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In case you haven’t heard of Matt Harding, let me tell you about him.
A former video game designer, at age 23 he quit his job to travel around Southeast Asia until his money ran out.
While he was in Hanoi taking photos, his traveling buddy said, “Hey, why don’t you stand over there and do your stupid dance and I’ll record it?”
Harding did his stupid signature dance and thought the video was funny, so he started doing it and recording it everywhere he went on his trip and posted it on his blog for his friends to see.
Then in 2005 someone posted it on YouTube where it went viral. Everybody was telling their friends about “the guy who dances on the Internet.”
Then Stride, a chewing gum company, offered to pay his expenses for another trip around the world to make another video. Who wouldn’t agree to that?
Both videos are scene after scene of Harding doing his stupid dance by himself in front of famous places and landmarks. Towards the end of recording the second video, Matt went to Rwanda. Since he couldn’t find any famous landmarks to dance in front of, he went to a small village and danced with a bunch of kids.
They all, the kids and Harding, had so much fun dancing together that Harding realized he was doing it all wrong, that dancing with people is a whole lot more interesting than dancing alone in front of monuments.
He went to Stride and told them they needed to send him out again, this time to dance with people — and the company agreed to it.
Harding’s fourth “Where the Hell is Matt?” video was released in 2012. At this writing it has received more than 92 million views. (Go to http://www.youtube.com/user/mattharding2718)
I love watching these videos. Harding dances with firefighters, Bollywood dancers, people in wheelchairs, cheerleaders, kangaroos and walruses and lots of kids. He dances on tops of mountains and bridges, in front of (and in) fountains and in the rain, in alleys and desert sand, on city streets and on an aircraft carrier.
He has danced with as few as five people and as many as 180. He has danced in about 90 countries, including the United States — Maldives and Malaysia, Argentina, Costa Rica, North and South Korea, Slovakia, Namibia, Tonga, Trinidad and Tobago.
People send him emails asking him to come to their country, asking if they could dance with him.
He said on his blog, “Everybody was so happy just to be a part of this ‘thing’ that connects people all over the world.”
Harding truly is on to something. He is awkward and geeky, very much an everyman wearing baggy shorts and faded t-shirts, doing his stupid dance in the middle of people doing their stupid dances.
The word I think of is “exuberant.” The people are exuberant as they dance with unabashed stupidness and awkwardness, jumping and clapping and leaping, sometimes staying in step and in rhythm, but often not.
They just want to be a part of this “thing.” As it catches on, this “thing” grows and more people want to join in.
It reminds me of the best way that the kingdom of God increases, with joyful, exuberant, sometimes awkward evangelism.
It’s my opinion (although I may be wrong), but I think we Christians have neutered the gospel by reducing evangelism to a polished set formula, a to-do checklist. We take people down the “Roman Road” in the Bible or show them “Four Spiritual Laws” in a booklet and at the end hope that they’ll recite a “sinner’s prayer.”
But I don’t know how well that works. Where’s the joy in that? Truly, the kingdom of God is so much more. It’s not a checklist, but a celebration of forgiveness and freedom.
We once were lost and now Jesus has found us. We were former enemies of God and now his friends, his adopted children, eternally safe.
What if, we who call ourselves followers of Christ, just start dancing that message wherever we go? Not literally, although that might be fun, but with our lives, our awkward, imperfect, exuberant, transformed by Jesus lives.
How many more people would want to join us?
Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria — I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.