Since I became a Christian, the idea of mixing the activities of evangelism at divine worship services has been a concern to me. I saw that evangelism focused on sharing your Christian experiences and knowledge with family or strangers who are not Christians or who don’t know much about the true God, with the intent to convert them to your belief. Divine Worship services on the other hand, are specific activities which are done to show praises and adoration to God; this is mainly done along side other Christians. These two activities – evangelism and divine worship are different and when combined, can nullify the effects or purposes of one or the other.
For the purpose of garnering support, or a call to action, most Christians would cite the command Jesus gave his disciples in Matthew 28:18 when he said, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.” This is mainly the Christian Evangelistic Order. With this command, we must go and seek-out non-believers and teach them about the Christian God, and when they believed, baptize them as a sign that they are now a believer.
Teaching and preaching to strangers about God can be difficult, awkward, intimidating, and sometimes dangerous. Christians who have done evangelism before can testify of some of these experiences. In the book of Jonah, it is reported that God sent Jonah on an evangelistic mission. God said to Jonah, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and cry against it; for their wickedness is come up before me.” Jonah’s tasks were to teach the people of Nineveh about God so that they would repent. The activities of “crying-out” against the wicked and ungodly actions of Nineveh can be dangerous and unwelcome.
Sometimes the plans to evangelize may exclude some people while giving benevolence to others. These kinds of activities to the receivers are welcome. For example, in Matthew 10:5, Jesus sent out his disciples and commanded them, saying, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not, but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand. Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give.” Sick people would always welcome healing; mourning families would greatly appreciate their dying love ones raise back to life; mad people are appreciative when they are being restored to normal. These activities bring rewarding benefits, and therefore evangelists are eager to do them. But not all Evangelist experienced these zealous activities.
Paul – the apostle, had difficult times as an evangelist. In the book of Acts, chapter 23 verse 10 to12, it is recorded that the people who Paul was teaching about the Christian God got offended. There was a great dissension, and the chief captain of the Roman army, who was nearby, feared that the people would pull Paul in pieces, he commanded the soldiers to go down, and take him by force from among them, and to bring him into the castle. Shortly after that experience, the Lord appeared to Paul and stood by him, and said, “Be of good cheer, Paul: for as thou hast testified of me in Jerusalem, so must thou bear witness also at Rome.” Paul was almost killed by his own people, now he was asked to go preach among strangers in Rome?
The evangelistic activities are geared towards the audience. If the audiences are hostile, the mode, mannerism, and tactics must be adjusted to deal with your targeted audience. These audiences are mostly not fully aware of what God is expecting in a Worship Service mode; therefore Worship Service activities are mostly compromised during evangelism. What are the activities of a Worship Service?
In looking at Worship Services, lets look at the commandment to worship God: In Exodus 20:1, God spoke these words, saying, “I am the LORD thy God, which have brought thee out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. Thou shalt have no other gods before me.” Again in Matthew 4:9-11, we saw where Jesus reaffirmed this commandment when the Devil tempted him. He said to Jesus, “All these things will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me. Then saith Jesus unto him, get thee hence, Satan: for it is written, Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve.” As Christian believers we know that we are to worship God; how should this be done? Again we will look at some events in the Bible where humans were worshiping before God. In Exodus 3:4-6, we saw Moses coming before God in the experience of the burning bush. God called unto him out of the midst of the bush, and said, “Moses, Moses. Draw not nigh hither: put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground. I am the God of thy father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.” And Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.
This encounter with God showed that when you are in His presence, the surroundings are holy: different from what it was before. Your activities should show reverence and respect. This form of activity can also be seen in the way the Priest behaves before God. The Bible said in Hebrews 9:6-8 that when it was time to worship God, the priests regularly entered the first room as they performed their religious duties. But only the high priest ever entered the Most Holy Place, and only once a year. And he always offered blood for his own sins and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. By these regulations the Holy Spirit revealed that the entrance to the Most Holy Place was not freely open as long as the Tabernacle and the system it represented were still in use. God had shown that not everyone could approach Him in His presence to offer worship, but only to those whose hearts are set on doing so willingly; those who will abide with the mode of activities shown to us by the examples of the high priests. These activities are difficult to do during evangelism. Again we will look at another example before there was a high priest on earth.
In Genesis 22:4-6, the Bible recorded that God tested Abraham when He asked Abraham to worship Him on a certain mountain and to sacrifice his son. On the third day of their journey, Abraham looked up and saw the place in the distance. Abraham told the servants to stay below with the donkey because his son and he will travel a little farther where they will worship God, and then they will come right back. This activity also has shown that, that worship was exclusive to Abraham and his son, but not to the servants who were there with them. It is similar to the activity that the high priests performed when they alone went into the Most Holy place. This again can be seen in Exodus 24:1-3 when God instructed Moses: “Come up here to me, and bring along Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders. All of you must worship from a distance. Only Moses is allowed to come near to the Lord. The others must not come near, and none of the other people are allowed to climb up the mountain with him.”
Excluding potential converts is not one of the goals of evangelism; nevertheless, acts of worship are exclusive and are different from evangelism. This is clearly demonstrated when the commandment was given to Moses on the mountain. Jesus also saw that the Samaritans did not worship as expected, so in Luke 4:22-24, he said to the lady at the well, “The time is coming—indeed it’s here now—when true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and in truth. The Father is looking for those who will worship him that way. For God is Spirit, so those who worship him must worship in spirit and in truth.” True worship is doing the activities that God expects. And if we look back at the example of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses, we would see examples of true worship. Strangers to the faith and new converts are normally not aware of the activities God expects from them, so their worship is like what Jesus said the Samaritans are doing: “You Samaritans know very little about the one you worship, while we Jews know all about him, for salvation comes through the Jews.” Today, everyone will claim that their way of worship is true worship, even though it differs from those of our forefathers.
