Christians worship God differently. The difference in the style and forms of worship make some churches or denominations very different from others. For instance, Baptists have a very distinct way of worshipping God. They are known for their unique practices and beliefs including their stand on baptism by immersion of a believer who has professed faith in God.
Among their unique practices and beliefs, one question arises, “Can Baptists dance?” This might seem like a simple question that can be answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer. But the answer is far from that; just like the answers to the questions that arise from different aspects of faith.
There is more to it than just a black-and-white answer. Many have shared their opinions, thoughts, and reflections concerning the question of whether Baptists can dance or not.
In this article, we will delve deeper into the worship style of Baptists and unravel all the information surrounding Baptists and dancing. We will find out where Baptists draw their beliefs about dancing and the things that have shaped their attitudes towards dancing.
Dancing is an expression of worship to God, a form of celebration, and an expression of joy. However, some Christian denominations interpret dancing differently. For instance, Baptists view it as a sin. But where did they draw this perspective? Did they draw it from the Scriptures or from some historical concepts?
How did they come to the conclusion that dancing is a sin? Most religious beliefs, cultural rituals, and traditions trace back their origin to ancient and historical concepts. Beliefs of ancient times form the basis upon which modern beliefs are built. I believe that they are the foundation for the Baptists’ perspectives on dancing.
Dancing was often viewed with suspicion and disapproval when the Baptized movement started its operations in the 17th century. Their suspicion and doubt were a reflection of the Puritan skepticism of early American Christianity. Puritan communities greatly discouraged dancing among churches claiming that it was a sinful activity.
Their goal was to purify the Church of England by teaching against practices that were thought to go against religious purity. When we look at the origin of Baptist church leaders like Roger Williams and John Clarke, we find that they emerged from Puritan backgrounds. They carried their perspectives about dancing and influenced the Baptists to adopt them into their beliefs. These leaders embraced the principles and beliefs of the Baptists but introduced the view of dancing as a sinful activity.
Additionally, there was a religious revival, known as The Great Awakening in the 18th century that put more emphasis on viewing dancing as a sin. Great preachers like Jonathan Edwards and George Whitefield who presided over the revival meetings stressed the need for believers to seek repentance and moral uprightness. They claimed that dancing is often associated with worldly pleasures and they did not condone it in their revival meetings.
The reinforcement of regulations that prohibited dancing left a lasting impact on the Baptist church. Some modern Baptists have embraced the tradition of dancing during their worship services. They have found out that there is nothing wrong with dancing and recognized it as a form of worship to God. However, others are still deeply rooted in historical concepts that portray dancing as something that ruins their moral uprightness. They believe that dancing can lead to moral decay.
Different Baptist Denominations and Their View on Dancing
The Baptist church is divided into various denominations and each is defined with its own beliefs and practices. They have a wide range of perspectives as regards dancing.
- Southern Baptist Convention: The Southern Baptist Convention is very conservative when it comes to dancing. We found out that this convention doesn’t have an official statement that prohibits its members from dancing. However, individual churches under the convention discourage the practice of dancing during worship. They emphasize a literal interpretation of every word in the Scriptures and this may be the reason behind their restrictive views on dancing.
- American Baptist Churches – USA: The American Baptist Churches allow their members to practice certain forms of dancing. They permit dancing in cultural celebrations and during their worship services. American Baptists are known for their great emphasis on autonomy and diversity. They welcome different opinions, approaches, and interpretations of the Word of God.
- Independent Baptist Churches: Independent Baptist Churches operate independently and have a broad range of views concerning dancing. Some of their congregations strictly prohibit dancing while others allow dancing within certain contexts.
Another thing that shapes Baptists’ perspectives and beliefs on dancing is regional and cultural factors. Baptist churches in areas where dancing is permitted have embraced dancing as part of their worship. But in areas where dancing is seen as a sin, Baptist churches adopt restrictive perspectives on dancing. For instance, churches in rural areas with people who are conservative are very strict when it comes to dancing during worship. On the other hand, Baptist churches in urban centers may embrace dancing. The areas surrounding the churches, the environment, and the cultural beliefs play a significant role in the Baptists’ stance on dancing. In some areas, dancing is purely an act of worship and a social activity with no sin associated with it. However, in other areas, a believer who dances is considered someone with low moral standards. They associate dancing with moral decay and it makes society have a negative view of the moral stand of a believer who practices it.
Theological foundations also define how Baptists view dancing. Their interpretation of Bible passages varies from church to church. Some believe that dancing is condemned in the Bible and rely on various Bible passages to support their views. Others encourage believers to interpret the Scriptures and act based on their conscience.
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Pastoral guidance and teachings can also make members of a church either embrace dancing as a form of worship or view it as a sinful activity.
Instances or Occasions Where Some Baptist Churches Permit Dancing
Some Baptists permit dancing not in all their services but on specific occasions. They believe that if the Bible refers to David as a man after God’s heart, yet he danced and wrote many psalms that encourage believers to dance, then it can be practiced on specific occasions. Additionally, they believe that dancing helps believers connect with God cheerfully and powerfully. It creates a great worship environment and encourages believers from diverse backgrounds to embrace worship. So, they allow dancing on the following occasions;
- In cultural celebrations.
- During youth ministries.
- Liturgical dance.
What Does the Bible Say About Dancing?
Let’s take a look at a few Bible verses that talk about dancing and the message they put across to us.
“Let them praise His name with dancing and make music to him with timbrel and harp.”Psalms 149:3
This Psalm shows that dancing is not a sinful activity but a form of worship to God. As we sing praises to God, we can dance along to the music too.
“A time to weep and a time to laugh, a time to mourn and a time to dance.”Ecclesiastes 3:4
This Scripture emphasizes that dancing is for specific occasions or seasons. We cannot dance on all occasions but it is permissible. When it is time to dance, then everyone is free to dance.
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“Then young women will dance and be glad, young men and old as well. I will turn their mourning into gladness; I will give them comfort and joy instead of sorrow.”Jeremiah 31:13
Dancing is also an expression of joy and gladness. People dance when they are happy or when they are celebrating something good that has happened to them. After David had killed the Philistine giant who had threatened the Israelites for a long time, there was singing and dancing.
“When the men were returning home after David had killed the Philistine, the women came out from all the towns of Israel to meet King Saul with singing and dancing, with joyful songs and with timbrels and lyres.”1 Samuel 18:6
The dancing was an expression of joy and gratitude to God for granting them victory over their enemy. They were also celebrating David for his heroic act that brought the land of Israel peace and calm.
The answer to the question of whether Baptists dance or not is beyond a mere ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response. We have understood where Baptists drew their inspiration to prohibit dancing in their churches. But we have also found out that not all Baptists strictly prohibit dancing. Some Baptists allow dancing but only on specific occasions.
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As we have seen, the Scriptures illustrate the practice of dancing as something that is good and significant in worship, celebration, thanksgiving, and rejoicing. We can introduce it into our worship styles without fear. It can help stir up talents in the youth in the church, encourage people to worship, and create an atmosphere where people deeply connect with God.
However, different denominations are free to adhere to their regulations, beliefs, and traditions. And, Baptists too are free to decide whether to dance or not since it is not the only way through which we worship God.
“And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.”Colossians 3:17
Whether Baptists dance or not, we believe that they are doing it in the name of the Lord and to bring glory and honor to His name.