I'm amazed at the amount of Christians who don't read Christian fiction. I worked in a Christian bookstore for five years. I saw how many people went to the fiction section, tracked sales for inventory. Obviously enough people buy it for there to be a market, but there are more people who don't read it, than do.
I've gone to church with people who spoke with a derisive sound in their voice when mentioning the Christian novel. I'm not sure how prevalent that attitude is, but there are probably several people with that attitude. And yes, there are Christian novels that are light and fluff...... and that is OK. We don't have to sit around and read John Wesley, John Calvin, and other writers of the past 24/7.
I love Christian fiction. Really love it. I read secular fiction so rarely, you could almost say I never read it. I don't like the language that is in most of them for one thing. Another reason, is I miss the Christian element. In Christian fiction, there is always hope, and God is presented as the ultimate source of help and hope, even if it isn't majorly stated. I miss that when I read a secular book.
I guess that is why some things bother me that are becoming too common. One is an attitude I've noticed from a lot of people who leave book reviews/comments: That a book is too preachy, or they were glad it wasn't. Uh, it is Christian fiction... if you don't want a Christian message, go read a secular book. The other: the too common practice of inserting curse words, vulgarity, and/or inappropriate content. Last year, a Christian author did a blog post cheering on another Christian author for daring to push the envelope on some language she used in her book. I thought it was sad. How much cursing can be in a Christian book before it isn't Christian? To me, the answer is easy: don't put any in. People say it isn't realistic..... if you want realistic, the Christian way isn't for you. If you want realistic, you'd better ignore Jesus and what He did.
For those who scoff at the idea of Christian fiction being worth reading, you must not know your Bible very well. It is full of stories. Jesus Himself told a lot of stories. Ever hear of a parable? I hate to break it to you, but some of them were fiction, from what I understand. He used them to make a point. There is power in a story.
As I said, there are a lot of books on the Christian market that are fluff and light, but there are many that are not. I am 100% convinced that God can use Christian fiction just as much as non-fiction books, or even a sermon in church.
Karen Kingsbury has written a lot of great books. On her website there were comments from people. One couple's marriage was saved by reading one of her books. A teenage boy commented and said one of her books convinced him to get help for his addiction to pornography. There were many more. Her books deal with marriages on the rocks, grief at the loss of loved ones, an HIV+ diagnosis, depression, and the list goes on.
Like suspense? Check out Kathy Herman. The issues of faith, infidelity of a spouse, father issues, and more have been dealt with in her books.
Ronie Kendig writes military/suspense novels that have a strong Christian message. In one I read most recently, it talked about God having our back, and still having faith in God even when every door seems to slam shut in your face.
Kim and Kayla Woodhouse, mother and daughter, has written a couple of great suspense novels together, and most recently I was moved and convicted by a short novel I read by Kim that compared giving up on God and blaming Him, to letting go of a rope while mountain climbing and blaming the rope.... was a great sermonette in a Christian novel.
Like nursing stories? Check out Candace Calvert, who writes a great romance story centered around hospitals, nurses, and doctors, all with a great Christian message. Want some suspense with that? Check out Richard Mabry, who writes similar, only with a strong suspense element.
Enjoy books with a supernatural element? Check out Mike Dellosso. They are suspenseful, and always have a great message.
Adam Blumer only has two books out so far, but they are great suspense, and his books are great examples of what Christian fiction should be. He isn't afraid to put a Christian message in his books, and is determined to.
Jim Rubart is a hard author to describe, but his books are excellent and go beyond great Christian fiction. His first book, Rooms, was a story about a young man inheriting a large house, and it turned out to be his heart. Awesome story, very moving.
Want to read a good legal thriller? Read Randy Singer's books. He is better than John Grisham, in my opinion, and his books always have a great Christian message.
There is so much variety on the Christian fiction market, anyone could find something they would enjoy: Romance, suspense, historical, fantasy, and the list goes on.
I have read three different novels recently that had a major focus on having faith in God, even when, and especially when things are falling apart. When it seems He is absent and doesn't care. And man, is that a message I need. Along with the message that God always has my back, and to never let go of the rope, no matter how tough things get.
I have also read a few books lately that dealt with forgiving people when they do really bad things. Another message I needed. I have a hard time forgiving people, and mostly forgiving myself. I have had people do bad things to me, say bad things to me, about me, but there has been worse things that people forgave people for, than what I have had done.... and although these books had fictional characters, it was still a sobering reminder that I needed.
Over the years, I have been moved, inspired, encouraged, and convicted by things I read in a "novel". There have been times I had given up, and was encouraged to try again by something I read in a "novel."
And by my promoting reading Christian fiction, I am in no way saying it should be a substitute for reading your Bible, other helpful books, and for going to church.
In closing, here is a true story that happened around 13 or more years ago. A young girl had a little baby, not sure of the age, but it seems the boy was under a year old. I think the little guy was fussing, and the mother's boyfriend put him the clothes dryer and turned it on. I don't how long, but long enough to hurt the baby and damage some of his motor skills. The young man was arrested, as was the mother, since she watched and allowed it to happen. The grandmother was given custody of this little boy, and was telling a lady she worked with, Huldah, who attends my church. She told Huldah she knew she needed to forgive her daughter and the boyfriend, but just couldn't, she was so angry. Huldah was telling our pastor's wife about it, and my pastor's wife suggested a book for the lady to read. The book was a Christian fiction book I had lent to my pastor's wife, Waiting for the Morning by Karen Kingsbury. It is about woman whose husband and oldest daughter are killed in a car accident when struck by a drunk driver. Although fictional, the story is an awesome story of loss, grief, bitterness, and forgiveness. Huldah bought the book and gave it to her co-worker, and the woman read it and said it helped her a lot. And it was a "novel."
It doesn't have to be a sermon or even a passage of Scripture. God can use, and does use, fiction to speak to people, to encourage, inspire, heal, and even convict. And even if the book doesn't do all of that, you will still have read a great story.