Dancing in the Church

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While trying to attract youth and young adults back to church, the church has gone to the world and brought in 'dancing' and it's counterparts, stepping and pantomiming, and we've labled it Christian dancing.

Folk are telling me that they danced in the Bible and to that I say, "yes, they did", but I can't find anywhere in the Bible where the dance was coreographed.

When God set up the Church for worship in I Chronicles, he appointed singers, doorkeepers, and musicians, etc. Will someone please show me in the Bible where he appointed the dance leader, coreographer? Please give me Book, chapter and verse. I need to know because we're preparing for our back to school VBS and someone brought up teaching dance.

When I was growing up folk were dancing in church but if memory serves me correctly,I never saw one of them doing the same dance. They were dancing differently than I had ever seen dancing before. My granny used to say they were dancing 'in the Spirit'. The church of my youth had what might be called today pantomimers, but they were actually people with hearing loss. The Pastor formed a choir, with a director who was skilled in signing and are called then and now "the Silent Ambassadors". They are awesome - they speak and sing with their hands and facial expressions.

There are numerous verses in the Bible that refer to dancing, but have we taken a close look at them to see who, what, where, when, why, and how they were dancing?

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2002


Rev. Wiggs,

You have raised a very controversial subject. I must say that I agree with your stance on "dancing" in the church. As a child in the baptist church , I remember when people did a " holy dance" during the worship service. They did so while or after the preacher was preaching. They never had a " que" from the organist to do their "holy dance ". My pastor always taught us that the Holy Spirit may lead someone to emotionalism but emotionalism does not lead to the presence of the Holy Spirit as evidenced by a "holy dance".

As for stepping and pantomine, it has no place in a worship service. Once during a worship service while a pantomine performance was performed, I was distracted from listening to the songs of praise to God by these individuals who were performing with their faces painted white and black. I thought at the time that this was just another one of the enemy's insidious tactics to get our minds off the words of the praise song during the worships service. In regards to stepping, as a member of Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity, Inc. which was during my college days the baddest stepping/blocking frat in the world, I don't see the connection as to how this routine is related to praising God. As an undergraduate , my brothers always formed a circle and prayed to God before every performance. However, we were asking God to give us a good performance. I must say that he certainly did.

I believe that the ministers of these churches should pray and the members need to pray about what is appropriate in church and then make the right decision.


-- Anonymous, June 20, 2002

Dear Rev. Wiggs, I too remember the dance in the church being Holy and unto the Lord, nothing about this step and other organized dancing. It seems to me the church is bringing the world into the church to attract youth and I personally feel this is notwhat God wants going on in His house. The choirs are now moving like people in the world and we call this keeping the beat.The church is now so much like the world until nothing is sacared in the church, we allow anything to go on in the church other that what it is setup for to save lost souls. We must be about our father's business of saving souls and bringing lost sheep to the knowledge of the father and leave the world in the world.The Bible has ways and means of attracting youth and anyone willing to give up the world and come to JESUS. So i say stop the maddness and get back to the real reason for dancing( in the spirit only)

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2002

First, let me ask what stepping is? I've never heard of it.

Being a Pentecostal this subject piqued my interest. We of course dance a lot. We equate it with what David did when he brought the Ark into Jerusalem. Most often our dancing is simple jumping up and down in time to the music. Y'know, I know people call us "holy rollers", but I've never seen anyone roll. I think they should call us "holy bouncers".

Sometimes people will kick their legs in a little can can type thing, they'll swing their arms, prance, sway, or twirl. But again, it's just a free, spontaneous, individual form of worship.

I visited a Charasmatic church where the area in front of the platform was set aside for those who wanted to dance. People were dancing all over the sanctuary, but in front of that platform was everything from small children to older folks having a ball with Jesus. It was great.

The only choreographed dancing I've seen is interpretive dance. It's the dancing equivalent of a singer or musician playing a solo. If we have different types of artists performing for the right reasons and with the right motives, why not include the dancers?

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2002

Sister Joyce,

You are so right. Often we lift things out of context to justify why we do what we do. But we fail to remember Saint Paul's admonition to "be not conformed to the world, but rather be transformed by the renewing of your mind."

