The Spectrum of Readers for a Christian Novelist
Before his ascension, Jesus Christ told his disciples: “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15) and “Go and make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). To any serious follower of Christ, these are clear calls to tell the world about Jesus and the good news of salvation through his sacrifice for our sins.
Since the point of this blog is not to get into a long treatise on the various ways a person can share the gospel, I’ll just say I agree that many methods exist for preaching the good news to the world. Instead I want to broach the idea of every human heart being like a door—and then eventually get to how a novel written by a Christ follower might be an avenue that God can use to knock on that door or perhaps give it a final nudge to open it all the way so the light of Christ can burst in.
Beyond that, then, is a discussion about whether or not Christian novelists can go too far with their content in trying to reach the world with life-changing stories that can touch hearts and point readers toward God. Given that all of this is a fairly deep exploration of caverns that I’m still spelunking myself, I’m guessing this may take a few posts to get through everything.
First off, though, is the idea of a human heart being like a door—an access point through which we either allow or deny entry of what we encounter in everyday life. In past discussions with others about this topic, I’ve said that it might be good for Christian novelists to look at the world’s fiction readers as being part of a broad spectrum.
On one end, you have readers who are heavy-duty followers of Christ that have been faithful men and women of God for a long time. They strive to seek God first with all their hearts and do their best to rely on him to live godly lives of love in service to others—and they love a good novel to boot, of course.
A little down the line from these folks are those Christians who may be young in terms of faith—and who also love to read fiction. They’re still learning the ropes of what it means to die to self and live for Christ—still coming to grips with the depths of a grace that can save a person from every sin they’ve ever committed.
And moving toward the middle of the spectrum, we find those fiction readers who have heard about the good news of Jesus and maybe even found it somewhat interesting. Perhaps they’ve even been to church and have read the Bible at some point. But they really haven’t felt the need to put their faith in Christ and live for him. And so, if pressed, they might say they really wouldn’t want to be called a Christ follower.
Past the middlin’ point, we find those novel readers who, yeah, have heard about Jesus and God and David and Goliath and the devil and hell and blah, blah, blah—“Great if that’s what works for you, hon.” But it’s just not for them, thanks—“Hey, just pass the sugar and hit the road so I can drink my coffee in peace while finishing this novel.”
And finally, way down yonder at the other end of the spectrum, we find those readers of fiction who might honestly have never heard of the Bible, let alone Jesus dying on the cross or some guy named Jonah being swallowed by a great fish. For whatever reason, they’ve lived fairly insulated lives and they like to keep to themselves—even when they hit the library and load up on the latest novels from the bestsellers shelf.
A glance to the lower left of my computer screen lets me know that I need to wrap up—thanks to Microsoft Word showing the document word count on the status bar. But I think we’re at a good place for now, with a foundation that will serve as a good launching point for at least two more posts on this subject.
Until then, if you’re a follower of Christ who feels the call to write fiction, I urge you to think and pray about what kind of an audience God might be calling you to reach in regard to the spectrum of fiction readers I presented in this post. And remember: Everyone on that spectrum needs Jesus and the good news in some way, shape, or form.
But that’s for next time …
And if you’re in the Philadelphia region, please check out the Greater Philly Christian Writers Conference, taking place July 26-29. Hope to see you there!
Scriptures taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission of Zondervan. All rights reserved worldwide. www.zondervan.com The “NIV” and “New International Version” are trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office by Biblica, Inc.™