But if the past does not give much examples, God has given John – The Revelatory an insight into true worship as it is mentioned in Revelation 4:9-11: whenever the living beings give glory and honor and thanks to the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever), the twenty-four elders fall down and worship the one sitting on the throne (the one who lives forever and ever). And they lay their crowns before the throne and say, “You are worthy, O Lord our God, to receive glory and honor and power. For you created all things, and they exist because you created what you pleased.” Also in Revelation 11:15-17, John revealed that the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices shouting in heaven: “The world has now become the Kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he will reign forever and ever.” The twenty-four elders sitting on their thrones before God fell with their faces to the ground and worshiped him. And they said, “We give thanks to you, Lord God, the Almighty, the one who is and who always was, for now you have assumed your great power and have begun to reign.”
In summery, the activities of worshiping God and the activities Christians employed to evangelize the world are different. At times we combined them out of ignorance, but to the strangers and new believers these are abnormal and dejected activities. To the true worshipers, combined activities are profane and irreverence. The intended goals are not accomplished, so the acts of worshiping and evangelizing together have resulted in unmet expectations, which send wrong signals to both the strangers and the true worshipers. When these actions continues for a while, the demarcation between them is slowly widen, and before long, you cannot tell which one is which; therefore, the time will come, and has already come, when we cannot tell what is true worship. And the strangers will abhor pious Christians who worship in spirit and truth.
A story of David will depict what happens when we combined these activities. In the book of Samuel 6, the Bible recorded: David again gathered all the elite troops in Israel, 30,000 in all. He led them to Baalah of Judah to bring back the Ark of God, which bears the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, who is enthroned between the cherubim. They placed the Ark of God on a new cart and brought it from Abinadab’s house, which was on a hill. Uzzah and Ahio, Abinadab’s sons, were guiding the cart as it left the house, carrying the Ark of God. Ahio walked in front of the Ark. David and all the people of Israel were celebrating before the Lord [but not in the format required by God], singing songs and playing all kinds of musical instruments—lyres, harps, tambourines, castanets, and cymbals [this scene looks like carnival, not true worship].
But when they arrived at the threshing floor of Nacon, the oxen stumbled, and Uzzah reached out his hand and steadied the Ark of God [which was to be handled by priest and levites]. Then the Lord’s anger was aroused against Uzzah, and God struck him dead because of this. So Uzzah died right there beside the Ark of God. David was angry because the Lord’s anger had burst out against Uzzah [mixed activities brings confusion]. He named that place Perez-uzzah (which means “to burst out against Uzzah”), as it is still called today. David was now afraid of the Lord, and he asked, “How can I ever bring the Ark of the Lord back into my care?” So David decided not to move the Ark of the Lord into the City of David. Instead, he took it to the house of Obed-edom of Gath. The Ark of the Lord remained there in Obed-edom’s house for three months, and the Lord blessed Obed-edom and his entire household [because in the house is where worship with the Ark is to take place].
Then King David was told, “The Lord has blessed Obed-edom’s household and everything he has because of the Ark of God.” So David went there and brought the Ark of God from the house of Obed-edom to the City of David with a great celebration [an act of jealousy]. After the men who were carrying the Ark of the Lord had gone six steps, David sacrificed a bull and a fattened calf [which are the activities of a priest, not David]. And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment [even though he is not a priest. King Saul did the same think once and Samuel rebuked him for doing so – 1 Samuel 13:8-14]. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.
But as the Ark of the Lord entered the City of David, Michal, the daughter of Saul [his wife], looked down from her window. When she saw King David leaping and dancing before the Lord, she was filled with contempt for him [mixed activities brings discontent]. They brought the Ark of the Lord and set it in its place inside the special tent David had prepared for it. And David sacrificed burnt offerings and peace offerings to the Lord [as a priest should do]. When he had finished his sacrifices, David blessed the people in the name of the Lord of Heaven’s Armies. Then he gave to every Israelite man and woman in the crowd a loaf of bread, a cake of dates, and a cake of raisins [which only the priest should eat after a sacrificial offerings- see Matthew 12:3-5]. Then all the people returned to their homes.
When David returned home to bless his own family, Michal, [his wife] the daughter of Saul, came out to meet him. She said in disgust, “How distinguished the king of Israel looked today, shamelessly exposing himself to the servant girls like any vulgar person might do!” David retorted to Michal, “I was dancing before the Lord [nakedness during worship is ungodly], who chose me above your father and all his family! He appointed me as the leader of Israel, the people of the Lord, so I celebrate before the Lord. Yes, and I am willing to look even more foolish than this, even to be humiliated in my own eyes! But those servant girls you mentioned will indeed think I am distinguished!” [Self-adoration in the act of worship is counter-productive]. So Michal [his wife], the daughter of Saul, remained childless throughout her entire life [as a punishment to her husband, David].
The activities of worship and those of evangelism are different and when they are combined, can nullify the effects or purposes they were intended to do. Evangelize the world, help to convert unbelievers to the true God, and when they are truly converted (like Peter at Pentecost), then Worship God in Spirit and Truth!