Dancing on Division

by | Oct 31, 2007 | Blogs, Fire in My Bones


Sometime around 1966 my Baptist grandmother tried to set me straight about racial issues. I was just a clueless kid, oblivious to the impact the civil rights movement was having on the world around me. Old mind-sets were being uprooted in Georgia and Alabama, where all my relatives lived. My grandmother was probably worried that I might grow up to be one of those long-haired hippies who marched with their black friends to protest segregation.


I’ll never forget her stern lecture. “Lee,” she drawled, “the black people have their church, and the white people have their church. And that’s the way the Lord wants it.”


Somehow my 8-year-old brain refused to absorb her message. Even at that age I knew something wasn’t right about segregation. So by the time I became a teenager, I rebelled against Southern white attitudes and embraced African-American culture.


In fact, I wanted to be black. I used AfroSheen on my curly hair, watched Soul Train on Saturday afternoons and listened to 1970s rhythm and blues on the radio—especially the Staple Singers, Stevie Wonder and the Four Tops. I even made my father take me to a Gladys Knight and the Pips concert in downtown Atlanta. I think we were the only white people in an audience of 10,000 at the Omni arena.


I was searching for togetherness in a divided world. Yet during that time I never ventured into a black church. On Sunday mornings I was still in my regular pew in an all-white congregation where we sang traditional hymns and ignored the turmoil that had erupted in Memphis, Montgomery and Birmingham.


But everything changed when I was baptized in the Holy Spirit a few years later. Suddenly I found myself worshiping with black Pentecostals—and their exuberance stirred something deep inside me. As I spent more time with them I discovered a missing dimension of my faith. Up until then I had experienced only the white version.


Over the next several years I came to appreciate the infectious passion of the black church—where people stand and shout during sermons, clap off beat instead of on beat, dance during worship and carry their zeal into the streets to fight injustice and poverty. I learned that there is a difference between going to church (which I had done my whole life, in air-conditioned comfort and always for one hour at a time) and “having church”—the African-American way of describing a four-hour-long marathon revival service that can leave you hoarse and drenched in sweat.


I’ll never forget the first time I decided to join some saints at the altar at a Church of God in Christ congregation in Orlando. People were lingering near the stage after the sermon, waiting for the Holy Ghost to fall on somebody. The choir, swaying to the rhythms of a bass guitar and a Hammond-B organ, belted out a gospel anthem that seemed to go on forever.


I couldn’t contain the joy that kept building in that electric atmosphere. I started moving my feet. Before too long I was tearing up the rug while the drummer provided his ecstatic accompaniment.


I didn’t know that black Pentecostals have a special theology and terminology for this experience. They call it “dancing in the Spirit” or sometimes just “getting the Holy Ghost.” It must have been a strange sight to see the only white man in the place cavorting wildly to the beat while six or seven elderly “church mothers” wearing hats and white gloves circled around me, clapping and praying, “Help him, Jesus!” and “Bless him, Lord!”


When I collapsed in a cushioned pew a few minutes later, I thought to myself: If only my Baptist grandmother could see me now.


You know it’s the work of God when a white guy is plucked from the suburbs and finds a new level of anointing among his black brethren. That’s what the power of Pentecost will do. The Holy Spirit likes to mix things up. He’s not into barriers, so why should we tolerate spiritual segregation?


Let’s have some church, y’all. The beat is on. It’s time to dance on our divisions.


J. Lee Grady is the editor of Charisma. Check out his weekly online columns at fireinmybones.com.

CHARISMA NEWSLETTERS

Stay up-to-date with current issues, Christian teachings, entertainment news, videos & more.

The latest breaking Christian news you need to know about as soon as it happens.

Prophetic messages from respected leaders & news of how God is moving throughout the world. 


MORE FROM CHARISMA

How to Operate in the Power Gifts of the Holy Spirit

How to Operate in the Power Gifts of the Holy Spirit

Before Jesus ascended to heaven, He told the apostles in Acts 1:8 (NLT), “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you.” Jesus promises a gift that would give them comfort, power, strength and encouragement. That gift is the Holy Spirit, and that...

Messianic Rabbi: Make the Choice to Be an Outsider

Messianic Rabbi: Make the Choice to Be an Outsider

One of the wonderful things about reading through the Bible is that the more you read it, the more things you find within its pages. No matter how many times you read a verse or a series of verses, because the Bible is a living document, there will always be more to...

Kingdom Economics: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Kingdom Economics: Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

On July 4, 1776, the Continental Congress unanimously voted to pass a declaration of independence from Britain. Each signatory was facing death by hanging if the bold experiment failed. The Declaration of Independence declared that all men were created equal and that...

Consider This Unsung Hero of the Bible

Consider This Unsung Hero of the Bible

Sometimes, I think Martha in the Bible gets a bad rap! I am not saying that Jesus labeled Martha at all. Please hear me out. But I think we would be wise to avoid picking up and holding onto some of the dynamics in this potential sibling rivalry between Martha and...

Prophetic Word: We Are Entering the Books of Acts

Prophetic Word: We Are Entering the Books of Acts

On the morning of June 5, 2022, I was praying in preparation for the Arise Women’s Summit I was hosting near Knoxville, Tennessee, when the Lord took me into an encounter. I found myself in the library of heaven standing before a giant staircase made of extremely...

The Church Revived: 3 Keys to the Emerging Move of God

The Church Revived: 3 Keys to the Emerging Move of God

During the past two years, I believe the church at large has been in a season of returning to God. Repentance is crucial when it comes to revival. Scripture shows a clear pattern that repentance precedes the outpouring of the Holy Spirit (see Joel 2:12-28 and Acts...

RECENT ARTICLES

How Divine Wrestling Changes Our Identity

All of us at some point will hit a place of getting the wind knocked out of us. We all experience unexpected detours and times when there seems to be no way out. But there is One who lives in us,...
Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Spirit-Filled Pastor: How Does God Lead Us Today?

Whether it is the Spirit leading or forbidding in the book of Acts, or the Spirit leading throughout Christian history, it’s clear that the leading of the Spirit is important. In the Old Testament, it appears that the Spirit of God could be withdrawn completely from...

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Joyce Meyer: Keys to Winning Your Race in Life

Everyone has a race to run. That just means we all have a life to live. The apostle Paul says in Hebrews 12:1 (NIV), “Therefore...let us throw off everything that hinders and the sin that so easily entangles. And let us run with perseverance the race marked out for...

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

What Is ‘The One Thing’ God Wants From You?

In 1971, I was invited to spend one month in Singapore at a new institute that had been started by John Haggai. It was still in the formative stages then—a place where Asian church leaders would be trained and challenged to witness for Christ. Today, more than 40...

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

37 Prayers for the Suffering Persecuted Church

It was a Pentecost bloodbath and most Christians never heard about it. More than 50 Christians were killed in one of the deadliest terror attacks on Nigerians this year. Scores of gunmen rushed in to kill Christians in the midst of worship. All told, over 360 million...

Pin It on Pinterest