By the Book: Empowering Christians to live the abundant life Print
Written by Ken Walker   
Tuesday, 28 May 2013 05:50 PM America/New_York

Biggest book category may be ‘crowded’ but does much more than take up shelf space

One of the Christian publishing’s most wide-ranging and prolific categories, Christian Living is taking on a grittier edge, symbolized by select New Hope Publishers’ titles tied to a new anti-pornography campaign.

With the campaign launched last month by the Southern Baptist Convention, the “Join One Million Men in the War Against Pornography” series features a booklet, Bible study, DVD and softcover book, Our Hardcover Battle Plan for Wives (June). All are based on material by Jay Dennis, pastor of First Baptist Church at the Mall in Lakeland, Fla.

B&HBooks-MelissaRAW AND REAL

Dennis is in good company exploring difficult topics such as suicide, emotional abuse and maintaining boldness in the face of evil. 

“I do see a trend in the market for authors to be transparent about their lives and having faith in a secular world,” said Dawn Woods, publisher of Christian Living and gift books for B&H Publishing Group.

Among B&H’s new titles is Melissa (June), former SBC President Frank Page’s account of his daughter’s 2009 death at her own hand. And in October, B&H releases Set Free by Stephen Owens, who dealt with decades of unforgiveness after his mother hired a hit man to bludgeon his father to death.

“This story is raw and real,” Woods said of Owens’ account. 

People are looking “to be inspired,” she added, “and the best way to do that is through life experiences.”

Larry Carpenter—president and CEO of Christian Book Services, parent of Carpenter’s Son Publishing—said Christian authors “are starting to go into areas that were previously ‘taboo.’ These include divorce, spousal abuse and others.”

In September, Carpenter’s Son releases A Journal Through Emotional Abuse by Caroline Abbott, a book the CEO says a mainstream Christian publisher wouldn’t have touched a decade ago. Already out is Paula Freeman’s A Place I Didn’t Belong (May), which looks at the sometimes-devastating experiences of adoptive parenting.


One of the most frank new recent titles is Sex and Money (Crossway, April), counselor Paul David Tripp’s exploration of pleasures that have the power to captivate people and drive them to despair. Along similar lines, youth speaker Tindell Baldwin takes a revealing look at some of her past mistakes with sex and drinking in Popular (Tyndale House Publishers, July).

Another topic some would like to avoid is facing opposition in ministry. A number of new and forthcoming books tackle that reality, including The Devil Has No Mother (Worthy Publishing, July 16), evangelist Nicky Cruz’s look at Satan’s attempts to gain power in entire communities. 

The courage to face opposition includes tackling tough urban ministry, addressed in two books from Wesleyan Publishing House—Loving the Broken by Andy Cannon (August) and Dangerous Presence by Jason Butler (October).

Crossway Senior Editor Dave Dewitt also sees trends toward social justice—and how that fits with evangelism and discipleship as well as sanctification.

“We contributed to (the latter) with the release of The Hole in Our Holiness,” DeWitt said of Kevin DeYoung’s fall 2012 treatise on holiness and legalism.

DeYoung has a new book coming out in late September, also from Crossway, that likely will find a quick audience. Crazy Busy: A Mercifully Short Book About a Really Big Problem, arguing that a life of constant chaos is far from what God intends. DeYoung aims to help readers figure out a way forward with a mature and well-reasoned balance between doing nothing and doing everything.

Spiritual transformation is the focus of Minding the Heart by Robert Saucy (Kregel Publications, June). The author sees a vital relationship with God as the key to lasting life change. 

Zondervan-WoundedByGodsPeopleAnother key to life change is learning to move beyond wounds inflicted by other Christians, which teacher Anne Graham Lotz discusses in Wounded by God’s People (Zondervan, Sept. 3). 


No matter the emphasis, Christian Living titles must address daily challenges, said Tom Cox, managing editor at Whitaker House.

“Books like Shirley Mitchell’s Fabulous After 50 and Sensational After 60 [both July] must have what we call ‘benefits’ for the reader,” Cox said. “They must offer something that will directly improve his or her life in the here and now.”

That is the goal of several current or forthcoming titles, including veteran counselor Norman Wright’s latest work, Grieving the Loss of a Loved One (Regal, June). In The Roots and Fruits of Fasting (Whitaker House, July), ministry leader Mary Swope explores her thesis of eating less as a way of giving more to gospel projects.

Although few think of age differences as a spiritual subject, generational expert Hadyn Shaw reviews the historical significance of four generations working together in Sticking Points (Tyndale, August). The author hopes to help people resolve differences that come about due to age so they don’t cause division in families, churches or workplaces.

ThomasNelson-YoullGetThroughThisIn September, best-selling author Max Lucado discusses overcoming life-changing setbacks in You’ll Get Through This (Thomas Nelson), a title that has wide appeal in a down economy though it relates to all of life’s trials.

The seeming surplus of material in the category leads some to say it is “too crowded.” Kregel Publisher Dennis Hillman acknowledges while there may be duplication, Christian Living should be addressing the “issues, struggles and challenges” that people face. 

“Real life is tough many times, even for Christians,” he said. “Solid, insightful, well-written books help people get through the rough patches.”


Hillman thinks retailers should keep up with current events as a way of knowing what resources it would be best to feature in their stores.

“What is happening in the local community and in the national media?” he asked. “What books do you have in stock that could help believers with those issues? Is there a spot up front that can be used to rotate stock, based on new developments?”

Whitaker’s Cox sees this desire for integrated faith influencing believers at work, play and home. He said retailers are on the “front lines” of engaging with customers to determine felt needs.

“By marketing books toward the real needs of the buyer—and not just promoting a best-seller or the fact that the author has a huge church—they might lead customers in directions they never would have gone on their own,” Cox said.

Kevin Scott, acquisitions editor for Wesleyan Publishing House, thinks customers have an overriding priority—the book’s takeaway value.

“Each book makes a promise: ‘If you buy me, I will do this for you,’ ” Scott said. “The challenge for the retailer is to know what promise the book makes and to whom it makes the promise.”