Dancing, rap music, an open mic, and Jesus Christ? A couple of Christians in Michigan use a "night club" setting to connect churches, share testimonies, and proclaim the gospel. The ministry leaders just celebrated their 1-year anniversary.
"I wanted to show people that Christianity is fun," Darryll Stinson, event coordinator at the Phi Light Lounge told The Christian Post in an interview on Monday. "You can worship God in dance, you can worship Him in your testimony, or even just by having fun and being yourself," Stinson added. He described the typical night at Phi Light: 40 to 60 people enjoying impromptu sessions of dancing, guest rappers and speakers, and featured poets.
"Christ gave us liberty and freedom to express ourselves," J.J. Jones, the founder of Phi Light, told CP. "God came at me saying, 'JJ, you don't have to be tight. You can't reach people if you don't show people where you came from.'" Phi Light celebrated its anniversary on Saturday.
That night, Stinson explained, the 'night club' featured a cypher – "a hip hop beat and different rappers freestyling on it." Some of these rappers weren't Christian, but the fellows at Phi Light shared the gospel anyway. "People don't have to be in a dark night club, drunk, just to have fun," Stinson said. While he and Jones choose not to "idolize the things of this world," they still enjoy their nights.
Jones had a different view for Phi Light at the start and the "club's" music and outreach developed over time. A senior at Central Michigan University, he explained that "our campus is spiritually dying, dry, and didn't have a lot of opportunities for people to share their faith in a way that is open and fun." He founded Phi Light for Christians in the community to fellowship, network, and share visions with those who attend different churches.
When the idea struck him, Jones admitted, he had "no clue" how to bring Phi Light about. After sharing the idea with different churches, he found a Christian landlord willing to rent a place. Churches donated baked goods or money for food, and everything came together.
Phi Light is built around five pillars, "to live, to ignite, to grow, to harbor, and to testify," Jones explained. He aims to create an atmosphere where people are comfortable to be themselves (live), and to express themselves freely (testify). He also hopes churches will network with one another, igniting new visions and growing as a community, in a safe place (harbor).
Phi Light meets monthly, altering its schedule to avoid conflicts with events in the community. Most attendees are Christian, but this past Saturday most of the cypher consisted of non-Christian rappers, Jones explained. As the result of their attendance, Jones and Stinson were able to share the Gospel with them and the people they brought.
"They've labeled it as a 'Christian Night Club,'" Stinson told CP, and the label stuck. He thanked local churches, listing First Church, Potter's House, Faith Community, and His House.
As a manager of a Christian event which attracts a following of college students, Stinson advised pastors to meet young people where they are. "It's easy to tell people to come to church, but it's harder to go sit with 'sinners' and be able to relate to them and love them without judging them," the manager said.
Stinson acknowledged that some of Phi Light's attendees come from the bar. "Yes, drunkenness is a sin," he allowed, "but how do you expect to meet those people unless you welcome them?"
Stinson said he hopes Phi Light will impact both secular rappers and Christian ministers. "We want to show rappers who rap about sex, money, guns, and drugs that it's ok to be a Gospel rapper," he said. Meanwhile, he advised pastors "don't look at this as a party scene, look at it as a ministry opportunity."