Finding Meaning In An Age Of Information

By Matt Sapp

By Matt Sapp

In the 1990s politicians told us about the “information super highway.” Most of us couldn’t really understand what they were talking about then, but today we are smack dab in the middle of the Information Age.  Everything the world has ever known or experienced or discovered is at our fingertips—in our pockets, even. The thoughts and ideas and opinions and experiences of billions of people are catalogued and archived every day on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram and Tumbler.

So for a generation now, conventional wisdom has supported the idea that more information is the key to better living. Today, data analysis, feedback systems and performance metrics improve products and services to make our lives better and easier—and our businesses more profitable.

And access to information does make us more productive. The information age makes same day delivery from Amazon possible—wonder of wonders! Increased access to information holds the promise of improving the standard of living and quality of life for people all over the world.

Increasingly, though, we’re discovering the limits of information. And in places where the Information Age has fully blossomed we find ourselves binging on information to distract us from thoughts and relationships and situations and emotions we’d rather avoid.

Unlimited access to information has some wonderful benefits, but what if we need more? What if better and easier and more profitable doesn’t translate into more fulfilling, more grounded, and more connected? What if it takes more than facts and information to build meaningful lives?

              Our Sunday message series focuses on finding meaning in a chaotic world. 

              Our Sunday message series focuses on finding meaning in a chaotic world. 

Researchers are discovering that our minds and senses are so overly stimulated that our attention spans are shrinking to the vanishing point, and focus is increasingly something that our grandparents used to do.

At the same time, depth and meaning are disappearing from our lives. Depth of relationship and depth of feeling. Depth of purpose. The meaning and rootedness that used to ground us—the physical places and spaces of community that used to connect us--are disappearing.

And so we’re left to ask ourselves how lives so full of access to knowledge and stimulation can feel so empty.

Cultural observers have been openly wondering for a while now whether the church can survive the upheavals of the Information Age. And the shift toward information overload and virtual connectedness—a shift away from physical places and space of community--has posed a huge challenge to churches.  But all people need depth of relationship and feeling and purpose, of rootedness and connectedness.

At HERITAGE we’re working to organize ourselves around three big ideas—three big needs. The need to be people who are HOLY, HEALTHY and WHOLE.  Information can help us, but we need more than information to be complete.

Instead of easy answers we desperately want to find HEALTHY WAYS to understand the world and be understood. We’re discovering that answers by themselves can’t organize themselves into a coherent worldview that provides order and meaning to life. In a world full of easy answers, we long for understanding.

Instead of facts, we hunger for deeper TRUTH—a truth that’s Google proof. Maybe even a truth that's HOLY. There’s a depth to real truth that we often miss when we’re conditioned to search for facts that can be found with a few key strokes. We’re so used to searching for facts that we no longer even know to ask for truth. Truth is deeper than facts. Truth has roots. It connects at a spiritual, elemental level. Truth is searched for, hard-earned, embodied and owned in a way that facts aren’t. Google offers facts; but it doesn’t offer truth.

And as we discover the limits of knowledge, we might just be starting to rediscover the benefits of a LIFE of faith--a life that makes us WHOLE. Knowledge might change how we think, it might even change how we live; but we don’t just want to know how to live, we want to know why we live. The bounded fields of knowledge can’t hold a candle to the unlimited landscape of faith. Faith leads us to ask questions and search for truth that knowledge can’t address. It leads us to truth instead of facts.

We want understanding, not answers. We hunger for truth, not facts. It's not knowledge that we yearn for; it's life! We want a new way to live. We’ve heard the conventional wisdom. We’ve tried the easy fixes. We’ve experienced all the Information Age has to offer, and we want more.  

We want lives that are holier, healthier and more complete than the lives we’re living right now. We want a chance to dream and exist and hope beyond the limits of the present reality. That’s what it means to be human. We were uniquely created to exist on more than information.

Jesus makes a claim for himself that might be useful as we look to move beyond information. Jesus says, “I am the WAY, the TRUTH, and the LIFE.” The WAY to understanding, the TRUTH beyond facts, a LIFE that transcends mere knowledge.

Recent experience teaches us that more access to information fails to make us more holy, more healthy, or more whole. That’s precisely what Christ promises to do as we search for truth, understanding and faith.

In a world where nothing is permanent, where even facts seem to change as quickly as you can google them, Christ offers something solid to hold onto—something that keeps us from drowning in a sea of information.

See you Sunday.