It may seem unconventional imagining a missionary fulfilling their assignment by dancing. For Lara Lanphier dancing overflows most naturally as the expression of her communion with Trinity. Her way of ministering to the Lord and to others offers us another creative avenue for fulfilling the great commission (“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” Mark 16:5).
Perhaps Yeshua’s command “go” carries the creative movement of the Spirit, and maybe “preach the gospel” looks like dancing the rejoice-worthy news of a Redeeming God-Man. Hear the story of one such artist-missionary serving humanity with the movement of Presence. —Camille Sutton
CS: What does ministering through dance look like?
LL: The most important thing is that dance ministers to the Lord. After ending my professional career in dance, I was done. For me, I’m no longer called to the stages of the earth. But the Lord has still given me a passion to dance. Ministering through the dance is simply responding to my love for Him, through movement. It’s one of the ways I commune with God, where I feel his pleasure.
And it’s also a way I’ve grown in giving hope to people. Dance has been a prayer against injustices. Even today, I went to the abortion clinic and I just wanted to worship. I started to move a little because that’s the way I worship. Ministering through dance is using the whole of your entire being—spirit, soul, body surrendered to the Lord. It’s giving Him the fullness of your expression. If it’s with your body then there’s going to be movement involved.
How we define dance doesn’t have to mean triple pirouettes; it could look like standing and waving your arms. The Lord loves how we posture our bodies in a holy way before Him.
Even the scriptures talk about it. The Hebrew word “towdah” means to wave your hands. God knows when we respond with our bodies, it’s more of a full expression and the Holy Spirit can partner with us in different ways than if we just stand still ministering to Him with just our words.
CS: What spaces have you felt Holy Spirit invite you to engage with movement?
LL: This one time my sister and I were in the car driving, and I told her we had to pull over. In my hometown in California, we were playing a song about letting the river flow. At that time I didn’t understand what was happening, but my spirit was so full I just had to release it. So I just danced on the sidewalk for a little bit, we jumped back in the car and drove away.
I love it when it’s not forced. It’s an invitation. Sometimes I’ll go to a park, put on my ipod and worship. I could just listen, but I end up dancing and moving because the Lord invites me into this story. This one time He led me to the Japanese garden, and started speaking to me about how He wants to bring me back into the garden of Eden.
It’s a dance where he dances with us. He never forces our will. I have a will, and I choose to dance in the park. I don’t care what people think, I just want to enjoy Jesus. And people will ask me what I’m doing, and I’ll share Jesus with them. I’ve seen people give their hearts to the Lord in response to the beauty of worship.
In Romans 1, it says the world forgot how to give thanks and how to worship God, so God gave them over to their depraved minds. But when people see the holiness of worship, people are drawn to it. We’re all created to worship Him in the fullness of spirit, soul, and body. People want that, they want the Lord in the fullness.
CS: That’s so beautiful. I’m imagining how incredible to meet Jesus that way. To meet Jesus by watching someone commune with Him in movement. What a conversation starter for someone to see union with Him!
As we move and dance and worship him we’re becoming one. There’s a strengthening that happens in my spirit because I’m worshipping God. My focus is so on him, when people approach me, they’re not getting my flesh. They’re getting the Lord.
In Europe, dancing with tRed (ministering percussive dance group) we would dance in all kinds of public spaces. One such time in Paris, we started to dance, and young Muslim kids came right up to me. Children are so attracted to movement. I wasn’t necessarily thinking “I’m going to minister to these kids right now,” I just started to teach them a little dance class outside. And the mothers got excited. It made me think: We need dancing missionaries all over the world. It was authentic friendship-evangelism— uncontrived. I was just enjoying dancing and sharing with them.
CS: What a picture of the gospel. You are literally including others into your conversation-dance-communion with the Lord. How long have you been dancing out this conversation? And when did you discover there’s dialogue in your dance with the Lord?
For most of my life, I’ve known Jesus and danced with various dance ministries. But in 2005, I did a pas de deux (dance duet between a man and woman) about Mary at Jesus’s feet. He represented Jesus and I represented Mary, and through that piece, the Lord broke me. He showed me how to go to the deeper places in Him as I prepared for the piece.
In preparation, I asked Him, “What was it like for Mary to sit at your feet? What were you saying to her? How did she respond? What does it mean to be Mary?”
Something clicked in me when I allowed myself to go to that deep place in God. When I danced the piece for this women’s conference, all the women wept, and they told me it was “prophetic.” I didn’t know what that meant. And they told me “prophetic” means: “God speaks. God speaks through your dance.”
God speaks prophetically through the spontaneous dance and the prepared choreographed piece. That experience sent me on a journey, asking Holy Spirit, “Ok, how else can you use dance? For salvation? Healing? How can I partner with you as a Mary in movement? Through this gift and passion you’ve given me, how can I use it with you?”
Lara has ministered before thousands and continues to minister as a dance teacher with tRed, Exult Dance, and Easter Seals Greater Houston, an organization serving Houston and surrounding counties ensuring that Veterans, and children, and adults with disabilities can live, work, learn and play in our community.
Learn more about Lara Lanphier’s work here.