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Thursday, April 06, 2006

The Truth and MisConceptions About Hula Worship

HulaWorship is becoming so specialized.  I remember when I started as a pastor a little over 20 years ago, there really wasn't too much controversial about church music and worship... mostly because just about everyone was the same.  The difference was what hymnal you used; how big your choir was; and how much you flopped your arms as you directed congregational singing.

Well, times have changed.  (And I'm glad).  Gone are the days of the chorus sheets inside the bulletin; the dreaded overhead projector; and having new slides made for the slide machine.  Gone are the days of 'turning to hymn #368' and 'let's have the ladies on verse 3'.

It started simple enough... choruses; then blended worship; then contemporary worship; then alternative worship.  Today, there are all types of styles of worship... cowboy churches have country western style music; there's the whole 'passion' movement style of worship; and did you know, there's an association for hula worship?!  I thought it was a little 'different' when I saw Saddleback offered a hula worship some time ago; but I had no idea that this is it's own kind of 'movement'.

Let me go on record:  I'm happy for every kind of music and different styles to me are just that:  different styles.  It's made us worship folk's job a little harder; but that's ok.  (Please don't misconstrue my words to think that I condone worship styles that are sinful; like let's say nude techno worship or swinger worship)

Anyway... here's an article I found on the 'truths and misconceptions' of hula worship.  I hope you enjoy:

A. What is Worship Hula?
B. Worship Hula is praising and worshiping God through hula dance. We combine the hula with Christian based songs. Worship hula is Christ-centered, not self-centered.

Q. Wasn't Hula used to worship other Gods?
A. The hula is nothing more than a form of dance. It is the native dance of the Hawaiian people. Like other forms of dancing, it can be used to worship any other god, idol, things of the world, or Our Lord God, Jesus Christ Our Savior whom is the object of our worship. It is a dance given to the Hawaiian people for the sole purpose of worshiping the Lord.

Q. When I think of hula, I think of women in skimpy outfits, coconut bras, and revealing grass skirts. Is that part of Worship Hula?
A. Absolutely not. The costumes you've mentioned are used to commercialize hula. It is used simply to entice or attract the viewer. It is not a part of worship hula nor is it a part of traditional hula. In Worship Hula, it is our practice to wear conservative clothing, making every effort to NOT communicate with the viewer in a sensual way, but to communicate with them Jesus Christ. Costumes for women consist of Mu'u Mu'u's (long dress), loosely fitted, short to long sleeved...nothing revealing. Women also wear Pa'u skirts (fluffy-like skirt that comes down usually to the middle of the calf, if not lower) with a blouse top. The men will usually wear black pants with a long sleeve white shirt with sash or a Hawaiian print button up shirt.

Q. Is Worship Hula being used in Church services?
A. Yes. Worship Hula is apart of many Church services through out the world to include places such as Hawaii, California, Michigan, and Japan! It is even used during Sunday morning worship. Po'okela church of Makawao, Maui (www.pookelachurch.org) is a blessed church with a rich history. My mother, Niau Austin, is a member of the praise and worship hula ministry at Po'okela church which they use regularly in their services.

Q. People in my church do not believe that hula should be danced in church. They think of it as being too revealing. They think it will distract away from God. How can I convince them otherwise?
A. It is not Worship Hulas intent to convince people that worship hula should be apart of thier church service. However, we can provide information on what worship hula is all about and how it can be applied as a wonderful ministry in your church. Because the hula has been so commercialized using sex to attract and promote a business or event, it has become a big misconception that hula is nothing more than beautiful men and women dancing in revealing costumes. That is known as "commercial hula". Comercial Hula is simply what it implies and it has no place in worship hula nor does it represent traditional hula or the Hawaiian culture in any way. The hula was especially given to the Hawaiian people by God to worship him. So why not worship him with a dance he so beautifully crafted for his glory? We do not worship our physical bodies with worship hula. We do not dance the hula to bring attention to our selves. We do it in very conservative clothing with a focus to worship God in our dance.

Q. How can we use Worship Hula in our church?
A. Worship Hula can be used in many areas of your church service or activities. It can be used during morning worship, as specials, during offering, in youth groups, as an out reach tool, during Christmas or other holiday services, as a church luau, or form your very own Worship Hula ministry.

