Surprised by John

I received an email yesterday from a new reader of the Jake Colsen story, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore. She read the German edition called The Cry of the Wild Geese.

Here are excerpts from her note:

I gave my life to Jesus when I was a Child. I can remember it was the fear of hell, that made me staying a believer. Even though heaven did not seem to be something exciting, it was better than going to hell. In my teenage-years I had a time, where I was very disappointed about church and Christians. I almost gave up on God, but because my fear of hell I never had the courage to do it. So I met some people who called themselves Jesus Freaks. Through this group I got to know the church, that I was a member now for almost 12 years. I went through a lot of changes and received inner healing and deliverance during that time. But now as I look back, I must say, I did not really get into this deep relationship with Christ.

My best friend who works in a Christian book-store gave me your book with the Jake-Story (I am glad that in German it has another title, because I never considered to leave “church” and would probably not have read it…). As I read the book, I realised how religionised I am and it shocked me. I realised that my belief was still about not going to hell. Now I want this relationship, that I always wanted. And I realise, that God somehow has to do that in me. But I am also afraid of what happens, if nothing happens. Then I don’t really know, what is my part, if any and what is not. When I stop doing religious motivated things, another question comes up that troubles me: Do I really want to have a relationship with God or is that also a religious motivated desire, because it is the only way that I know of not going to hell? How do I know? And how should I respond to that question?

I’ve met many people on this journey with similar questions and concerns, so I thought I’d share my answer to her:

I’m blessed my story has opened up such marvelous questions and discoveries for you. That’s what I hoped it would do for people. And I love the hunger it has triggered in you to now him more closely.

This is something you and God get to sort out. As you get to know him you’ll discover that it is far better to know him than to just use him to makes sure you don’t go to hell. That’s how religion has ruined this incredible Father. We’d rather be saved from hell than know him. But that will change for you, I’m sure.

And as to what is your part and what is his? It is mostly his. You just bring an open heart, asking him to reveal himself to you as he really is and to show you how you can follow him.

And what to do if nothing happens? That’s hardly likely. But we never know how he will work in us. Our relationship with him is something he controls not us, and even opening up that door abandons a bit of our independence and need to control. That’s good thing. He does love you so much and wants you to walk with him more than you will ever want to yourself.

I’d just recommend you go on a journey with him. Just ask him to show you. Follow what he puts on your heart, and see what he will do to invite you further into his glory. You won’t regret it.

On a related note, I am blessed by the growing distribution of this story. Last year over 6,000 people downloaded it for free last year off the website and we are quickly running out of our second printing of the book version. And now, since it appears alongside The Shack, in the Windblown Media catalog, it is gaining fresh traction with a whole new audience.

As we get ready to reprint, we’ve had many people suggest that we give it a title that more befits a novel and doesn’t create so many prejudiced opinions about its content. Other than the fact that it takes too long to write out, I have loved the original title, So You Don’t Want to Go to Church Anymore, and how that drew people to the website who really found encouragement and freedom in that little book. But it never has been a good title for a novel. So, we’re going to change it. We’re considering Surprised by John: An Unexpected Journey Into the Reality of Father’s Family. I love how it invokes one of my favorite books, Surprised by Joy by C.S. Lewis, and creates more mystery around the chief character.

If any of you have some feedback, or even a better title suggestion, please let me know.

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36 Comments
  1. Marti December 30, 2007 at 8:53 am

    I gotta admit… I’ll probably always call it “The Jake Book,” although “Surprised by John” has a nice ring.

    The word “jake” also has slang meaning of “okay” or “fine” as in, “It’s all jake with me.” I like the double entendre between the character’s name, and his journey of bringing his life situation into an “okay” place for him in his relationship with Father.

  2. Marti December 30, 2007 at 11:53 am

    I gotta admit… I’ll probably always call it “The Jake Book,” although “Surprised by John” has a nice ring.

    The word “jake” also has slang meaning of “okay” or “fine” as in, “It’s all jake with me.” I like the double entendre between the character’s name, and his journey of bringing his life situation into an “okay” place for him in his relationship with Father.

