Dancing in Church, is there a place for the performing arts?

We know that what we win people with is what we win them to. So, we intentionally reject any sort of attractional ministry in the expository church (the church that wishes to operate by God’s word alone and for the glory of God alone). The congregational music of the expository church follows certain biblical principles, which we discussed in the previous article for this series. Is there a place for the performing arts? Why or why not?

Matthew 6:1

“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of people, to be seen by them.”

In what has become known as Christ’s “Sermon on the Mount,” we see this principle. Jesus applied it to religious action, giving to the poor, prayer, and fasting. The idea is that when we are serving the Lord, we are not serving so that we might be noticed or even applauded. The fact that Jesus is teaching His disciples to be “careful” means that anyone could unwittingly slip into such a trap, and not be aware that he or she has fallen. God is the only one who holds our reward and He rewards by grace alone according to His mercy alone as we abide in His glory alone. So, while there are no explicit restrictions concerning the performing arts and while we know that God has richly provided “us with all things to enjoy” (1 Timothy 6:17, particularly regarding the use of wealth), there is a warning that we receive not to do what we do in Christ’s name for personal gain or personal fame. Everything points to Jesus. We must decrease as He increases.

We are free, then, to incorporate performance components. We are not free to make church about us or to try and “win” people with and to entertainment.

Differences

The differences between musical performances and congregational singing are largely a matter of practicality. Scripture does not differentiate between the two. In our context, we must. So we will say that congregational music is that music intended for congregational singing while the performing arts are those components that are meant to be seen or heard, excluding the sermon and the announcements (teaching content and informational content). Considering the difference, there are some common-sense considerations.

For congregational music:

      1. Is the song selection singable on a congregational level?
        1. Songs should be easy to sing and not too busy. Our intention is not to draw attention to ourselves.
      2. Does the volume encourage people to sing along?
        1. Studies have shown that if people cannot hear themselves sing, they feel as though they can’t contribute to the service.
        2. As a general rule- turn the lights up and the volume down.
      3. Are the songs familiar?
        1. The best congregational music is music that people already know.
        2. A decent process needs to be in place to introduce new songs to the congregation because we are here to serve the good of people.
        3. The melody or feel of familiar songs shouldn’t be changed because that is more of a distraction than it is worshipful.

For performance components:

      1. The congregation isn’t explicitly participating with the performers.
      2. The congregation is participating spiritually.
      3. God is still to be glorified.
      4. We are still to serve the good of God’s people for God’s glory.
      5. We are not to serve our own selfish ambition or our own glory.

So, for any performance component (e.g. special music, poetry, dancing), the same biblical principles apply even though the practical considerations differ:

Principles restated:

    1. Proper church music is a response to God’s excellent greatness, not our preference.
    2. Proper church music professes the humility and insufficiency of humankind.
    3. Proper church music professes the glory of God.
    4. Proper church music incorporates a variety of instruments and techniques.
    5. Proper church music serves the good of God’s people in declaring the Gospel again with gentleness.
    6. Proper church music is selected without regard to selfish ambition.

Performance is itself praise and must serve a reflective purpose in the congregation (not the purpose of mere entertainment). So, though it is difficult for the congregation to join in singing (or dancing or reciting poetry) together and though any performance may be entertaining,  performance components should cause the congregation to reflect upon the glory of God according to the biblical principles already mentioned. The performing arts serve the same purpose and are guided by the same biblical principles as congregational church music, though the congregation participates in a different way.


This is a continuation of our expository church series. Please remember to check out the other articles in this series as well.

Advertisements

One comment

  • I once attended the funeral of a dear brother. He left behind a 13 year old daughter who loved to dance – not ballroom. Anyway, she had taken dancing lessons for a few years and her father enjoyed watching her dance. At the funeral, at the request of her father just prior to his passing, she danced for her earthly father to the glory of her heavenly Father. Some of the comments by a few people after the funeral was not of the christian verity. I believe that we should permit people to worship our God as they are moved by the Holy Spirit. God sees the heart and accepts our worship in the name of His beloved Son. Perhaps we should call this to mind during our worship hour.

    Again, that you for your insight,
    Albert

Leave a Reply