A visit to many churches today often leaves one hard pressed to determine whether we are in Christian Worship or simply at another stop on the nightly rounds of clubs on the beat. From the choir to the door it seems we have found a new place to practice the latest step or catch up on the latest beat. Everyone wants to show their "stuff."

We quote liberally from Psalm 150, "Praise ye the Lord with the timbrel and the dance", but we are quick to omit the key phrase, "According to His Excellent Greatness"--that is to say His Majesty, the majesty befitting the "King of Kings".

In the dedication of the Temple, Solomon hired "trained" (skilled) musicians who performed so magnificently well that heaven stopped to listen and the priests were left to stand in awe.

When David danced before the Lord he was not doing a holy dance. He was frolicking. Scripture records that when he (David) built his kingdom on Mount Zion he failed to bring the Ark of the Covenant there. At first he brought it to out of the house of Abinadab but left it in the house of Obededom the Gittite. When he heard of the blessings it brought, he once again used his authority to take it-- virtually to steal it. Thus he danced at the thought that he would now reap the blessing it would bring. Since the Lord was said to dwell between the Seraphim on the Ark. Scripture says he danced before the Lord.

God is calling us to read the word and examine what we do. J. S. Bach wrote Cantata #140 - "Sleepers Wake". This cantata is based on the "Wise and Foolish Virgins", which Jesus likened to his Second Coming. It is now time that we hear these words and understand what they say:

"Wake, awake, for night is flying: The watchmen on the heights are crying, Awake, Awake Jerusalem!

-- Anonymous, June 20, 2002

The fact that this new wave of what some are calling 'liturgical' dancing might become the primary focus of the worship experience should concern all of us who are followers of Christ. For in our quest to fill up our churches, we may have begun to set another standard that has nothing to do with Jesus.

Bro. Matthews you've brought out the very point that I hope will enlighten others. Why was David really dancing? We do so freely use that verse of Scripture "And David danced before the Lord with all his might." Where was David when the dance took place? What happened before and after David's dance?

My sister was a part of a "creative, interpretive dance team", at school. They did the most beautiful interpretive dances that I'd seen up until that time. One that will always stay fresh in my mind was their interpretaion of The Lord's Prayer. Since that time, I've had the pleasure of seeing the Alvin Ailey Dancers, and the Dance Theater of Harlem and local dance groups, all of them did the most impressive dances I've ever seen. But they were done in performing arts centers or at schools or other venues, not in church.

JazzMan's comments about mimes taking away from the worship experience is basically my point. It makes one to wonder if our purpose now in going to church is to see someone who is programmed to dance, and not for the purpose of worshipping God in Spirit and in Truth. Should that be checked at the door?

Is this satan rearing his ugly head? A word to my brother in the Pentecostal Church. Down here in the South, in the Pentecostal and Baptist Churches, the people do more than jump up and down. Their feet are moving in time to the music, arms are out or up and moving similar to the wings of birds, they move in a circle while still in time to the music. They are soaring in the Spirit. Jazzman called it the "Holy Dance". I must admit, I've never seen people dance like that. Some years ago, Judith Jamison did one dance coregraphed by Alvin Ailey that might have given you a semblence of what I mean, but even that didn't do the dance in the Spirit justice. It's different.

The bottom line is, the Holy dance or dancing in the Spirit is not designed by man. Jazzman again, put it right on the line when he said "it's not done on 'cue'." Praise God!!

What is the real reason we are having these liturgical (please somebody find out what that word means) dances in churches. Down here many churches have it as ministries like the speaking in tongues ministry, where they have classes that teach you how to speak in tongues.

Get real. In our denomination, we have been so refined for so long, it's probably hard for many of us to imagine, being in the Spirit, and showing it. Back in the day, from what my older sisters tell me, all we were required to do is sit and listen and then go home.

Somebody ought to praise the Lord! Psalm 150; Revelation 19:1

Singing God's praises will never go out of style.

