Dance in the History of the Church

Did you know that dance was a part of early church services?

I was happy to discover that recently!

According to my devotional book Time to Dance by Alyssa Campbell, “Several church fathers have written about how simple and traditional dance movements were used during services.”

“The Lord bids us dance, not merely with the circling movements of the body, but with the pious faith in him.” – Ambrose

Before long, as more pagan people converted to Christianity, the forms of Christian dance were polluted. The church became conflicted about whether or not dance should remain a part of the services.

During the Reformation, dance was nearly completely removed from churches, even though leaders such as William Tyndale and Martin Luther supported it. Campbell wrote, “This era was marked by a dedication for suppressing icons and dance was seen as glorifying the body. Dance and other performing and visual arts were considered frivolous and unnecessary to the Christian faith.”

Sadly, dance is still not accepted in many churches. Even simple physical expressions of worship, such as lifted hands, are discouraged. I understand that not everyone is comfortable worshipping physically in front of others; I also understand that people should not be distracting or showing off during a church service.

However, the Bible encourages us to use our bodies in worship. When I speak of dancing, I mean anything from raising hands to kneeling to clapping, jumping, or any sort of movement, be that personal or corporate. After all, our bodies, souls, and spirits should be united in affection for God, should they not? If we can sing, though we aren’t all singers, could we dance, though we aren’t all dancers?

For it is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God. – Romans 14:11

O come, let us worship and bow down: let us kneel before the Lord our maker. – Psalm 95:6

I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land. Selah. – Psalm 143:6

Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp. – Psalms 149:3

A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; – Ecclesiastes 3:4

Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs. – Psalms 150:4 (KJV) 

There are so many other verses of praise that I found which seem to refer to wholehearted, whole bodied worship. When we worship, let us truly recognize who God is and let our adoration overflow into our entire beings.

What do you believe about worshipful dancing as a Christian?

17 Comments Add yours

  1. Josh says:

    Sounds like a great study you had!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Yes, I agree dance is important to God,
    Back in the ’90s at our church Quail valley,
    We were encouraged to dance during the worship service. I hope things will change for the better when Churches reopen. Thanks for posting

    Liked by 2 people

    1. That’s wonderful! Thanks for sharing!

      Like

  3. I think dance would add a great deal if done well. I remember a regional gathering in which dance was a great addition during the service. At the same time, I think of the ultra-conservative priest I currently serve with; I might pass out if he even considered it!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I know exactly what you mean with all you said! 😊

      Like

  4. I am incapable of being still when I worship in song. Fortunately, my church has never forbidden it even those most people there somehow manage to be still when they sing. This morning we had Drive-In Church, and I caught myself toe tapping and swaying sitting in the car! Lol 😂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that! 😊

      Liked by 1 person

  5. By the way, I love this post!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Esther says:

    Cool post!!

    ~Esther

    Liked by 1 person

  7. T. R. Noble says:

    I think in the right setting it’s ok. Unfortunately, with our world, so many things can easily distract the eyes of others, and we are warned not to be stumbling blocks. That being said, even if people can’t dance in church, what’s stopping us from worshipping in our private time ❤

    I recall David dancing with all his might for the Lord.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s true! I know just what you’re saying.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. T. R. Noble says:

        😊😊😊 I’m glad!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. I really learned a lot from this, and I’m so glad you shared. In light of dancing for the Lord, I’ll never forget the talent show dance you did to “I Know My Redeemer Lives” by Nicole C. Mullen. You were so beautifully expressive for such a little person. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. We should find the video of that so I can laugh at myself 😂

      Like

      1. Aw, you were so cute! But I know what you mean…it might seem a bit funny now.

        Like

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