Shall We Dance?
By Paul Anderson
Shall we dance? Maybe on Saturday night but not on Sunday morning. Most mainline churches have not even entertained the idea of dancing as a part of worship, except perhaps as spectators in a liturgical dance. But to invite worshipers to dance seems out of place. Does dance belong with Sunday’s celebration? Consider the following truths:
Dancing can be godly. I said “can be” because we have examples in the Bible where it clearly is not, such as when the children of Israel danced around their newly constructed golden calf or when Salome danced before Herod. Some of us grew up believing that dancing was worldly, and some of it is. But if the Bible exhorts worshipers to dance, then it can be godly. And if it is godly-it must also be like God to dance. If we are commanded to dance, it must first find expression in the heart of our Maker. Does God dance? Apparently so. Scripture portrays Him as a God who is exuberantly happy with Himself, who delights in who He is and in what He does. He rejoices over His children as a father finding joy in an infant, and He does so with singing, (the context and the Hebrew suggest that it includes dancing as well–Zephaniah 3:17).
Dancing is a Biblical expression of worship. The Hebrews were far more expressive in their worship than we are today. They did not divide their being into body, soul, and spirit compartments like the Greeks did. The command to worship was a call to their whole self to praise God, and they did so with all their strength, as the Great Commandment urged upon them.
The exhortation is clear: “Let them praise his name with dancing…” (Psalm 149:3a). The next verse tells us why: “For the Lord takes pleasure in his people” (v.4). We take pleasure in God because He takes pleasure in us, and we dance because He dances. Dance echoes the playful heart of God and is one way for the body to express pleasure in its Maker.
The Hebrews would wonder what is wrong with us and would probably ask us why we are not impressed with our God. And that is what the world often asks. We are seldom criticized for being too happy; Christians have a reputation among the worldly as serious and aloof, anything but fun loving. The Son of Man had just the opposite reputation.
Dancing is appropriate during times of special celebration. When God brought victory to Israel after they had crossed the Red Sea, Miriam led all the women in a dance (Exodus 15:20). Such a great victory called for shouting; it called for music-but it called for something more—it also called for dancing. When David returned from victories at war, the women rejoiced with singing and dancing (I Samuel 18:6).
Now, could you imagine this scenario? The pastor of a local church announces that a family, for whom the congregation has been praying for a year has come to the Lord the night before and are together this morning in church. The people respond with clapping-and with dancing. Is that out of place? On the contrary, it echoes the jubilation around the throne.
The absence of dancing in the Biblical culture suggested the absence of joy.
Spiritual revival was accompanied by the return of dancing. David writes, “Thou hast turned for me my mourning into dancing; thou has loosed my sackcloth and girded me with gladness, that my soul may praise thee and not be silent” (Psalm 30:11). The parallel construction equates dancing with gladness. Silence is obviously not the most effective way for expressing joy. People in mourning are clearly more passive than those who are rejoicing: “The joy of our hearts has ceased; our dancing has been turned to mourning” (Lamentations 5:15). Could this be one of the reasons why the world considers Christians to be glum and serious rather than as happy people?
To experience joy in its fullness requires giving expression to it. To see a beautiful sunrise and to say nothing about it is to stifle the potential for the release of joy. C. S. Lewis once wrote in his Reflections on the Psalms: “I think we delight to praise what we enjoy because the praise not merely expresses but completes the enjoyment; it is its appointed consummation” (p. 95). Expressing an emotion prolongs the emotion. Love expressed prolongs love, and the same goes for joy. We have been stifling our joy in worship for centuries. It is time to let the joy out as Scripture commands us throughout its pages.
Dancing is an illustration of grace. Jeremiah spoke of a new day, when God would demonstrate His everlasting love and prove His faithfulness. He prophesied that in that day “you shall adorn yourself with timbrels, and shall go forth in the dance of the merrymakers” (Jeremiah 31:4b). “Then shall the maidens rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy…” (v.13). The new day would be marked with joy-and with dancing-and that new day came with Jesus. He said that His coming brought in the year of Jubilee, a time of freedom and celebration (Luke 4:21) The Bridegroom had arrived, and feasting was more appropriate than fasting. New wine called for new wineskins, and dancing is a proper wineskin of the New Covenant.
Dancing should be restored to the worship life of Christians. For Hebrews, dancing was a form of celebration, whether at a wedding, at a religious festival, or after a great victory. So dancing was either religious or social in nature, but most references in the Bible have a religious context. Today, dancing is more social than religious. It is time to restore dancing to the people of God, and there is some indication that this is happening. Where it is, heaven is applauding!
