Last week I wrote about John MacArthur’s book “Slave”. I first caught wind of the book from a short infomercial of sorts where JMac (not sure which I enjoyed more, the great discussion in the comments or hearing this nickname!) claimed the book contained a truth that changes everything about what it means to be a Christian. JMac had found this one thing tranforms how we view following Jesus, and he just had to share it with the world. And though I tend to not pay much attention to the old-school radio preachers, I admit I was intrigued, so much so I still remember it.
Christian publishers have the same goal as secular ones – push books. Donald Miller often speaks on how our culture tries to sell dish soap as though it will change your life, which is of course ridiculous, but because Christian book sellers are dealing with spiritual matters they don’t have to do much stretching to lead customers to believe their product will change their life.
So they maket the book as though it contains something revolutionary. I bought a Brian McLaren book, The Secret Message of Jesus, long before I’d ever heard of him or the emerging church. I didn’t buy it for it’s progressiveness, but because I was fell for the marketing – that Brian had uncovered some truth that we’d all missed over years. Coming out around the same time was The Lost Message of Jesus by Steve Chalke. Both books cleverly suggest they’ve found something few else have, and after $15.95 we too will have it*.
Similarly Francis Chan, David Platt, Shane Claiborne have books that are billed as ones that will rattle your faith. I’ve pointed out before that the trend right now is to produce a sermon or a book that will slaughter the audience, figuratively speaking of course, and be the catalyst that finally provokes the church into action, waking her from a long, deep sleep.
Now I could write an easy post lamenting marketing spiritual thing. And gosh it would be so effortless, posts like that practically type themselves.
But I think beyond rethinking marketing, we need to remember what, or rather who, changes people. Because nothing takes Jesus’ place. We don’t change people, Jesus changes people. I think we actually believe these books and messages can save us.
Now I’m not knocking those books. They likely have some really profound things that people have missed. But more and more I’m finding you can’t replace a transformative encounter with Jesus. We merely try to push away barriers and we let Jesus do his thing. We need to stop selling Christian books as if they could change the world. Hyping them up as the next best thing leaves people with religious hangovers. And the only cure for a hangover is more of what gave it to you.
*I actually enjoyed both these books, but their marketing was cheap (I fell for it, may it be noted).