(Excerpt from Introduction)
I was first introduced to ministry through dance in 1994, by a group called The Hush Company. Since then, I have set my life to understanding how dance serves God, the individual, the congregation, and the body of Christ. This was the focus of my first book, Dancers! Assume the Position: The What, the Why, and the Impact of the dancer’s ministry. As I have grown and matured in my understanding of ministry, I have simultaneously studied to grow as an artist. As I have continued to mature artistically, God has increasingly opened doors and granted me influence outside the church. This increase in opportunity has been accompanied by a burden for artists in my same position.
In 2014, I am viscerally aware of my assignment to the Kingdom dancer, and more so, the artist. Some of them function in congregations, some outside the church paradigm, and others, like myself, function in both. The past decade has experienced a tremendous influx of dancers leaving their “secular” occupations and dedicating their art to the Lord. There has also been an equally conspicuous outflux of dancers taking their art and their God into culture and education. More than ever, Christian dancers are going into professional careers in academia, entertainment, and concert dance. Increasing numbers of Christian colleges are offering Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees in dance. In this time, we are seeing the Christian dance community make noticeable expansion into the Great Commission: engaging with all groups of people to demonstrate and declare who God is, occupying culture and its systems, ideas, and infrastructure to set forth His kingdom order. In all of these contexts, each of us seeks to better understand how ministry transpires where we are, in what we do. Each of us desires to know how to conduct ourselves, do business, interact with others, create art, and make career decisions in a way that glorifies God, advances His kingdom, and honors the integrity of the artform. That is the focus of this book.
Dancers! Assume the Position: The Role & Impact of the Kingdom Dancer in the Field endeavors to contribute to the discussion of faith and art through its exploration of two questions:
- How do we navigate the intersection of our faith and our art in a way that dignifies and honors both God and the artform?
- What does that intersection look like when we are creating art, managing our careers, and interacting with others?
The discussion of faith and art is a centuries old conversation. The discussion of faith and art in culture has just as rich a legacy. Predecessors including Francis A. Schaeffer, Andy Crouch, Jeremy Begbie, Matt Tommey, Steve Turner, Hans R. Rookmaaker, Makoto Fujimura, and so many others have laid tremendous foundation establishing three basic convictions:
- Christians should be engaging in culture and presenting work outside of the church building and context.
- Christians should be presenting art of excellent caliber in the marketplace, as we represent an excellent God.
- Art made by Christians should contribute the Kingdom perspective on all parts of the human experience, which extends beyond salvation and the cross.
This book assumes that we agree on these basic convictions as it climbs upon their shoulders to venture into the next part of the conversation: We have stepped out into culture. Now what do we do?
(Excerpt from Chapter 1)
As God gave Jeremiah information about his purpose and assignment, so will He do with us.
– Each of us have been foreknown, sanctified, and ordained to purpose and assignment.
– Each of us have been made on purpose, brought forth in purpose, and fully equipped for purpose.
– Each of us has a gift that will be the principle way we execute our assignment.
– Each of us has a particular group of people who will be the focus of our assignment.
– Each of us has a particular situation, condition, or need our assignment will address.
We have established that there is a gift, a main vehicle, in each of us that God puts His finger on and identifies as the thing He will use in us to get an aspect of His purpose accomplished in the earth. You are reading this book most likely because you recognize God has put His finger on your dance. In the rest of this chapter, we will delve further into this working relationship to expand and clarify our understanding of ministry – what it is and what it looks like in general practice, particularly through dance.
As we proceed, let us first agree on a working definition for dance in this capacity. For the purpose of our discussion, I will refer to what we do as dance ministry, or ministry through dance. Usually, this term is used specifically in reference to dance occurring in congregational settings as a part of praise and worship. For our purposes, though, I expand the term to include dance happening outside of the church paradigm – in academic, entertainment, concert, and community contexts. You may be wondering how ministry could happen in these settings, as it tends to be something that we relegate only to those on pulpits or missions trips. We find it hard to conceive how we as a choreographer, dancer on tour, administrator, or professor could function in ministry to the same degree as a preacher or evangelist. We tend to view the relationship between our dance careers and ministry in three ways:
– A mindset that sees career and ministry as mutually exclusive because of where we dance. How can our dance be used for ministry if we are a backup dancer for Miley Cyrus? If we choreograph for Justin Timberlake or Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet? How about if we teach a jazz funk or heels class at Broadway Dance Center or The Edge? What if we are the development or artistic director of a dance company, or a professor teaching choreography or feminine sexuality in modern dance at a university? Because it functions outside of “Christian” settings and does not deal with “Christian” subject matter, this mindset struggles to see how it could possibly be in a ministry assignment in these contexts.
