Where did we come from? How did we get here? Is there some purpose in the fact that we have our existence on this tiny speck in the vast universe? Presumably mankind has asked these questions from the beginning. Today many believe that the ultimate answers to these questions are unknowable. Others say it is only through a serendipitous fluke of random chance that anything exists at all. Christians, on the other hand, know that these questions have all been answered for us by the One Who knows the answers– the One Who Himself is the Creator of all things. He has provided the answers concerning our origins for us in the book of origins– Genesis, the first book of the Old Testament.

My church, Liberty Christian Church in Sunset, Utah, is currently studying through Genesis.This study of Genesis takes place every Sunday morning at 9:30 during our regular Sunday school hour. It is not the typical superficial overview of Genesis that I remember from my past. But rather this is an in-depth, word-by-word study of this critical, foundational book of the Bible. If you want to know what the Bible really says about these issues I urge you to join us as we continue this study. The best way to do this would be to join us in person every Sunday morning. For those of you for whom this would be impractical or impossible I invite you to join us for the live online broadcasts of our Sunday morning services. Audio recordings of each lesson are also available for online listening or downloading. These lessons are listed in reverse chronological order with newest at the top.

A biblically correct understanding of the book of Genesis is critically important if we hope to be able to understand the other 65 books God has given us in His written word.

Who is the audience?

When we gather together in our local churches on Sundays or other days to worship what exactly is our purpose? I think this is a critically important question that we should frequently ask ourselves. I would submit that the primary reason for gathering for corporate worship should be to enable God’s people to ascribe glory to Him and to express devotion to Him as a community of believers. We can do that through the offering of prayers, the singing of hymns, the reading and study of holy scripture and the giving of tithes and offerings. Each of these undertakings is directed to God and focused on Him.

Sadly, it appears that this central focus in the worship service has been lost in many evangelical churches today. Too often now the typical worship service has become a highly orchestrated event contrived to provide the maximum of entertainment value to the “audience”. We have forgotten Who the rightful Audience is. It is an affront to God if we usurp His centrality in worship in order to gratify our own comforts and entertainment needs.

This week I received a letter from John MacArthur through the Grace to You ministry. Since his letter speaks so powerfully to this same issue I would like to quote extensively from it:

Dear Friend,
       I realize you likely receive mail from many organizations and ministries, and yet you’ve started reading this letter today. I want to honor the time and interest you’re committing by sharing my heart in a way I hope will enrich your life, as well as encourage your prayers for and your confidence in Grace to You.

       I don’t want my letters to be just another option that vies for your attention. We want you to feel that every time you see a piece of mail from Grace to You, you say, “I need to know this–I need to hear the testimonies of the Lord’s blessing on the ministry, I need to be informed about the issues facing the church, I need to be equipped to be discerning, and I need to know better how to be praying.” We want these letters to help you be all that God would have you be as a believer ministering effectively for our Lord.

     With that in mind, I need to let you know I’m profoundly concerned that the gathering of the church is turning into a spectator experience. More and more, evangelical churches have reduced their services to events staged for the audience.

       God is to be the only audience in our worship– but the worshippers are now the audience, observers and consumers of a production. Church services have become a kind of show. While their chosen styles range from traditional to radical rock concert, churches are falling under the spell of the entertainment-oriented mentality that so dominates the secular culture.

       It starts early. Children begin watching television when they’re toddlers– there are entire genres of television shows designed for little kids and even infants. As a result, there are whole generations being reared to believe that entertainment value is the standard by which every endeavor in life is to be measured. But instead of fighting that notion, the church has embraced it.

       I’ve said through the years that it’s worth asking whether some places that call themselves churches are actually even churches at all.{emphasis added} They’re high-tech, high-energy, tightly produced, carefully choreographed, repeated, multimedia, spectator events. They have degenerated so much from the biblical model that the original purpose and design are no longer recognizable.

       The technology revolution hasn’t helped matters. With unlimited internet access to all sorts of media ministries, and a growing number of churches routinely linking by satellite to remote pastors, the temptation is greater than ever to turn people into detached, isolated observers rather than what Christ designed us to be: a family of engaged participants, adoring God and serving each other.

       That is usual in megachurches, but not limited to them. It can happen in churches of any size–it’s just that it tends to be exacerbated to extreme levels as a church gets larger. Typically, the larger the church grows, the bigger its budget and the more enamored it becomes with capturing and keeping even larger numbers of people, using excitement as the bait.

       And what’s an easy way to draw a crowd and create a buzz? In a word, entertainment. If you put on a show, people will come. And so the more capable you are of doing that–the more polished and professional the production–the worse it gets, the more detached people are from God as the center of their worship, and the more isolated they become from each other. The culture places a premium on individuality, independence, and privacy. To people with that mentality, true worship and fellowship seem foreign, intrusive, and unnecessary. The answer many are offering is to eliminate what is alien and make the church fit the culture. True worship and fellowship are lost.

       What a travesty. If the church is anything, it is a fellowship of true, humble worshipers of the true God. Our churches are intended to be the center of real, honest, genuine fellowship of the saints in which there is life-on-life friendship with believers fulfilling the “one anothers” and ministering their spiritual gifts.

       Those issues weigh on me especially heavily when I think about young believers and the negative influences they face from the contemporary church. As president of The Master’s College, I’m acutely aware that young people are under tremendous pressure from the spectator culture. They don’t always attend churches that offer a true experience of fellowship. At this crucial stage of their maturing process, it’s vital to reach them with the truth about the church so they know what the Body of Christ is to do and be. It’s vital to teach them what true worship and fellowship are. To show them why they need to build meaningful relationships, commit to a church, and put down spiritual roots.

Please pray with me that God would move in his visible church today to bring about true reformation and a return to biblically sound worship practices in churches that claim Jesus Christ as their Lord.