Assembly 2015

Baptists learning to dance

By Kevin Pranoto

I didn’t grow up Baptist. Instead, I grew up Pentecostal.

If you’ve ever been to a Pentecostal revival service, you know how much Pentecostals love to dance. I grew up in services where men and women twirled their flags, streamers and tambourines.

In my upbringing I understood that the more undignified you were during worship, the more holy you were supposed to be. So when I got to Baylor University and attended my first Baptist church service, it was shocking for me to realize that Baptists don’t dance. It was even more shocking for me to understand that dancing was once understood to be inherently sinful and that it was “the devil’s chosen method of luring Christians into joining his army.”
dance
So, when Brett Younger, professor at McAfee School of Theology, asked his workshop attendees to dance the “Wobble” during his workshop, imagine my surprise. ‘We’re going to do what?’

Yes, a handful of Cooperative Baptists at the CBF General Assembly danced the “Wobble,” the Waltz, and even saucily moved our hips to dance the Cumbia.

Even though we might not all be blessed with rhythm and loose hips, there was laughter in the room as young and old people joined together in dance. Now, you might ask, what does any of this have to do with faith or theology?

Younger asked us that question during the workshop, and some deeply theological answers came out during discussion. Some people shared about the joy that they felt while dancing and how that was indicative of their faith journey with God. Others shared about how dancing, especially couple’s dancing, required a certain level of trust in one’s partner and how we also have to trust God to lead us through life. Still others shared about the spontaneity of dance and how it resembled the endless possibilities of human life.

As we read 2 Samuel 6, the story of David dancing the ark into Jerusalem, Younger asked us to imagine the biblical narrative.

Encouraging us to use our five senses as we imagine together the feels, smells and sounds of this passage of Scripture, we were invited to step into the story and take part in the emotions of this biblical event. As we listened to the story in a very real and tactile way, we realized some common themes. First, we realized that we might need to cut loose in our worship services. We also might need to celebrate more when we come together in sacred fellowship. Finally, we realized that we might need to be less restrictive in the way and manner that we worship.

This story of David’s undignified dance ends with Michal condemning David for dancing in such an undignified way. Michal fell in love with David, the warrior, but she could not accept David, the jubilant worshiper.

Sometimes we try so hard to keep things under control that we miss the fun of it. Maybe we don’t need all the flags and streamers of my Pentecostal upbringing, but we can surely find the joy in our ministry and genuinely celebrate the presence of God in every moment.

Oftentimes, we get so caught up in the perfection of the ministry that we miss out on our dance with God. Younger reminds us that the foolish, dancing, holy moments are a taste of the goodness of God.

To keep up with news, photos and videos from the 2015 CBF General Assembly in Dallas, Texas, and for information on watching the online livestream of the evening June 17-19 worship and commissioning services of Assembly, please visit www.cbf.net/Dallas2015.

Kevin Pranoto  is a student at the George W. Truett Theological Seminary and the Diana R. Garland School of Social Work at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. He is also serving as an intern for Baptist Women in Ministry in Atlanta, Ga. 

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