Isn’t it strange
…that dancing seems more natural in a secular rather than a Christian environment;
…that those free enough to dance to the Lord are considered fringy;
…that the Church relinquished so beautiful an act of worship and that the world picked it up;
…that restoring dance to its rightful place won’t come without a struggle?
Personal application: Worship is ultimately a matter of the heart. A paralytic can praise the Lord with the same intensity as a person with two good legs. Nevertheless, we are faced with the Scriptures that speak to us by exhortation and by example about dancing. If I were to ask God, “How can I love you more?” and He were to say to me, “Let us dance together,” would I accept His offer? Is God calling me to a greater demonstration of passion in my worship? Could dancing be one way to be more childlike and to please my Father?
Nevertheless, for most of us, expressive worship of any kind is no easy assignment. Dancing in church seems completely out of reach. I asked a few people who sometimes dance when they worship, and all of them felt the same way at one time, as I too did. Yet God dealt with their hearts in such a way that they wanted to give expression to the love they were experiencing, and they discovered that the joy of being loved overcame their fear, self-consciousness, and the feeling of being just plain silly. It became an issue of passion more than grit. And so with me, when I fell in love with Karen, I found myself doing things I had never done before-like spending money. Because love is a many splendored thing, people in love look for ways to “say it with love”-and one Biblical way is dancing. Maybe it could be for you!
Testimonies of People Who Dance
“Why dance? The Bible is clear that dance is an expression of our extravagant love for Him. We dance because He has given us victory over our enemies, we dance because He is worthy of our praise, we dance because it shows forth the glory of God, who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light, and we reverently dance (bow, kneel) because it is evidence of the way we show our King honor and adoration…and because there is a time to dance!” – Anne
Richard Foster wrote in his book on Prayer, “It is high time we restore a Christian incarnational understanding of the body. God’s grace is mediated to us through our bodies. We worship God with our bodies. We pray with our bodies. The Bible is full of what could be called body prayer…Sacred dance is another form of body prayer once again being utilized in Christian celebration…For a thousand years, Christians did a dance called the tripudium, to many of their hymns. As worshipers sang, they would lock arms and take three steps forward, one-step back, three steps forward, and one step back. In doing this they were actually proclaiming a theology with their feet. They were declaring Christ’s victory in an evil world, a victory that moves us forward, but not without setbacks. Sacred dance can be done either as part of private prayer and worship or in corporate settings” (p. 116,117).
From a pastor: “When I start dancing, which is mainly jumping up and down (some have called it the charismatic hop), it helps me get physically involved in worship. I participate in something the Holy Spirit has initiated which is a call to worship. I stop being passive and my whole body gets involved in worship. I experiencing God’s presence sometimes when I dance just as when I do other physical actions of worship like raising my hands or shouting or kneeling.” – Joe Johnson
“Why do I dance? Because it’s a form of expressing worship, as there are many. It is very freeing. Also, as a way to draw others into worship. It is also very Biblical.” – Nancy Bohannon
“I was apprehensive at first about being involved in a dance ministry at our church, but the Lord has blessed me and my family through it. It provided me with a new form of worship that I know honors Him, as when David danced before the Lord…I believe there is more God wants to do, especially through men, godly men who are willing to push aside the stereotype mentality and the selfish fear and come before the Lord to dance with all their might! My prayer and challenge is for God to move the hearts of men (and their feet) so we can truly praise Him, not only with our mouths but also with our bodies. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise the Lord!” – Ruan Hill
“I know that God called us to dance to be a visible expression of worship. In contemporary worship the phrase “to enter in” is used repeatedly. It is a physical expression of walking into the tabernacle, into God’s presence. While singing allows us to do this with our mind and heart, dancing allows us to do it with our bodies. Not everyone is physically capable of the movement, so they can move vicariously through us. Freeing our bodies frees our hearts in a new way, which can be very childlike on occasion.” – Marg Geiger
“I love to dance as part of my preparation for preaching. It brings freedom. Dancing is an experience of the cross, making my body a “living sacrifice” of Jesus. The results are often an inner brokeness, a softening of my heart and a greater dependence on God. Nothing brings me into the perceptible presence of God more quickly than dancing.” – Mark Anderson
“I dance because I have the freedom to do so. I do not take advantage of this freedom as often as I could, but when I do, I feel a new life inside of me, a bursting joy. When I dance for the Lord, I’m opening myself up to the Holy Spirit, allowing Him to do what He wants in my heart. Besides, once you get started, it’s just fun!” – Anna Anderson
Testing Prophetic Words
By Dan Siemens
Question: The person who was praying for me gave me a “prophetic word” during ministry time at my church. What exactly is a prophetic word?
Answer: The term “prophetic” is actually a broad term that includes supernatural visions, visitations, words of knowledge, and words of wisdom. It has to do with the direct inspiration and communication of the Holy Spirit who speaks through a human vessel.
