Many of you get a book catalog in the mail now and then from, or Christian Book Distributors. This company is now the largest discount distributor of Christian books and materials in the mail, or it seems to be to me. Such a catalog will sometimes give you a general feeling for what is hot among evangelicals. What are American evangelicals reading and thinking about, at least based upon what is featured in this catalog?

A quick glance through this one reveals that the "hot" items are 901935Max Lucado’s 3:16 project, which includes a book called 3:16, a study guide called 3:16—a DVD Study for Small Groups, a 3:16 NCV New Testament and The 3:16 Promise. Thomas Nelson, the oldest Bible publisher in America, is the firm behind all of this marketing push of 3:16.

Then there is a whole page of Max Lucado books that follows this opening salvo. Then comes Joyce Meyer and Beth Moore, two of the biggest sellers of all, especially to evangelical women. On page four you will find the popular Joel Osteen and his entire product line and then on page five Rick Warren and Saddleback Resources. On page six there is Andy Stanley and North Point Resources and then on page seven Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Resources.Top_ten

Now, it is relatively easy to take a cheap shot at all of this. It is even easier to hide secret author jealousies that cover my wish to have my name on the first pages and not near the back or somewhere on the close-out section of the Web site. And, it must be noted, there is a lot of great substance to be found in this same catalog too.

But the fact remains the same. Really valuable books and classical Christian materials are not bought by modern evangelicals. In fact, men do not buy books at all. About 75-80% of the market is women these days. And the truth is that Andy Stanley and Bill Hybels and Rick Warren are a Warrenlot better for readers than some of the other options. But I persist in hoping that I can influence some few to read the really good stuff from both the past and the present. My dream is big I know, and the prospects are slim, but I will press on. The Church desperately needs to read classical Christian thought and to engage the ancient and Reformation traditions, as well as the modern and emerging material that is impacting many younger believers. I am not alone in this concern but my ranks are slim compared to the things featured in the marketplace of our people.

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  1. Mark Traphagen January 18, 2008 at 10:01 pm

    There is hope, John! At Westminster Bookstore (, we are no CBD, but our customer base is growing rapidly. Some of our key publishers tell us we are the fastest growing internet retailer in our niche (conservative evangelical and Reformed readers). We don’t sell ANY of the books you mentioned, yet we have a great many male customers. There may yet be hope, thought it be among a relative minority. Still, “those who read will lead.”

  2. Lauren January 19, 2008 at 1:14 am

    There is indeed hope. I am a 23 year old surrounded by a community of young people who devour the best of the past and present. The men are some of the most dedicated I have seen. The Lord drew our attention to the past. We have been exceedingly blessed because of it. I can only pray that He will do the same elsewhere.

  3. John H. Armstrong January 19, 2008 at 9:34 am

    These two comments “made my day.” Thanks for this kind of input. You encouraged me and maybe many others who read your comments too. One can see a small cloud of blessing forming on the near horizon! This is why the next generation, whatever we call them, gives me real hope.

  4. Dave Dryer January 19, 2008 at 7:20 pm

    The role of the pastor in all of this can not be overemphasized. Unless the pastor tells his people which good books to read and where to get them, they will opt out for the local bookstore and/or CBD. (Not to say that you can’t get good books at CBD — they are there if you know what you are looking for). I’ve found it helpful to make available an anotated list if folks are interested. As Lauren commented, there are young people wanting to find good books. BUT, someone has to tell them about those books. And a good place to start is with their pastor.

  5. Jim H. January 19, 2008 at 7:57 pm

    Our large PCA church not only stocks, but promotes books by Lucado, Joyce Meyer and Beth Moore. Moore’s flyers are posted on the announcement boards and large groups organize at church to travel to her events.
    I recently brought this to the attention of one of our pastors, noting that some of their themes undermine what is being preached. He agreed, but said it would “take time” to change things.
    Unfortunately, it seems to me that this is the result of us trying to be an open church. They don’t want to offend non-Reformed, but it’s gotten to the point where it has become obvious that a majority of our growing congregation has no clue what Reformed means. I would guess that we have almost as many Charles Stanley books on our shelves as J.I. Packer or Paul David Tripp.
    And of course, John Eldredge is a big favorite as well.
    We’re all glad we’re not TR’s, but this is getting ridiculous!
    Thank you for posting this. I’m ready to SCREAM!

  6. Mark Traphagen January 20, 2008 at 7:08 am

    Pastor Dave’s comment is golden: O for more pastors who took seriously their responsibility to help educate their sheep with more than just flashes of eloquence on Sunday mornings! Another encouraging thing we see at our bookstore is an increasing number of our major customers are churches, large and small, who have begun programs where the pastor or elders regularly recommend good books and then the church’s book table or store or library stocks those books.
    We are also accumulating lists of most-recommended books from some of America’s most respected pastors and authors, which we will be featuring on our site as a resource later this year. John, you’d be welcome to contribute!

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