Church drop-outs part 1 is here.
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.
Instead of always having the Calebs of the world come to us, we need to go to them.
Charles, what would the gospel look like at the speedway?
I'm thinking, “This is going to be good!” Looking forward to the next post. Yes, indeed, Rick. What would the gospel look like at the speedway, or the medical clinic, or the classroom, or at Subway? What is the Gospel of Work? (or real life?)
Yeah, Mike, the gospel of work — or might we say the gospel of “vocation.” I'd like to know what every young person's vocational interests are. Yes, they can change quickly. Even so, we should be connecting the gospel to students' vocational interests and potential life-calling(s).
Did we do our best to connect that ANSI certified mechanic dad in our church to our Caleb (and his friends) over a motor rebuild at the shop on Saturdays during those key high school years? Grease monkey discipleship…I hear it's not just for carpenters…just saying. Thanks for the post Rick.
I'm totally with you on that. And what if the ANSI mechanic thought of his craft as a true calling? What if his church supplied a theology of vocation that affirmed his work under the hood as pleasing to God? I think he could really pass that on to the boys.
I think vocation is still a neutral activity for much of the church — neither good nor bad, just a way to earn a living.