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Dancing in the Streets

My youth kids gave me an unexpected picture of the kingdom the other day in the parking lot of Kennedy High School. We had just finished prayer walking the school with students from other churches in the area, and in true Korean fashion, were loitering in the parking lot afterwards. Someone started blasting worship music from their car and bam! mini dance party. I, of course, kept my dancing to a minimum.

Worship music has undergone a true transformation over the past forty years. Maranatha music, Vineyard, and Hillsongs set off a powerful creative expression of new worship music across the world. That music has evolved over my lifetime, from the British invasion of Delirious and Matt Redman, to the prophetic infusion of Jason Upton and Rita Springer, and maturing into the sounds of Jesus Culture and IHOP that we have now. It’s lightyears from where it was, and pastors are recognizing that the worship portion of the service is just as essential as the sermon – which is quite a shift considering that over the last thousand years sermons have clearly been at the center of Christian worship services.

Pastors often say that we do corporate worship to prepare our hearts to hear His word (ie the sermon). I tend to think this notion is terribly backwards though. From a kingdom perspective, the ministry of the pastor through a sermon should really help people to worship. Worship is, after all, the state of the heart that should motivate and fuel all our daily activity. From that perspective, it makes sense that the expression of worship through singing is taking a greater place of importance in our services – it should. But I think there’s another evolution in worship that’s about to explode: dancing.

I’m a terrible dancer. I dance almost every day, but only with my family. I do a little dance for my wife every morning, because it puts her in a good mood. She loves it when I look dumb. And my kids love it too when I dance; it’s an invitation for them to join in. We have lots of mini dance parties in the Cole household, complete with my amateur beat boxing. I say all this because even though I’m a terrible dancer and its really not my thing, I can see the amazing potential to having dance become an integral part of our worship services.

First of all, it’s thoroughly biblical. Psalm 149:3 “Let them praise his name with dancing.” Any objections to dancing should be recognized as religious legalism, because in truth those who do not dance are practicing a less biblical form of worship than those who do (and I raise my hand here). To the argument that dancing tends to be sensual and sexually enticing, let me just say that it doesn’t have to be. This is a huge theme in the Church (and in my blog): if something (like dancing) is associated with evil, it’s because the Church has not revealed the true glorious expression of that medium. The answer then is not to run away, but to boldly jump in and find the Spirit-led expression. There’s no reason dancing has to be associated with lust except that the Church has not shone the light here.

With that being said, let me shine some light. Dancing has just as much potential as singing for worship, except that because we haven’t understood it we haven’t created music that has been conducive to dancing. You can’t dance well to most worship music, but that is changing. I’m listening right now to Hillsongs Young and Free, which is awesome! It’s a sign of what is coming in worship. Our worship services will have just as much dancing as singing, and it won’t be lame dancing like jumping or the weird stuff that goes on sometimes today (flags! sorry!). It’ll be creative and free, and beautiful to everyone.

It’s just like with singing. When people first started trying to sing spontaneously, it was terrible and awkward. That’s why we’ve used carefully arranged songs for the past thousand years. But as the gift matured corporately, people began to express themselves skillfully in spontaneous worship. Jason Upton blew me away when I first hear him. He was singing such a pure expression of his heart and it was skillful! And it didn’t sound bad; it sounded great (with some weirdness occasionally). Now we’ve reached a whole nother level. There’s no comparing skillful anointed prophetic singing to normal singing. It’s the most glorious expression in music anywhere in the world. Once Christian musicianship catches up to the world (which will happen in the next couple decades), we will have the most compelling music in the world and it will be obvious to everyone.

And the complement to this music is dancing. We will not be able to have chairs soon, let alone pews. We’ll have to devise some way, but when dancing really takes off we’re going to need space. Our services will be better than any club – it will be the holy expression of the club. (Note: some people cringe at that, because they think of cheesy Christian attempts to imitate the world. That’s not what I’m talking about – that’s all religious garbage). Can you imagine? How can a club compete with the Presence of the Lord, creative and free dancing, joyful celebration, and prophetic spontaneous momentum? There’s no way. It will be compelling to people – naturally. It’s a picture of heaven, the kingdom of God on the earth.

In the Church, we’ve tried to entice people to God with a message, and we’ve tried to package the message in different wrappings. But the message is a kingdom! The message is the reality of heaven being experienced on earth! I’m not just saying this thing with dancing could happen, I’m saying it will happen. It’s only a matter of time until Christian worship services surpass the club experience. But that’s not the final expression.

