Max Life House Parties

Joel William Rogers - Creative Pool

Have you ever been evangelized to? One time I walked into a concert run by a local Church. Some friends had told me about the place but no one there knew me. It was obvious that the Church's chaperones thought (or maybe hoped?) that I did not know Jesus and wanted to make the most of this golden opportunity to put a notch on their spiritual guns by bringing a supposed heathen into the kingdom.

The awkwardness that they and I felt is a testimony to our need as the body of Christ to address a few important issues:

  1. How do you make non-believing youth feel welcome while surrounded by Christians?
  2. Is a Christian artist obliged to make "Christian art"?
  3. Do we love non-believers or do we just love the idea of them coming to our churches and fellowships?

Let's look at these questions and others in the reflection of "the Creative Pool" a dedicated group of young, missions minded artists in Lausanne, Switzerland... The Creative Pool runs a bi-monthly, invitation only party called the "Max Life Party."

Considered by some to be the most extravagant and perhaps controversial event run by believers in the French speaking part of Switzerland, these parties endeavor to bridge the relational gap between Christians and non-Christians in their region.

Here is what one partygoer named Melanie (22 years old) had to say about her Max Life experiences:

Max Life? It's a place to meet new people, experience new styles of music, art and video. There is a great ambiance and the people are really friendly... it's one of the few places where I can meet Christians and yet feel completely at home.

What happens at a typical Max Life Party?

First of all, there is a warm welcome when you arrive. Then you discover the party theme decorations that are all over the house --- always quite impressive! After meeting the other partygoers, there is a nice buffet meal for everyone. The night usually kicks off with calmer entertainment (acoustic coffee shop style music and other ambiance music, video installations and art expositions).

Later the party transitions to the underground (it's literally underground) club where DJ's mix their music while people dance, play a round of pool or talk around the bar. People are free to come and go and do as they please.

The Max Life parties officially began in April 2001 with the "flower party" and have continued with themes such as the blue party, St. Patrick's Day, tropical party and the Christmas Masked Ball. But who runs this thing? And more importantly, how does it work? Bryce Wagner the self described "people motivator" behind the Creative Pool and the Max Life parties had a few words to share with us...

Bryce, what is the vision for the Max Life Parties?

To make new contacts and to develop deeper friendships... basically it is networking and encouraging healthy growing friendships based on love. I have noticed while being here in Switzerland for the last 10 years that the Swiss are very good at making a solid (small) group of deep friendships and then they mostly stay in that circle for the rest of their lives.

This is a good thing that is missing in many other cultures. An even better thing would be to have an "open circle" of deep friendships allowing a networking flow in and out of that, expanding our horizons.

Authenticity and real love are the most important keys for interaction between Christians and non-Christians. I want people to leave our parties knowing, "These people think that I am important - and that my thoughts, dreams, aspirations and my art are important, too."

Are all the artists that perform at Max Life Christians?

No, because all are created in the image of God and have the capacity for divine expression. Also, since the vision is about making new contacts and developing deeper friendships, it makes sense to invite non-Christian artists who will of course bring their friends and further create new contacts.

Is it true that you offer alcohol at your parties?

Yes we do. Having wine with dinner and going out to a bar with friends for a beer is very much part of Swiss culture. For my crew who know God, I hold them to a biblical standard of integrity and biblical values. For the people who come and do not claim to know and follow Jesus, I do not require them to act like my crew does.

We have found that it is amazing how much you can influence people's actions through the atmosphere and spirit you create in an environment. We CAN control an atmosphere to communicate personal responsibility and friendship, and we have found that people will adapt to what you create. I have been pleasantly surprised that at all of our MaxLifeParties I have never found anyone that I would consider to be drunk. I have not found anyone doing drugs either.

I believe the atmosphere of friendship, communication and profound art can create the desire to be mentally checked-in and not wasted, to be able to make the most of a MaxLifeParty experience.

What do local churches think about Max Life?

Most don't know much about the parties, including my local church. But, for the most part, they see the fruit and are excited by that.

One lady from my church came up to me before one of our recent MaxLifeParties and asked me how the gospel was presented (if at all) in what we do. I told her that we ARE the gospel to the lost that come, but she wanted to know CONCRETELY how or if the gospel was being preached. Before I spoke with her the following Sunday some amazing events took place in the life of one guy named Oliver.