  3. Loren December 31, 2007 at 7:53 am

    Wayne, I like a shorter title like Unexpected Journey. Loren

  4. todd December 31, 2007 at 10:07 am

    Wayne,

    Wow, that’s great news….I know I refer the book/site to many people…it’s funny though…the title is what peaked my curiosity 🙂

    I’d have to agree with Loren…I wonder if a shorter title might be more effective i.e. “The unexpected Journey” or “Jakes Journey: The reality of Father’s Family”

    You opened a can of worms now…..you’re gonna get all kinds of suggestions ha ha!

    God bless 🙂

  5. Loren December 31, 2007 at 10:53 am

    Wayne, I like a shorter title like Unexpected Journey. Loren

  6. Rudolf Roos December 31, 2007 at 12:33 pm

    I like the original title because it provokes and makes the book stand out. The title you suggest is more ‘nice’, but it doesn’t draw attention like the ‘old’ title. It sounds like a lot of other books to me.

    So I guess what title you choose depends on what is the most important to you (and which readers you want to reach).

  7. todd December 31, 2007 at 1:07 pm

    Wayne,

    Wow, that’s great news….I know I refer the book/site to many people…it’s funny though…the title is what peaked my curiosity 🙂

    I’d have to agree with Loren…I wonder if a shorter title might be more effective i.e. “The unexpected Journey” or “Jakes Journey: The reality of Father’s Family”

    You opened a can of worms now…..you’re gonna get all kinds of suggestions ha ha!

    God bless 🙂

  8. Rudolf Roos December 31, 2007 at 3:33 pm

    I like the original title because it provokes and makes the book stand out. The title you suggest is more ‘nice’, but it doesn’t draw attention like the ‘old’ title. It sounds like a lot of other books to me.

    So I guess what title you choose depends on what is the most important to you (and which readers you want to reach).

  9. Kelly January 1, 2008 at 1:49 pm

    What about “An Unexpected Journey” with a subtitle from the original, “So you don’t want to go to church anymore?”

    I agree with Loren – shorter is better.

  10. Kelly January 1, 2008 at 4:49 pm

    What about “An Unexpected Journey” with a subtitle from the original, “So you don’t want to go to church anymore?”

    I agree with Loren – shorter is better.

  11. Peter January 1, 2008 at 5:55 pm

    I guess I’m one of those folks who had problems with the original title because it makes it harder to give away. I’ve tried to come up with alternatives but they all pale in comparison to the original. I’m sorry Wayne but “Surprised by John” sounds like your toilet stopped working. John has other bad connotations as well. 🙁 I guess given all the suggestions so far I’d stick with the original.

  12. Elaine January 1, 2008 at 6:37 pm

    Hi Wayne! I have to join the “Original Title” crowd. It’s shocking, arresting, and the alternatives are cold oatmeal. 🙁 If you want to make it a little less aggressive, you could make it a question, “Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore?”

    Here are some questions to consider. How does the title effect the intended distribution of the book? The original title drew people in on the internet because of key words typed into a search engin. What do you want to accomplish with the title? Do you want people to pick this up in a traditional bookstore? Will a traditional bookstore even carry this book? Do you want people able to find this on Amazon?

    Do God-Journey-ers order it by the dozen and give it away? You could always reprint the book with the original title, then print up paperback jackets with a NICER title, available cheap to those who are uncomfortable giving it away! 😉 When I give it away, I just scrunch up my face and say, “Well, it has an unfortunate title, but just read the book!”

  13. Peter January 1, 2008 at 8:55 pm

    I guess I’m one of those folks who had problems with the original title because it makes it harder to give away. I’ve tried to come up with alternatives but they all pale in comparison to the original. I’m sorry Wayne but “Surprised by John” sounds like your toilet stopped working. John has other bad connotations as well. 🙁 I guess given all the suggestions so far I’d stick with the original.

  14. Elaine January 1, 2008 at 9:37 pm

    Hi Wayne! I have to join the “Original Title” crowd. It’s shocking, arresting, and the alternatives are cold oatmeal. 🙁 If you want to make it a little less aggressive, you could make it a question, “Don’t Want To Go To Church Anymore?”