The second aspect of our parking lot dance party that revealed the kingdom is that it wasn’t happening in a church building. This is what Martin Smith prophesied through “Did you feel the mountains tremble?” It was a vision of the church having mature worship outside the church building (Note: recognize that songs usually become popular because they have spiritual anointing given to promote the message – whether demonic or holy). Dancers that dance on injustice. Streets resounding in singing. The future Church will be increasingly free of the church building. It’s not about the building – it’s about the Presence. The building is a crutch that we need right now because we struggle to break through into the Presence and stay there. As the Church matures in its ability to carry the Presence with them, they will get out of the building more and more.

It’s about a holistic lifestyle. The revelation of the kingdom is about breaking down the divided life that Christians live in. Church and school. Church and work. It’s like 2 different worlds. But that barrier is coming down, and with it, producing genuine natural Christians who experience God outside of church just as much as inside, who are comfortably Christian, who prophesy as often as eat, who dance at service and in the parking lot.

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Site is live! What is the kingdom???

Hello everyone,

Welcome (back) to my website. This is not officially a new launch, because I ran this blog for a couple years and had a good amount of posts racked up. This time it’s back up, but with a new theme and landing page that hopefully communicates some of the vision behind the posts. People often ask me what I mean when I talk about the Kingdom of God, because it’s such a loaded term when I talk about it in normal usage. Simply put, the Kingdom is the place where God reigns. It is primarily a spiritual kingdom, which is why Jesus said it was “within” us. But it’s hard to easily understand a spiritual reality like the kingdom. So perhaps an easier way to think about it is to picture “heaven.” Heaven is the place we think of where God’s will is done perfectly, and the full expression of His will is plainly visible. That’s why it’s perfect and the hope of our hearts. There are 2 lies generally believed about heaven though, great big whoppers. The first is that we are supposed to wait to experience it, and the second, that it’s something like singing forever while sitting on a cloud.

The first lie has to do with how the Gospel (Good News) has been redefined. Jesus, when he was on earth, preached the “Gospel of the Kingdom,” which was the good news that the Kingdom of God had come to earth, so one should repent so that he could “enter in.” More simply understood, Jesus was saying that heaven had come to earth, and it was time to experience it NOW. That’s why he went around healing people: he was demonstrating the reality of the kingdom. In the kingdom, there’s no disease and hope reigned eternal. Somewhere in Church history, the gospel was redefined to mean that the Good News was that, if we repented and believed in Jesus, we could go to heaven when we died. This is true, and good news, but it is not the same message. It is the “Gospel of Salvation,” that preaches the way into the kingdom, but then stops. It is hard to understate how devastatingly different this message is.

Because of this understanding of the kingdom, people are made Christians and then essentially told to “be good” until death, which is when the really good stuff happens. So Christians all over struggle to abstain from the things of the world and try to be faithful until death. But this is really only the very first, most elementary of understandings about the kingdom. As I often say, the good news is not that we get to go to heaven when we die; it’s that heaven is here and invading the earth! The true calling of the Church is to function as ambassadors of heaven, demonstrating its reality to a fallen world, and calling all peoples to obedience to Jesus, who is the rightful king of the earth. This gospel is different because it demands that the Church be of a different stuff entirely. We are to have power to heal the sick, raise the dead, and prophesy while also demonstrating the lifestyle of a people who are from heaven – not figuratively, truly! In fact, we can only do the work of the kingdom to the degree that we live in and experience the reality of the kingdom (heaven).

Which is why the second lie is so terrible. It’s that heaven essentially sucks. We sit on clouds and sing with harps for eternity. Are you starting the see the resemblance between this vision of the heaven and that expression in the Church? How often is it that in church we sit in services and sing and can’t wait to leave. The reason why this vision of heaven is damaging is that we are called to bring heaven (the kingdom) on the earth. If our vision of heaven is not compelling, then our “preaching” is not compelling. In fact, singing will only be a small part of what we do there. In the age to come, we will have jobs and eat meals and do many things like we do now. When I envision heaven now, I think less of sunlit clouds and more of a city, which is I think what the Bible hints at more as well. In fact, rightfully envisioning heaven and living in it (!) is the key to being effective on the earth. The key for Christians is that each must start living in his calling. What is your calling?? It’s your eternal job, started now. It’s the thing you were designed to do for eternity in “heaven,” except you start doing it now and see how you were sovereignly designed to do just that.

This blog, in its essence, is the attempt to envision heaven on the earth. What does that look like in each aspect of society? What does that look like in our music and government? What does it look like in our homes and jobs? It is rejecting a religious notion of the church and its lifestyle and embracing a vivid picture of the kingdom of God on the earth.