a reputation as a drunk and a glutton because he would hang out at parties with drunks, thieves, hookers, and loud-mouthed idiots.

That’s how some people perceived him, as a drunk and a glutton. Hanging out at parties. So we, who want to be patterned after Jesus, remember that reputation was false. But we learn from that reputation not that He was a drunkard and a glutton but that He hung out at parties. So we who want to model ourselves after Him, will say, “We will be the people who celebrate and enjoy life.”

In fact, the early church celebrated life so much that people didn’t know what to make of them. One of the theories floating around at the time was that they were sex-crazed and immoral and had all kinds of orgies because people couldn’t figure out where all this joy was coming from. People misunderstood the early Christians, just like they misunderstood Jesus.

Here we are at Sunrise this morning starting a new church. And I would love for people in the community start talking about us and say, “Man, I don’t know what’s going on over there at the BIS (Benevolent Irish Society hall), but that can’t be church. Those people are excited, they’re pumped, they’re alive. They’re just having too much fun for that to be church.”

But that’s exactly what church is supposed to be. Celebratory.

Unfortunately, we often allow religion and religiosity to overtake what we’re really supposed to be as the Church and as Christ-followers.

Let me read something for you…

Religion is about fitting into a mold and following a list of dos and don’ts;
Christianity is about freedom and becoming the person God intended you to be.

Religion is about sitting back and observing;
Christianity is about participating as part of the Body of Christ.

Religion focuses on events;
Christianity focuses on community.

Religion pushes a code of conduct;
Christianity pursues the person of Jesus Christ.

Religion is about restrictions and regulations;
Christianity is about experiencing the full life God offers.

Religion is concerned about appearances;
Christianity is concerned about reality.

Religion is about judging people;
Christianity is about showing compassion and grace.

Religion is about guilt and punishment;
Christianity is about forgiveness and hope.

Religion is about facilities;
Christianity is about friendship, it’s about faith, it’s about relationships.

Religion is about raising money, and increasing attendance;
Christianity is about transforming lives.
~ Greg Hanson

And that’s what we want to do here at Sunrise. We want to see lives transformed. We want to see people pursuing Jesus Christ. We want to see you get so close to Him that you become like Him. We want people to be excited about their faith, discovering new levels of joy and friendship that they’ve never known before. That’s what Sunrise is about.

Now here’s the danger. Any church can fall into this trap, we can fall into this trap. In wanting people to be joyful, we can try to manufacture it from the front. But we can only do that so much before it becomes hypocritical and pretentious. Now we’re going to do our part and we’re going to have a lot of fun. I think it’s good for us to have music that engages you and that you like and that you want to clap along to. And I think it’s good to be comfortable at church and meet new friends and build relationships. It’s good for us to laugh and have a good time at church. It’s good for us to have parties and activities that you can enjoy and where you can invite your friends.

But if that’s where it stops, it’s such an empty experience. The real joy that’s electric and contagious that makes people come here and say, “This is where I want to be” is not joy that’s manufactured from the front but it’s what people bring in with them when they come. When you have people who are learning what it means to apply the teaching of Jesus and they’re discovering that He is who He says He is and they’re seeing positive changes in their lives and seeing their lives transformed around them, then this is the place where people can come together and celebrate. It’s not what we manufacture; it’s what you bring with you.

Inability to celebrate is one of the hallmarks of a dysfunctional family. Maybe some of you grew up in that kind of environment. Maybe you grew up that way. Maybe you had a parent, one parent both parents, where you just knew fun and games was something you just shouldn’t carry on with. Maybe you know what it’s like to grow up in a family where you always heard, “You know, you really need to be quiet when you were around dad. Just be serious. Listen to what he tells you and don’t talk back.” Maybe you knew what it was like to walk on eggshells when you were around your mother or your father. And you look back now and realize how dysfunctional that was, but that’s exactly the way some people approach church. “You need to be quiet when you’re around Dad. Don’t look like you’re having too much fun. That really irritates Him.”

There are times in any relationship when we need to be quiet. But that shouldn’t be the norm, and it shouldn’t be something that’s forced upon us.

Jesus said in John 10:10;

John 10:10 (NLT)
The thief's purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give life in all its fullness.

