All of the reports that have come in during the past few years have sounded the alarm that the number of Christians in America is declining, church attendance is down, and the largest group of those who are vacating the pews are millennials, those born in the 1980’s up until 2000. The Pew Research Center, in 2015, released a study that grabbed headlines in newspapers and the evening news proclaiming that not only were millennials leaving the Church and turning away from the faith, but every demographic was following their lead. CNN ran an article titled, “Millennials Leaving the Church in Droves.” In the article we read,
“We’ve known that the religiously unaffiliated has been growing for decades,” said Greg Smith, Pew’s associate director of religion research and the lead researcher on the new study. “But the pace at which they’ve continued to grow is really astounding.” It’s not just millennials leaving the church. Whether married or single, rich or poor, young or old, living in the West or the Bible Belt, almost every demographic group has seen a significant drop in people who call themselves Christians, Pew found. (Daniel Burke, CNN Religion Editor. May 14, 2015)
I’m not disputing the study. As a matter of fact, I think the spiritual confusion and moral erosion in our nation is even more convincing evidence than the number of empty seats on Sunday morning. There maybe less people filling pews on Sunday morning and more people claiming to be atheists or agnostic, not knowing if God exists or not, but there is one thing that has not changed–the questions that people have been asking in each and every generation are still being asked today. “Why am I here?” “Who am I?” “Is there any purpose to life?” “Does God exist? And if He does, what is God like and what does He have to do with me?” Those are important questions that most people will wrestle with at some time, or many times throughout their lives.
Many people say that the decline of Christianity is due to the rise of science. Science says that it has explanations for phenomena that were once attributed to the gods or God. Natural explanations have replaced what once only had a supernatural explanation for many people. Lightning and thunder are not signs that the gods are angry at us. There are scientific explanations about the atmospheric conditions that cause thunder and lightning. The Bible tells us that God knits babies together in their mother’s womb (Psalm 139:13), but science has explained that the union of an egg and a sperm cell ignites the process of the creation of a human life. I do need to say that when David wrote the verse about God “knitting” him together in his mother’s womb, he was using metaphorical language to describe God’s loving care in creating him and not giving us a literal, detailed explanation of how he was made. So science has explained the “how” of the creation of a human life, but it can’t explain the “who” and “why” of the creation of a human life.
It is a modern phenomenon, this antagonistic battle between religion and science. The greatest scientist’s belief in God has been strengthened with their every discovery. Let me give you just a few examples. Lord William Kelvin began attending university classes when he was 10 years old. He became a physicist and mathematician who devised the Kelvin temperature scale, formulated the second law of thermodynamics, and was responsible for solving the problem of laying telegraph cable under the Atlantic Ocean. Lord Kelvin said,
I believe that the more thoroughly science is studied, the further does it take us from anything comparable to atheism. If you study science deep enough and long enough, it will force you to believe in God. (Lord William Kelvin)
I can remember many years ago when a young medical student named Rebekah came to Britton Christian Church and asked to speak to me. She was taking classes at the OU Health Science Center in preparing to be a doctor and the more she learned the more she began to ask questions. Her questions weren’t concerned with “How?,” but with “Who?” While she was explaining her thoughts to me she said, “Evolution can’t explain what I’m learning.” I told Rebekah that God’s Word says we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14). We continued to read God’s Word together and Rebekah continued to come to BCC for Bible study and worship. One day Rebekah gave her life to Jesus Christ, was baptized as a sign of her new life in Christ, and today she is a gynecologist in California. There’s no doubt in my mind that Rebekah’s study of science led her to Jesus.
Dr. Henry Schaefer, according to U.S. News and World Report, is a five time Nobel Prize nominee and the director of the Center for Computational Quantum Chemistry at the University of Georgia. He said,
The significance and joy in my science comes in those occasional moments of discovering something new and saying to myself, ‘So that’s how God did it.’ My goal is to understand a little corner of God’s plan. (Henry “Fritz” Schaefer)
Many modern-day scientist have replaced, “So that’s how God did it!” with “See, I told you there’s no such thing as God!” Nothing could be further from the truth. Remember, science can tell us how, but it can never answer the question of “why?”
