I’m copying and pasting in a chart from another blogger. See the original chart and post here. (He uses humor or sarcasm to make some points.)
I shared this elsewhere and it created some discussion and controversy. I don’t think the reality is quite this bad, as it is the bestseller list for LifeWay, which is an American Christian “book” store chain. (Book in quotes b/c they sell a lot of other Christian “stuff” too.) I rarely go in a Christian “book” store in the USA as it is rather disturbing to see all the marketing and junk sold. I think if there was an overall bestseller list for ALL Christian books sold at ALL places it would be somewhat better. But there is no doubt the American church is rather anemic in its reading habits, and a great deal of what Christians read is superficial.
The problem is not reading lighter or superficial books. The problem, as I see it, is that this is ALL some Christians ever read. They are only reading to be entertained, and rarely (if ever) read to learn, grow, and challenge themselves. Reading to stretch yourself does not mean you have to read high level, academic theology books. There are plenty of books that have more depth and substance that are written for the everyday Christian lay person.
And to be quite frank, if Christians are only reading light and superficial books, it makes me wonder about their Bible reading habits and comprehension. Let’s face it, the Bible can be a challenge to read – ancient customs, poetry, detailed and long prophecies, etc.
Does anyone have ideas for encouraging Christians to expand their reading habits without causing offense? Something that has happened to me several times in the past is when I try to encourage people to go deeper, they perceive it as…my expecting them to read academic books or “ya know not everyone is like you and wants everything to be like a seminary class.”
The funny thing is that I actually don’t read that many academic books! You may not be aware that most Christian book publishers have an academic branch – a line of books they publish that are only academic. For example there is both IVP books, and IVP academic. While I do read some books published by the academic arm of publishers, I’d estimate it is only 20% of my reading. And even the academic books I read are entry level, or easier academic books. While I do have a seminary degree, it is only a master of arts and the truly academic fare was not part of the curriculum. Most of the books I read are simply ones of more depth and substance written for the interested and motivated lay person and published by the regular (non-academic) publishing arm. When I look at some truly academic Christian books, blogs or sites – I feel real dumb.
I do not expect everyone to share my passion for learning, nor do I expect others to primarily read the same types of books I do. My concern is that too many people are rarely or never reading anything more challenging.
Some people get real sensitive about critique of Heaven is for Real. I think some people are missing the point. It is a nice story. If it encourages people that is fine. The concern, as already emphasized, is that this level of book is all some Christians ever read. We need more than this level of book in order to grow spiritually. Randy Alcorn shares some balanced thoughts/concerns about it in the below article.
“I do believe that something is seriously wrong if people take more time to contemplate and discuss Colton Burpo’s account than they do studying what the Bible actually says about Heaven. The back cover of the book says “Heaven Is for Real will forever change the way you think of eternity.” I would say, “Seek to let the Bible change the way you think of eternity.” Read more: http://www.epm.org/blog/2014/Apr/18/heaven-real-movie…
On that matter, I have a friend who is a former Christian, who goes back and forth between calling herself atheist or agnostic. One reason, among many, she rejected faith was how shallow or non-thinking so many Christians were that she came in contact with. For example, defending their beliefs with the story of a 4 yr old rather than more concrete or biblical reasons.
Yes, my friends, shallow thinking and reading can hurt our Gospel witness.
We can’t all be high level academics. No one has to read heavy stuff all the time. Yet we should, at least to some extent, be stretching ourselves in what we read and think about as believers. Thanks for listening.