Q & R: How Interactive is God? What Good is the Christian Label?

Here’s the Q:

I first read the ‘A New Kind of Christian’ trilogy about 12 years ago now. Like many others have testified those books were hugely instrumental in helping me at a time when I was increasingly disillusioned with a black and white evangelical faith. Since then I’m an avid reader/listener of many similar authors/podcasts.
However, there is still one question I really wrestle with. Well, there’s a few actually! I’ll try and explain …
I love the notion that being a Christian isn’t about  ‘inviting Jesus into our heart’ but rather it’s about accepting Jesus’ invitation to become part of his plan to love the world etc. This makes sense to me and has been liberating.
However, I know of many people who would claim to have no faith but who practically demonstrate Christ’s  love for the world and people  (and often do so far ‘better’ than many who claim to be Christians!). I guess my question is how would ‘being a Christian’ change their lives? For example, one could say they are already doing the work of God, they are already being ‘like Jesus’ to the world and their neighbour. Would them knowing/believing that they are participating in God’s plan ‘add/change’ anything in their lives?
The other question I wrestle with hugely is how ‘interactive’ is God (if at all)?
I guess the bit of my ‘old kind of Christianity’ I miss is that ‘feeling/belief’ that God was with me, that if I was worried about something He’d hear me, that I could trust that he knew me intimately and loved me etc etc.  Whereas I love the ‘new’ kind of Christianity I’ve discovered and it completely makes sense to me I do feel that I’ve ‘lost’ that quiet, calming sense that God is with me and ‘will be there for me’. It’s almost like I’m so wary of the ‘old kind of Christianity’ that I don’t know if there are any bits of it I can keep?!!
I now have a 1 year old and I think it’s the experience of becoming a parent that is prompting these questions in me. I can see how at a practical level we can encourage her to love the world and her neighbour and that by doing this we are loving God. But is there any place at all for a personal side of faith? I’m not talking in terms of having charismatic experiences but more in that sense of knowing that God is there and he’s listening (and maybe answering sometimes?!).
I hope that makes sense!
Here’s the R:
Two great questions, each deserving a book at least, but here’s a very brief response.
How is God interactive?
I remember trying to address this in the 2nd book of the NKOC trilogy, The Story We Find Ourselves In (as I recall?), where I talked about God not being outside or above a pool table, reaching in to snatch this ball or nudge that one on occasion, but rather, God being in and with the players, working through them in “natural” processes. This is the approach of process/open/relational theology, and I think it is the place many of us end up after grappling with these questions for decades – and reflecting both on the Scriptures and our experience. If you’re unfamiliar with this approach, I’d recommend Thomas Oord’s work as an introduction along with this helpful book – by the brilliant Philip Clayton: Adventures in the Spirit: God, World, Divine Action
With this approach, God is even more here and near and present – not less, not in an interventionist sense, but rather, in the sense of a companion … with whom we co-create our lives and the future, closer than our breath and heartbeat.
What Good is the Christian label?
These days, it too often seems to do more harm than good, with huge chunks of Christianity being absorbed into white nationalism and militarism. Disgusting and depressing indeed!
So affiliating with the Christian religion might make some people “twice the sons of hell” they were before. But … I must say that just as anyone who wants to learn the four noble truths and eightfold path of Buddhism would be greatly enriched by learning about the Buddha and joining the Buddhist sangha – so anyone deeply dedicated to following the Way would benefit by finding a community of humble disciples seeking to live in the way of Christ … with or without labels. I hope that helps!