During prayer ministry, specific information, which could have only been known by the Lord, is given to the person praying. It may also be given to the person receiving prayer. I Corinthians 14: 3 tells us that the purpose of the prophetic ministry is to build up the Body of Christ for our strengthening, encouragement, and comfort. This is called inspirational prophecy, and it is the most widely-given type of prophecy. It usually comes to the person who is praying in the form of words, impressions, or pictures
Question: I once received a very strong, directive word of prophecy from a prayer minister. It was directive in that it indicated that I was supposed to do something specific in one area of my life. After giving me this word, she then said that I was responsible to test this word and decide whether or not to take action on it. I am confused. She received and gave the word. Why am I left to decide whether or not it was really the Lord speaking?
Answer: With prophetic ministry on the increase in our day, one common
misunderstanding is that a word of prophecy can be simply ‘unloaded’ on an individual who is then left to figure it out for themselves. This is simply not a safe practice.
First of all, not every word given to us is from the Lord. That is why all prophecy must be tested in a healthy way. (See I Thessalonians 5.19-21)
And secondly, discerning a prophetic word is not the sole responsibility of the recipient (see I Corinthians 14.29). This is especially true with heavy prophecy. Heavy prophecy contains words which are either predictive, (that which will happen in the future), directive, (that which directs one to do something specific), or corrective, (that which points out the need for repentance because of sin, or a wrong attitude, etc.). Since the word you received falls under this category, rigorous testing needs to be applied. These kinds of words also require more accountability from the one giving the word. Therefore, it is very important to check out any heavy prophecy that you receive with your pastor or with another mature believer before acting on it.
(To help individuals in the discerning process, Lutheran Renewal prayer teams are asked to refrain from giving heavy prophecy to anyone unless the prayer minister has first submitted the word to a designated Prayer Team Leader. The Team Leader then must decide whether or not to go ahead and release the word and share it with the person who was receiving prayer. If it seems right and appropriate, then both the prayer minister and the Team Leader go to the person, not only to give the word, but also to help them test and interpret it. Why do it this way? Inappropriate, heavy prophetic words given in isolation without any accountability structure often leave the recipient spiritually unprotected. Words like these, given in an isolated context, can be dangerous. They are sometimes referred to as ‘closet prophecies’ or ‘parking lot prophecies’ and are not allowed on the Lutheran Renewal Prayer Ministry Team.)
Question: Since prophetic words are imperfect, I Thessalonians 5: 21 encourages us to strain out and hang onto the truth of the word. What exactly is the most reliable way to test words of prophecy in order to get God’s intended benefit from them?
Answer: Here are four ways you can test prophetic words. If a word does not stand up under testing, you should not receive it in your spirit.
Test the word itself to see whether or not it lines up with Scripture. Prophetic words are not on the same level as God’s Holy Word. All prophetic words are subject to the Bible’s authority.
Ask others for their discernment. Submit the word to your pastor, other leaders in the church, or to a trusted friend.
Ask yourself, does my own spirit witness that this word is from the Holy Spirit? True words from the Lord have a kind of ‘weight’ attached to them that we can learn to recognize with practice. Although we should definitely check out strong prophetic words with others, we must also let God develop our own discerning ability. John 10: 4-5 says that we can know the Shepherd’s voice.
Ask for this word to be confirmed by other sources. Once you have received a word, you can ask the Lord to confirm it by independent sources. This may happen as you hold the word over a period of time. In addition, one major function of the prophetic word is to confirm something that God has already been communicating to you.
Receiving A Prophetic Word
By Artis Bruneau
“Who are you? I don’t even recognize my wife of 30 years; you’re not the same person!” These are the words that my husband said to me after the Lord freed me from fear.
For many years I was paralyzed by fear. I didn’t like being home alone overnight, and I would grow cold inside when I was put into that situation. I also feared going very far away from home, yet I knew that God didn’t’ want me to live that way; He wanted me to be free.
One Sunday morning during our worship service, someone gave a prophetic word. She said that the Lord was powerfully present to bring freedom and to cut the cords of bondage that may be holding back those of us who were present at that service. I knew without a shadow of a doubt that this word was a message from God for me. Something in my heart said, “Yes, that’s for you.”
I asked for prayer and God released my heart from fear. He pulled out the roots from many fears that had their hold on me. Situations that had previously crippled me were no longer a threat. I was a new person! My husband was thrilled with the change that he saw in me, and we both give all of the glory to the Lord for the work He’s done and continues to do in me.
Artis Bruneau and her husband, Nap, have been members of North Heights Lutheran Church for nearly 30 years. She has been on staff at North Heights for 23 years.