To say I was surprised when I opened the email is something of an understatement.
The message was from a pastor, a well-known pastor of a very large church in the upper South. Somehow, he had gotten a copy of my novel Dancing Priest and read it. And then ordered quite a few copies for his church staff. And then he sent in a second order, for quite a few more copies, for his elder board.
Authors like to hear about orders of their books for multiple copies. Take my word for it.
He was writing to ask me to draft a guest post for his blog. Specifically, he wanted me to write about lifestyle evangelism as described in Dancing Priest. “Your book contains the best description and example of lifestyle evangelism that I’ve ever come across,” he wrote.
My book? My novel? Dancing Priest?
I was so taken aback that I almost forgot to be excited about all the copies being ordered. I had to think for a moment. What was he talking about?
I started looking through the book, and then reread it a second time (I’d be interested to know if other authors have had this experience – being driven back to read their own books because they’re surprised by what readers have found).
I began to find examples of what the pastor was talking about. How Michael Kent treats the cycling competitor who treats him so shabbily. How Michael is not ashamed of hosting a prayer group at the Olympics. How Michael’s faith is translated into his actions. How Michael responds to the half-brother who had treated him horribly years before.
And then there was the rather obvious example of Sarah Hughes. It’s one whole section of the book. Sarah is not a believing Christian. That is one layer of the conflict in her relationship with Michael, because he’s not only a believing Christian but preparing to enter the Anglican priesthood and planning to enter the mission field. They break apart, because his faith and her lack of it is too great an obstacle.
Sarah will come to faith, but it will be by a very different route than what was Michael’s experience. In fact, this was the specific section the pastor had in mind when he wrote to me (I finally asked). And Sarah’s story of finding faith in the book is modeled very closely on my own experience. It’s the one part of the book that I can say was drawn largely from real life.
But it wasn’t deliberately written that way. I wasn’t trying to explain lifestyle evangelism. I don’t think I was even conscious of what that part of the story was based on until after I went looking for what the pastor was talking about.
As gratifying as it was, the pastor’s letter wasn’t the most surprising thing I learned from readers. That story is next.
Next: Required Reading