Some time back I had a conversation with a pastor I knew about the possibility of him writing a book. He fired back “Aren’t there enough Christian books out there already?” After bemoaning the glut of contemporary publications some more he concluded with “Why can?t people just read the classics?”
He posed an interesting pair of questions: Why do we need more books and Aren’t the ones we have now enough?
Let me pose a question of my own: why don’t people ask the same thing of novels? When a new critically acclaimed novel hits the shelves people flock to purchase it and nobody but nobody grumps about it. “Why do we need another thriller that is sure to entertain me for several hours?” Sure, there are plenty of people who promote and defend classic literature, but even the majority of them don’t dislike that more novels are published every month. Why do novels get a pass that non-fiction books don’t?
Because they’re interesting and they connect with readers. People can’t get enough stories, but information and instructions get old quickly.
And that’s really the issue with Christian books: not enough of them are actually interesting. Are there enough Christian books? Yes, if you mean books that write promises God won’t keep. Yes, if you mean books that ride trends instead of meeting needs. Yes, if you mean books that drive in the same wheel ruts as so many before instead of treading new ground. Yes, if you mean formulaic, redundant, platform-driven, artless compilations of blog posts or sermons. Indeed, there are too many of these kinds of books.
Some subjects are well-covered, maybe too well. We might not need any more books on marriage or money (or any number of other topics) right now, but each generation and era of the church has its own voices. The contributions of the previous generations pave the way, shape the thoughts, and inform the present. But their books aren’t much read, just as ours won’t be in thirty years. Books have a short shelf life. Truth doesn’t. So other generations will present that truth in their way and their books. God will raise up writers to engage the issues of their day which might or might not be the issues of ours. And so the publication of Christian books will continue.
So, are there enough Christian books out there? Yes – of the boring, repetitive, prescriptive variety. Yes – of the all flash, no substance type. Yes – of the boring type. But that’s always the case. And there will never be enough timely, well-crafted, thoughtful books addressing under-met needs. Such books are consumed like novels because they connect with the reader the way a story does. In fact they feel like part of the reader’s story, the solution to a crisis. They are the books that matter most right now and might, just maybe, become the classics my pastor friend thinks everyone should read.