And in the passage Chris read for us earlier in John 15:11 Jesus said;

John 15:11 (NLT)
I have told you this so that you will be filled with my joy. Yes, your joy will overflow!

Does that sound like Jesus intended for us to be quiet and serious all the time?

Church is a Party and we want Sunrise to be a party. We are so excited about today. Some of us have been meeting together for months praying and preparing for this day. This past week I met with a number of other pastors in the city, and they prayed for us as a new church. All week long I’ve been receiving emails and phone calls from churches across the Maritimes to let us know that they’ve been thinking about us and would be praying for us in their services this weekend.

So here we are, Sunrise Wesleyan Church. It’s our first week. It’s our Grand Opening. And you’re here to be part of the adventure. This is something to celebrate.

If church is a party, then I want to give you some ingredients of a good party. What things make for a good party, and what are those things the church should reflect and that we want to reflect here at Sunrise?

Ingredients of a Good Party


1. A celebratory focus

Sometimes you just get together with people and have a party for the sake of having a party. And that’s fine. But the best parties are when you have a party for a reason. You have something to celebrate. So you have birthday parties, and wedding parties, and retirement parties and engagement parties and all kinds of parties because there’s a reason.

And Christians have the best reason. I mean this message of being saved out of sin and out of selfishness and out or religion into intimate relationship with God is an amazing message that the world needs to hear. If that doesn’t give you a reason to celebrate then you need to reacquaint yourself with the story of Jesus.


2. Everybody brings something

God made you special. You’ve got something to contribute to the party. He put you together in such a way that no one else is exactly like you. You have talents and passions and insights and abilities that nobody else has, and you have a unique contribution to make at Sunrise. The Bible teaches that every believer is given what we call gifts that enable you to make a difference in people’s lives. So you can come here not as a consumer but as a contributor. You can come not just asking, “What can I get out of this church?” but also, “What can I bring?” And that can begin with something as simple as bringing your questions… adding to the conversation, helping us all to work out our faith together.

I remember when I first started planning parties as a teenager. I’d find out who was coming and then call people up and ask them to bring a bag of chips, bottle of pop, some games, whatever. But everybody had something to contribute. And that’s the way it’ll be here at Sunrise. Every person who comes through the doors is important and can have an impact on what kind of church Sunrise is.


3. A mix of celebration and conversation

You know those parties where you’ve had a great time but it’s 2 in the morning and most of the guests are gone and it’s just you and few friends left. You turn down the music, and you lay around and you talk. Those are some of my favorite times. You talk about the party, you talk about the things happening in your life, you talk about serious things, you talk about silly things. But you have this time of connecting. And that time along with the celebration make for a really great party.


4. You’re free to be yourself.

You don’t have to pretend, you can just be yourself.

Matthew 9:10-13 (NLT)
That night Matthew invited Jesus and his disciples to be his dinner guests, along with his fellow tax collectors and many other notorious sinners. The Pharisees were indignant. "Why does your teacher eat with such scum?" they asked his disciples.
When he heard this, Jesus replied, "Healthy people don't need a doctor--sick people do." Then he added, "Now go and learn the meaning of this Scripture: `I want you to be merciful; I don't want your sacrifices.' For I have come to call sinners, not those who think they are already good enough."

In other words, He’s saying “The people who admit they need Me are the people who admit they have problems.” They’re the people who will admit, “I’m sick. I need help.” Here’s where the struggle with religion creeps in again. The people Jesus had the most trouble with, in fact the people who ended up having Him killed, were religious people. They were self-righteous and devoted themselves to showing people how good and perfect they were. And Jesus hated their hypocrisy. He wanted people to be real.

So that’s why you have to accept me with all my rough edges, and my difficulties… hey, don’t complain. I’ve got to accept you. And we can celebrate each other, and we get to come together and be ourselves and embrace others who are being themselves as well.


So there you have it. We’re Sunrise Wesleyan Church. We want to be a church matters to you and matters to God. We want to be a church where you’re free to be yourself. We want to be a church where you meet new people and make new friends. We want to be a church where you can encounter God, love Him, and get to know Him better.

Let me pray with you and then the band’s going to come back up and lead us in another song.


Copyright © Greg Hanson, 2002