I blogged a while ago about dance in worship, and got a surprising amount of positive feedback. Given the show of interest I wanted to say some more about it. Someone asked me if I meant to imply that only trained dancers should be allowed to dance in worship.
I believe, emphatically, no.
Most of the applications I was referring to in my previous blog (read it here) were of church appointed dance teams. But I didn’t want anyone to think that I was saying that only leadership approved, trained dancer should dance in worship, ever, ever, ever. That, I believe, would be an unbiblical position to take.
As I referenced before, Ecclesiastes 3:4 says,” there is a time to mourn, and a time to dance.” Again in the Psalms 30:11, “You turned my mourning into dancing.” In Lamentations 5:15, “You’ve turned my dancing into mourning.” Clearly, dance was viewed by the Hebrews as the opposite of mourning. They didn’t say, You turned my mourning into joy. The joy is evidenced by dancing. It is a biblical, natural response to joy. There are other responses that are appropriate (including, but not limited to: laughter, leaping, singing, and shouting) but we’re here to talk about dance.
Many of us are not trained singers, yet we are expected to sing in church. We see both biblical commands and encouragements to sing praise to the Lord. Why should it be different with dance?
If you’re feeling joyful because of what the Lord has done for you, I would fully expect you to dance in the presence of the Lord. In fact, Psalms 16 says, “In the presence of the Lord there is fullness of joy.” Sounds like it could be expected!
And don’t pull the Western Culture Card and say, “Oh, well, that was written by the ancient Hebrews, and we just don’t do that in [insert White/European culture/country]!”
Excuse me. I’ve seen you at sporting events White/European. You dance; you shout; you scream; you jump; you celebrate. It’s perfectly natural and nothing to be ashamed of. But you have no excuse.
But dance in church, you ask? Why not. I was recently in a worship service where people just ‘caught the joy.’ Some people jumped up and down in their rows to the music, some people moved out into the back so they had more space, grooving and celebrating. I did some dancing myself! Everybody was waving their hands, and singing to the Lord, because of the good things He has done. All biblical stuff. It was so healthy. No one was compelled to do that, and quite a few people stayed in their rows, and just sang. That’s fine too. But we were all worshipping.
But what if you’re feeling self-conscious, still, about dancing? Maybe you’re dancing isn’t good enough… I think King David is still our best example. In 2 Samuel 6 we see King David remove his royal robes, put on priestly linen, and dance “with all his might” before the Lord. The result was people celebrating, and being blessed. When judged by one person, David’s response was, “I’ll be come even more undignified than this!” He wasn’t worried about his appearance, but honoring the Lord. When Miriam led all the women in a dance in Exodus 15, I’m sure they weren’t all classically trained ballerinas. Some of them might have been downright klutzy. But it was the spirit of the thing that mattered most.
I think it’s important realize, though, that there is a time and a place. Sometimes we need to reflect quietly, or wait in silence for the Lord. Sometimes we need to sing or pray. Kneeling and bowing is another way to worship. Sometimes we need to make God’s praise glorious and lift our voice, hands, pull out all the stops, dance, and praise.
If you have a dance team, I think there’s a time for them to dance, and a time for them to be still. They can lead worship through their movement from the stage, in a church appointed role, much like the worship band does. And if you feel moved to dance from the congregation (much like we sing from the congregation) then that is also a biblical response. You don’t have to be a great singer; you don’t have to be a great dancer. But you are encouraged to make bold declarations of your love for the Lord.
The goal is not to impress people with our awesome dancing (or singing); it’s not to draw attention to ourselves. That’s selfishness and pride, and probably the antithesis of worship. The goal is to glorify God from hearts of love and faith.