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

Insightful points have been offered by Joyce, Robert, Jazzman and Linda on this topic. Similar to RP, I respectfully dissent from the above views about dancing in church. The essence of this topic, from my perspective, is determining whether or not different forms of worship expression are appropriate. Dancing is primarily a cultural norm. As a cultural norm it merely defines how people rhythmically react to vocals or music. I would be reluctant to advocate a moratorium on "dancing in church" only because such action tends to place restrictions on how one can freely worship. I, like others, want the assurance to "get my step in" whenever the Spirit moves. We become vulnerable to the criticism that church officials are nothing more than "spiritual police officers" and modern day members of the Sanhedrin Council. Suppose Miriam and her other Hebrew colleagues were burdened with "dance restrictions" after successful passage from the tyranny of Egyptian slavery to Cannanite freedom. Might we not read a different account in Exodus of their joyful celebration? When Jesus performed his first miracle at the wedding in Cana it is highly likely that the guests not only celebrated with wine consumption but dancing before Jehovah as well. The excellent exegesis Robert provides about the reasons for David "dancing before the Lord" is edifying but isn't it interesting that David was not chastised by God if indeed his motives were less than exemplary? Is Kirk Franklin's outreach ministry to youth tainted because he adapts secularized dancing and musical influences in his work? No one can quarrel with his impact on youth choosing God over satan. If alternative worship expression can attract youth in our youth-depopulated churches such expressions should be encouraged. Conversely, if high liturgical worship expression characterized by perfunctory litany readings, Socratic-style sermons, European anthems and suppressions of "Amens, shouting, and dancing" can ressurect and retain our youth, this too should be encouraged. Experience and reality to date indicates that the latter option is not working well. QED

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

Liturgical: of, or relating to, liturgy

Liturgy: 1 : a eucharistic rite 2 : a rite or body of rites prescribed for public worship 3 : a customary repertoire of ideas, phrases, or observances

I think "liturgical dance" is a misnomer. Where, in the Liturgy of the AME Church, or the Book of Worship, or the Book of Discipline & Doctrine, can I find a section on dancing, particularly as a part of the primary (Sunday morning) worship experience? No where!

I fully understand the desire to have young people involved in the worship experience so that they feel fully invested in what's going on, and not just reluctant observers. And I am all for blurring the line between the sacred and the secular by raising the quality and spirituality of what we consider secular up to the level of the sacred. (I'm sure I'll get nasty stares for that statement.) But the "praise dance" portion of the worship service has always bothered me, from the first moment I saw such an event. I believe it's proper place needs to be clearly defined, but in a manner that does not take the wind out of the sails of the young people that have found it a way to be a part of the worship experience.

In my day, which really hasn't passed yet, simply taking part in the true liturgical aspects of the worship service, such as lining hymns, reciting the offertory sentences and the affirmation of faith, was more than enough to make me feel I was actually contributing to the worship experience. But what do we do for the kids who don't speak well, don't read well, are prone to nerves when in front of an audience, don't sing well? Perhaps we have not given the kind of respect to our existing ministries that is required for young people to feel like they are a part of the process without bringing in choreographed dance that, in my estimation, detract from the worship experience.

I think the praise dances should be reserved for recitals, on Friday or Saturday nights, or even Sunday afternoons, but not during the morning worship services. All forms of worship that edify God are acceptible, I believe, but in their proper places and times. All things should be done decently and in order.

Peace and blessings!

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

This is another one of those subjects that we should engage in at next weeks meeting should there be some free time. I'm so looking forward to meaningful dialogue with my BB brothers and sisters regarding this and other subjects.

Bill, I'm a dancer!! My swing, cha cha and two step, I must say, is still pretty good. However, I do believe that to include an coreographed interpretive dance as a part of the worship experience is going a bit far and that is because I have not been able to find any scripture in which to base this premise. When Miriam and the women danced "why were they dancing?" Was it spontaneous or were they coreographed? Where were they when it happened? See Exodus 15. And by the way when Moses sang this song, did he have accompaniment or was it acapella?

I am not talking about us dancing freely when the Spirit moves us to do so. Oh and by the way,where was the wedding? Was it in the temple? In order to answer such questions, we have to have some understanding of the manner and customs of the people at the time this occurred. So, now because 2000 years later, dancing has become popular because of Kirk Franklin or some other person does that mean that should be a part of the morning worship experience? I'm curious!! You bring an interesting note in saying that God didn't chastise David. Isn't that interesting? Could it be because David wasn't in the Temple?