    Here are some questions to consider. How does the title effect the intended distribution of the book? The original title drew people in on the internet because of key words typed into a search engin. What do you want to accomplish with the title? Do you want people to pick this up in a traditional bookstore? Will a traditional bookstore even carry this book? Do you want people able to find this on Amazon?

    Do God-Journey-ers order it by the dozen and give it away? You could always reprint the book with the original title, then print up paperback jackets with a NICER title, available cheap to those who are uncomfortable giving it away! 😉 When I give it away, I just scrunch up my face and say, “Well, it has an unfortunate title, but just read the book!”

  15. Ralph January 2, 2008 at 10:06 am

    How about, “Church can’t be this Easy!,” essentially a statement by John, near the bottom of page
    148. That would pop open a lot of eyes!

  16. Ralph January 2, 2008 at 1:06 pm

    How about, “Church can’t be this Easy!,” essentially a statement by John, near the bottom of page
    148. That would pop open a lot of eyes!

  17. David January 2, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    I agree that “So you don’t want to go to church anymore” reduces the people we feel free to give the “Jake Book” to. It seems to illicit a knee-jerk response to those still in the system. On the other hand, the original title helped us cross the line, or take the “red pill” as you and Brad say. The original title drew us to the book–But we have never been accused of being “normal.”

    We have been out of the system for only a month now, after being inside for decades, and sense Father doing a wonderful freeing work in our lives. We just sooooooooo appreciate all you’ve written and have spoken that is available to us. We are filled with joy and becoming more and more centered and focused on pursuing intimacy with the Father who loves us beyond our wildest thoughts.

    I like: Surprised by John: An Unexpected Journey Into the Reality of Father’s Family

  18. Mark January 2, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    The original title drew me in and I devoured it and gave away a bunch of them. Some people wouldn’t take it, Oh , well!! Some people just won’t accept anything for free.

  19. David January 2, 2008 at 4:46 pm

    I agree that “So you don’t want to go to church anymore” reduces the people we feel free to give the “Jake Book” to. It seems to illicit a knee-jerk response to those still in the system. On the other hand, the original title helped us cross the line, or take the “red pill” as you and Brad say. The original title drew us to the book–But we have never been accused of being “normal.”

    We have been out of the system for only a month now, after being inside for decades, and sense Father doing a wonderful freeing work in our lives. We just sooooooooo appreciate all you’ve written and have spoken that is available to us. We are filled with joy and becoming more and more centered and focused on pursuing intimacy with the Father who loves us beyond our wildest thoughts.

    I like: Surprised by John: An Unexpected Journey Into the Reality of Father’s Family

  20. Mark January 2, 2008 at 4:51 pm

    I understand why some see the original title as both problematic and beneficial. I think you could make the case to release the book in two versions, one with the original title and one with a new one. The original title attracted many people who were ready and longing for something more, while also turning away some of those who probably weren’t ready and hadn’t really come to the tipping point yet. However, it probably also turned away some who were ready to receive the seeds the book would plant in them, to help them toward the tipping point.

    In the end it’s all moot, cause you’ll do what father leads you to do. And either way, God is big enough to reach everyone he wants to (with or without this book), so the title isn’t the end of the world. On a personal note, I must say I like the original title, and I think the new one is not my favorite – at all. LOL.

    Ps. by the way, I think the way the original title ruffled people’s feather’s a little was often a good thing.

  21. Mark January 2, 2008 at 6:33 pm

    The original title drew me in and I devoured it and gave away a bunch of them. Some people wouldn’t take it, Oh , well!! Some people just won’t accept anything for free.

  22. Mark January 2, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    I understand why some see the original title as both problematic and beneficial. I think you could make the case to release the book in two versions, one with the original title and one with a new one. The original title attracted many people who were ready and longing for something more, while also turning away some of those who probably weren’t ready and hadn’t really come to the tipping point yet. However, it probably also turned away some who were ready to receive the seeds the book would plant in them, to help them toward the tipping point.

