Someone actually asked me once, "why don't baptists dance?" I looked at them puzzled, having seen several of our teenagers as cheerleaders at a football game doing something that many would call dancing. My daughter actually is a beautiful dancer. Some would call me biased. I would say honest. I am confident if you watched the dance videos you would agree. If at any point you would like to see them, just let me know. We can have popcorn and make a night of it. You will certainly be blessed by the experience. She really should be on Broadway . . . Oops. Sorry. I digress.
Asking "why don't baptists dance" is like asking "why don't baptists drink." I heard once that in the town where I used to live in Florida, the liquor store had "the Baptist special." It was a brown bag handed out of the back door in the alley behind the liquor store. The saying was that the most unfriendly exchange between deacons was not the deacons meeting but was actually those few awkward moments when they passed each other coming in and out of the "express lane" on Saturday nights.
The morality of these two past times is not the subject of this post. Instead, I am intrigued by the question. Many wedding receptions are now held "off site" because of dancing. Father/daughter dances. First dances with the bride and groom. Recently my six year old entertained a few wedding guests with his own dancing moves. He was heard before the wedding saying, "If there's dancing at that reception, I'm going to get on stage and show them how it's done." This statement is coming from a young man who literally laid down on the floor at his first children's choir performance. He learned the dancing part from his mother, by the way.
Many people in our world have made decisions about the body of Christ based on what someone told them they could or could not do if they connected to the church. I find it interesting that no one refuses to go to school because they have to wear uniforms or because they can't smoke in the hallways. (Baptist do let you smoke outside the back door by the way. I suppose the puffs of smoke are their version of "burnt offerings.") Just like no one refused to go to school because of behavior codes, no one refuses to play t-ball, baseball, football, soccer, or any other sport for that matter because you have to wear a certain uniform, show up for practice, and abide by the rules of the Athletic Association. As a matter of fact, parents pay lots of money to be told what to do and how to do it by sports leagues, cheer coaches, private schools, health clubs, homeowner's associations, golf clubs, and so many more activities that are not hurting for memberships or support. People are actually fighting in some cases to get into the top schools so their children can be forced to wear certain clothes, behave a certain way, study certain courses, and wake up at certain hours.
Even our medical community tells us what to do. Did you know that doctors have the nerve of requiring you to have an appointment before you can see them? On top of that, they make you sit in a waiting room with tons of other sick people reading magazines that are old and probably have the mucous and virus on them from the last person who sat in that chair. The exam rooms are cold. They come in and make you strip down to your personals, and then they start to probe. Why in the world can't they make stethoscopes that are warm? Just once, I'd like to have a doctor hear my heartbeat without chill bumps coming all over my body. After all that they put us through in those offices, they then have the nerve to require that we pay them. Some offices even make you pay up front. I suppose that is because they know the service is so bad you'll be tempted to sneak out without paying, if you could get by Helga the guard that is. Or maybe it's not that they think you'll sneak out. Maybe they think that you will freeze while you are waiting an hour on the doctor and won't be able to pay. Who knows.
So why don't baptists dance? A better question is "why does it matter?" The people asking those questions have already made a decision not to be part of the church. We have a generation of people who have decided that being part of the church isn't worth it. The church doesn't make you have an appointment. We do have scheduled worship times, but that is just to make sure we get to lunch before the other denominations across town. We do all sit together in a room with tons of spiritually sick people reading from a Bible that was written thousands of years ago. Some of our music is not exactly current, and the pews have the mucous and virus on them from the kid who blew his nose and wiped it on the seat. The sanctuary is usually too cold. No stethoscopes, but sometimes the message and the music does get to your heart. Why do we endure the agony of the doctor's office, pay lots of money, take lots of medicine, and get so frustrated with the church? The experiences sound very similar. I suppose it's because the doctor is offering us a chance to improve our lives. Live longer. Be healthy. He (or she) seems to have something we need so we will endure a little discomfort to get some help.
At some point, the church used to have something we needed. People would endure a little discomfort to get some help. The church used to offer us a chance to improve our lives. To live forever. To be healthy - emotionally, physically, and spiritually. Something happened somewhere along the way. Some decisions were made, and a group of people with absolutely no rhythm decided that baptist's don't dance. At the same time, it seems, they decided that baptists don't do a lot of things, many of which are mandated in God's word. Why are so many of our churches closing their doors? Why are so many of our churches in such an unhealthy condition? Why are so many of our churches keeping themselves comfortable until the hour of death passes by? I can't help but wonder if we are in such a sad condition because we have forgotten how to dance. Don't get me wrong. I never knew how to dance. Not physically anyway. Spiritually, though, I remember a time of dancing. I remember the joy that was part of following Christ. The time before life became so confusing and people became so cruel. The time before deaths and disease and debt.
Our Sunday School class recently discussed what it means that man is created in the image of God. One of our conclusions was that we are created as spiritual beings. At some point in church history, we stopped relating to God spiritually. We started relating to him physically and emotionally, hoping that was enough. We decided that we could enjoy God without the body of Christ sitting in the stands of game. We decided that as long as we felt warm inside with our hands lifted high to the latest Christian song we must be in touch with God. We decided that the physical and emotional connection was enough - so long as we didn't dance in response to those physical and emotional connections. I wonder if the spiritual part of knowing God somehow involves a dance - a movement with the Spirit of God that is so in sync with the rhythm of God's heart that we progress across the stage of life with what seems like little effort.
At some point we all made a choice as to how we approach God. Those individual choices became corporate choices, and we are dealing with the fallout today. In 1 Kings 3, God told Solomon, "Ask what I shall give you." King Solomon asked for one thing. "Give your servant therefore an understanding mind to govern your people, that I may discern between good and evil, for who is able to govern this your great people." Solomon asked for wisdom to know what is the best choice. He wanted to lead God's people well.
Perhaps we would be wise to pray for the same wisdom. How can we lead our families, our communities, our churches well? Ask the Lord for wisdom to know the best answer. When we make decisions based on what our minds, our cultures, our desires, our own selfish hearts tell us to do, we will fail, giving Christ a name for what He does not allow instead of for what He offers. He offers life everlasting. He offers freedom from sin. He offers to chance to dance. Let's change the perception. Tell the world that baptists do dance. Christians do dance. We dance to the beat of the Master Musician who has created us to experience the fullness of joy in His Presence. Spread the word. Send the invitations. Maybe it's not too late for us after all.