Readers Choice Nominees 2023

A Simple Method to Reconnect Science and the Church

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A Scientific Formula for Missions

  • It is the duty of every child of God to seek constantly to win the lost to Christ by verbal witness undergirded by a Christian lifestyle, and by other methods in harmony with the Gospel of Christ” [Section XI., Baptist Faith & Message 2000].

As one who travels in ecumenical spaces within the Body of Christ, I value the way Baptists prioritize the Christian duty to make disciples of all nations and to win souls for Christ. Evangelism is, to state the obvious, a big part of what makes Baptists good evangelicals.

Baptists are also known for their deep-seated convictions around scripture. They don’t call the region most densely populated by Baptists the Bible Belt for nothing. What they are not known for – which is true of most American churches – is in attending to the ways God is revealed in that second divinely infused manuscript, creation. If anything, some Christians tend to antagonize the scientists tasked with reading the Book of Nature.

That leads us to the sorts of things I hear all too often from Christ-followers in science: “I have encountered more hostility as a scientist in a world of Christians than I have as a Christian in a world of scientists.”

Or, “How was I treated in the church as a scientist? Man, that’s a trigger question for me. The simple answer is, not very well. Sadly, our long history of often experiencing rejection or simply being ignored is disillusioning for me.”

Or, “What do I do if my church is not accepting of me as a science professional?”

I could keep going – the stories of rejection, frustration, and hurt are abundant.

If this is the experience of scientists who are committed Christ-followers, active members in Christian congregations, imagine how all the science professionals outside the church feel about Christianity.

Science for the Church exists to change this dynamic so that the way we approach science is no longer a source of pain to our members — and no longer a hindrance to the Great Commission.

It looks like we are not equipping those already in our churches to be Christ’s witnesses in the halls of science.

Witnessing in the Halls of Science

STEM fields (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) employ over 35 million Americans, representing nearly a quarter of the American workforce. That number goes up if you count all the students studying to enter what is one of the fastest growing and highest paid segments in the American labor market. This large segment is also one under-represented by Christians, especially in fields outside of healthcare. All of our local communities include some of these STEM professionals currently lost to Christ.

These scientific souls include a mixture of individuals who have little or no experience with the church and others who have left the church and now count among the “nones” and “dones.” So, how do we reach them?

One difficulty is that the church has lost its place in both scientific board rooms and by their water coolers. In centuries past, the Western church ran the institutions of science and, where it did not, faith was seen as a genuine motivation for many scientists. Fast forward through a long and complex history, and we find a church that has allowed a narrative of conflict – one that is difficult to maintain based on the actual historical interaction of science and faith – to become the starting point for understanding between science and Christian faith.

The result is few if any scientific entities care what Christians think. They are not going to invite Christian input into their research priorities, the ethical use of new technologies, and which global challenges they will address (or how they will address those challenges).

Unless something drastic changes, the only way the church will participate in these kinds of scientific discussions is through believers who do the science and contribute to those discussions. Moreover, it may be one of the only ways for the church to be a witness to Christ among science professionals. Large numbers of STEM professionals will not likely wander into our churches on their own.

The math is simple. Start with all those stories of how the church has rejected, frustrated, and hurt the scientists who already have found Christ. Add this from Barna: way back in 2011, they told us that half of our youth group teens will pursue a STEM field in college. And seven years later, 49% of that same youth demographic told Barna that “the church seems to reject much of what science tells us about the world.” Add those together and it looks like we are not equipping those already in our churches to be Christ’s witnesses in the halls of science. If anything, I fear we are driving them away from the church altogether.

That is not the formula to reach the millions of unchurched persons in STEM professions.

Science is studying God’s magnificent handiwork and revealing important insights about human nature.

A Simple Method of Change

Change requires the tending of our own gardens. Training missionaries to proclaim the gospel to scientists won’t work unless we first reorient our churches to be places that welcome Christians in the sciences and equip them to go out in secular scientific spaces.

How do we reorient our churches and equip more scientists to be Christ’s hands and feet in the world? I believe this answer is quite simple: it is through relationships embedded within local churches.  We call it The Standard Model at Science for the Church. A play on the Standard Model from particle physics, ours is six-step process that centers relationships between church leaders and scientists to do context-specific ministry and programming.

This is not a quick fix, but ministry is best done together in Christian community. These relationships depend on trust to build bridges between the faith and science that can then be modeled for others inside and outside of the church. They create space to learn to speak to one another, to begin to reconcile differences and create understanding, and to find the many fruitful opportunities available to the church when it engages the breadth of science.

Science is more than our debates over evolution or vaccines or any other divisive issue. Science is studying God’s magnificent handiwork and revealing important insights about human nature. Consider forgiveness or health; human uniqueness or divine action; prayer or transformation; children’s ministry or missions.

The fear of dividing our churches is real, and that is why this model is contextual. Two churches may identify the same topics to address, but how they address them will differ according to the distinctives of their congregations. What is important is that scientists are involved, that they model dialogue with church leaders, and that the congregation and the community are able to see how these conversations can happen in church.

The fruits of this work – now done in nearly 100 ministries – have surprised us. Congregations attracted new members and enhanced their community reputation. Eighty-four percent of congregation members reported growing in their faith through engaging with science. In addition, churches gained confidence in their ability to tackle tough issues, saw increased youth involvement, developed new leaders, and reenergized ministries and ministry leaders.

The Standard Model helped a student leader of a humanist campus group. He became a Christian (and now is a pastor) because a nearby university church took science seriously. It equipped a biology professor to confess to being a church-goer to her colleagues in a way that completely changed the tone of conversations her entire department was having about those Christians. And there are many churches that are now known in their communities as places where both books – the Bible and creation – are valued.

The Standard Model has worked in attracting new people to our churches; challenging stereotypes about scientists and Christians; and empowering the scientists in our congregations to witness to Christ in the halls of science. We believe it is a simple formula that can help all churches live out their duty to care for Christ-followers, including those in the sciences, and to prepare them to witness to Christ, even in the halls of science.


This article is from our friends at Science for the Church. Download their resource, The Standard Model (English or Spanish). 

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  • Readers Choice Nominees 2023
  • science
Drew Rick-Miller

Drew Rick-Miller is co-Director of Science for the Church, a ministry seeking to strengthen the church through the engagement with science. Additionally, he does freelance work helping Christian organizations develop programs connecting faith and science. He studied theology and science at Princeton Theological Seminary where he met his wife, a Presbyterian minister. They live in Raleigh, NC with their three daughters.

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