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by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Morning, August 3, 2014

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:46-47).

Some time ago USA Today had a front page article on loneliness. The article said, “Americans have a third fewer close friends...than they had just two decades ago” (USA Today, June 23, 2006, p. A1). Think of it! People today have one third fewer friends than they had only 20 years ago! And the article said that 25% “have no one to confide in” – no friends at all! (ibid.). And the article said this is “a sign that people [are] living lonelier, more isolated lives than in the past.” I believe that article was exactly right.

Sociologists and psychologists are saying that people are lonelier today than any other time in modern history. And loneliness hits young people the hardest. Many college-age and high school-age young people become so lonely and depressed that they commit suicide. One of my friends in high school put a bullet through his brain. It bothered me for years. It was unusual back in the 1950s. But today suicide is a leading cause of death among those between 18 and 25. Loneliness is literally destroying the lives of many young people today.

“Green Day” recorded a song that has been played repeatedly on the radio for years. It became one of the songs in a Broadway play that closed only three months ago. I do not recommend rock music. We don’t even use Christian rock music in our church. But that’s what many young people listen to on the radio. There’s a message in it that made “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” perennially popular.

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone
I walk this empty street
On the Blvd. of broken dreams
Where the city sleeps
And I’m the only one and I walk alone...
I walk alone. I walk alone. I walk alone.
   (Green Day, “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” 2004).

Have you ever felt like that? The American Sociological Review did a study on loneliness. The study said that in 1985 the average person had three friends. But today the number had “dropped to two, and one in four had no close confidants [friends] at all”! (ibid.). Think of it! One out of every four people has no friends at all! And no one is hit harder by loneliness than your generation of young people. Dr. Lynn Smith-Lovin, professor of sociology at Duke University, said, “You usually don’t see that kind of big social change in a couple of decades” (ibid.). “Also, research has linked social isolation and loneliness to mental and [even] physical illness” (ibid.). ABC News said, “A nine-year study by researchers at the University of California shows that loneliness has a greater impact on the death rate than smoking, drinking, eating or exercise. The study found that people without...friends had a death rate twice as high as those with social ties” (quoted in Facing Loneliness by Dr. J. Oswald Sanders, Discovery House Publishers, 1990, p. 45).

Various studies show that college-age and high school-age young people are among those hardest hit by the problem of loneliness. There are many causes for this. Parents divorce. Others move so many times that their children don’t get to make lasting friends. And modern technology adds to the problem. I am told that when many Chinese families go out to eat at a restaurant, they all sit around the table looking at iPhones. Instead of talking to each other they are busy looking at these gadgets. Many young people spend endless hours playing video games. Often their only conversations revolve around texting. But this only makes it more difficult to have real friends. You are just communicating with a machine – not with real people! These are some of the reasons young people are caught up in the loneliness of our time.

But God doesn’t want you to be lonely! Back at the very beginning of history, God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone” (Genesis 2:18). The poet John Milton said that loneliness was the first thing that God said was not good! That’s why God created the institution of the home. But today the home doesn’t provide the cure for loneliness that it once did.

My father and his four brothers grew up on a farm near Toronto, Canada. Those five brothers were part of a close-knit family there on the farm. But, when they migrated to Los Angeles in the early part of the twentieth century, they became isolated from each other in the big city. I went to see one of my uncles when he was dying in a hospital. He broke into tears, actually wailing, because he was so lonely for his brothers! My father longed all his life to return to the close family ties and friends he had on the farm in Listowel, Ontario. The only newspaper he ever read was "The Listowel Banner," from that tiny farming town in Canada. So, the family isn’t much help in curing loneliness in a big city like Los Angeles.

But God created another institution to help man cope with loneliness. God sent Jesus down to earth to create the church. And Jesus said, “I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The early church, in the first century, was a wonderful place. It is described in our text,

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:46-47).

The Amplified New Testament Commentary says,

Those early believers devoted themselves to...fellowship... Those first believers did everything together. They broke bread [together in] an ordinary meal. What a godly, joyful, and caring community that first church was! When other people saw the lives of those first believers, they came to join their fellowship. And the Lord added to their numbers daily those who were being saved (Kingsway Publications, 1997, page 465).

And that’s the way we want our church to be! We don’t want to be like those churches that are cold and unfriendly. Many of them have even closed their Sunday evening service! No wonder they lose almost all of their young people! No wonder they can’t attract young people from the outside world! No wonder they win very few of them to Christ!

Sadly, many churches today can’t help you overcome loneliness. But we set out with a specific goal to do that. Here’s how our church is different.

1.  First, we go after young people exclusively, young people who are unchurched. Very few churches do that now. If they evangelize at all, most of our Baptist churches go door-to-door and try to get “backslidden” adult Baptists. They go after families. They sometimes even try to get Baptist families to leave the church they have and come to theirs. Many of them don’t seem to care about single young people at all.
      And yet that is very foolish. Every study shows that 90% of all conversions occur before the age of thirty. They seem to forget that. I hate to say it, but many of our pastors don’t really seem to believe in conversions. That’s why they often try to get “ready made” families from another church. They don’t seem to believe in conversions, and they don’t seem to know how to get people converted. So all they can do is go after older people, and try to “steal” them from another church!
      We go for young high school and college-age young people exclusively! That’s why our church is full of kids who are excited about Christ! One person told me recently, “Your church is really alive! I never thought I could enjoy church this much!”

