Courage to become ‘even more undignified than this…’

[notice]Musings around children’s ministry.[/notice]

IMAGE: Mommy Diary

“Uh-uh, oh no you didn’t”

Jeff’s hand was on his hip, his eyes bulging out of their sockets and his hip cocked to the side. I have no proof but I’m convinced that it was a biblically accurate depiction of how Michal looked when she confronted David about his conduct when dancing before the Lord.

I leaned over to my boss and whispered in her ear, “I think Jeff Smith just became my favourite actor!”

On Saturday March 9, nearly 1 000 children’s ministers attended Go Teach Children’s Ministry Conference 2013 at Bryanston Methodist church.

Lisa Eckman and her team organise the conference every year; and every year Reaching a Generation’s staff turn up to be a part of it.

Praise is participatory
During the Keynote session Jeff Smith prepared us for the day ahead by talking to us about some ‘points for praise’.  His first point was that praise is participatory, before he’d even expanded on the point we were all up on our feet learning some dance moves for a worship song. Initially the crowd were a little weary of this entirely too energetic 50-something man, but he promptly reminded us that praise is participatory-and we went with it.

I was so caught up in all the excitement of the worship encounter that it didn’t occur to me that I was dancing freely in the midst of a crowd! When it dawned on me, I immediately felt my body stiffen and my focus soften to take in the room around me. I went from being free in my worship to being very self-conscious and quite insecure.

Now I am from a theatre background so being seen is not an issue for me. I am quite comfortable to act silly and dramatic when I can hide behind the make-up, costume of a character. But in that moment to risk being goofy in front of others, as me, seemed more than I could bear. I started to worry about how coordinated my movements were, and how cool I looked. I longed for Jeff to do some slower songs where movement was not necessary and I could simply lift my hands in worship… watching him do sit-ups on the floor I realised that it wasn’t likely to happen!  After the song Jeff allowed us to catch our breath and continued his talk with these profound words,

“David said he’d become even more undignified than this…this is what the Lord is looking for. Worshippers who will worship in Spirit and Truth, as they are”

…As they are…

The trap of outward appearances
It’s not that I don’t know that my ‘coolness’ doesn’t matter to the Lord but it seems outward appearances is a common trap we fall into. Even the Old Testament prophet Samuel in the Bible fell into it. When he initially looked for a King for Israel the Lord showed him Saul, who was a pretty cool guy. Saul had it all, his father was wealthy, he was tall and handsome-the Bible actually says no one in Israel was as good looking as Saul. (1 Samuel 9:1-2) Yet when Samuel told Saul that he was chosen to be king, his response was self conscious and insecure,

Am I not a Benjamite, from the least of the tribes of Israel? And is not my clan the humblest of all the clans of the tribe of Benjamin? Why then have you spoken to me this way? (1 Samuel 9:21)

Perhaps Saul was caught off guard, but when the Creator of the universe tells you He’s chosen you to be King the best response is probably not to criticise His judgement!

Anyway, sometime later when Samuel was yet again on a hunt for Israel’s next king the Lord said: “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7)

…As they are…as I am…

Jeff Smith reminded me that praise is participatory, physical, purposed, and powerful. It is not about how coordinated and together we look when we’re praising the Lord. Sometimes, like Samuel we forget that. There are times when we become spectators in the worship space and allow that precious time to pass while we observe our neighbours. Or like me (and Saul), we inhibit ourselves because of our surroundings and fear of man.

So the challenge was before me, was I willing to look at my imagined Michal in the face and declare: “I’ll become even more undignified than this”?

My opportunity to step up came sooner than I expected. Jeff introduced the Armour of God song sung to the tune of the Macarena. As I tottered precariously balancing on one leg; with my hand behind my head I smiled to myself. Surrounded by close to 900 people I was praising Jesus and looking utterly foolish! There’s no place I’d rather have been.


  1. This story of David and Michal is used to justify foolishness and anything-goes in the presence of God. Sometimes Acts 2:13-21 is used to justified pseudo-drunken behaviour as a prescriptive norm for Christian behaviour in worship. Some worship leaders actually encourage their congregation to act uninhibited, to purposely choose to act undignified. That’s where discernment draws the line: Spontaneous undignified behaviour must not be prescribed as the norm to be copied and promoted. The fruit of the Holy Spirit includes “self-control”. “Look carefully how you behave, not as unwise but as wise. Do not be foolish but understand the will of the Lord. Do not get drunk with wine but be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in song, giving thanks, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” (Eph 5:15-21) That is the paradigm for worship that must be promoted as the norm. Just because something happened historically does not make it a norm to be pursued. As a principle of Bible interpretation, always discern between ‘historical record’ and ‘universal instruction’. eg because the disciples historically threw dice to choose an apostle does not become a universal instruction to throw dice to choose a pastor.

    • Hi Hugh,

      I totally hear where you are coming from. But to contextualise my writing, this was at a Children’s Ministry conference. I think it is important to encourage children (and adults) to focus on the Lord during worship and not on themselves. David was not the only one to dance before the Lord, it does not have to be a norm but it is clear from scripture that it is acceptable before the Lord to physically express ourselves in worship. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 14 that meetings need to be orderly and I agree with you on that point. That said, the self control he was referring to in Galatians was in the context of the Spirit fully leading us in life. The Lord calls us to love Him with ALL of our hearts, souls and strength. I was not trying to prescribe what that should look like but simply sharing that ‘ALL my strength’ hadn’t been explored fully. It will look different for different folks and I’m sorry that you thought I was advocating disorder in the house of the Lord.
      The point I was making (and still hold to) was that the Lord desires for us to worship as we are…not everyone is a throw your head back, jumping kind of worshipper. I discovered that I had inhibitions before the Lord and allowed Him to lead me into a space where I let them go.
      So yes, I hear where you are coming from, but think you may have missed the heart of what I was saying.