Why Do Christian Bookshops Not Sell The Books I Want To Read?

The Faith Mission Bookshop in Belfast city centre is huge. It stocks thousands upon thousands of Bibles, books, journals, DVD’s, CD’s and so on. The list is endless. You think you are at the back of the store but then see that it opens up into another massive section at the rear. You could spend days in there. And by the looks of some of the customers, it appears as if several of them have.

I have spent many an hour wandering round it but, by and large, I invariably leave it empty handed and frustrated. I only visit when I am looking for a specific title. It’s not as if I’m seeking out some obscure first edition that was printed in 1846 and there are only 12 surviving copies still in existence. The books I’m looking for are new releases by established or up and coming young authors.

Sarah Bessey, Jen Hatmaker, Rachel Held Evans, Jamie Wright, Lacey Sturm. All powerful women who write from the heart with a wit and intelligence sadly missing in a lot of the Christian literature on the market at present. They write passionately about their faith, their flaws and their frustrations. They tackle difficult issues that a lot of Christians bury their heads in the sand about. They broach difficult truths. They write from the edge.

Homosexuality and same sex marriage. Equality and the role of women within the organised church. Religion v following Jesus. Sexism. Bigotry. Intolerance. Hypocrisy. The value and merit of short term mission trips. They swear. They complain. They have tattoos and drink too much wine. Yet they speak the truth of the Gospel more powerfully and purely than many of the preachers I have listened to in recent years.

Yet try to get a copy of one of their books in a Northern Irish Christian book store and you are likely to be disappointed. Thank God for Amazon. And I mean that literally and am not taking the Lord’s name in vain. Thank you God! I’m currently reading Sturm’s ‘The Return’ and the opening two chapters have reignited an urge within me to pick up my Bible which has been sadly lacking in me for several months now.

Wright’s ‘The Very Worst Missionary’ is a searing expose of a misspent youth that was plucked from destruction by faith. Her experiences on the missionary field are brutally honest. Bessey’s ‘Jesus Feminist’ is a must for anyone wanting to look beyond the rampant sexism within many churches to how Jesus treated the women within his inner circle. These women do not shoot from the hip and miss.

Whenever I mentioned one of these authors to other churchgoers I was normally met with blank stares and indifference. I almost felt that people switched off when they realised the author was a young women who wrote with a verve and honesty that many lifelong Christians find uncomfortable. Is it because they are unwilling to open their eyes to the possibility that their lifetime of safe, staid beliefs are not what Jesus taught and expected of us.? WWJD? Possibly the opposite of what you are currently.

So there you are. I’m putting it out there. I’m not saying I know it all for I know less than most people. I’m currently not in a church. My faith flickers like a candle in a hurricane. But it’s still there. And it’s quirky, unorthodox, left field Christian authors like the above that are keeping it alive. It might feel battered and bruised but at least I feel. Now where did I set that Bible?

What are your thoughts on this post? I’d be interested to hear them. Please comment below.

68 thoughts on “Why Do Christian Bookshops Not Sell The Books I Want To Read?

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  1. Wow! I appreciate getting some insight on things my Mum might enjoy.
    The short answer is – it is generally more profitable and safe to be conservative. Why rock the boat? Well…. I kinda think Jesus’ whole thing was to rock the boat. There’s a lot more out there than the 17th C politically correct KJV…..