2.  Second, we do that without using modern gimmicks! I preach out of the good, old King James Bible. We sing traditional hymns. When we pray we say “thee” and “thou.” You’re not supposed to do those things. They say young people are “turned off” by that. Yes, but the young people who are all “turned off” are almost always “church kids,” who are so weird and rebellious we can’t help them anyway! We’re after the Catholics, the Buddhists, the “nothings.” If you are a sinner who doesn’t go to church, we want you!

3.  Third, as soon as you get here, we have something for you to do! I heard about one church that makes new people go to a special class for three years before they can do anything! We send you out to do evangelism on the college campuses as soon as possible! Jesus sent His young men right away, before they even knew the Gospel! He is our example!

4.  We make everything fun and exciting! Yes! What’s wrong with that? What do we do? Oh, our youth program is simple – prayer and evangelism! That’s it! That’s all we do – prayer and evangelism! Our kids are excited about it! And, oh yes, we have a meal together after the Sunday morning service! And, yes, we have dinner together after the Sunday evening service, too! And we even sing about it. And we watch old “Popeye” cartoons and “The Three Stooges” too. Why not? It’s fun! I wrote this little song, that we sang a few minutes ago.

Come home to Jesus, the table is spread;
Come home to dinner and let us break bread.
Jesus is with us, so let it be said,
Come home to dinner and let us break bread!
Come home to the church and eat,
Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat
When we sit down to eat!

The big city people just don’t seem to care;
They’ve little to offer and no love to spare.
But come home to Jesus and you’ll be aware,
There’s food on the table and friendship to share!
Come home to the church and eat,
Gather for fellowship sweet;
It’ll be quite a treat
When we sit down to eat!
   (“Come Home to Dinner” by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr., 1941- ,
       to the tune of “On the Wings of a Dove”).

Our whole church is a youth ministry! I’m not the pastor of the seniors alone! No, I’m everybody’s pastor! And this entire church is a youth ministry!

The older people here love it! They are the mentors and leaders of the young people! As older adults, they make it their life’s work to help young people! I think that’s the way all churches should be! We should model ourselves as much as possible after the early church in the Book of Acts!

“And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:46-47).

I have not always agreed with Billy Graham. I don’t agree with “decisionism.” In the late 1950s he started to compromise on some important issues. I didn’t agree with that either. But he also said many things that are absolutely true. I am going to read some of what he said about the early church in the Roman Empire.

      When Rome was at the height of its glory and power, there appeared a disturbing sect called ‘Christians.’ Because of a fire that burned within them, these people dared to be different.
      In an era where immorality, lavishness and luxury were stylish, Christians refused to be defiled by the sensual practices of a disintegrating civilization. In a period when human life was cheap, they put a high value upon human beings, their souls and their destinies.
      These Christians refused to be absorbed into the godless society of Rome (Billy Graham, Decision Magazine, May 2014, p. 24).

And that’s the way we feel here at the Baptist Tabernacle. We refuse to be absorbed into the lonely, godless society of Los Angeles! Amen!

Are you a sinner? The Bible says, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (I Timothy 1:15). All of us have been sinners, saved by Christ Jesus! He died on the Cross to pay the full penalty for our sin. He shed His Blood on the Cross to cleanse us from all sin.

We say, “Why be lonely? – Come Home to Church!” But we also say, “Why be lost? – Come Home to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!”

We do not worship a dead Christ! Oh, no! He rose bodily from the tomb! He is alive up in the Third Heaven, in another dimension – in another world – at the right hand of God the Father! And the Bible says, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31).

That song “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” says,

I walk a lonely road
The only one that I have ever known
Don’t know where it goes
But it’s home to me and I walk alone...
I walk alone. I walk alone. I walk alone.

I was 19 years old, walking alone through the streets of downtown Los Angeles one Saturday night. I saw a sign on a Chinese church. I knocked on the door of that church. Mrs. Lorna Lum opened the door and invited me to come to church the next morning. I went there the next day. My life was changed forever by Jesus, and I was no longer alone – because He was with me. Why don’t you do the same thing? Come home to church with us next Sunday! Better yet, come and have dinner with us tonight at 6:15!

I have just been reading the testimony of a girl who someone brought to our church several years ago. She heard me preach and set out to prove that I was wrong. She listened to me, looking for faults in what I said. But she kept coming. Then she said I told her about Jesus’ beautiful face, covered with His Blood. She said, “I will never forget that face [of the One] who lovingly died for me. Then Dr. Cagan asked me, ‘Will you come to Christ?’ I replied without hesitation, ‘Yes, I will come to Him, I will come to Him!’ I completely surrendered myself to Him...That day Jesus saved me. He accepted me no matter how much I rejected Him in the past...I walked out of that room a different person.”

That could happen to you! You could have a whole new life through Jesus, the only begotten Son of God! That is our invitation to you. Come home to church! Come home to Jesus Christ, the Son of God!  Mr. Griffith, please come and sing "Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling." 

Softly and tenderly Jesus is calling, Calling for you and for me;
See, on the portals He’s waiting and watching, Watching for you and for me.
Come home, come home, Ye who are weary, come home;
Earnestly, tenderly, Jesus is calling, Calling, O sinner, come home!
   (“Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling” by Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909).

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Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: Acts 2:42-47.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Boulevard of Broken Dreams” (by Green Day, 2004)/
“Softly and Tenderly” (by Will L. Thompson, 1847-1909).