Imagine a 16-year old named Caleb who grew up in the church but within a couple of years will leave, perhaps permanently.
Caleb is fascinated by the world of cars, racing and engines, and wants to go into auto mechanics.
At church Caleb experiences worship, community, Bible teaching. All good things. He learns about morality, God’s love, salvation, prayer. He’s a little bored but he’ll get through it.
He attends Sunday services and youth group regularly, cracks his Bible on occasion because he’s supposed to do his devo’s.
It all seems other-worldly to Caleb. Necessary, yes, like eating your vegetables, but not relevant to his main interest.
In fact, nothing in the Christian culture of his boyhood connects with Caleb’s primary love: cars. Under the hood (or behind the wheel) of an automobile he feels alive and authentic to his true self.
Soon, Caleb’s real community is found not so much at church but in a local garage with his gear-head buddies. Then, the race track — including Sundays.
Goodbye, Caleb. Hope to see you in church again someday, perhaps after you start a family in about eight years.
What could have convinced Caleb to stay in the church?
I have an idea. Call it productive faith.
The idea is to produce something that is actually sanctioned by God — something good and rewarding that makes the heart glad. Something that calls out the essential self in each of us. Something that resonates in Caleb’s soul.
Next week: I’ll expand on the idea of “productive faith” and suggest how it might have changed Caleb’s whole narrative.