Kirk Franklin is another matter entirely. Are our young people are attracted to the hip hop part of the music, which is similar to the hard core secular hip hop and rap and not really getting to the heart and soul of the matter?

Let's just talk about it!!

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

I look forward to discussin this further next week, However I still feel we can reach our youth the way it is outlined in the Bible. we should not have to look like the world to reach our youth. Kirk Franklin is another topic, he is taking our young people on a road less treaveled by us that are over 40. Remember God is in control of all we say and do, so lets teach our youth the ways of the righteous and show them how to praise and worship. I believe the Bible states we should Worship in Spirit and in Truth.

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

We as AME's are still in the dark. As a 55 year old black female, dancing in the church does not mean worldly ways. When the music hits me I think that I'm doing ligturial dancing (this may be spelled wrong) but we need to come out of the dark ages. When I go to other AME churches that they are keeping up with the times and still are going back to our roots. We have to stop and say, why are our youth leaving and reading some of your answers we are the cause. We have to learn how to change as long as it's in good taste. I've just arrived in Tampa and hope I can hook up with you and to meet you. Let there be a change in the church for the good and still be rooted in our history. For when our ancester were singing and huming, they were swaying and dancing to express there feelings. Now how about that.

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

Hello, sister Margaret,

So glad you're in our fair city. I do hope to meet you as well. As I said in an earlier post. I can still make a step when the Spirit stirs me up. In the book African American Worship, the author tells the story of our ancestors in the South during a 'ring shout' in an effort to keep some of their traditions from Africa. However, it was frowned upon by the leaders (founding fathers of the AMEC) because they wanted to take what they labeled 'heathenism' out of the worship experience. That is the shouting (with the mouth) and the moving of the feet and the clapping of the hands, so the AMEC became the refined church of it's white counterparts.

When visiting other AME churches, I've found that it is generally the members in the fiftish age bracket that are praising the Lord with the 'Holy dance', and the shout and the clapping of hands, and the patting of feet, etc. Although

Liturgical dancing, Sister Margaret, is supposed to be a part of the worship service as outlined in the book or worship as the gentleman said in an earlier post. However, it's use in our church is a misnomer, which means there is no such animal in the AME order of worship. So to label it liturgical is outside of the doctrine and discipline of the AMEC. To have it inserted in any part of the worship service is out of order, especially at 7 a.m., 8 a.m. & 11 a.m. or even any p.m. service, in my humble opinion, is out of order.

If you are having a banquet and wanted to use an interpretative dance or if there is a talent show and you wanted to dance, then go ahead. My point here is not to stop our children from dancing but to teach them the proper place for dancing and the difference in a designed (coreographed dance) and one in which you are moving in, by and through the Spirit. As the gentleman said earlier, it is inappropriate in the sanctuary at the worship hour.

I hope to see all of you that will be in Tampa Sunday at St. Paul for the 11 a.m. service or at the evangelistic service at 7 p.m. or at the reception following the service.

Let's talk about it.

Love, peace and blessings to all.

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

Hello again, brothers and sisters,

St. Paul AME Church is located in downtown Tampa about a mile and a half from the main hotels and the convention center. The address is 506 E. Harrison St. Tampa. The phone number is 318-0816. The pastor is Rev. Gene A. Brown.

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

Classes on how to speak in tongues???? Tongues occur as the Spirit gives utterance. A class about tongues I can see, but...

Were they telling them to say "who stole my Honda" and "untie my bowtie" over and over? I've heard that some have tried these phrases to coax tongues out, or to fake tongues.

Hmmmm, I just had an idea for another thread.

Back to dancing.

