In high season, between sangria buckets and party music: a church service on the beach. The interdenominational missionary organization "Gospeltribe" poses the question of God in the midst of the exceptional everyday life of the party people.
Interviewer: We are actually talking about the beach where the party people usually drink sangria from buckets?
Gernot Elsner (founder of the "Gospeltribe" association): Yes, exactly, we are in the middle of the Ballermann respectively. were at the Ballermann. The night before last was our last service – but it was a terrific time, in the midst of the party people.
Interviewer: Why do you say: That's exactly where the church belongs?
Elsner: We make many trips with our association to different countries, where we support people in a very practical way, but also tell them about our faith in Jesus. At some point, a young woman had the idea: "We could do some kind of outreach to a place where the Germans are on the road. You don't have language problems, people have time to maybe think about other ies as well.
Then we also thought: Jesus is described in the Bible as having always hung out with people who did not have such a good reputation. There is talk of prostitutes, of tax collectors and all sorts of things. So we thought: If Jesus were alive today, he would surely be here too and would talk to the people here.
Interviewer: These services take place in the evening. I can imagine that not everyone really likes it. Are there also mob attacks on the part of drunk people who are out there in the evening??
Elsner: The reactions are actually divided into three groups. There are some who are just totally perplexed and say, "You've got to be kidding me. It can't be that we now want to talk about Jesus and pray with people. Then there are others – but they are really very, very few – who say: just leave me alone with it.
When we have these services on the beach in the evening, there are 300 or 400 people. They then really listen to the songs for 35 minutes, listen to the sermon or even have prayers said for them. Then we realize that there is also this group and they seem to fully accept it.
Interviewer: Is this, then, a proper celebration of the Eucharist, as one knows it from a Catholic church?
Elsner: I think you have to think of it in a more informal way. There is no communion on the beach, because that would ultimately be a confession of faith. We simply begin with a greeting. We play two songs, in terms of content church songs, but in terms of style more pop music. Praise is what they call it in some circles. Then there is an experience report, how someone experiences Jesus in his life. A short message and then always this offer to pray for people. Also, there are Bibles for everyone, little party New Testaments like that – they're just regular New Testaments, just in a slightly different cover.
Interviewer: They also offer talks in a place where young people get to know each other, where maybe relationships break up. Are these the ies that people actually come to you with?
Elsner: We thought a lot about what are the ies that move people in our country day in and day out. We have simply tried to list this for ourselves. In order for our messages to be relevant, we have thought about how to relate the ies that move people to what is in the Bible and what God says about them.
Then we just advertised with "party, sex and sunburn.". These are the topics that move people at Ballermann. For this we try to pass on a few thoughts. But we also talked a lot about injuries. What does real freedom mean to myself? I made a message about bitterness and how to get rid of it in life. But then we also simply explain the Gospel every evening, which we understand to be the core of the biblical message.
The interview was conducted by Verena Troster.