Q. Is traditional hula and worship hula the same?
A. Yes and No. Yes in the fact that worship hula uses the basic steps of traditional hula. No in the fact that worship hula is not bound by the rules of traditional hula. It is bound by the freedom in Christ! We dance to satisfy and give praise and worship to God.

Any thoughts?  (Anybody know of a tango worship or belly-dancing worship church out there?!)

Have a great day!


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April 6, 2006 in Worship | Permalink

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I guess it is all about location, I can't imagine doing it but then again my mom's church up in north wisconsin has had a few polka services, yes all the hymns are played as polkas. I can see myself doing that either.

Posted by: utech | Apr 6, 2006 8:09:59 AM

I think this is another instance of the Spirit transforming culture to the glory of God. Instead of shunning all things which have been used for less than noble purposes, we are called to redeem in them all that can be redeemed. This is in fact what Christ does with us--and apparently what he has done with the hula.
Now, like utech, I don't really understand it, nor have I ever been exposed to it (in other words, it would probably make me feel very awkward). But I can see how it would be a valuable asset to churches either in Hawaii, or with a strong Hawaiian heritage. Sounds like fun!
-Daniel F.-

Posted by: DanielF | Apr 6, 2006 9:17:42 AM

In NM the big controversy for one of our churches was Native American drums in worship. People view items and forms that are traditionally used for worshiping false deities as evil, but we all know that.

I was at Wayne Cordero's church, New Hope, in Honolulu for their 7th years anniversary. They used Hula and it was great. I didn't feel distracted in the worship because of it.

Why any church would use this form in worship apart from being Islanders, unless it's for a special service or something, is beyond me.

Have a great day.


Posted by: Ed Mooneyhan | Apr 6, 2006 10:13:58 AM

Like Ed, I saw New Hope’s Hula Worship Team, at a conference a few years ago in San Diego. At the same conference we saw a different dance worship troupe that had kind of a “Stomp” style of worship. I watched these folks and felt like they were living out 1 Peter 4:10.

“Each one should use whatever gift he has received to serve others, faithfully administering God’s grace in its various forms.”

What drew me into worship was watching how these lovely folks were giving back to God what they love and enjoy, what they do well, as a sacrifice of praise. I participated in worship with them without stomping my feet or moving my hips (though I found my self moving and jiving quite a bit during the “stomp” worship).

I know that it is prudent to ask ourselves what will work and be received well within the culture of our congregations. On the other hand, I’m wondering if always using this filter might prevent us from noticing people hidden in our congregations who have something unique and different to offer as a sacrifice of praise. You see, allowing these folks to discover how their unique gifts and talents can become a praise offering does at least these two things for the community (I’m sure there are more - ideas???):

1. It reminds the congregation that in order to truly represent a community of faith, our worship MUST be a reflection of the beautiful diversity within the community (which means everyone, not just the majority with the loudest voices).
2. It encourages worship through the sacrificial offering of gifts. If someone can worship God through Hula, then I can likewise worship as I tutor a neighborhood kid, help park cars, serve potato salad at an afternoon funeral, coach soccer, change a diaper (you get the picture). The administration of God’s grace in its various forms IS WORSHIP!!!

[If you could see me now, you’d notice that I’m standing on a very well worn soapbox].


Posted by: Wendi | Apr 6, 2006 12:57:20 PM

I remember a conference on worship in which we were given a taste of:

1) Koreans in traditional dress using dance, drums, and fans.

2) Hispanics using acoustic guitars and bass and singing in a style that was distinct.

3) Russians in there dress and unique instruments.

Contemporary worship style is the culture of the baby boomer who grew up with the Beatles and the Rolling Stones.

Posted by: Dan Moore | Apr 6, 2006 3:03:10 PM

Won't it be embarrassing when we get to heaven and find
"a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with epalm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice..."

I only hope I am shouting Hallelujah, not "who let them in here?"

Posted by: Jeff | Apr 6, 2006 3:58:24 PM

Seriously this is funny. I am not saying there is anything wrong. Just kind of funny. What would Grandma think?

Posted by: Jade | Apr 6, 2006 4:06:27 PM

Dude... This sounds fun. Worship is to be done in the spirit true, but I believe worship is suppose to be fun.

Think about it. Some people come to church looking like an advance agent for an undertaker. They walk in with their tombstone tucked tightly underneath their arm and a coffin in the other. With their face so long you could ride from here to California on it.