We’ve been having a great time in our “The Gospel According to Jonah” Bible study on Wednesday night. This past Wednesday we were talking about God’s grace when I asked the question, “When has God shown you the grace of a second chance?” One of the people in the class told us that she had grown up in church, but when she went to college she got too smart for God and began living her own life. It’s a sad reality that in many of our universities today this is the norm and not the exception. More and more professors have embraced the idea that knowledge will deliver us from the shackles of religion and belief in God when in actuality learning should lead us to a deeper understanding of God and His marvelous ways. Louis Pasteur, the found of microbiology and immunology knew this truth long before I did. He wrote,
The more I study nature, the more I stand amazed at the work of the Creator. Science brings men nearer to God. Little science takes you away from God but more of it takes you to Him. (Louis Pasteur)
For those who say we live in a modern scientific age in which we no longer need God to explain things for us then I have to ask, “Where will you go to find the answers to the most important questions of life?” Science can’t tell you who you are, it can’t help you come to an understanding of why you are here or help you determine your purpose in life–so where are we to go to find answers to these questions? There are a number of answers to that question. We can turn to Google for answers, but the number of responses you will get will be overwhelming. I Googled, “Is there any purpose to life?” In less than a second I got 444,000,000 responses! Now, how am I going to find the time to read through 444,000,000 different opinions about the purpose of life? The other problem with Googling life’s big questions is that I’m going to get every answer under the sun! There’s no purpose to life, be happy in life, find your purpose in life. The top three responses I got from Google were Darwinism: Survival With No Purpose, The Meaning of Life: An exploration of the purpose of human existence, and the third response was from a website called Creation.com which told me, “Because God created us, He had a purpose in doing so. Many parts of the Bible speak of this—our main purpose is simply to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.” Those are only the first three responses. I wonder what the other 439,999,997 answers might recommend for me?
I’m going to rule Google out. So, what’s left? Well, we could just sit down and put our best thinking cap on and figure these things out for ourselves couldn’t we? Other’s have done that in the past. There’s an interesting example of this found in the book of Judges. Four times in the book of Judges we are told “In those days Israel had no king…” You can read it for yourself in Judges 17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25. What’s really interesting about this is that in the first reference and in the final reference the phrase is followed by another phrase, “everyone did as he saw fit.” Israel had rejected God’s guidance and turned to their own best thinking. Everyone did what they thought was best in figuring out how to live their lives. It didn’t work out so well. And it still doesn’t in our day either.
In our Wednesday night class I asked everyone when the Lord opened their eyes and showed them their need for Him? One man said, “I grew up in church, but turned away from God and did what I wanted to do. That led me to becoming an alcoholic. God opened my eyes and helped me see that I needed His help to get sober.” I said, “What you are saying is you took the reins of your life right out of God’s hands and drove yourself right into the ditch.” My friend said, “Pretty much.”
All of us who take the reins of our life don’t end up an alcoholic or drug addict, but we sure do drive our lives to a place that is far, far from God. Some have an overwhelming desire to be successful and make lots of money thinking that success and wealth will make us happy and give us a sense of purpose in life. Jim Carrey has made millions of dollars because of movies like Dumb and Dumber, Me, Myself, and Irene, and Liar Liar. He said,
I wish everyone could get rich and famous and have everything they’ve ever dreamed of so they would know that’s not the answer. (Jim Carrey)
Jim Carrey knows what he’s talking about. He’s made more than $150 million making movies yet he knows from personal experience that wealth and fame haven’t made him happy.
Freddie Mercury was the lead singer of the British rock group Queen for almost twenty years. Queen has sold somewhere between 150-300 million records, no doubt due in large part to Freddie’s incredible voice. Freddie Mercury died on November 24, 1991 at his home in London due to complications caused by AIDS. He had been adored and idolized around the world and yet Freddie said,
You can have everything in the world and still be the loneliest man. And that’s the most bitter type of loneliness. Success has brought me world idolization and millions of pounds, but it has prevented me from having the one thing we all need–a loving, ongoing relationship. (Freddie Mercury)
Such a sad story of a man who was loved by so many and yet felt all alone. Yet, it was Freddie who charted the course for his life. The life he envisioned, that he worked to create, was not the life he had hoped for in the end. I wonder how many people have made the same mistake? Everything we set out to accomplish, everything we work so hard to achieve, once we realize our dreams they are not what we had hoped they would be…and we are left dealing with reality. Most often the reality we must deal with is far short of the hopes we had for our lives when we were young.