    In the end it’s all moot, cause you’ll do what father leads you to do. And either way, God is big enough to reach everyone he wants to (with or without this book), so the title isn’t the end of the world. On a personal note, I must say I like the original title, and I think the new one is not my favorite – at all. LOL.

    Ps. by the way, I think the way the original title ruffled people’s feather’s a little was often a good thing.

  23. Bernie January 3, 2008 at 12:28 pm

    To me the book has almost always been Jake’s story and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it several times. I like the Surprised by John title … while most folks who comment here believe much if not all of what the story reveals, I am sure the former title has scared many a person away who may otherwise have been interested in discovering what the book had to say. Sometimes those bound up in the shackles of religion have a sense or a continuous prick that something is not quite right about their faith (at least I did) but are fearful of looking elsewhere. Well, guess I’m rambling … you have my vote for your suggested title.

    Best and blessed wishes to you and yours Wayne for 2008!

  24. Bernie January 3, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    To me the book has almost always been Jake’s story and I have thoroughly enjoyed reading it several times. I like the Surprised by John title … while most folks who comment here believe much if not all of what the story reveals, I am sure the former title has scared many a person away who may otherwise have been interested in discovering what the book had to say. Sometimes those bound up in the shackles of religion have a sense or a continuous prick that something is not quite right about their faith (at least I did) but are fearful of looking elsewhere. Well, guess I’m rambling … you have my vote for your suggested title.

    Best and blessed wishes to you and yours Wayne for 2008!

  25. Kelly January 4, 2008 at 8:12 am

    In reading the above posts, a couple of thoughts mentioned might be considered. “Red Pill, Anyone?” or some variation of that. Also “The Tipping Point”.

    Or, what about “Conversations With… Who?” Or, “The Open Door”.

    My opinion on “Surprised by John: An Unexpected Journey Into the Reality of Father’s Family” — strikes me as not a title for a novel.

    Kelly [the other Kelly 🙂 ]

  26. Kelly January 4, 2008 at 11:12 am

    In reading the above posts, a couple of thoughts mentioned might be considered. “Red Pill, Anyone?” or some variation of that. Also “The Tipping Point”.

    Or, what about “Conversations With… Who?” Or, “The Open Door”.

    My opinion on “Surprised by John: An Unexpected Journey Into the Reality of Father’s Family” — strikes me as not a title for a novel.

    Kelly [the other Kelly 🙂 ]

  27. Bev Anne January 5, 2008 at 5:53 pm

    As someone already mentioned most of us think of the book at “The Jake Book” and while that probably doesn’t make a good title itself what about simply “Jake’s Story” as the main title. The subtitle could be the original title or something similar. If people are not attracted to the title as it is, maybe they just aren’t ready for the book and God will attract people to it when the time is right for them to read it.

    Bev Anne

  28. Bev Anne January 5, 2008 at 8:53 pm

    As someone already mentioned most of us think of the book at “The Jake Book” and while that probably doesn’t make a good title itself what about simply “Jake’s Story” as the main title. The subtitle could be the original title or something similar. If people are not attracted to the title as it is, maybe they just aren’t ready for the book and God will attract people to it when the time is right for them to read it.

    Bev Anne

  29. Carrie January 6, 2008 at 11:44 am

    Ahhhh; I love the original title. I remember how it made me feel when I first came across it….like I might find some validation for how I’d been feeling about church. Boy, did I!

    If you have to change it, Surprised by John is okay, but it probably wouldn’t grab my attention. How about considering something short a la Peretti style, like “Disciple” or “The Disciple” with the subtitle “a journey from performance and obligation to the reality and joy of the father’s family”? That’s probably too long a subtitle.

    Well, no matter what you call it, it is still the best book I ever read (twice!). I’m looking forward to buying a new one as mine has been loaned out quite a bit, and it’s falling apart.

  30. Carrie January 6, 2008 at 1:00 pm

    That should have been “one man’s journey” instead of “a journey”

  31. Carrie January 6, 2008 at 2:44 pm

    Ahhhh; I love the original title. I remember how it made me feel when I first came across it….like I might find some validation for how I’d been feeling about church. Boy, did I!