– A mindset that believes that being Christian is enough for us to do as we see fit with the dance. This thinking looks at dance presumptively, ignoring the responsibility to account to God for how and where we use His gift in us. It overlooks the need to consult with God or comply with Him in any part of the process. With this mindset, we do a lot of things “for God,” giving Him what we think He wants. However, we never speak to God to find out what He actually desires. Or, we neglect to see the importance of considering Him in our dance life at all.
– A mindset that understands that the dance is a vehicle used to fulfill ministry, whether we use it to perform, teach, choreograph, administrate, or run a business. This view understands that God is the God of the whole world and everything on it, and in it. Thus, for the Christian, there is no secular vocation. It understands the need to be a participant and contributor in all parts of society, culture, and daily life to display and declare God’s goodness and sovereignty where we are, as we are led. This mindset understands that dance is a doorway to conversations, interactions, demonstrations, and influence for Kingdom purpose. It is imperative that we recognize, even as God opens doors for us in cultural industries, that we are being sent forth in an ambassadorial/ministry capacity. It is equally imperative that we understand what that means and the responsibility it entails.
What does ministry through dance look like? Further, what does it look like in those of us on assignment outside the “4-walls?” The Spirit of God gave me the following definition: Dance ministry is the process of using dance as a vehicle to carry out the act of ministry. This definition brings to light a very important distinction: the dance is not the ministry and the ministry is not the dance. In fact, they are two separate and distinct entities. Dance ministry is actually a relationship created by the coming together of ministry and the gift of dance. This same relationship between ministry and gift exists for every vehicle used for ministry. Preaching, for example, is the relationship created by the coming together of ministry and the gift of speaking. The function of worship leader is the coming together of ministry and the gift of singing. Separating the two begs for clarification, as dancing does not necessarily mean we are also ministering. Though God has called us to it, the dance is only the vehicle we have been given to use in fulfilling our ministry assignment. If dance is the vehicle, what is the ministry?
When we talk about ministry we like to present it as this deep and ethereal experience, as if revealing its simplicity diminishes its relevance or potency. But it is not what many of us have thought it to be, and much simpler than we have supposed. From the encounter between God and Jeremiah, we received a glimpse into its basic anatomy: our action according to God’s word, at His leading. Now, we will take a deeper look.
A preliminary word study reveals that ministry is basically the rendering of service. Its various Hebrew and Greek definitions differ in the type of service rendered, where it is provided, who renders the service, and who directs the service. But, at its bare essence ministry is plain and simply service. Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary defines service as “an act done for the benefit or at the command of another.” A servant is “a person in the employ and subject to the direction of an individual or company; [one] that serves the purposes of another.” To serve is to “be of help in bringing about, to be of use, or answer the needs of.” These definitions reveal two characteristics of service:
- It serves to benefit and assist in someone else’s purpose.
- It is generally performed at the command or direction of that person.
There is a difference between service and effort. Effort is “the expenditure of energy to accomplish some objective.” Where effort expends energy to accomplish some objective, service expends energy to fulfill a directed task. To demonstrate the difference, let’s say I ask you to hand me a hammer. You hand me a screwdriver. Have you served me, or have you made an effort towards me? Both handing me the hammer and the screwdriver are expenditures of energy, but service requires that your energy be applied to producing what I have directed or requested. What, then, would serve me? For you to hand me the hammer, to hand me what I asked for. This principle of “what I asked for” is central to the discussion of ministry and can be further illustrated by looking at the nature of the service business.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
CHAPTER ONE: A GIFT & AN ASSIGNMENT
Revealing the Designation
The Business of Service
Dance Ministry in Grace
A Presented Disposition
CHAPTER TWO: GOOD SEEDS IN THE FIELD
Kingdom Artist Initiative
INTERACTING WITH OTHERS
Salt of the Earth
Light of the World
The Fragrance of Christ
Exhibitors & Dispensers of the Love of Christ
CREATING, FACILITATING, & SUPPORTING ART
ATTENDING TO OUR CAREERS
Healthy Desire vs. Destructive Lust
Staying Connected to Our Source
Make It Plain
Whatever You Say
CHAPTER THREE: FINDING YOUR PATH
The Call of God
The Season of Briefing
Leaving DNA Evidence of Who’s Been in the Room
Whatever You Say