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.