    If you have to change it, Surprised by John is okay, but it probably wouldn’t grab my attention. How about considering something short a la Peretti style, like “Disciple” or “The Disciple” with the subtitle “a journey from performance and obligation to the reality and joy of the father’s family”? That’s probably too long a subtitle.

    Well, no matter what you call it, it is still the best book I ever read (twice!). I’m looking forward to buying a new one as mine has been loaned out quite a bit, and it’s falling apart.

  32. Carrie January 6, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    That should have been “one man’s journey” instead of “a journey”

  33. Wayne January 6, 2008 at 7:27 pm

    Gosh! Great input from all of you. Thanks so much!

    We’ve been all over the map here sorting out how best to do this. We’ve now landed on a solution and will announce it on the blog when we get some artwork that will show us if it works….

    Like most things there is no clear-cut perfect answers, just something that seems the best given all the concerns that focus on this decision.

    Thanks again for all the input.

    Wayne

  34. Wayne January 6, 2008 at 10:27 pm

    Gosh! Great input from all of you. Thanks so much!

    We’ve been all over the map here sorting out how best to do this. We’ve now landed on a solution and will announce it on the blog when we get some artwork that will show us if it works….

    Like most things there is no clear-cut perfect answers, just something that seems the best given all the concerns that focus on this decision.

    Thanks again for all the input.

    Wayne

  35. Bev January 11, 2008 at 6:26 pm

    Yol there Wayne, Sara, & Co,
    It’s interesting reading all the comments on the Jake Book. We have given away heaps of them to people over here, and with most people, I have usually said – “Ignore the title, cos it’s not actually about that, it’s about our journey with God.” We’ve been out of a club for a long time, so we and many others thoroughly enjoyed the book and realised that there were so much more for us in our walk with Dad. I was always concerned that the ones who were still in a club, would feel threatened by the title, and therefore have their hackles up a little bit before they even started the book – so I always encouraged them to look past the title.
    However, it also depends on where you are in the journey…………my daughter and her husband are very contented and happy in their club, loving Jesus, and that;’s cool. So when she read the book, she said she felt it was all about the title.
    Personally, yes Wayne, I would like to see another name. I think that maybe the title you’re wondering about is too long……………my dad always had this philosophy – KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid! Do I have an alternative? No I don’t! 🙁
    But, hey – it’s your book – I’m sure you’ll hear Dad give you the right name! (what a cop out from me! 🙂 )
    Whatever you decide, it will be sweet, and I’ll be ordering some more! We always enjoy what comes out of Lifestream, and the God Journey, and ……………………………………………..
    when are you coming to NZ????!!!

  36. Bev January 11, 2008 at 9:26 pm

    Yol there Wayne, Sara, & Co,
    It’s interesting reading all the comments on the Jake Book. We have given away heaps of them to people over here, and with most people, I have usually said – “Ignore the title, cos it’s not actually about that, it’s about our journey with God.” We’ve been out of a club for a long time, so we and many others thoroughly enjoyed the book and realised that there were so much more for us in our walk with Dad. I was always concerned that the ones who were still in a club, would feel threatened by the title, and therefore have their hackles up a little bit before they even started the book – so I always encouraged them to look past the title.
    However, it also depends on where you are in the journey…………my daughter and her husband are very contented and happy in their club, loving Jesus, and that;’s cool. So when she read the book, she said she felt it was all about the title.
    Personally, yes Wayne, I would like to see another name. I think that maybe the title you’re wondering about is too long……………my dad always had this philosophy – KISS = Keep It Simple Stupid! Do I have an alternative? No I don’t! 🙁
    But, hey – it’s your book – I’m sure you’ll hear Dad give you the right name! (what a cop out from me! 🙂 )
    Whatever you decide, it will be sweet, and I’ll be ordering some more! We always enjoy what comes out of Lifestream, and the God Journey, and ……………………………………………..
    when are you coming to NZ????!!!

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