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Dancing for the Father
Karen Esau

As a senior high in school, I went to my first dance. I was really uncomfortable—partly because of my conservative Mennonite Brethren background—and because I really didn’t know how to move. The Lord showed me later this was His protection for me. He had a future for me I didn’t know about then. Fortunately, I haven’t had to unlearn some of the things secular dance might have offered.

I met my husband Erf at a Bible college. As newlyweds, we were somewhat spiritually idle. His parents were missionaries so he always had a heart after God. For myself, I had never really experienced a relationship with Jesus Christ. I was going on my parents’ faith in God, going to church and doing all the right things. Fortunately, God changed that.

At that time we heard about the Langley Vineyard and went to a celebration. I felt as if I had died and gone to heaven. I did not want to leave. The Lord began stirring worship in me. I realized there was a call on my life for worship. It was more than enjoying singing. While growing up, whenever I had performed singing in front of audiences, I was incredibly nervous. When I joined the worship team, that left.

I remember a couple of people at Langley who danced in worship and how much it moved me. Every time they did, I cried. My heart was stirred. A desire began growing to dance but I didn’t know how.

Someone once told me dance is to the eyes what music is to the ears. Together they can create a tremendous synergism. Mankind has understood this from the beginning. I believe it pleases God our Father when we combine the tools of music and dance to bring glory to Him, rather than as a stimulant for carnal desires. However, because dance has been perverted, we must be extremely careful about how we release this expression in the local church.

The Lord wants to refine our motives. Sometimes we can get ahead of Him and try to bring something in that maybe the timing isn’t right for.

During the Summer of 1989, I was preparing to go to England with Andy Park as part of the worship team. We were learning new songs for the conference. I was listening to a tape at home: Shine Jesus, Shine. All of the sudden I could see different actions to the song as I listened to it, and I began to move to some of it. I delightedly went through the whole song. All of sudden I turned around and realized my second daughter, Chrissie, had been watching me. I was so embarrassed. She said, "Mom, why don’t you dance like that more? How come you don’t do that in church? It would bless people."

"No, Chrissie," I said. "No way! Never!"

"Mom, you don’t realize what you’re saying. It may look foolish to you, but God loves your heart and He loves what you’re doing."

I almost fell over backwards. I said, "Oh God, I’m so sorry!" I needed to change my mind. Later, in prayer, I said, "I’ll do it." I needed to let go of fears and the idea of pleasing people. Naturally, I don’t want to do anything wrong, or offend people. However, as my heavenly Father, God has reminded me He’s the one I need to please.

In November of 1989, our worship team from Langley came down to Anaheim for a worship conference. I’d had this feeling for a while that God was calling me out to dance publicly. During the song Unto the King, my friend Daphne Rademaker came down the aisle toward me. She reached her hand out to me, and it was like the Lord saying to me, "Will you come? Now is your time."

I obeyed and went up to the front. I danced the chorus of that song and ended up in a little heap on the side. It felt like a homecoming.

Graham Kendrick stood up and sang The Feast, an upbeat song. I danced a dance I never had before. I don’t know what it looked like to others, but to me, it felt like chains started dropping off me. It was an incredible time for me.

That was when God released me to dance. I danced with total abandonment. I’m sure it looked foolish but it didn’t matter to me. I believe it really boils down to listening, obeying, and trusting. He knew when I was ready.

The following January, Brian Doerksen, who is my worship leader now, met with a group of women he knew had a heart for dance and that God was calling. We would dance while the band rehearsed. It was somewhat awkward because we really didn’t know each other. We were supposed to work on some dances during practices. Brian and the leadership of the church felt that when it was time to release us, they would pray for us and give us their full blessing and supoort.

For almost a year dance was dormant at Langley Vineyard. We needed God to still work on our hearts. In my journal from that time I struggled with the same questions: "What do You want to do in dance; and what do You want to do in me?"

During a meeting, Brian said he felt it was up to me to spearhead dance at Langley Vineyard. Since I wanted to run away from it I said, "Well, I’ll pray about it and I’ll get back to you in a month."

On the way home I had this picture of a father and a toddler. As the Lord began to speak to me about this picture, it was Him as the father and me as the toddler. It was my walk, the walk of dance. I was learning to walk. Back in the old days, they used to put a pillow around the child’s rear end with a belt, ensuring a safe, cushy landing. His hand was right in front of me and He was hanging on to me so that, even if I fell, it would be a light fall. It was heartening.

