It was a little over two years ago when I picked up the phone and hoped that he would answer. This was one of the crazy leaps of faith that every publisher takes when they have a hunch. I had read a blog post by Jon Nielson and was deeply impacted by the content. Surely he must already be a published author if his work was being posted on the Gospel Coalition website. Even more likely, he would probably not be available to take my call. As the phone rang a few times, my heart began to sink…and then he answered.
After a few moments of introduction, we got into the heart of the matter. I asked if he had been contacted about doing a book on the subject of his blog post and if he had a book deal already in the works. To my great surprise and joy, he did not. Now to the really hard question – was he willing to write an entire book on a concept that had started as a blog post. It didn’t take long for Jon to agree that the subject of his blog was really important and that he could actually do what I was asking.
So what was this blog post about and why would a publisher consider doing a book about it. Well the blog post touched on a subject that is becoming more and more resonant with parents all across the country. It is no longer a secret that millennials are leaving the church in droves when they hit the all-important age of 18. Many of these kids have grown up in the church, attended youth group, Sunday school and Bible Camp. Most of them made genuine professions of faith. And then for many different reasons, as soon as they hit that magic age they stop going to church and become part of the “none” generation – those that claim to have no particular religious affiliation. The title of Jon’s post was “Why Youth Stay in Church When They Grow Up”. It had created a lot of buzz in the blogosphere and was being read several years after it was first posted in 2011.
Jon’s new book, Faith that Lasts, goes on sale this Tuesday and deals with this subject head on. His subtitle, “Raising Kids that Don’t Leave the Church” is the heart of his content. Instead of wringing his hands like many of the pundits and prognosticators, he approaches the topic in a really counter-intuitive way. So many other authors and commentators have focused on why kids are leaving the church and what can be done to fix this problem. Jon takes a totally different tact and looks at kids that chose to stay in the church as they became adults and asks why. This is not a how to book or some kind of recipe for parenting success, instead it is a book filled with hope that God is still sovereign and parents do make a difference in the choices their kids make.
I am so glad that I had the courage to pick up the phone and call Jon. Over the last couple of years, he has moved from doing pastoral ministry at the College Church in Wheaton, Illinois to a campus ministry fellowship at Princeton University. Every day he gets to interact with kids that are interested in pursuing and deepening their faith in Jesus Christ even as they deal with all the normal doubts that every college student faces. As this book is birthed I am looking forward to hearing from parents who had been despairing in the face of what seem like insurmountable obstacles in our culture. How do you raise kids that will follow Jesus on their own? Some of those answers can be found in this really important new book that we get the privilege of bringing into the world on Tuesday.