Are Methodists Allowed to Dance? Get the Facts


The Methodist branch of Protestant Christianity is known, in part, for the disciplined approach that its earliest members took to following Christ. While some enjoy these disciplines, others see them as restrictive. Dancing is often one of the questions people have about the Methodist way of life.

Dancing isn’t a sin to the most Methodists, as long as it doesn’t encourage immoral sexual behavior. Dancing has sometimes been grouped together with drinking alcohol and gambling in Methodist history, but the association is due to context, not necessarily because the behavior is inherently sinful.

What does the largest Methodist denomination — the United Methodist Church — believe about dancing? Do some Methodists believe dancing is always sinful? Do other Methodists believe dancing is kind of worship? Keep reading to learn more.

Couple dancing
“Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!” Psalm 149:3 (ESV)

Do people dance in United Methodist Churches?

Dancing isn’t a regular part of United Methodist worship services like prayer, singing, and sermons are, but in some congregations, it’s becoming an acceptable form of holy expression. UMC churches that have members and attendees from places in the world where dancing is routinely part of services are more likely to encourage dancing during Sunday morning services. People who dance in UMC services are likely to have convictions such as:

  • Dancing is an acceptable form of worship in the Bible
  • Dancing is someone that any believer can do, no matter if they have been a Christian their whole life or just converted the day before; a person of any age, race, gender, or social class can also participate
  • Dancing is a Holy Spirit-led expression
  • Dancing involves more God-created senses than stationary worship does
  • Dancing is a way to incorporate worship customs of non-Western cultures and is an expression of inclusion, diversity and tolerance
  • Dancing sometimes involves unique or uniform dress, which may express culture or unity, and special instruments like the tambourine, which is associated with dancing in the Bible (Exodus 15:20)
  • Dancing is particularly inviting to certain groups that UMC churches want to appeal to, such as young people and non-Westerners [1]

In relation to other historic branches of Christianity, including Protestant ones, the United Methodist Church today champions diversity and tolerance, to the point that some would say the denomination should be more discerning and be more intentional about holding firmly to its conservative roots.

What about dancing at social occasions? Methodists, who are open to dancing during worship services, are generally permissive when it comes to Christians dancing at weddings or in social gatherings. Those that aren’t open to dancing as a form of worship (see below) and generally not permissive about Christians dancing at social occasions.

Do some Methodists think dancing is a sin?

Some Methodists, though not necessarily those in the UMC, believe that Christian shouldn’t participate in dancing because of the worldly and sinful connotations it has. Their argument isn’t that dancing is inherently sinful, but that sin has hijacked the expression, so Christians should avoid it.

When Christians dance, they are closely associating with the world in a way that tempts them to sin and threatens their witness to other people. Their reasoning is similar to the argument that it’s unwise for Christians to spend time in bars and taverns even if they don’t drink alcohol, because it will tempt them to drunkenness and negatively affect their witness to non-believers.

Methodists, who argue that dancing should be avoided, draw on verses from the Bible that tell believers to not associate with the world:

  • 1 John 2:15, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” (ESV)
  • Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (ESV)
  • James 4:4, “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.” (ESV)

Methodists who believe that Christians shouldn’t dance may cite historical precedent from their denomination’s history. Early Methodists encouraged behavior such as plain dress, fasting once a week, abstaining from alcohol, and playing certain games that were associated with gambling. Dancing was also prohibited because of its worldly connotations. [2]

Isn’t prohibiting dancing old-fashioned? For those who believe dancing is too worldly for Christians to engage in, their resolve has only strengthened in recent decades. This main reason for this is because the type of dancing that has become mainstream tends to be sexually suggestive. In early Methodist history, the kind of dancing that was avoided occurred at formal balls, so the problems have only intensified in their thinking.

husband and wife dancing
“Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.” Exodus 15:20 (ESV)

Why do some Methodists worship through dancing?

One of the main reasons that some Methodists value dancing is because they read about it in the Bible and they want to mimic the men and women who expressed themselves to God in such ways. Common Bible verse cited include:

  • Psalm 149:3, “Let them praise his name with dancing, making melody to him with tambourine and lyre!”
  • Ecclesiastes 3:4, “A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance.”
  • Psalm 30:11, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; you have loosed my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness.”
  • Jeremiah 31:13, “Then shall the young women rejoice in the dance, and the young men and the old shall be merry. I will turn their mourning into joy; I will comfort them, and give them gladness for sorrow.”
  • 2 Samuel 6:14, “And David danced before the Lord with all his might. And David was wearing a linen ephod.”
  • Psalm 150:4, “Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!”
  • Exodus 15:20, “Then Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took a tambourine in her hand, and all the women went out after her with tambourines and dancing.”

Conclusion

Methodist denominations and churches are likely to become more welcoming of people who wish to express themselves in dancing during worship because of its emphasis on diversity and inclusion. In doing so, they will be partly distancing themselves from seasons of their history, and the convictions of forerunners in the Methodist movement, which will ensure that dancing will continue being discussed and debated.

References:
[1] Source
[2] Source
[3] Source

Daniel Isaiah Joseph

Daniel has been in Christian ministry for 25 years. He has been an Associate Pastor and a Senior Pastor. Currently in higher education, Daniel has taught more than 25 different undergraduate courses in Bible and theology-related topics.

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