Saturday, September 24, 2011

A Day in the Life of the Unexpected Guest

One of the disadvantages of publishing with your employer is that you have more access to information than is healthy for an author to have. I've published with InterVarsity Press before, with Comic Book Character, and this time I told myself I'd be more mature and respectful of the boundaries between author and publisher, put there for the benefit of both. So far I've done OK, although my coworkers may beg to differ. But this week I got some unsolicited happy news about The Parable of the Unexpected Guest that I wanted to hear more about. So I broke protocol and contacted Joe Hout, an InterVarsity campus staffworker at the University of North Carolina--Greensboro, who had just ordered a hundred copies of the booklet. I asked him why and what he planned to do with them, and he very graciously ignored my brashness and sent the following response, which he also (and even more graciously) invited me to share with the world.
This semester the InterVarsity chapter at UNC Greensboro has been looking at the Lord's Prayer. We have had a series of talks where each one takes a part of that prayer and looks deeper. The week of "Hallowed be Your name" we talked about God's Holiness. We studied Psalm 24; God is holy and we are not, we don't measure up. He is over there on the holy hill and none of us can ascend it, but then there is a knock at the door. The King is at our door wanting to come in.

My mentor, Jim, who I study psalms with, had me read My Heart Christ's Home the week I studied Ps. 24. That same week I received the mailing from IVP with new books, and here was your book. I read it and loved it, was brought to tears as I reflected on God's great love for me. I shared it with my wife after reading it. That week I was meeting with Jim again and brought the book with me to show him the My Heart Christ's Home for this generation. Before I could show it to him, he said it would be great to get everyone in our chapter that book in light of the talk on God's holiness. I pulled out your book and showed it to him, and he offered to buy 100 for our chapter. Our chapter has about 45 students involved, but we wanted students to be able to give them to a friend if they wanted.

Tonight at 7 we will be giving out the books at our weekly meeting. Tonight's topic is about Forgiveness of Sins. We play a game at the beginning of our meeting and the winner gets to order any book from IVPress they want (well, not all books, $15 or less books). Tonight as a twist, after the game everyone will get a prize, The Parable of the Unexpected Guest. I will then later bring that up in the talk for the night talking about grace; you did not earn the book or win it, but you still received it. The idea also is for every person who reads it for them to follow up with me to see what they thought.
This is, quite frankly, almost exactly what I had hoped would happen with the booklet. That's why it's so little; that's why it's so cheap. It doesn't take a ton of cash to put one in the hands of your neighbor, your small group, even your whole community, and see how they react to it. Even if you disagree with this and that in it, it's meant to generate conversations about who God is, what he expects of us, and what we expect of him. If you're interested in exploring a similar strategy to Joe's, let me know and we'll try to set something up.

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