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  2. I follow some of those ppl on Twitter but no longer have social media. I haven’t bought any of their books. Maybe I should? I feel so confused by my own faith and most Christians that I feel reading another book on the topic would confuse me further. Also, some things like women being pastors still is an issue I’m not sure about and also one I don’t care about. To me it seems like male or female–everyone is fighting to be on top and it feels shallow. How about get off your ass and just do something? You know… I’m just so fed up with Christianity and all the arguments. And I really just would like things to be simple so I can understand what to do. But everyone seems to have an opinion one way or the other so it makes it hard to want to read another Christian book. But then again, I’ve read too many Baptist, conservative, calvanistic, patriarchal books to count. It confuses me how one can live out their faith but disregard large portions of the Bible. At that point, aren’t you making up a religion? I have no answers obviously but I guess going down that road somewhat scares me. I’d rather have doubts than say I don’t believe in the Bible. But then my faith is a giant mess. Sometimes I wish God would just appear and tell me exactly what he wants. I hate all this elusive stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. I share your frustrations and I don’t have any quick hit answers. As you know my faith is very fragile as well. I’m totally switched off from the church and the large majority of other ‘Christians’. All I know is that these books cut through the nonsense and have helped me.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. I’m not sure how it works in other countries, but I had to fight to get my books on the shelves when I first published. Stores are not interested in new authors even when the books are properly issued with ISBN, National & State libraries registered numbers AND listed. Stores want guarenteed sales – the Christian books stores are the worse to deal with. Well, I finally got the books on the shelves….at a loss to me. They sold the lot quickly but they wouldnt order more. It was my current publisher that offer to set my books up for international sales. They can be printed now in the country that they are ordered….of course paper quality varies. However, like most any book these days they need to be ordered online through Amazon, Bookpond etc. Now in saying this, one of my books is being sold in one place at 3/4 less than the RRP new. They don’t actually HAVE it and they can’t print them without the PDF files for both covers and innards so, this place will loose out big time because it will cost them more than the price they are asking to get the required info to print the books. Also, by these leading online book stores selling the books at pittance affects the sale of future copies because of the RRP and like all books each copy cost the printing price, the suppiers cost AND the authors deligence and hard work. No book can be printed for free. No author should be expected to give every single copy of their book away for free. I guarentee you, those people who own companies like MacDonalds, Kmart, Walmart etc etc do not sell products at a loss. Niether does any manufacture of any goods. The whole systen stinks. As I have said once before, once the reserch, slaving over the keyboard and manuscript is completed, editing done then the much harder, more frustrating work begins….getting copies set up for printing, distributing and evrything else that comes with it. Most of this work is by the author. Sigh* but it is worth it. I’m not sure if I, a unknown, relatively inexperienced author will move on from the first few chapters of manuscripts only to spend months, if not years battling with the likes of huge bookstores online or walk in. The process is more herendous than it was when I published my current 3.

    Oh to be snapped up by a publisher who will run with my talent….but then, my book will never read the same way, nor will I make much more money for a copy then any other author. The publishers, the retailers make the profit…but that’s another topic. sigh

    Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy the writing part…

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I am an avid reader and survivor of things most Christians don’t want to believe can happen in our world today. I think that Jesus would rather have us facing the tough issues happening in the books that you were unable to find. However, my personal opinion is that we are too busy “Carrying water to the well” rather than the truly thirsty. Wendy

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  5. I’m so sorry you struggle with getting good quality books. I haven’t read any of the books you mentioned but I have heard that Jen Hatfield is supposed to be awesome. I think people don’t always love those books because it forces them to realize that Christianity is lived in all parts of life and not only beneath the steeple inside church. Christianity, real true faith, is messy, full of pain, suffering and sorrow. It’s sometimes full of cursing and head shaking and moments of disbelief. But God can handle it. I sometimes thinks he actually expects it knowing us so intimately. I think He loves those that are brutally real and honest because it shows his love deeply and truly. We as humans can think we are hiding our secrets but God sees all. Thank you for writing this 🙂

    Liked by 3 people

  6. I experience the same thing in the US. These stores have a limited market and struggle against online sources, to they stick to what they know they can sell.
    My own thing is to seek out some really old things. I am suspicious of “Christian trends” and believe that writers like St. Augustine and others have a lot to teach the modern believer.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I enjoyed your post. Lacey Sturm is one of my favorite musicians, and I love her books. What I believe most people get hung up on is religion when we should be focusing on relationship. We were made for relationship with God, and we were made to love. The greatest two commandments are to love God and to love each other. Do these things and let God sort out the rest. I encourage you to read your Bible, especially the gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Seek wisdom through the life of Jesus; he will guide you and direct you in the way you should live. Grace, peace, and love to you.

      Liked by 1 person

        1. I was when Lacey was with them. I still like them some, but their new sound doesn’t speak to me as much. I love their album Memento Mori when Lacey was still with them. Her solo album Life Screams is amazing. She’s a beautiful soul.