I like this idea. This is very creatvie.

Posted by: Clairvoyant 1 | Apr 6, 2006 6:44:32 PM

Sounds like it would be beautiful to me. I can't see how it would be any wierder than the Midwest white man's pentecostal dance that I was unfortunately exposed to in my childhood :)

Posted by: Nora Beerline | Apr 7, 2006 10:56:22 AM

I think that this whole movement makes worship entertainment-oriented, and that's not a good thing.

"But worship should be fun!" one might say. I disagree. We should certainly ENJOY worshpi, but there's a difference between being enjoyable and being entertaining. (I enjoy my job, for example, but I would hardly call it "entertaining.")

In worship, the emphasis should always be on God. I think it's horribly naive to say that people will be dwelling on the greatness of God when you have a bunch of people dancing the hula on stage. I'm aware that not everyone would agree with that point of view, but really... I think it's pretty silly to deny that hula dancing draws attention to the performer instead of focusing it on God.

Posted by: Dv | Apr 11, 2006 11:01:28 AM

Right on Wendi. I think some soapboxes are necessary for encouraging change. God bless you for your comments.

Posted by: Pete King | Apr 11, 2006 12:58:36 PM

First of all hula was created by God and it should be danced to give glory to him and only him. As a worship hula dancer myself, I dance for an audience of one and his name is JESUS CHRIST!!! After all the dance belings to him!

Posted by: Mary | Apr 29, 2006 5:08:25 PM

I enjoy the diversity of expressions of worship around the world. In Hawaii it is hula, but in each culture there is dance that has developed as part of the people groups and their histories. We've had a couple different dance troupes come to our church -- it's amazing and inpsiring at the same time.

It may not always be for me, but if the people involved are doing it for the glory of God and not their own glory then I'm only imposing my preference if I shut them down and don't allow them to do what they do.

Posted by: Russ N. | Sep 16, 2006 3:02:22 PM

You know, something occurs to me, regarding the assertion that "hula was given to the Hawaiians by God"...

I'm not familiar with the history of Hawaii, so perhaps someone can enlighten me if my assumption is mistaken in the following:

Was hula brought to Hawaii by Christians? No? Jewish people? By some divine revelation, then, of which we have records (like the Bible)? Or was it a worship practice of pagans, by pagans, for pagans, offered to devils disguised as deity?

Don't get me wrong; diversity of cultures is good, in its way. But if we're not careful to discern, then we may as well incorporate the use of hallucinogens (after all, given to the Sioux by God) in our worship services, if we so choose. Bad idea? Use the logic we KNOW God gave us.

Maybe we should worry less about conforming to the culture, and more about conforming to God's will, yes?

Posted by: Curious | Sep 16, 2006 5:25:28 PM

"First of all hula was created by God..."

I see no evidence that hula was created by God. On what basis does one make that claim? God allows a great many things, but that doesn't mean that he personally created them.

Second, even if he did create hula, that doesn't necessarily make it appropriate for worship. God also created the naked human body. Does this mean that we should have nudity during church worship?

Posted by: D | Sep 29, 2006 10:14:41 PM

A lot of people seem to be saying that there can be different styles of worship. I agree; however, I don't think this automatically implies that all types of worship are valid. It certainly doesn't imply that all forms of 'worship' are acceptable to the Lord.

Remember Nadab and Abihu? They chose to worship God in the manner that they saw fit... and God struck them down for it. Not all worship is automatically OK, no matter how much pleasure we may derive from it. In fact, our own pleasure should be the least of our considerations. Worship is for focusing on the Lord, after all, not for seeking our own pleasures.

Posted by: Dv | Apr 16, 2007 1:12:32 PM

I agree with the way your worship is done because it is not a performance purposes but to worship the Lord in the form of dancing. Even David dance before the Lord. It might be "hula" for the Hawaiian people, but for other tribal group they could do the same as long as it is not for entertainment purposes but to "Praise & Worship" God.

Posted by: Ernesto | Apr 18, 2007 3:58:07 AM

I agree with the way your worship is done because it is not a performance purposes but to worship the Lord in the form of dancing. Even David dance before the Lord. It might be "hula" for the Hawaiian people, but for other tribal group they could do the same as long as it is not for entertainment purposes but to "Praise & Worship" God.

Posted by: Ernesto | Apr 18, 2007 3:58:54 AM

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