Dancing in Church!

Evan Rogers leading worship at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town when the people refused to end the service.

Evan Rogers leading worship at Jubilee Community Church, Cape Town when the people refused to end the service.

The Origins of Dancing in Church!
It may be unrealistic to try and specify a moment when dancing in church meetings became popular.

But the specific reason for such exuberant joy is obvious to all who know the power of the gospel.

This was highlighted with characteristic insight by CH Spurgeon who noted that Isaiah 35:6 states that the mute man doesn’t merely talk but ‘shouts’ and the lame man doesn’t merely walk but ‘leaps’, when the power of the gospel works in his life!

In the most obvious sense, then, the origins of dancing in church are just the normal human responses of those who are freed by the power of the love of God in Jesus Christ. This gospel truth is made real to them by the Holy Spirit. This may well be why so many charismatics quote the verse ‘Where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty!’ (2 Cor 3:17)

‘This is the Holy Ghost, Glory!’
The early Methodists began to dance. And then they danced a lot. These guys were seriously joyful at the close of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th Century, and they continued to dance!

This, let it be known, was considered dangerous and divisive, but from this distance of time, the descriptions are merely humourous:

‘At the spring sacrament at Turtle Creek in 1804, Brother Thompson had been constrained just at the close of the meeting to go to dancing, and for an hour or more to dance in a regular manner round the stand, all the while repeating in a low tone of voice: “This is the Holy Ghost, Glory!”

‘But it was not till the ensuing fall or beginning of the winter that [they] began to encourage one another to praise God in the dance, and unite in that exercise, justly believing that it was their privilege to rejoice before the Lord, and go forth in the dances of them that make merry.’

The Methodists used popular tunes, from the ‘drinking-saloons and playhouses’ and added new Christian lyrics.

Shaking Hands during Worship
Winthrop S. Hudson, in his article, ‘Shouting Methodists’ relates how it was common to shake hands during the close of a service, whilst still singing:

‘Shaking Hands while singing was a means, though simple in itself, to further the work. The ministers used frequently, at the close of worship, to sing a spiritual song suited to the occasion and go through the congregation and shake hands with the people while singing.

‘And several, when relating their experience at the time of their admission into the church fellowship, declared that this was the first means of their conviction.

‘The act seemed so friendly, the ministers appeared so loving, that the party with whom the minister shook hands would often be melted in tears.’

Other ‘Physical Manifestations’
At the risk of casting doubt over the credibility of the main body of these American Methodists, yet unable to resist an hilarious final paragraph, I quote Hudson once more concerning some physical phenomena that was reported amongst some of them.

An eye witness reported that sometimes, before being impelled to dance, a person’s head would ‘fly backward and forward, and from side to side, with a quick jolt.’ This phenomena was given a name: ‘the jerks’!

‘Sometimes…the whole body would be affected. The more a person labored to suppress the jerks, the more he staggered and the more rapidly the twitches increased.’

Although this was observable, it was not considered proper to merely imitate this behaviour in order to appear more spiritual! So that’s sorted that out!

In the mean time, don’t be afraid to truly rejoice in the magnificent salvation that you  have received in Christ!

(Quotes from ‘Shouting Methodists’ by Winthrop S. Hudson, Encounter Magazine 1968)

© 2010 Lex Loizides

George Whitefield on the Word and the Spirit

George Whitefield preaching in 1749

During the whole period of the first Great Awakening in America and Europe the power of the Holy Spirit was an obvious feature.

A season of mighty power
The power of God was evidently touching those non-Christians who were attending the massive meetings. The power of God was also touching those who were repenting. And faithful believers were coming into a new experience of God’s love and guidance as a result of being filled with the Spirit.

Inevitably, and especially where those being influenced were new converts, this occasionally led to a lack of common sense and the usual application of wisdom.

George Whitefield, the great Evangelist of the movement was eager to provide counsel that would help those newly baptised into what appear to be essentially charismatic experiences.

Wise counsel from a man full of the Spirit
In a sermon based on Genesis 5:24 (‘And Enoch walked with God’) Whitefield, in seeking to explain how the child of God receives guidance, wrote the following:

‘In order to walk closely with God, his children must not only watch the motions of God’s providence without them, but the motions also of his blessed Spirit in their hearts.