That was over a year and a half ago. Thinking of where I was and where He’s brought me, the attribute of God that means the most to me in His faithfulness. I came in weakness and He placed confidence in me. Having not gone to any dance classes, I didn’t have experience to draw from. I felt so weak, and totally at God’s mercy&ldots;it was exactly what He wanted.

This may be helpful for you who want to start dance in your church and you’re wondering where to go from here.

For some of your who are called to dance as a ministry to God, that could be a spontaneous thing or something that could be choreographed as part of a team. For some of you it may be at home between you and the Father to create intimacy and to deepen your relationship and your walk with Him.

First, you have to be walking in obedience to God. Second, it’s essential to be in relationship with others in your church. People have to know who you are. Involvement in a small group can provide accountability. Third, you have to submit to the leadership of your church, and be willing to wait until the leadership releases you. If you’re in a fellowship where dance is not yet released, and you have vision for it, begin praying on your own. You will no have the blessing or the complete freedom to dance if you are not in submission. Even if your pastor encourages you to dance, wait for the Lord to release you. When you feel it’s the time, then go for it.

Also, if you’re in a fellowship where dance is at least a possibility, go to your leadership and say this is what you’re feeling. Without accountability, dance has the potential of becoming distracting.

With a big church like the Langley Vineyard, it can be chaotic if everybody is doing their own thing. I went to the Lord and asked Him to show me some guidelines and structure. You’re welcome to use it, but He may have something else in mind for you.

In our situation we see four kinds of valid dance. The first one is the interpretive. That’s a fairly spontaneous kind of expression of what’s in God’s heart. This isn’t for everyone, but for those specifically called and released by the leadership to dance. It requires dedication to working on more skills and it’s more difficult. It should inspire others to worship. It’s great if you want to pour your heart out to God, but if it’s really distracting to people, that can be an offense, as well. If it’s in front of people, then there should be some grace and it should be pleasing to the eye.

Second, I felt there would be group dances. This was a dance choreographed to a particular song. It could be with the band or to CD and done as a performance for the body. This group, too, would be released by the leadership to dance.

A third type would be a celebration dance. That would be a free-for-all on a Sunday morning, or whenever there’s celebration in the air. Even this is released by leadership: the worship leader may say, if you feel like dancing, go for it.

The fourth area of dance was children. Children have innocence, a security, and a child-like faith that will impart something to us. Kid’s don’t over analyze everything. They know God told them to do it.

At our church while a few people have been released to dance more publicly, there’s still room at the back and along the side for those who want to worship and express their hearts. I asked people to come to me if they found things that were distracting or questionable, maybe sensual.

Right after that we were singing His Banner Over me and Brian released the congregation to dance. When one girl raise her hands, her shirt went up&ldots;too high. Immediately one of the pastors came over to me and said, "Did you mean what you said?" I told him I did. "Well, here she comes." I pulled her aside and said, "I’m delighted your heart desires to worship the Lord, but your attire is distracting, and we don’t want to offend anybody." She received it really well. We should over dress with long skirts and tights (women, that is).

Who gets released? Because I was leader and I was in close relationship with Brian Doerksen, our worship leader and Gary Best, our pastor, I would pray and at that I time I began to ask God to show me who were the people He was calling and anointing to dance. With a body that large, it’s difficult, if you’re not in relationship with people. God began showing me. Sometimes I would see them on a Sunday morning and I would somehow know. I would speak to their home group leaders and find out information about them. I really felt I needed to look for integrity and maturity of character before skill or the level of training they may have. Most important, a dancer must be a worshipper.

Many people come and ask if they can be involved. One of my first questions is "Do you dance at home when it’s just you and the Lord?" If people don’t have that in place, then they don’t have a right to be dancing in a public place.

Furthermore, are they praying for dance to be released in the church? Bobby Clinton describes a major principle regarding prayer: "If God calls you to a ministry, then He calls you to pray for that ministry.

You can give people the freedom to dance in the back of the church and along the sides, if you have room. If people aren’t content with that, if they keep coming to you, then there’s something wrong. Ask the Lord to begin showing you their heart.

Copyright ©1993 Vineyard Music Group All Rights Reserved.

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