Is dancing in worship for the Church?

We are reprinting this answer from the June 1998 Grace & Truth Magazine for the blessing of the Lord’s people today, particularly those who recently asked this question.

The New Testament mentions dancing on only three occasions: the men-pleasing dancing of Herodias that cost John the Baptist his head (Mt. 14:6-11; Mk. 6:21-28), the dancing of little children at play (Mt. 11:16-17; Lk. 7:32), and the dancing the older son heard after his younger brother – the prodigal – had returned home from life in a far country (Lk. 15:25).

Nowhere in the New Testament is dancing associated with Christian worship or referred to as an activity of the Church. Singing and praying are both mentioned with approval in 1 Corinthians 14. Blessing is equated with giving thanks in verse 16. Speaking in tongues and prophesying are mentioned here too, although 1 Corinthians 13:8 makes plain that tongues would cease and prophecies should be done away. A psalm, a teaching, a revelation and an interpretation are added to these activities in 1 Corinthians 14:26, but dancing is never mentioned. Apparently it is not something for the edification of God’s heavenly people, nor is it referred to in other instructions for the church (Eph. 5:18-20; Col. 3:16). Not once in the historical record in the Acts do we find believers dancing in worship or testimony.

The worship of God’s earthly people in the Old Testament was to be in holy splendor, in the beauty of holiness (1 Chr. 16:29; Ps. 96.9). Its components were outward – a geographic center, a gorgeous, well-furnished building, tangible sacrifices, priests with vestments, musical instruments, choirs, incense and much more. Dancing fits right into this pattern, a pattern set aside in the New Testament until we come to Revelation, which is written in symbolic terms and describes worship in heaven rather than on earth. Today the Father seeks worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:23). May our hearts, appreciative of His Son’s finished work, overflow in worship and adoration before Him!