Dancing as Worship Art?

Dancing as Worship in the Church

Question: Is dancing a legitimate worship art? Or more directly, should dancing be part of the worship of the New Testament church?

Factors to consider

 

This is a narrow question dealing with dancing as a part of the corporate worship of the local church. It is not a question regarding the appropriateness of dancing per se. 

Dancing occurs frequently in the OT.

Dancing is used in a pagan worship context (Ex 32:19).

However, normally it is an expression of celebration such as rejoicing at the return of the ark (1 Chron 15:29; 2 Sam 6:14, 16) or David’s military triumphs (1 Sam 18:6; 21:11; 29:5; 30:16).

Dancing is encouraged as a means of praising the Lord (Psa 149:3; 150:4).

The terms for dancing occur only 5 times in the NT.

Two of these are sensual (Matt 14:6 + Mark 6:22). The other three are neutral (Luke 15:25, Matt 11:17 + Luke 7:32). None are connected to Christian worship.

Dancing as part of worship is not mentioned in Acts (especially chapter 2), which describes the beginning practices of the early church.

Dancing is not mentioned by the apostles as part of church practice.

Singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Col 3:16); making melody (Eph 5:19); and worshipping in spirit (John 4:24) are expected features of Christian corporate worship. Dancing, if legitimate, is not included in such directions.

Questions that should be included in the discussion:

In what way does dance enhance worship or enable believers to more effectively worship God?

Given the sensual abuse of dance in our culture, can it be included as a sacred worship art without sensual association?

Given the rhythmic nature of dance, it presents a possible occasion for impure thoughts. If so, is this appropriate for worship?

Dance as a worship element will be offense to some. How should this be handled?

Is the difference between OT and NT usage significant?

How important is the lack of any instance of dancing in connection with corporate worship?

Cautious Conclusions:

  1. If dancing could be used in praising God and if dancing is not prohibited as a worship element for the church, then dancing as part of worship may be permitted even though not prescribed.
  2. Thus, this is primarily a matter of preference and must be decided on the basis of wisdom.
  3. I prefer not to include dance in the corporate worship of the church. I come to this position primarily because I am not convinced that dance contributes to genuine worship.
  4. I do not include special events in the category of corporate worship and thus would be open to the possibility of sacred dance.
  5. My conclusions are tentative subject to specific wrestling with the questions in #4 above.

© Copyright. Joseph Flatt. 2016. All rights reserved. May be used for educational purposes without written permission but with a citation to this source.