On this cool day following a late spring snowstorm, I sip a warm cup of tea and recall the many churches that I have attended throughout my life. My memory is absent of any instance of praise and worship dance during a service (excluding my current church). About half of the churches encouraged worshippers to raise their hands in praise, and those same ones had no problem with a little side-stepping or even jumping a bit to praise the Lord as we joyfully sang… but dance? No.
I ponder my conservative background and former lack of knowledge regarding what the Bible has to say on the subject. Someone expressing praise through dance would definitely have been an inappropriate action. I likely would have questioned such a person’s sanity. That’s how those around me would likely have reacted as well.
OK, and what about a choreographed dance? Nothing enters my mind… a children’s skit, or a well-practiced song by a choir or soloist, yes, but not a dance. Even while attending church at the time I received a prophetic song (see “Called to Dance” blog), there was heart-felt praise, and swaying to the music, but I do not remember seeing anyone freely dancing.
As I was reading from the book of Jeremiah today, the words “I will restore” caught my attention. To need something restored means that it was previously lost, stolen, removed, or destroyed. In the book of Jeremiah, the Israelites lost their God-given blessings because they rejected obedience to the Lord. Instead of following their true God, they worshipped other gods from other cultures and of their own making.
We are no different. All of us have often chosen our own ways over God’s ways. It’s too hard, or too time consuming, to seek this God who seems so distant and non-communicative. But is that the truth? He tells us that He is never far from us (Acts 17:27). The truth is, we are often too focused on the physical attributes of life. We like to worship that which we can see, feel, smell, taste, and touch. The fullness of life however cannot be achieved without recognizing the attributes of our spiritual origination from God. It may be easier to live by our natural physical experiences than to take the time to learn to live a supernatural spirit-led life, but a spirit-led life is a much more exciting and fulfilling one.
Whether we are led astray from God by our own desires (James 1:14) or deceived by satan’s lies (John 8:44), God remains faithful and loving toward us. Throughout His word He promises restoration if we will turn back to Him. Many of us do not even know what has been taken from us because we do not know the Word and what is ours to begin with. Rather than finding restoration, peace, blessing, and new vision, we strive harder and faster. We seek to obtain our own personal successes and end up with great stress. Yet, the Lord tells us not to strive or worry. In this physical world, we all strive, worry, and stress, unless our lives are grounded in Him and His Word.
So, back to the words “I will restore.” One of the things He is restoring is dance. Somewhere along the line of time, many churches rejected dance. The enemy stole purity from dance. The church bought the lie that dance was—or at least led to—evil. Therefore it must not be given any place in the church. God’s people must always be reverent and full of fear. This mind-set lacks a full understanding of who God is. Do not misunderstand me—none of us is able to fully understand God, but besides being holy and all-powerful, He is also loving, gracious and merciful.
I will forever remember the first time I saw someone break out in dance, rejoicing and praising the Lord. In the early days of attending my current church, something outlandish happened. As I stood near the back, singing the lyrics to the worship song, this older woman took off skipping and dancing. Her arms and hands were raised high as she moved up the isle, around the section of seating, and back to her place. I was stunned and surprised at her boldness to do such a thing in front of other people!
Even though I’d already received my word about dancing for the Lord, I could not imagine myself ever doing such an act as she did. (By the way, we are now very good friends.) In my lack of understanding and self-consciousness, I had previously resolved that my dancing for the Lord was something I would do only before Him. I certainly would not dance in front of other people. Oh, but what the Lord knows that we don’t!
God took me on such a journey over the next decade of learning about—and experiencing—His great love for me. I learned to trust Him and grew in knowledge of His word about dance. With great apprehension I began to step out—in front of other people—to wave a flag, walk across the front, and eventually dance with all my might. God was setting me free to dance.
Praise to God, many among His people never stopped dancing for Him. As you read His word, you will discover that He always has a remnant of people who have not turned away from Him. In Jewish and Messianic culture, many have kept dance to express joy and worship to God. One such Messianic woman found her way to the church I attend, bringing her gift of group dancing. She choreographs and leads group dances with a Messianic flair for the men and women at our church. It has been a joy for me to grow even more through God’s gift of dance in her.
I personally love to worship the Lord with spontaneous flag dances. Whether in a church service or at home alone, the Holy Spirit often gives me impressions as to which flags to use and how to dance. Group dances led by my friend has expanded the church’s dance team to include others who prefer established steps without the use of flags. Our flag and dance teams have grown from a very few to many, and it is a joy to see.
Something really special happens when people are free to dance. It is a beautiful expression of rejoicing and praise to God. Psalm 22:3 says that the Lord inhabits, or is enthroned, on the praises of His people. Psalm 149:3-4 says that the Lord delights in His people when they praise Him with dancing and music. Dance glorifies God and brings a manifestation of His presence. May we grow to know Him more and be free to dance.