Pastor Jason West
Lead Pastor, Shiloh Community Church
I sat down, popcorn in hand; ready to watch another Christian movie. When it comes to films with Christian values, I am often left disappointed. Bad acting, and even worse plot lines, can make one question whether the pricey ticket was worth the effort. But this time, I was pleasantly surprised. “I Can Only Imagine” came out of the gates with a strong opening at the box office. It was America’s third-biggest movie on opening weekend. After a few weeks it had grossed almost $70 million, against a production budget of $7 million. Why was it dominating other films? It overtook ‘A Wrinkle in Time’ with a budget of over $100 million. It put movies like ‘Pacific Rim: Uprising’, with a production value of $150 million, to shame. Why is this film doing so well compared with other Hollywood offerings? The answer is much more than just that it tells the story of a band’s rise to fame and its beloved contemporary song. The film hits a cord of something deeper in our culture– a deep- rooted, profound father hunger.
The vacuum of godly fathers in the modern family has left the world hungry for something more. It explains the power of the scene in ‘Field of Dreams’ when a son can play catch with his dad again. It is what so moved people when Kelly Clarkson sang ‘Piece by Piece’ recently on American Idol about a father who would stick around. And it is what drives a movie like ‘I Can Only Imagine,’ where the son has a monster of a father who desperately needed to be redeemed.
When 43% of children in the United States live without their father, the results are devastating. Fatherless homes are generating 63% of youth suicides, 90% of all runaway children, 85% of children showing behavior disorders, 80% of rapists, 71% of all high school dropouts, 70% of youths in state-operated institutions, and 85% of all youths in prison, just to name a few. 1 With all of the problems beginning to appear from a fatherless generation, our longing for a godly father is growing exponentially stronger.
What was happening in homes began showing itself in the media, in the music and on our televisions. When Dan Quale critiqued the TV show ‘Murphy Brown’ for devaluing the role of a father, he was mocked. Today, the societal push towards genderless roles in families devalues fatherhood in a way the writers of ‘Murphy Brown’ never even dreamed. The result? Confusion. Father hunger. Kids wondering, “Will a father stay? And if he does, will he ever change?”
And what’s even worse, our earthly experiences with fathers began to conceptualize into our ideas about what God, our heavenly Father, is really like. Is our heavenly Father unreliable? Is he going to abuse me? Is he unconcerned or just too busy to care? Is he unreasonable too? Is he unappeasable also? If I get C’s, is he going to want B’s? If get B’s, is he going to want A’s? If I get A’s, is he going to want straight A’s? If I get a hit in the game, is he going to just say, “Well why didn’t you hit a home run!?” Unappeasable. Unreliable. Unconcerned. Is it any wonder, people don’t want to know God more? Their view of him is skewed by the sin of this world.
We long for a Father. Something within us cries out for a Father. God answers that call. He adopts you (Matt. 5:45; Gal. 4:4-5; Rom. 8:15-16), He cares about you (Mat. 6:8, 31; Ps. 103:13); He provides for you (Mat. 6:26, 30; Jam. 1:17), He rewards you (Matt. 5:12), He protects you (Mat. 6:13; Ps. 34:18), and He offers forgiveness to you (Matt. 6:12). He’s the Father we long for. The Father we need.
There’s a Spanish story of a father and son who had become estranged. The
son ran away, and the father set off to find him. He searched for months to no avail.
Finally, in a last desperate effort to find him, the father put an ad in a Madrid newspaper. The ad read: “Dear Paco, meet me in front of this newspaper office at noon on Saturday. All is forgiven. I love you. Your Father.” On Saturday, 800 Pacos showed up, looking for forgiveness and love from their fathers! 2 The need is real. It is so strong, that when a low budget film appears in the theaters and even hints at the topic, we show up in droves. Imagine that!