Competitive Praise...Really?

     Within the dance ministry there has been a growing trend to hold Praise Dance Competitions. While it is not my place to judge the spiritual condition of those who host or participate in these events, I do question the basis for their existence in the worship community. By definition, praise or liturgical dance is: (1) A dance divinely inspired by God for public or private worship; (2)  Dance done as a praise and worship tool to honor the holiness and supremacy of God as a vehicle of prayer, intercession, and witnessing.  As part of our personal relationship with God, praise dance is done to uplift and encourage others in their worship. There is no scripture in the Bible that even suggests that praise and worship is competitive; in the book of Psalms, the musicians, singers, and dancers were inspired by God to minister together in their praise to Him.

     In the secular arena, there are dance competitions in which participants vie for monetary prizes, scholarships, further performance opporuntities and exposure. They are judged on the basis of technical strength, showmanship, originality, and costuming. These competitions are exciting and fun to watch, but there are always winners, and those who don't place. There are many in the dance ministry who are extremely talented, but God doesn't esteem their worship any higher than of those who worship by only lifting their hands.

     There is a big difference between dance as an artform, and the artform of dance as worship. Both have their places in the world and although at times they may look similar, they are not. Competitiveness is what caused disruption in the heavenlies when Lucifer said:  "I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High" (Isaiah 14:14). Isn't that just like the enemy to have God's people competing against one another? Once this happens, there is no more praise, just confusion. According to Ps.22:3 God inhabits the praises of His people... if His people are no longer praising, I will be headed for the nearest exit door!

     We can't be like anyone else, or observe what they are doing to become better than they are. It's impossible to compete with others without comparing ourselves to them. When we do this, we will either feel that we are superior to them, or that they are superior to us because after all, there can only be one winner, right? So, the next time you receive that flyer, e-mail or inbox invitation to compete with your praise, ask yourself these questions:

  • Who are the judges?
  • What qualifies someone to be a judge of praise?
  • What is the criteria for winning?
  • What makes one person's praise better than another's?
  • What is the prize for having the "best" praise?
  • How does one become a "loser"?
  • How does this promote true worship?                                                                                             
But the time is coming and is already here, when by the power of God's Spirit people will worship the Father as he really is, offering him the true worship that he wants. (John 4:23-GNT)

Enjoy this presentation by the Tribe of Judah:

 (1) Dancer's Array, Liturgical Dance Conference
 (2) National Liturgical Dance Network


Let's Let Christ Back Into the Dance...

"Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom..."
 (Song of Solomon 2:15) NIV
     A professional dancer recently commented to me that when dance was being reintroduced to the church, people were very careful about what they did, and were much more attuned to the worship of God than many of them are now. Now that dance has become more popular, much of it is becoming more about the spectacle than the worship. There are many reasons for this, but the question to ask now is, how did that happen, and even more importantly, how can we stop the trend?

     I remember my first time ever seeing dance to gospel music, when a group of middle school girls danced to Perfect Peace by Andre Crouch. It wasn't  in a church, but I saw and felt the message of the song expressed in movement, and can still recall it today. We were told in church at the time that contemporary dance was of the devil, and notes were sent home with parents letting them know that "...although we understand that many children have dance training for poise and confidence, there will be no type of dancing allowed in the talent show". When dance was finally allowed at my church, there was a group of young ladies who danced to What Shall I Do? by Tremaine Hawkins. They had small bells on their wrists and ankles and really didn't move that much, but the message was still clearly received. Of course, there were people who whispered about it, but the group continued to dance on occasion.

     Over time, dance has gained wider acceptance, and brought a lot of joy to people as they see the Good News of Christ communicated through worship in movement. Dancers have become more skilled and knowledgeable about their craft. But along with this, the element of competition and rivalry has crept in. Gospel promoters are cashing in on hosting Praise Dance Showcases and competitions under the guise of encouraging fellowship. Dance leaders have become territorial and have a sense of entitlement to top billing on programs, only want to associate with "recognized" ministries, exclude those from their groups who are not of the right body type or lack technical expertise and even worse, take the place of God in determining who can or cannot worship God in dance. In all of this, the element of worship has been lost for many people, and the dance has been reduced to entertainment, which has no place in the church.  In response, some dancers have taken a hiatus or sadly, left the ministry altogether.

      How can we stop this trend? By keeping Christ at the forefront of all we do, we will always be in worship mode. That leaves no room for competition, egoism, pride, abuse, territorial- ism, or any of the other sins that hinder God's work. I remember the days when we were happy to worship God freely in the dance and really make an impact, and I am thankful for those dance ministries who still do. Let's let Christ back into the dance...please?

     Please enjoy this video by The Georgia NLDN...