I hear the dreams of young people all the time. I ask, “What are you going to do when you grow up?” I hear, “I’m going to the NBA.” “I want to be a doctor.” “I want to do ‘this’ or ‘that.’” My grandson is not yet three and yet when I pick him up in the morning, most often he is dressed to save the world.” I hope that he grows up to be the next Marvel comic book hero, but I’m going to encourage him to also put together a plan “B.” Reality can be very discouraging, disheartening, even cause us despair.
Russell Brand is a comedian who had an impossibly difficult childhood and rose to fame as a comedian, actor, author, and activist. His fame brought him lots of money, he became a heroin addict, married, and then 14 months later divorced Katy Perry, and said,
Drugs and alcohol are not my problem. Reality is my problem. Drugs and alcohol are my solution to fill up a hole inside me. (Russell Brand)
Are you beginning to get the picture? We don’t fare any better at coming up with the answers to life’s biggest questions than the people in the book of Judges who did what was right in their own eyes. So, if science can’t help us, if Google will only confuse and overwhelm us, and if we are incapable of arriving at the real answers to life’s biggest questions where can we turn?
I’m so glad you asked. I want to invite you to join me for Alpha beginning on September 11 here at Britton Christian Church. You’ve probably seen the banners in the Gathering area, the announcements before worship, and if we’re friends on social media then you’ve seen posts about Alpha, but you probably don’t know anything about it more than that. Alpha is a safe place for people who have questions about life and the Christian faith. Let’s watch a short video of people talking about their experience then we’ll come back and talk afterwards.
Connie and I were given the opportunity back in October to go to London and spend a week at Holy Trinity Brompton, the church where Alpha began almost 30 years ago. What we experienced touched us in a deep and powerful way. On Wednesday night, the night Alpha takes place at Holy Trinity Brompton, over 500 people curious about the big questions of life came together for dinner and to hear a speaker. After the speaker was finished Connie and I joined our Table Hosts for about 40 minutes of discussing what we heard, sharing questions we had, and just getting to know one another.
That night, when Connie and I got back to our room, we couldn’t stop talking about Alpha and the possibilities it held for our community back in Oklahoma. I’ve often told you that the Gospel transcends all races, cultures, socio-economic and educational backgrounds, and every period of history in time. Alpha is a great example of this. Alpha has been run in 169 countries around the world and in more than 112 languages. It’s run in prisons, on college campuses, in churches, bars and cafes, homes, and any other place where people come together.
You may wonder how Alpha works? That’s a great question. Beginning Sunday, September 11, at 6 pm we will have a dinner for all of those who have signed-up for Alpha. Following dinner we will sing a couple of songs and then head down to the Lighthouse Class where we will watch the video for the night. The videos are about 23 minutes long. Following the video the Table Hosts will go to different rooms in our Education Building with their small group and talk about life and the topic for the night. We will follow the same game plan for 10 consecutive weeks.
Who should come to Alpha? That’s another great question! Alpha is for people who have questions about life and the Christian faith. You may be like my friend who was raised in church, but knows nothing about the Bible and would like to learn more about Christianity. You might be like my friend who isn’t sure he even believes in God, but he’s open to listen. You might be like my friend who was raised in a Muslim home, but is open to learning about Jesus. You might be like my friend who has been fully in charge of her life and years later is empty and thinking, “There’s got to be more to life than this?” You might be like my friend who has called herself a Christian for years, but truth is she really doesn’t know what she believes. All of these friends of mine are great candidates for Alpha. Maybe you are a great candidate for Alpha as well?
We’ve been studying the Gospel of John for a long time now. I hope you’ve seen how open Jesus was to those who had questions. He sought out those who were making a mess of their life. He loved those who had gotten it all wrong. He reached out to those who had been beaten down by life and others. Somehow, some way, maybe through someone…Jesus reached out to you and if you are like me, He’s changed your life like He’s changed mine. And He has called us to share who He is and what He’s done with others so they might come to know Him as well.
Maybe you are here this morning and what we’ve been talking about has struck a chord with you. You’ve searched for answers in other places, you’ve listened to people and people have let you down, and you’ve still got questions about life and Jesus. I want to invite you to come rest in the Savior’s arms. Confess to Him that you don’t have the answers, that you don’t even know all of the questions, but you want to trust Him. He’ll never lead you astray.
Britton Christian Church
922 NW 91st
OKC, OK. 73114
July 10, 2016
Christianity, if false is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important. (C.S. Lewis)