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Influence versus Size

July 19, 2005

According to the Denver Post newspaper, the fastest growing genre in book publishing (apart from Harry Potter, I assume) is the Christian market. Far and away, this niche market is growing to become larger than most other niche reading groups. The Post theorizes it is coinciding with the growth in the Evangelical Church.

I find that curious, since according to statistics kept by Evangelicals themselves, the Evangelical Church is not really growing! That’s correct. According to the statistics that are kept by these denominations, there is less than a 20% growth in evangelical churches since 1990. That comes out to less than 2% a year. That is less than the birth rate experienced in most of those churches.

Here is my theory: Evangelicals are becoming more militant, more willing to share their ideas with the rest of the country. In addition, there are more large evangelical churches, who carry with them more clout in terms of getting books and articles published. Look at the Post article where it lists the five best-selling Christian books. Three of the books are written by Mega-church pastors ( in fact, two of the three largest churches in the country). I think that these three books themselves account for most of the growth.

I am not sure this is a good thing. I have read all five of the books on that list, and apart from Wallis’ book, I would never read the other four again. They are pap, strictly lowest common denominator feel-good-about-yourself books that should have gone out of vogue in the late 40s. Most of them are copying Napoleon Hill to a new generation, so I’m not sure what the hubbub is all about.

I suspect that my crusade against the Christian Booksellers of America will continue until we see genuinely good books written by Christians, not just bestselling Christian books.

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2 comments

  1. Here, here!

    I can’t seem to pull up the DP article (their site times out), but I can only imagine the sucre that fills the list.

    The same holds true for music, IMO. I remember growing up quite “churched” in the mid to late 80s and listening to CCM to almost the exclusion of any other type of music. What a bunch of tripe. With the (low) talent of many of the artists, they’d never make it in the “real” music biz.

    In “Searching for God Knows What,” Donald Miller relays his experience in two music stores: one secular, one Christian. In the secular store, they found an album of an “ugly artist’s” music with no problem. In the Christian store? Fuhgeddaboutit – it was the land of pretty people.

    That story pretty much sums up my thought on much of Christian publishing…it’s all style, little substance.


  2. I can’t say I enjoy Christian novels very much. Their approach seems to take the form of thinly veiled mid-twentieth century escapist paranoia and applying it to a weakly held together plot. I have liked the novels of Stephen Lawhead though, because he does his research well and doesn’t throw modernistic philosophy and psychology into medieval plots. I read the Denver Post article and I agree with Allison…long on style and not much substance.



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