Volume. XX, No. 4
Sunday, 24 July 2005

From the pastors heart: Worship Dance Phenomena-Part 1

I am planning to talk about worship dance, which slightly deviates from my usual topic of Contemporary Christian Music. I promise you that I’ll revisit CCM issues again. The reason that I want to study on worship dance is that it has been such phenomena that have affected many contemporary Christian churches. If you have ever visited worship dance websites, you mush have found countless sites about worship dance, drama, costumes, scripts for worship dance, videos, DVDs, and many training seminars. If you turn on Christian TV channels, you will see all kinds of singing with dancing. Worship dancers or praise dancers (they call themselves like these) are sweating and dancing all over the stages in churches. By the way, there are many groups called “Christian Dance Fellowship.” There are a number of articles published either for or against worship dance. The issue here is not whether worship dancers are sincere or not. I believe that most of them are very sincere enough even willing to dance before big crowds. I’ll get fainted before I ever get to the stage, if I have to dance before you. They prepare themselves with prayers and desire to glorify their God through dancing. They practice their shows over and over again, by which hours after hours are spent for preparations. Who will speak against them unless the accuser is a villain? Their arguments seem to make sense. They say, “We are supposed to give our bodies to God as living sacrifices. Dancing to God is a part of giving ourselves to Him.” It is even noble and sacred ambition to dance for God.

Let me begin with general logic of worship dance proponents first. They, in general, say that the Old Testament encourages us to dance for God. God bids us dance. Their usual starting point is Exodus 15:20, in which Miriam, Moses’ sister and a prophetess, led a group of women to dancing. Another portion of the Scriptures that has been used most frequently is 2 Samuel 6:14, “And David danced before the LORD with all his might; and David was girded with a linen ephod.” They suggest that this verse closes all arguments against the use of worship dance. Then, their final seal of approval for their dancing practices comes from the following two verses: (1) Psalm 149:3, “Let them praise his name in the dance: let them sing praises unto him with the timbrel and harp.” (2) Psalm 150:4, “Praise him with the timbrel and dance: praise him with stringed instruments and organs.” What can we say to them at this point? Don’t we need to rethink of our position about worship dance and begin to offer Sunday dance schools? Isn’t it true that all these scriptures are talking about the use of dance for worship? There are two schools of thought in regard to the ways to acquire skills to dance. One school says that it must come from the Spirit of God. Therefore, we ought to rely on His leading. The other school says that learning to dance is necessary. Dancers must be taught as they have to be taught in English and other subjects. Thus, there are literally thousands of places where the aspiring worship dancers can take courses.

By now, you may be wondering what I am trying to say. If now you have an impression that I have been trying to convince you to learn worship dance, you are wandering in a dry land without water and green pastures. There are a few things we need to consider before we can study biblical data about worship and dance. For sure, I promise that I’ll visit every Scripture passages that worship dancers want to use as proof verses. Before I am going to do so, I need to clarify a few points that you and I must know. First of all, we must understand how music has been developed in Judaism. Music has been a part of Jewish life and religion. It is very possible that Jewish music has been influenced by neighboring people. However, the children of Abraham have maintained their spiritual and religious nature of music. I am not sure of the origin of Jewish music. However, there are a few references of music in the books of Judges and Samuels. There are also records of musical instruments. With the construction of the Solomonic Temple, music began to play an integral part of worship (II Samuel 6, I Chronicles 6:16-17). This music was both vocal and instrumental. There is no way to know for sure of how people sang in those days. The destruction of the First Temple by the Babylonians and the subsequent captivity to Babylon had terminated the Temple worship and caused great impact on Jewish life. Now the Jews had to develop synagogue music fit for their worship. Babylon was not the only place for the scattered Jews (diaspora). The diasporas gave births to the Sephardic and Ashkenazie forms of Judaism.

The main focus of their worship was not sacrifices any more, but didactic (teachings). Synagogue worship was brought back to Jerusalem when the captives returned home. This worship was characterized by recitation of prayer, chanting of the Psalms, Bible reading and instruction. After the destruction of Jerusalem Temple in 70 AD, synagogue worship became the central part of Jewish religion. At this point, it is appropriate to read the following quote from here.

