We did our Christmas musical at church last Sunday. And like most Christmas productions, there were things in it that were more fun than dignified. In particular, me singing and dancing to Feliz Navidad.
Yes, I’m a pastor and I sing. And dance.
Oh, and I’m a baptist pastor, by the way. Baptists are not known for their dancing, but more for their refusal to do so. I’m a little different, you might say.
We were doing a comedy sketch with our youth guy dressed as an elf, with lots of pratfalls and other silliness.
But I guess for at least one family, it might have seemed too undignified for a pastor. I know that because I just got the call from them that they’re leaving the church.
Oh, of course “it wasn’t just that”. Because leaving over a silly Christmas skit would seem like petty overreaction. So of course they added on everything else they didn’t like about me as a person, just to make their objections seem substantial.
And yes, it does hurt me that they’re leaving…
Even though I know they were the only ones who voted against me when I came, it still hurts.
Even though they looked downward during every sermon I preached, rarely bothering to look up.
Even though I knew all this, I’d spent a lot of time the past 7 months trying to “love the hell out of them”, so to speak.
I pretended like I didn’t know they voted against me.
I lovingly answered endless questions their disabled son sent to my Facebook messenger account, and encouraged him continually when he expressed discouragement.
I asked the father to lead a men’s Bible study group.
So my payoff for all this tender loving care was watching their backsides sashay out of our church doors, never to return again.
I have a theory about why I seem to upset those kinds of people so much. I think it has something to do with the dancing. I know, you think I’m just obsessing over my little skit. But I think dancing is representative of something much deeper, and it’s a problem for a lot of believers.
There are some people who chose Christianity for all the wrong reasons. They chose it because they’re afraid to go for the joy in live, to take a risk, to love others with reckless abandon…to dance.
Obviously, I’m not just talking about literal dancing. I’m talking about the kind of freedom we feel when we dance. For a long time now, some Christians have seen that freedom as dangerous, even unspiritual.
It’s something people do who “aren’t serious about their faith”, they think.
You see, if you’re someone who lives in fear of life – because of disappointments in your past, maybe – you can repackage your fears as religious righteousness.
Stuff like dancing and laughter are easy targets in church. Want to seem “spiritually serious”? Just frown all the time and refuse to join in the fun.
Sure, some people dance a little too lively. We’ve all seen some people dance on TV with too few clothes on. So maybe it’s best just to say “no dancing at all” if you want to be seen as serious about God, right?
Except that dancing is wonderful. It’s a primal expression of pure joy. And what a victory for Satan if Christians avoid expressions of joy, leaving church with only a dry obedience devoid of passion.
So I tell you all this as a warning: if you dance… if you’re a person who enjoys living a joyful technicolor existence, there’ll be some who’ll resent you simply for your happiness.
Why? Because they’re living in black and white, and too scared to change the channel. And there are folks who have used the rules and requirements of Christianity as a rationale for living a colorless, risk-free life.
Those are the folks who love negative sermons. They feel affirmed by those messages, and consider anything else “weak preaching”. I’ve known people who seem to actually get excited when I’ve preached on hell. That’s because they inwardly resent people and long to see the world “get what they deserve”, even though God’s heart is that “none should perish”.
Sure, they live their lives by the rules, but only by default. They’re not spiritually holy. No, the live a straight life not because they wish to please God, but simply because they never had the guts to break the rules.
That’s not holiness. That’s cowardice camouflaged as Christianity.
Reminds me of a quote from the Broadway show Mame: “Life’s a banquet, but most poor suckers are starving to death!”
For those flat-footed Christians, “church” is where life’s disappointments are vented as “righteous indignation” over the sins of others. It’s where your fear of change and your xenophobia are cleverly camouflaged as “traditional values”.
Sorry, but that’s not my church. And it’s not Jesus’ church either.
Those “black and white believers” resent it when good clean fun interrupts a church service like it did this past Sunday. They resent passionate worship, and rebuke laughter as not being “sober-minded”.
Funny, didn’t they also call Jesus a “wine-bibber” once for simply enjoying a good party?
Reminds me of the Bible story about when David danced before the Lord. He was jubilant about the arc of the covenant returning to Jerusalem. This was significant because it meant that from now on when they went to church, “God was in the house!” No more dry, dusty services devoid of God’s presence. Wherever the arc was, God showed up in person.
As a result, David did something kings don’t normally do.
Not a restrained, respectful little dance like you’d expect from a king. Maybe with with baroque music played on harpsichords?
Nope. He flaps around full-tilt like a housewife who’s just won the lottery.
But wait, it gets worse. Next, he brakes decorum and starts pulling off his kingly vestments. He strips down to a linen ephod, which was a flimsy little number the Levitical priests wore.
Round and round David whirled in holy ecstasy, like a Jewish dreidel spun out of control.
And that’s when his wife Michal started hating him. She confronted him, questioning his motives. She accused him of just showing off his moves for the benefit of the ladies.
Why? She hated him because he had a passion she could only dream about. So she attacked, just as the black-and-white believers attack the dancers today!
I remember when we served a church in South Florida years ago. I was a good Baptist boy from Alabama, and my wife and I had been invited to a wedding by a great couple in our church. He was a pastor on staff and she was a beautiful young Puerto Rican lady. We were glad to be invited, but we wondered why the reception wasn’t being held at the church building.
When we got to the hall, we saw why. That’s where a DJ spun song after song, as lights flashed and people danced. Not just young people, but older folks too. And these were some of the most serious followers of Christ in our church.
Finally after watching for 30 minutes or so, I looked at my wife and said, “Come on. We’re not missing out on this!” At that moment, this Baptist boy was converted into a dancing fool.
I thank God for that Puerto Rican wedding. It showed me there was a world outside my narrow upbringing and rigid non-Biblical rules. It proved that Christians could be serious as a heart attack about God, and playful as a puppy on the dance floor.
That day, I started dancing. And regardless of how many people send disapproving stares from the sidelines, I’m never gonna stop.
I hope your life is dancing right now. Most likely you’ll be criticized for it, because it’s easier to look holy by just looking down on the fun.
But I truly believe it’s your Heavenly Father who’s leading this conga line. Whatever you do, don’t let fear make you skip out on His invitation to the dance.