Oliver had met some people from the Creative Pool at a club in Lausanne and was invited to one of our parties. That night he had about 12 Vodkas at a fairly popular club called "the Loft." He was really out of it when the police stopped him on his way home. The cops were convinced that he was wasted on more than just alcohol and decided to have him strip-searched with a full cavity inspection!

Finally, they set him free and sent him home on the bus as dawn was breaking. Just then he ran into Daniella from the Creative Pool who was going to help set up for the following night's Max Life. He ended up going with her and helped decorate the house all day long for the party and finally showed up the next night for the Max Life.

The party was a real success and towards the end we had a sort of improv worship time with my wife singing on top of one of the DJ's mix. Oliver just started tripping out... no drugs, no alcohol, just the Holy Spirit!

When it was all over he pulled me aside and pointed to my Max Live backstage pass saying,

"You know you really have the right name for this... Max Life. The other night I had a real minimum lifetime, one of the worst nights of my life. But, tonight was really a Maximum Life night. No one was drunk or stoned, but there was an aspect of creativity, acceptance and family."

That is what Max Life Parties should be.

Can you tell me how this project and the people involve cooperate with your local church?

The Creative Pool has several departments (or projects) and MaxLifeParties is one of those which focuses on serving in the Social. As I mentioned before, this project becomes "spiritual" to the extent of the spirituality of the contacts and relationships that are developed.

It is important to note here that out of the Creative Pool we have another project which has a specific focus on the Spiritual (The Gate). The Gate is a weekly "Reading and Discussion Group".

It is communicated clearly to everyone that it is a spiritually focused service. It uses some concepts from Alpha Courses adapted to our culture. We eat together, read the same passage out of the Bible in 3-4 different languages and translations and then we let the group dissect it. Every opinion is valued and encouraged.

We do have a selected "leader" each time who is not allowed to give their opinion but can only ask questions about the text to help guide the group into personal revelation.

We have had several people who made first contact with our collective of artists through a MaxLifeParty and now come to the Gate. However we avoid mentally connecting these two, The Gate is an option (or tool) for developing a deeper friendship with someone in the Spiritual realm but is not a "step", if you would.

(My church has) the best pastors in the world that understands the Local Church, Networking and the need to have societal impact. The Gate is not only a "project" of the Creative pool but it is also an official "Cell Group" of our church. I am also a department head at (my church) for the young adults. So much of the human resources for our MaxLifeParties come from my pool of friends and artists, many of whom go to my church.

If people would like to come closer into contact with God or a church, do you invite them to church?

Yes, whenever it is appropriate. Sometimes I invite them to the Gate cell group, sometimes to our Church, sometimes to dinner, sometimes to go snow boarding, we can be Church a lot of places... the goal is to be sensitive to the person and their spiritual and social needs.

Another person who makes the Max Life's clock tick is Michael, better known as DJ Peach. He keeps the Max Life partygoers moving late into the night with his vinyl mixing. Here's what he had to add:

What makes Max Life work?

I think it is people's openness to free communication and meeting people. Not just appreciating someone's art, but also their perspectives and their whole life experience. It (Max Life) is meant to be a very extroverted experience. You just show up and talk to others with a positive attitude. That ties in to the spiritual aspect, too. The Holy Spirit puts a thought in your mind, you share it, someone else connects to that thought and brings in something totally different and God can bring good things out of that. It's a very cool experience.

What is different about mixing at Max Life as opposed to a normal club gig?

You don't feel pressure to put on a show; it's more a back to mind feeling. You can just enjoy and do the best with your music. No pressure to compete. Art over industry. I've really enjoyed Dj-ing for what it can be at Max Life. Just meeting others... feeling God's love... playing music I like. It's nothing paranormal, but God does show you things for others and you just feel that He is here.

What else have you learned through these parties?

That God's grace is so much bigger than we can imagine. It always brings out the best whenever we give it space to work. It's not a license to sin, but it makes us aware of our need to deal with it. Hopefully people are in contact with His grace through Max Life since people's image of Christianity has been much abused - like grace.

So we must take things to a new level in art, parties, etc. Secular artists are a much neglected target audience and to me the Max Live is there for them.

God is doing something very different in Lausanne, Switzerland through the Max Life Parties and the Creative Pool team that runs them. Though the specific "form" may not apply to all cultures everywhere, I hope that some of the principles that they deal with will be helpful to those of you out there who are shining lights into the underground. Godspeed.

Written by Joel William Rogers for Bryce Wagner of the Creative Pool

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