“Christians don’t read!” That’s the response I got from a Christian bookshop owner I spoke to last week. I had been calling UK Christian bookshop owners asking if they would be willing to stock my debut book. Whilst many were interested in my book and agreed to stock a few copies, most said that they couldn’t sell books. “Books,” they said, “Were now difficult to sell.” Christians came into their stores to buy cards, mugs, keychains, wall hangings and every other thing but books. Even the bookshops willing to stock my book said they could only to take one or two copies because they were finding it difficult to sell the most well-known Christian authors.
Now, you might be reading this thinking “That’s because they are buying e-books; Christians are buying books on Amazon and Apple Books.” WRONG! I recently purchased software that basically tells me the number of books sold on Amazon per day by author, category, or book by region for Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk, so I can tell you that Christian books do not sell very well on Amazon either. Not only are they not buying books, but Christians aren’t even looking for books on faith or Christianity. Consider this, in the last 30 days ‘Harry Potter’ has been searched on Amazon.co.uk 4,554 times, whilst the words ‘Jesus’ and ‘faith’ have been searched fewer than 100 times each. (Slight caveat here – these are the Amazon UK figures and not Amazon.com. The story is a little different in the US.)
We live in a time with more Christian resources than ever before. Yet we are probably reading far less than those before us. This year has seen a huge increase in book sales across all platforms as people around the world have turned to books to escape the pandemic. However, it seems this has not translated to Christian literature in the UK. Most of the time we reflect on the talents of the parables in terms of our own personal gifts. But what if we were to view it in a different light and consider that our lack of reading equates to wasting the gifts, wisdom, and knowledge which God has placed in people through books for us to tap into.
Matthew 24: 26-30 - “But the master replied, ‘You wicked and lazy servant! If you knew I harvested crops I didn’t plant and gathered crops I didn’t cultivate, why didn’t you deposit my money in the bank? At least I could have gotten some interest on it.’ “Then he ordered, ‘Take the money from this servant, and give it to the one with the ten bags of silver. To those who use well what they are given, even more will be given, and they will have an abundance. But from those who do nothing, even what little they have will be taken away. Now throw this useless servant into outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ (NLT)
Recently, I have been reflecting on the sort of questions Christ will ask me on the final day of judgement. I believe I am assured salvation because of my faith and the grace in Jesus Christ so I am not concerned about whether I will make it to heaven or not. But one of my concerns has been the questions I will get about the vast number of books on my shelves or the books, podcasts, sermons I know to be good but have not read or listened to. I am not even thinking as far as have I used them. I am thinking about hearing questions like – “This book sat in your room, but you never read it?” “You never even picked it up.” “You heard about this podcast or sermon and something stirred in your spirit, but you did nothing about it.” To be clear this is not legalistic, I am not bound by this thought, it’s more of a reflection on wastage and the resources available to me.
You see the thing with the resources around us that we aren’t tapping into, is we could perhaps be missing out on our calling simply because we haven’t read a book. Books carry wisdom which when mixed with the Holy Spirit can literally change the direction of a person’s life. I don’t need to stand before Christ and hear that if you had read this book your life would have taken a totally different trajectory. Paul told Timothy to bring the parchments and the books with him, suggesting Paul knew the importance of books.
2 Timothy 4:13 - When you come, be sure to bring the coat I left with Carpus at Troas. Also bring my books, and especially my papers. (NLT)
It is through a book, the Bible, that you and I have been saved and have new lives in Christ. Perhaps if the average Christian turned to books instead of social media, we would see a more powerful Church?
One of the things that strikes me whenever I read about or speak to a successful person is more often than not they are a reader and can point to an author or book that has dramatically changed they life or perspective. Great people usually learn from other great people. Perhaps modern Christians aren’t reading as much about their faith because we are all being ‘led by Spirit’ and feel we don’t need to read what other people have said or are saying about God. But I am reminded of this Charles Spurgeon quote -
"you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound the Scripture without the assistance from the works of divine and learned men who have labored before you in the field of exposition . . . . It seems odd that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others." - Charles Spurgeon
Maybe I am overthinking it and we aren’t reading because we are lazy? Whatever the reason, I have decided to aggressively read as much as I can while I can. As the UK enters a second lockdown period, why not choose a book rather than Netflix or Instagram? If you aren’t experiencing a lockdown, maybe try replacing your mobile phone with a book on your bedside table? (This one trick has increased my reading a lot over the last few weeks.)
Anyway, signing off now, if anyone is interested, I am thinking about starting a book club to buck the non-reading trend. Let me know on my Facebook page if you would like to sign up.
In the meantime,