-- Anonymous, June 21, 2002

I was researching a workshop I am doing at our Church on Religious Choreography. I must say hearing all the answers to the original question really discouraged me. I almost thought that what I have been called to do by God in the church was all in vein. I begin to look up the word LITURGY and find it origin. "A Public Display of Worship" And that is what made me feel that what I do for Christ is Real. I think about the times when I am out in the moonlight dancing in the spirit using my TRAINED skill but coming from is my love and adoration for Christ. When God fills me with his Joy, I create a worship dance that I take back to my dance worshippers. I explain my experience and venture to have them apply the dance to their own experience with God. We learn the dance and it is our mission take that love and adoration for Christ and do a PUBLIC DISPLAY of worship in our church. We are there lead our congregation into Worship. If the choreographer (one who creates dances) is simply putting steps together. It is not of Christ. If they are sharing their Christian Adoration with a group of Worshippers, that is Worship. Yes it is choreographed, NOT BY ME, God gives me every step of my worship. If you could ever experience how all my years of dance training are now used to Glorify HIM. I cry and praise HIM NOW just thinking about it

YES I Believe Dance has a place in worship. God Bless you all!

-- Anonymous, October 30, 2002

We tend to look at dancing as worldly. And there is worldly dancing. But God's people have always celebrated and worshipped him in dancing. It's an expression of joy. Miriam danced across the Red Sea. There are places in the Bible speaking of daughters dancing, showing expressions of joy. Of course David expressing his joy over the ark's return, dancing before the Lord. It must have been a beautiful dance.

To the person who has that gift of expressing your love and admiration for the Lord in dance, I can only imagine that it is most beautiful and God is very pleased with your expression.

When I first witnessed such an expression in a Church, I was aprehensive, but the Spirit of God really shown in the interpretation.

We are not stealing from the devil, actually he stole from how the people of God have always express themselves in joy and gladness.

In Christ, Carmen

-- Anonymous, October 30, 2002

This is a good question. Yet as Paul would say that all things are lawful but not all things edify. If someone has a problem let them go to the elders about it and see what they can resolve. If the church decides to do this and no one is complaining than good for them. There is nothing unbiblical about having correographed dances in church. Our music is correographed. Further, it does not need to be put in the bible to prove it is right. In other words, just because it doesn't say they did doesn't mean they didn't or that it is wrong. There is a lot of things people do in the church but is not written in the bible. For example greeting at the doors. It says to greet one another. No where in the Bible does it say that there were door greeters. That's my two cents.

-- Anonymous, April 05, 2003

Bro Michael, Door greeters (porters) are in the Bible. Look at 1Chron 9:21 for an example. ~Kathy King

-- Anonymous, June 04, 2003

Well to all this people that are all worried about dancing

I was raised in a very strict Apostolic beliefs where nothing was allowed, just sit, sing, go home, maybe now and then someone would get there shout on, and it had to be in the spirit dancing; That was quite boring I say now as an adult, when you have the Spirit of God in you and God has truly brought you out from sin you can't stay still you've got to move. Dancing is an expression of joy, David danced with all his might didn't care what his wife or anyone else thought the ark was home which represented the presence of God WE Have His presence befor us at church so why not dance,I think we spend too much time criticing others PRAISE HIM, WITH SOUND AND SYMBOLE,PRAISE HIM IN THE DANCE, LET EVERYTHING THAT HAS BREATH PRAISE YE THE LORD.

-- Anonymous, August 13, 2003

I am very encouraged to respond after reading all of the comments. I have been blessed and honored by God to be used by his Spirit. When I take my focus off of what is going on in the church and concentrate on giving praises to God in the Spirit, the Holy Spirit takes control of my movement. I always wondered what Liturgical dancing was, but I didn't believe in my spirit that it should be for show, otherwise it is a performance. I am Pentecostal and do praise God in the dance. I pick up my feet, and I put them down to the music. It is totally different for me when the Spirit steps in and takes over. Arm movements, along with upper body swaying occurs, I feel as if a beam of light is shining down upon me and I begin to break out in a heated sweat. While all of this is occuring, my eyes are closed as I speak to God in tongues. This was unusual for me when it first happened. The Word says that God inhabits the praises of his people. So I am believing that when I worship him in Spirit and in Truth, he shows up and shows out. I don't care to be before people, so this is done in my space of worship during the praise and worship time of service. Has anyone else understood this to be as I have described?

