With increasing frequency, American churches are incorporating dance into their worship services. And I understand why. Music and dance are closely related and church services are full of music. Churches are full of artistic people who want to express their love for the Lord in the ways they know best. And most importantly, David danced before the Lord (II Samuel 6.14). Such things lend themselves easily to the justification of “interpretative movements” and “artistic expressions” in worship.
There is one gigantic problem with such an approach – the church service is not a worship service. In 2015 I wrote six posts totaling 9000 words laying out the case for that last sentence. At the risk of quoting myself let me give you a handful of them. “The stubborn truth is that the church service was not designed or purposed to produce worship. God does not live in a building. You do not need to go to a geographical location to meet with Him.” As a matter of fact, there is not a single public worship service discussed, exemplified, commanded, or instructed in the New Testament church age. The only reasons we have entwined the two so closely are tradition and lazy hermeneutics. There are lots of preaching services but zero worship services.
I wrote in that series that misunderstanding this principle produces a wide variety of the mistakes we see in contemporary America’s approach to church. Dance is simply one of those mistakes. Yes, David danced before the Lord. But a church service is not about appearing before the Lord. It is not about worship. It is about edification.
As members of New Testament churches we realize that our religion, Christianity, has its roots in the Old Testament. We also realize the Old Testament is not normative for how we conduct church. After all, I seriously doubt your church slaughtered an animal and burned it during the morning service last Sunday. The church was not even imagined in the Old Testament. Yes, men worshipped the Lord then and men worship the Lord now but there is a clear and evident shift in that worship in the New Testament.
I agree you can show me worshipful dance in the Old Testament. But you cannot in the New Testament. You can ransack it from Matthew 1 to Revelation 22 and you will come up with nothing. But the bulk of my reasoning against involving dance in a church service is not just this argument from silence. It is my carefully considered understanding that the church service is not a worship service.
Church is not about expressing, in an artistic and entertaining way, your worship of the Heavenly Father. It is about pointed preaching that confronts us personally and corporately and in so doing transforms men and women and boys and girls into the image of Jesus Christ. But when your underlying grasp of how and why church is supposed to be done is wrong, and when your spiritual culture rejects separation from the world, then sooner or later I expect dancing to show up in your church services. And when it does you will be wrong.
by Tom Brennan