Who Reads Christian Fiction?
by Jennifer AlLee
There's an ongoing discussion amongst those who write Christian Fiction (that is, fiction written with a a Christian world view). Who exactly are we writing for? Who is our audience?
Some authors are firmly in the "I'm writing to spread the Gospel" camp. These books usually have a great deal of overtly Christian content, such as Bible passages, discussions about faith, and conversion scenes. These authors believe that their books need to speak to the lost. They want to spread the news of salvation through Jesus Christ with a hurting, broken world.
Other authors take a more subtle approach. They want their books to appeal to a wide audience. They aren't denying their faith, but they aren't waving it like a banner, either. These authors may also wish to push the envelope, showing the grittier side of life and dealing with hard subjects that make many Christians cringe. These authors want to touch people where they are, and generally believe that actions speak louder than words.
So which group of authors have it right? Both, I think. And neither.
Frankly, this is a tightrope we all walk. When it comes right down to it, most of the people who read Christian fiction are already Christian. If you shop at a brick and mortar bookstore, the Christian fiction resides in the religion section. The chances of a non-Christian stumbling across a Christian novel are slim. Of course, people lend books to their friends. And some people read Christian romances because they prefer a sweet romance rather than a steamy one. But in general, a Christian novel will end up in the hands of a Christian reader.
Ironically, the books with the least overt faith message are the ones that are most likely to get in the hands of non-Christians. It reminds me of the song They'll Know We Are Christians by Our Love. Sometimes, people learn more by the way they see us live our lives than when we tell them how they should be living theirs. The same goes for books... the admonishment to show, not tell.
Don't get me wrong. I think an author has to follow his or her gut. If the book needs a conversion scene, then, by golly, it should have one. The worst thing that could happen is that we end up preaching to the choir. And sometimes, the choir could stand to hear a little preaching.
What do you think? Where do you buy your books? What kind of approach do you prefer in a Christian novel?
JENNIFER ALLEE believes the most important thing a woman can do is find her identity in God – a theme that carries throughout her novels. A professional writer for over twenty years, she's done extensive freelance work for Concordia Publishing House, including skits, Bible activity pages, and over 100 contributions to their popular My Devotions series. Her first novel, The Love of His Brother, was released by Five Star Publishers in November 2007. Her latest novel, The Pastor’s Wife, was released by Abingdon Press in February 2010. Her next two novels are The Mother Road (April 2012) and A Wild Goose Chase Christmas (November 2012), both from Abingdon Press. She's a member of American Christian Fiction Writers, Romance Writers of America, Christian Authors Network, and the Christian Fiction Blog Alliance.