This morning, Andrew Wilson posted a response to Jonathan Leeman, who had written that dancing in church was not acceptable. Leeman put forward a “freedom from” principle in worship, which includes freedom from being in the same room as people dancing. Wilson’s reply is well worth reading, and do take the three minutes to watch the video at the bottom.
This led me to do a study on dancing, both from the Bible as well as from a dissertation on dancing done at Reformed Theological Seminary. Like Leeman, the author of the dissertation said dancing shouldn’t be allowed during corporate worship. As a Charismatic my gut reaction was “this is ridiculous,” but after doing a study on dancing I can see where they are coming from. There’s nothing about it in the New Testament. There is also very little in the Old Testament, say ten verses. There are only two verses that explicitly command praising God with dancing Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!” and Psalm 150:4 “Praise him with tambourine and dance!”
But as I was thinking how little mention of dancing there is, it occurred to me that my whole search was misguided. Should I next look for commands to smile at church? Do sports fans need a command to jump up and down when their team scores? Smiling and jumping up and down are natural responses to good things in life. No commandment needed. It’s the same with dancing. Dancing is to the limbs as shouting is to the vocal cords. I wonder if people who say you shouldn’t dance in church ever shout in church (no one is going to deny passages on shouting in praise still apply)?
Praising God can take many forms: singing, shouting for joy, banging on the drums, and, yes, dancing. The people of God may want to dance because God has freed them from bondage in Egypt (Ex. 15) or because they were bringing the ark of the covenant to Jerusalem (2 Sam. 6/1 Chron 15) or because God has given them a job or protected their children.
God, give your church greater joy in you so that dancing will seem like the natural response.