Dave Meigs 

David Meigs is a novelist with a background in youth outreach, specializing in ministry to at-risk youth and their families. Though his writing is enjoyed by all ages, his novels provide a unique, life-changing quality, critical for the youth of today. David and his family lives in Seabeck, Washington, where he serves his church as youth pastor.

Theology, Like a River

Before we begin, I want to say thank you to everyone who reads this column, and especially to those of you who have taken time out of your busy schedules to send me a note. This has been very encouraging to me. God bless you. I would also like to extend an invitation to please send me your ideas for future topics or recommendations of any books that we can feature in the future.

You rock!

A couple of decades ago, I had the privilege of attending a county-wide prayer retreat for pastors and para-church organizations leaders. At the time, I had just accepted a position at the local Youth for Christ ministry (YFC) and wasn’t sure what to expect. Apart from my fellow YFC staffers, I can’t say that I knew more than a couple of the ministers there. Adding to my uneasiness was that our week together had only one agenda—prayer. There were to be no workshops, discussion roundtables, or fellowship get-togethers. Just prayer, all day, every day until the week was over.

Don’t get me wrong. I have always considered myself a man of prayer, but pray all day, every day for a week—and with a bunch of strangers? That terrified me. In addition, I was doubtful that so many ministers from such varied theological backgrounds could abide together without those dreaded, doctrinal wars erupting. I don’t think I’ve ever felt more apprehensive than I did at the first meeting. Nevertheless, I could not deny the sense that my fellow ministers and I were a part of something much greater than our collective churches and organizations. It was a God thing.

I can’t say that everyone behaved perfectly—at least not at the beginning. Regardless, by the week’s end, we all parted as brothers of one big family. Friendships replaced longstanding, theological divides. Nearly seventy pastors and ministry leaders were able to unite around the core doctrine of the cross for the sake of advancing the gospel in our area. It was a true, life-changing experience for us all.

So what has a two-decade-old pastor prayer retreat have to do with crafting life-transforming fiction? Well, nothing and everything. As inspirational novelists, we represent a broad

spectrum of theological, political, and cultural worldviews. Moreover, the same can be said of our readership. Like novelists, novel lovers come in all shapes and sizes. This is the wonderful thing about fiction. As long as the theology is central to the story, the reader is seldom offended if the novel’s theme or a particular character’s religious views are vastly different from their own.

The important thing to the reader is that the story is entertaining, the characters have well-drawn personalities, and the plot is sufficiently interesting. If a particular character is evangelical, the reader expects that character to act evangelical. The same is true if the character is a Catholic, a Presbyterian, or for that matter, a complete heathen. As long as the reader’s theology isn’t misrepresented or treated with disrespect, they seldom care. For one reader, a particular scene in a novel might feel like the Holy Grail of personal favorite theological dogma, but to another reader of a different worldview, it is just entertainment.

Peace Like A RiverOne of my all-time favorite novels is Peace Like a River by Leif Enger. The author masterfully paints a story that so crackles with the miraculous that it will make the hair stand up on the back of your neck. Moreover, I marvel at the author’s use of Christian jargon throughout the book without it ever feeling preachy or condescending.

I will never forget the first time I read it. Without spoiling things for those who have not yet enjoyed it, I can only say that there is a place early on in the book where a character literally walks on thin air! When I read that part, I shook my head and went “nah,” but at the same time I thought it was really, really cool.

If you haven’t read Peace like a River, I encourage you to make it an absolute priority. But don’t just read it—study it.

Until next month, may God bless you all.