‘As many as are the sons of God, are led by the Spirit of God’ (Romans 8:14), and give up themselves to be guided by the Holy Ghost, as a little child gives its hand to be led by a nurse or parent.

‘It is no doubt in this sense that we are to be converted, and become like little children. And though it is the quintessence of enthusiasm, to pretend to be guided by the Spirit without the written word; yet it is every Christian’s bounden duty to be guided by the Spirit in conjunction with the written word of God.

Led by the Spirit and guided by the Word
‘Watch, therefore, I pray you, O believers, the motions of God’s blessed Spirit in your souls, and always try the suggestions or impressions that you may at any time feel, by the unerring rule of God’s most holy word: and if they are not found to be agreeable to that, reject them as diabolical and delusive.

By observing this caution, you will steer a middle course between the two dangerous extremes many of this generation are in danger of running into; I mean, enthusiasm on the one hand, and…downright infidelity on the other.’
(George Whitefield, Walking with God, quoted by Iain Murray in Jonathan Edwards, Banner of Truth, p.248. The whole sermon is available here)

© 2009 Lex Loizides

The Holy Spirit, Howell Harris and Martyn Lloyd-Jones (MLJ on Harris part 2)

Martyn Lloyd Jones, 'The Puritans and Their Successors' (1st edition)

Martyn Lloyd Jones, 'The Puritans and Their Successors' (1st edition)

Martyn Lloyd-Jones believed that Howell Harris was one of the most extraordinary preachers in the history of the church. He deeply admired the evangelistic passion that characterised Harris’ life. Here, we continue to listen to the ‘Doctor’ as he was affectionately called, as he outlines what he considers to be the source of that passion. (Page numbers refer to Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans and their Successors, Banner of Truth Edition)

On Harris’ Baptism in the Spirit

Describing Harris’ experience some three weeks after his conversion, which we have already considered, Lloyd-Jones calls it ‘that crucial experience’.

‘To me, this is the key to the understanding of Howell Harris, as it is the key to the understanding of Revival.’ (p.290)

He goes on, ‘as I have always understood this man’s story, and as I still understand it more and more, you cannot explain him or understand him, or what happened through him, except in the light of this crucial experience of June 18th…What was it? To me, there is only one expression to use. It was the expression used by these men themselves and by their successors. It was a baptism ‘of fire’ or a ‘baptism of power’.’

The Doctor continues, ‘What I would emphasize particularly is that Harris was already converted, had already received forgiveness of sins, and he knew that he had it, and had been dancing in joy. But it was now just over three weeks later that he received this crucial experience which turned him into a flaming Evangelist.’ (p.290)

On Harris’ continuing experience of the Spirit as an example to us

Having recounted that Harris essentially celebrated this experience each year, he also emphasises how Harris was not content to merely rest in that one experience of the Spirit’s power but went on to seek more of Him.

‘This to him was the turning point, the crucial event that made him an Evangelist. It is essential to an understanding of Revival. We can further demonstrate this by showing that he had several repetitions of this experience…he also had similar experiences.’

Lloyd-Jones writes, ‘Another extract from his diary says, ‘In private society till two in the morning like a drunken man. Could say nothing but glory, glory for a long time.’ (p.292)

‘May 1749, ‘The Lord came, overpowering me with love like a mighty torrent that I could not withstand or reason against or doubt.’ (p.292)

‘Even in his ‘dying testimony’ as it is called, he says ‘that we are not to speak of what we have had from the Lord, but what we now have afresh from Him.’ This was of great concern to him. This great vital experience could be repeated…’ (p.293)

Has Lloyd-Jones become over-excited? Has the Doctor embraced some terrible Charismatic or Pentecostal doctrine? Or is he fully aware of the argument he is making and its implications. He explains emphatically:

‘There is always this distinction between receiving forgiveness of sins and receiving the Holy Ghost.’ (p. 292)

So, back in 1973 when he delivered the lecture from which I have quoted, Lloyd-Jones knew exactly what he was saying and why he was saying it.

