What our bestsellers say about our discipleship

What our bestsellers say about our discipleship

Seriously folks, we’ve got to do better than this.

By now, you’ve almost certainly seen the list of the top 25 bestselling Christian titles of 2014. But, of course, there’s one slight problem… Virtually none of these titles are identifiably Christian.

This should greatly concern us, and I truly do mean greatly.

On this list, we have:

  • Multiple editions of a devotional book wherein the highly mystically-influenced author writes as Jesus in the first-person, listening to what he says and writing it down for the rest of us to read. Its sequel is on the list, too;
  • Two editions of a book that flat-out contradicts the Bible’s description of heaven (and whether or not we are to even speak of such things);
  • Two books on personal finance;
  • One book endorsing borderline pagan forms of prayer;
  • Four books from a reality-TV famous family;
  • Two books by prosperity preachers, and therefore not Christians at all;
  • One end-times obsessed bit of crazy, with two more prophecy-focused titles alongside it;
  • Two self-help books and a diet book;
  • One memoir-ish book by a man compelled by love to do unpredictable things;
  • One book on women’s issues; and
  • One book on the importance of being a church member.

So, by my count, at best we’ve got two Christian bestsellers that are actually Christian. A few are written by Christians and published by Christian publishers, but offer little to nothing of substance in terms of interaction with Scripture, and little to no gospel. And then there’s the bigger problem: the ones that should raise major red flags for any editorial team looking at the material biblically.

Now I get that publishing is a business, and editorial teams have to look at what will realistically sell in the market. But my concerns are two-fold:

1. That publishers that should know better than to produce silly nonsense, do anyway. Again, I get that publishers have to make money in order to keep the lights on. I also get that not every publisher will (or should) publish books that only a particular segment of Christians would agree with. But to publish material that, in some cases, flatly contradicts Scripture (and in some cases, stand behind those books even in the face of overwhelming criticism), defies reason. Seriously guys, can we do better here?

2. That we, the consumers, actually buy this garbage. The only reason publishers bring books like this to the market is because we—the consumers—shell out cash to buy this crap. When we look at a list like this, we are right to be concerned, but our criticisms should not primarily be levelled at publishers: we need to look at ourselves.

What is it about these books that appeals to us? How have we let ourselves go so far astray from the true and sure word of God that books by guys who want you to accumulate stuff in this life sell hundreds of thousands of copies? When books that purport to speak for Jesus read more frequently than the book through which we come to know him at all?

In the end, our bestsellers say more about the state of our discipleship than anything else. We read junk because we don’t see how much better God is. We read fluff because it’s easier than being challenged to conform to the image of Christ. We read nonsense because we don’t really believe that what God has for us is better than the temporary pleasures of this life.

And it’s got to stop. We can do better than this. We must do better than this.

Posted by Aaron Armstrong

Aaron is the author of several books including the Big Truths Bible Storybook, Epic Devotions, Awaiting a Savior: The Gospel, the New Creation, and the End of Poverty, and Contend: Defending the Faith in a Fallen World. His next book, published by Lexham Press, will release in Spring 2023.

Reader interactions

6 Replies to “What our bestsellers say about our discipleship”

  1. Thanks for clarifying Aaron. I live in China so that may the reason for getting flagged. I enjoy your blog and appreciate your saying something about the flood of non-biblical books being marketed. There is a growing uneasiness among many Christians about what the publishers/distributors are promoting. Yours is another voice raising a flag of warning.

  2. Sadly we have made God about us instead of us bout Him. Jesus becomes our cosmic fix it man. I have sensed a growing undercurrent that once again puts in a place to fully live our life for Jesus. – Praying it continues

  3. Diane M. Selle Pedrosa January 28, 2015 at 9:30 am

    I am seeing it too….It’s junk food for the mind. Too much of that and the desire for nourishing, life-promoting literature becomes unpalatable.

  4. Did you delete my comment? Really.

    1. Nope, didn’t delete your comments. Disqus (commenting system) flagged them for spam for some reason.

  5. Follow the money my friend…just follow the money. “Christian” publishing is, by and large, driven by what sells and turns a profit. Is there any doubt?!? Hmmm…no! The money changers in the temple were simply providing a service as well for profit, and probably had all kinds of feel good rationalizations about it. Regardless, Jesus was not pleased with that approach. In many ways this is no different. Using so-called Christian/Bible sounding material (heretical) that supposedly “helps” people, so that the publishers can turn a profit. Misrepresenting God and His Word to make money. Yikes!! There is no fear of God in their hearts…just dollar signs. Think Judas. Your blog post has some good points. However, people’s jobs, fairly big houses and pretty nice cars are supported by “silly nonsense” (you are so nice but we all really know it is heretical teaching) that is being churned out. People can rationalize all they want but they are facilitating false teaching. In Timothy, I think, it says that a time will coming when people chase after fables and teaching that tickles their ears. Well I think that time has come with greater intensity than ever before and, the ironic thing is, “Christian” publishing is promoting it. Really sad. Really ironic. Did I mention that profit is what is driving the decisions no matter how much everyone tries to avoid talking about the elephant in the room. So again I say, follow the money and it provides the obvious answer to the puzzlement you seem to express. The answer is repentance and some kind of biblical accountability for the publishers. I wouldn’t hold my breath if I were you. The consumer market drives the decisions and the market/mob wants their ears tickled and, boy, do they love fables.

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