Question background: I have been reading guidelines to publishing Christian fiction.
Problem: I have discovered the rules and no-nos, which prohibit words such as blimey, breast, butt, crap, devil, for Heaven’s sake, for Pete’s sake, geez, gosh, golly, heck, pee, poop, priest, poop, passion, sex, shucks, undergarments, etc. In addition, you may not refer to divorce, drinking, dancing, smoking, bodily functions, Halloween, or Christians lying to each other (because, of course, we never lie to each other).
These are strict rules, not bent by any Christian publishers because the folks who buy these books will be offended, complain to the bookseller, the bookseller will return all unsold copies of books, and may refuse to stock subsequent books by author. Perhaps this is why Mardel carries an inordinate amount of books about widows and widowers on the plains of the old west because they can’t refer to divorce. The argument, according to one author, is that by avoiding honest depictions of sinful life, Christian novelists create synthetic, half-developed characters who don’t display the full range of humanity.
So here’s the point:
After investigating the audience for the thousands of Christian fictional books published, I have to admit, these are not my people. Instead of wanting to write for this audience, I now want to shake this audience! I don’t want to include violence and coarse language in my writing, but you can’t say golly? Darrell, if this is the audience for Christian fiction, then these are not people who would come to our church to hear about life’s realities, including tattoos, breast cancer, and masturbation. I know you’ve told us to guard ourselves against the junk that is on TV and film, and I agree we should keep our minds on what is noble and good, but I also don’t think it does any favor to Christians to read stories where a couple can’t dance at their own wedding. One of the blessings of having Shanklin preach is that he is messy life incarnate, that he shows you can get past what you were and become God’s best. If we simply deny the nitty-gritty exists, then how can we ever resolve it?
You are exactly right. That’s why I feel so strongly about reaching the un-churched or de-churched. I have no desire to pull people from other churches, advertise on “Christian radio,” etc. The churched, religious, etc. are close to the Pharisees of Jesus’ day. Jesus said, “I have come to seek and save those who are lost” Luke 19:10.
Some churched people can be judgmental, prideful and lose touch with reality. I would much rather our church be “real” (as Brian shows us so well) and offend the religious with our real struggles than “play act” like we have it all together, which is the biblical definition of a hypocrite.
What’s sad to me is when we reach someone who was far from God or de-churched, and they love our church at first because it accepted them and welcomed them. Then, somehow, they forget what that was like. They begin watching Christian TV or hanging around holy rollers and try to get our church to be something it was never designed to be. They say things like “I’m not being fed” or “I want to go deeper” or any other excuse to not serve someone or reach out to people like they used to be.
We have had several leave our church in the past because they were changed by this ridiculous mindset that “church is more about them than those not there yet.” I say to them, “We reached you and now you don’t care about reaching others?” They act as if they have “outgrown” our church and now must leave to grow deeper. It’s like they desire programs to fit their consumer mindset, and are basically telling the community, “You can go to hell!” “I want to sing ‘kumbaya’ and have fellowship and Bible study.” They think discipleship is all about study and having people to hang out with, and then closing yourself off from people not like you.
As I understand the Bible, true discipleship is dying to self, reaching others, serving others, and giving generously–all while loving God and your lost neighbor. They just don’t get it! So to answer your question, is our church for a “Christian audience?” No. I want to shake them, too! Nope, not my people, either.
For more about the series, “Things that Make You Go Hmm” check out www.Ridgefellowship.com