In this edition of Pursuit FRONTIER, I do a Q&A with an awesome young man, Brian Li. I first met him a few years ago at a retreat for a college ministry and then reconnected at Living as the Beloved Son. I have always been encouraged by his passion for Jesus and for dancing. He is definitely someone who is taking the Kingdom of God into new frontiers filled with artists and dancers. Check out what he has to say!
1) Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Brian Li, currently 24 years old and living in central New Jersey. I work as a software test engineer down in Matawan, NJ, but when I’m not at work, I’m usually either involved in the community of my church GCC (Grace Community Chapel), serving in my dance ministry REACH, or dancing with my other dance team The Society. It’s a pretty busy schedule, so I’m always constantly praying for God to increase my capacity.
2) How did you come to know Christ?
I came to know Christ right before going into high school, but as an immature teenager with very worldly things on his mind, I quickly went prodigal once delving into the school year. I had a very hardened heart towards God and I struggled with depression, suicide, and a lot of brokenness in general. It wasn’t until college that I finally let God work in my life and remind me of His unconditional love. As He revealed Himself more and more to me through prayer and Scripture, my faith gradually became less about me and more about Him. One of the biggest turning points of my faith was the 2014 Encounter College Conference, where God truly revealed to me my identity in Him. It wasn’t based on my accomplishments or failures in my spiritual walk, my academic merits, or even my abilities in dancing, but simply in being a child of God. (Galatians 3:26)
Since then, with or without my stumbles and shortcomings, I have been walking faithfully while being reminded of His amazing grace and mercy.
3) How did you first start getting into dancing?
I had always shown a great interest in dancing since high school, but since I was involved in other things at the time and also due to lack of other dancers around where I lived, I never had the opportunity to really check it out. During sophomore year of college I conjured enough courage to go out and start taking workshops. I quickly fell in love with dancing and it pushed me to step out of my introversion and join some teams as well.
4) What is your vision?
I eventually plan on going to seminary and doing full-time ministry. I’d love to have dance be a tool that I can utilize, but behind that desire is my greatest desire which is to serve Him and make disciples of all nations, whether I’m dancing or not. Though I do hope that in the future God will provide a way for dance to be in my ministry, because it’s something I believe to be very powerful and expressive. I think that dance is something that is not only God’s gift for us to enjoy, but also a tool for us to worship Him as well as build His kingdom with. In my experience with leading the on-campus dance ministry REACH and also just the dance community around me in general, I find that dance draws people together in a very special way. Even though we’re from different backgrounds and we all come from different places, when we dance we end up all working for the same purpose and I’d like to believe it almost provides a miniature reflection of the true unity that Christ can give us. It’s my vision to really show that the joy we have in dance is just a taste of the blessings that we can experience when we come to know Christ.
5) What are the misconceptions people have about a Christian who dances vs. a dancer who is Christian?
It’s difficult to say since in my experience it’s almost hard to put those two things together. When people think of Christian artists most of the time their first images go more towards the Hillsong or Bethel Music route, things that you can look at and say, “Yep, that’s definitely Christian”. I think that some of the best examples are the misconceptions that surround some of the artists of faith like Trip Lee, Andy Mineo, and Lecrae in genres that are not normally known to be very “faith-friendly”. I think that since the dance industry is very heavily tied with the music industry, that kind of conception of “You’re a Christian, what are you doing in this field?” can easily be carried over into what I do. While on the flip side I think that dancer or not, there’s always going to be that challenge of us proving to non-believers that we’re more than what the media tells of us.
5) What are the challenges you face?
One of the biggest challenges I face is simply the task of reminding myself that God comes first. In Exodus 31 we see that God gives Bezalel abilities and resources to build His tabernacle, just as how He’s given me the gift of dance to ultimately point back to Him. There’s a lot of constant self-checking in my walk to make sure that I’m using dance to build His kingdom and not mine. This is definitely difficult since all eyes are on you when you’re dancing and it’s very easy to take the glory for yourself.
Another challenge is definitely filtering the content of what I dance and choreograph to. I usually don’t have too many restrictions, but I won’t choreograph to something that I believe is unedifying or may cause others to stumble. Don’t get me wrong, my favorite artists to dance to include Drake, Kendrick Lamar, and ASAP Rocky, but when it comes to my choreography, which can essentially carry a message, a character or even a story I wish to represent, I tend to have a little more discretion with what I put out to others.
6) What has been most rewarding?
I think it’s humorous that what has been most rewarding for me has had nothing to do with me in general. Through God’s work in REACH, I’ve seen a lot of people grow to be passionate stewards of Christ who also have been blessed with their growth in dance as well, and I really don’t think that’s a coincidence. Just like Joseph, when God blesses us, it’s not for our own glory but so we can bless others. I’m gradually seeing the Gospel more and more present in the dance community these days and I know God is going to do something big. Just really seeing the Gospel move forward in this community is enough reward for me to continue what I’m doing.
7) How can we pray for you and partner with you?
Please continue to pray that I may be a light unto others who may not know Him! Not just in dancing but more importantly in my lifestyle. While dance is a great gateway, I think the thing that will reflect God the most is my own character.
Also, it’d be wonderful if you could pray for my physical, mental, and spiritual capacity just to take on the things that God has laid out before me. I’ve not only got a big heart for my dance teams but also GCC, my church. It’s a lot on my plate but I think that through His strength He’ll be able to utilize me effectively where I’m supposed to be.
8) How can people find out more information?
If you’d like to learn more about me or the the dance ministry REACH, you can contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or the team directly at REACHthreeoneseven@gmail.com! We’re always looking for opportunities to perform or share about our vision!
For my work you can check out my page at www.youtube.com/17brianli
Here’s a recent video of Brian & The Society dancing.