what square dancing has that the Church does not. (or is it the other way around?)
I halfheartedly tried to escape the dance early this afternoon. I knew that if I didn’t sneak out, I’d take half an hour to say goodbye to everybody. Well, I didn’t make it out the door and down the steps without saying goodbye to at least fifteen people, all asking, “Why are you leaving so early?” These were the people that had just bombarded me with endless questions: “How was your year?” “Are you glad to be back?” “How is your summer?” and of course, the usual, “It’s SO GOOD to see you again. Glad to have you back!”
As I drove home, alone in Mom’s spacious minivan with just my thoughts, I found myself idly wondering why church wasn’t like that. I’m not necessarily talking about my church at home or in Spokane - I’m talking about church in general. I’ve visited my share of churches; “church shopping” was a requirement at Moody. It takes a long time to break into church cliques. It takes a long time to even get noticed, at some places.
So, I drove and I thought. I came up with some reasons why square dancing works - and why their sense of community is so strong.
1. They know something that outsiders do not.
The reason they get together, the thing they have in common, is obviously square dancing. But they know something about it that outsiders do not: they know that it’s ridiculously fun.
2. They don’t just come, go through the motions, and go home.
It’s not necessarily that they square dance that makes it great. It’s that they square dance and LOVE IT. If they came and sat in the chairs along the wall the entire dance, they wouldn’t enjoy it nearly as much. But it’s more than that, too! They aren’t just dancing. They’re smiling, they’re laughing, they’re winking, they’re making mistakes and chuckling at themselves and working to get it figured out and then laughing and smiling some more!
3. They know that others are missing out, and honestly feel that’s a tragedy.
Sometimes, those that are just learning haven’t grasped what fun square dancing can be - but the experienced dancers make sure that the learners get a taste. It’s not that they just want new dancers (although fresh blood is always a bonus), or that they need more money for their square dance clubs, or that they feel some sort of obligation. No, they know that anybody that hasn’t tasted real dancing or real community is missing out, and that genuinely grieves them. “Square dancing is SO MUCH FUN,” they say, and they mean it. “Stick with it. You’ll love it. We promise.”
For this reason, there’s no new learner that gets left out of conversations. I’ve seen the most awkward, smelly, sweaty, and snaggle-toothed square dancers - and I tell you what, at Foot & Fiddle Club, they are still welcomed. When someone is financially unable to pay for the required lessons in order to learn, somebody covers them. When somebody misses more than a lesson or two, they’re called. When someone falls behind, a group meets early to catch them up.
Here’s what it is that makes the difference: They have a genuine love for dancing, and they know how much joy that love gives them. That joy spills over into their interaction with others, and they can’t help but want others to experience it as well.
It seems to me like we’ve got a lot of people at church that are just sitting in the chairs along the wall.
It seems to me like we’ve got a lot of people at church that are dancing, but not smiling or laughing or winking. The caller and the music have become background noise, and they’ve ceased to make eye contact or engage the other dancers. They’re participating, but not really. They haven’t grasped the reason for it. They haven’t figured out what makes it great - or grown to love it.
And that, I think, is what square dancing has that the Church does not - and it SHOULD be the other way around!
We just have too many people coming to church every week that don’t understand the real reason for it. They aren’t participating, therefore they can’t really enjoy it. They do not have a personal relationship with God - which is what it’s all about - or if they do, they’ve allowed it to grow stagnant. They are not spending time in the Word or in prayer, and they have not grasped how amazing it really is.
They have not experienced the peace and joy that accompany real faith and belief - the results of real participation.
And what they have not experienced cannot cause joy, which cannot overflow into their interactions with others. They have no reason to want others to experience it as well. They may encourage others to participate out of a sense of obligation, but without real joy and love behind it, it falls flat.
I might be wrong, I suppose that’s my disclaimer. But I think that the problem is that we’ve been slacking. We’re not doing our homework. We’re not participating in prayer, Bible study, and fellowship like we should. I know from personal experience that if you’re sitting on the chairs by the wall - or if the music has become just background noise - then you are certainly missing out.