The music traditions of the early synagogue were influenced by the Rabbinic prohibition against playing musical instruments which would be considered work on the Sabbath. Two other factors also shaped early synagogue liturgical music: mourning over the destruction of the Temple, and rules against promiscuity. Mourning over the destruction of the Temple led to a Rabbinic ban on secular and merry songs and instrumentation, resulting in a penitential character in the service. The fears of promiscuity led to the separation of men and women, and ultimately to only men singing in the Synagogue.

There are at least two things that attract our attention. One is that music has been changed over the years depending on circumstances. In one stage, music was very lively with singing and playing with instruments. But in another stage, lively music seemed to be inappropriate, such as during the time of captivity and after the destruction of Jerusalem. Therefore, it is a bit too much to say that there is only one policy concerning music. Rather, our question should be on what types of music will glorify our God in different times? Or, what is good music? The other point is of a view against music. There are some people who insist that we should never use musical instruments for worship because once upon a time rabbis forbade certain music among themselves or reformers did not like to use instruments; therefore, we should not use them at all. Reformers had their own reasons not to use accompanied music for worship. However, it cannot be a criterion to forbid Christians from using musical instruments. As I have already begun to talk about in the previous articles, the Bible talks about so many of musical instruments used for the glory of God, including temple service. Unless someone believes in total discontinuity between the Old and New Testaments, there is no reason why we cannot and should not use instruments in order to praise God. David was a man after God’s own heart, but he himself was a great musician. He appears to have played musical instruments as well. There was a Temple orchestra organized to assist worship. It is my prayer that more people will be able to serve God with right music. May the Lord give us more balanced views of music from the Scriptures!

Lovingly, Pastor Ki

More Lively Hope



Shorter Catechism Question 4: What is God? God is a Spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable, in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness and truth.

Please pray for God’s healing for Rev George & Sis Nan van Buuren, Rev Peter Clements, Dn Edwin D’Mello, Bro Kevin Tye, & Mr David Carpenter; Sisters Wendy Gong, Myung Ki, Katie Opaskiatikul, Aranka Rejtoe, Susan Veradi, Melissa Wong, Giok Yeo’s sister-in-law, and all others who have been afflicted with winter illness. “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Philippians 4:13).

Please pray for – a) Cambodia Missions: Rev & Mrs Moses Hahn, (Sihanoukville), Rev & Mrs Luke Kim (Veal Rehn), Preacher Chang and Mandarin ministry (Sihanoukville), Bro Chanton & Sis Siang Lai (Siem Reap), & Bro Chhim Vana Rith (Phnom Penh), Van for Preacher Chang’s ministry (Cost SG$10,000); b) Ebenezer BPC Cambodia Missions Team: Bro Matthew Thomas, Sisters Adeline Goh & Vanilla Wong as they prepare to return home; c) Bro Surish Dharmalingam – Lord’s provision for Laos missions; d) Expectant mother – Sis Michiko Law; e) Children’s ministry - Bro Hai Seng Lim; f) Journey mercies: Bro Chris Budiman & family (Adl), Bros Lincoln Law (Syd/Adl) & Leonard Teo (USA), Sis Melissa Wong & Anna Phan (Canberra); g) Provision of a Pastor for Ebenezer BPC.

Congratulations to Bro David Paauwe on his marriage to Miss Fiona Baker.

Praise and Thank God for – a) Wed, YAF & AFG Bible Studies this past week; b) Journey mercies - Ps Ki & family, Grandpa Ki (Adl), Rev & Mrs Edward Paauwe (Adl/Perth), Dn Tony & Sis Sally Law, Dn David & Sis Giok Yeo & Audrey; Bros Lincoln Law & Tae Yul Lee; Sisters Min Yen Chia, Mary Ting, & Serene Wong (Adl), Bro Chris Budiman (Jakarta), Sis Edna Neumann’s parents (Philippines), ; c) Prayer answered - Job for Bro Simon Yeo.

Next Basic Bible Knowledge Class is to commence soon. Please let Ps Ki or Elder Lee know if interested in getting baptised, confirmed or membership transferred.

Cambodia Missions in January 2006: those interested please see Elder Lee.

Reminder: All members are expected to attend the Annual Congregational Meeting.



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