He wanted us to learn from Harris that we might encounter the power of God as Harris did, in order that we might influence our generation as Harris did.

To read part one of Lloyd-Jones on Howell Harris click here

To read the next post in this series click here

You can purchase ‘The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors’ here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

Jonathan Edwards Defends the Effects of the Power of the Spirit

The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God

The Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God - Wesley's edited edition

Effects on the body are neutral from a Scriptural point of view
In his ‘Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God’ Edwards once again urges an impartial and judicious evaluation if such physical manifestations take place.

‘A work is not to be judged of by any effects on the bodies of men; such as tears, trembling, groans, loud outcries, agonies of body, or the failing of bodily strength.

The influence persons are under, is not to be judged of one way or other, by such effects on the body; and the reason is, because the Scripture nowhere gives us any such rule.’ (Jonathan Edwards, Distinguishing Marks of a Work of the Spirit of God’, from Jonathan Edwards On Revival, Banner of Truth p.91)

But Edwards ‘comes out fighting’ to defend the convictions the Spirit produces
So having stated that they are strictly ‘neutral’ in respect of Scripture he then strongly defends such experiences, even suggesting that it is foolish to be dismissive about them:

‘I do not know that we have any express mention in the New Testament of any person’s weeping, or groaning, or sighing through fear of hell, or a sense of God’s anger;

but is there any body so foolish as from hence to argue, that in whomsoever these things appear, their convictions are not from the Spirit of God?’ (ibid p.93)

and he continues,

‘indeed spiritual and eternal things are so great, and of such infinite concern, that there is a great absurdity in men’s being but moderately moved and affected by them.’ (ibid p.95)

Encouragement for Worship Leaders
To the delight of many current worship leaders, he, perhaps unintentionally, gives us a beautiful apologetic for exuberant worship when he writes,

‘And when was there ever any such thing since the world stood, as a people in general being greatly affected in any affair whatsoever, without noise or stir? The nature of man will not allow it.’ (ibid p.95)

More next time…

You can purchase Edwards on Revival here

You can read a review of Edwards on Revival here

© 2009 Lex Loizides

In Conversation with Martin Luther – Table Talk

So what was Martin Luther really like? Well, we do have a relatively good idea from the notes taken down by students and friends of his and compiled into a book that was called ‘Table Talk’.

We’ve already seen Luther in humourous mood. Here we get a closer look at the serious side of the man: his likes, dislikes, and passions. These various statement were written by those who heard him in various social contexts in his own home and provide us with a front row opportunity to hear from him.

Luther was spurred on to reform by a charismatic prophetic word
So let’s jump in immediately at the controversial end of the pool and note that Luther was encouraged to initiate reform and to persevere by news of a prophetic word conveyed to him by his spiritual advisor and overseer Johan Staupitz (Staupitz was vicar-general of the Augustinian monks in Germany). Recalling the time when he was struggling with the implications of Scripture against the papacy he said,

‘Staupitz encouraged me much. When he was in Rome in 1511 he heard the prophecy publicly proclaimed: “An Eremite (the Augustinians were called Eremties) shall arise and spoil the papacy!” A certain Franciscan at Rome had seen this in a vision.’ (TT p.9)

On the power of the Scriptures
‘The word of God is free, and will not be confined by human decrees.’ (p.86)

On the inability of good works
‘Works never bring peace to the conscience.’ (p.126)

On Justification
‘Prior to that time I dreaded and hated the Psalms and other parts of Scripture whenever they mentioned the ‘righteousness of God’, by which I understood that He Himself is righteous and judged us according to our sins, not that He accepted us and made us righteous. All Scripture stood as a wall, until I was enlivened by the words: ‘the just shall live by faith.’ From this I learned that the righteousness of God is faith in the mercy of God, by which He Himself justifies us through grace.’ (p.131)

(All references are from Table Talk, Smith and Gallinger edition 1915. Modern paperback edition published 1979 by Keats, USA)

For the first part of the Martin Luther Story click here

For the next part of the Martin Luther Story click here

© 2009 Lex Loizides