-- Anonymous, September 02, 2003

Wow, now I know why the AME church is struggling in many places. Free us from those who would stifle the gifts of others because it doesn't meet their biblical interpretation. When someone offers a gift to God, through dynamic preaching, spirit filled singing or joyous dance we the people of God should rejoice and give praise. Stop trying to kill somebody else's gift just because you got two left feet.

If dancing liturgical or choreographed brings young people into the church so that they might hear the word of God and be saved, then who are you or you or you sister wiggs, because ain't no reverends in the bible, to try to quench their spirit.

As Sister Denise says Proud to be AME but more than Holy because of the Blood.

-- Anonymous, September 02, 2003

This is an interesting subject indeed and the responses have been very thought proving. I recently moved from an AME church in the Oakland area. I was the youth outreach corrdinator. It was difficult attracting youth to our church. Our congregation has an older membership that had and still has a hard time embracing today's youth for some of the same reasons brought up in this thread. My take on this is if we don't allow our youth to use their creative gifts in a supportive, accepting, and loving environment, they will have no problem finding ways to use them in the "world". If listening to Kirk Franklin and the other contemporary Gospel music that's out directs them to Jesus, then I'm all for it. They could be listening to and doing far worse!

-- Anonymous, September 02, 2003

Hallelujah its about time someone ask the question. I agree totaly with you

-- Anonymous, October 26, 2003

I am not sure why some people think that the world is taking over the church when some church are trying to find something that will interest the children to come to church and stay in church. It is better to get the children into the church where they will hear the word of God. It was the adults that ran the children away from the church in the first place. Children watch everything we do and if we say one thing and do another this causes the children to not to trust us. I would never teach a child to disrespect the church. It is my job to teach them to worship God in everything they do. I believe that when you open yourself to God, he is loving and merciful and have all power to change anything in you that is not like him. I also believe that God gave me a ministry to work with children and I want to teach them to love God for all he is in their lives.

At our church we have a youth house on Saturdays and there are toddlers, children, teens and young adults in attendance and the adults are only there to oversee and council the them. The youth study the bible together and they discuss ways to apply the word to their own lives. Older children teach the younger children. From 10:00 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. They are there because they want to be. It is amazing because these children are dedicated to Christ and learning about him. During church service our Pastor makes sure to include the children in the morning message. Which makes the children feel apart of the service.

However, speaking for praise dancers, I am a dancer and I am apart of a praise dance ministry. I pray to God before I dance and I choose songs that have meaning. I believe that God guides my choices. Sometimes I just dance to the spoken word. My daugther also dance. One day after she had danced a lady walked up to us and said that she needed to be there that day because the song and the dance had uplifted her. My daughter is also studying to be a professional dancer. How come it is ok for her to use the gift that God gave her to dance before the world and it is not ok to dance before the Lord? Doesn't he come first?

-- Anonymous, December 07, 2003

I am a Seventh day Adventist Pastor and I study in the Philippines country.I find many conclusions in favor of dancing as a component of divine worship unsubstantiated. Dance had nothing to do with worship in the Bible for three simple reasons: (1) dancing did not appear in the Temple, Synangogue, and early church. (2) The women who were the most involved in dancing were not allowed to participate with their instruments drums and tambourines in the choir divinely appointed by the King David, not by negligence, but because of the social aspect of their dance. (3) Of the 107 times these words for dance are used , only four times could they be considered to refer to religious dance. However, none of these references to religious dance were in connection with the regular established public worship of the Jews.

-- Anonymous, December 08, 2003

Have some of you ever thought twice about why God's fullness isn't in your services? Why aren't people being healed during worship? Why aren't people being set free from bondage during worship services? It's because you disrespect the Spirit of God doing those choreographed dances. NEVER use David for an excuse to do your ballet. First of all, David was not born again, therefore he couldn't worship God in Spirit (John 4). Under the New covenant we are to worship God in Spirit and in Truth. I believe you can dance under the "unction" of the Holy Spirit, and you dance according to when HE gives the unction, not you yourself, because the Holy Spirit should be in charge of every service. There is no way people can "interpret" the move of God. PEOPLE WAKE UP!

-- Anonymous, April 03, 2004

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