Many of you get a book catalog in the mail now and then from Christianbook.com, 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 Max 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.
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 lot 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.