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  7. I think we may differ a bit on this topic, but that’s okay. Those authors are quite popular in the US and Christian bookstores are full of them and not so full of the older books. I actually am glad to hear that your bookstores are sticking to the old ways. 🙂 In the US we are on the other side of this stage of throwing out the Bible and questioning everything and authors telling everyone God’s supposed revelations to them and the effect it’s had is not a good one. People are further away than ever from the God of the Bible who is a good of grace AND judgment. We can’t throw out his commandments and judgments to make ourselves feel better about not living a holy life. I urge you to read these books with great discernment. Beware of the practices that some of them suggest. Hopefully your faith will be strengthened by the process.
    https://thetransformedwife.com/jen-hatmakers-revision-of-truth/
    https://bereanresearch.org/4-concerns-about-jen-hatmakers-teachings/https://bereanresearch.org/rejecting-the-sufficiency-of-scripture-results-in-cultural-chaos/
    https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-year-of-biblical-womanhood-a-review
    I hope you don’t mind me being so honest.
    ~Paula

    Liked by 1 person

              1. Ha! But they’re probably dragons, orcs and little hobbits with big university degrees. You know I’m a ditz! Be gentle with me …. What about a nice little history book? No, not the rather long Tolstoy one 😉 … although that might take me through the entire summer…

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  8. Ugh…I had this whole thing typed up and then re-read it and decided I sounded like a presumptuous twatwaffle. So, I deleted it and started over. I’m so so so glad you’re reading your Bible again – so so glad. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  9. I have never read the ordinary books. I have always searched out the rebels. Some of my favorites are Nadia Bolz-Weber (Pastrix and Accidental Saints), Marcus Borg ( Speaking Christian, Reading the Bible Again for the First Time), Barbara Brown Taylor (Leaving Church), Phillip Yancey (The Jesus I Never Knew), Michael Yaconelli (Dangerous Wonder, Messy Spirituality). This is just the beginning. After all I have had 77 years to read as much as humanly possible. There are lots of wonderful theologians whose books….though written in the past… are anchors to faith. If you want more from my list just let me know. Hope you like these…your bent may not be the same as mine.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. Yes, really interesting and agrees with some other material I have read about the (historical) church and how it removed women from participation piece by piece. From your other authors do look at Nadia. She is unique. She has lots of web space.

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  10. Thank you for writing this. I share a lot of these same feelings and love reading the authors that you mentioned. My family and I do attend a Methodist church here in Michigan, but it’s a very welcoming group to all people, including LGBTQ, and these hard questions aren’t turned away. I wish you much discovery in your own personal journey with God and please keep writing. It was a pleasure to find this!

    Liked by 1 person

  11. One of the largest Christian booksellers here in the U.S. (LifeWay) has a strong affiliation with the Southern Baptist Convention and will not stock anything that differs from the SBC theological stance… which is, as you might know, VERY conservative. Your local store might have a similar affiliation.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. yes, seems to be one of the biggest problem with Christianity is all the judges, and my Bible says that there is only One. But there I go a judging :):) All the division. Jesus said a house divided cannot stand. Looks like we lost out on that battle because we certainly will split that hair. I’m glad amazon has the books you want. hahaha made me think of a movie quote but I feel it would be lost in translation without the accent :):)

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  13. You’re right. I used to work for the largest Christian bookshop chain in the UK and it’s all about money.

    But in their defence, many customers would make ‘special orders’ that we obtained from the USA only to find the customer had changed their minds, leaving us with expensive books that nobody else wanted to read. They should have had a policy of making customers pay a non-refundable deposit before ordering, but nobody listened to silly old me.

    I also noticed that many charismatic authors were omitted from the shelves, whereas many Anglican authors were actively y promoted. It’s a shame you cannot obtain the books you require and that is why our chain of 43 UK shops went bust. There are now hardly any Christian bookshops on the high street of any town in England and the Northern Irish branches had to shut aswell. Plus Amazon is usually much cheaper. Sad but true. xx

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I think I would always be wary of a bookshop that prefaces its name with the word ‘Christian’ – from all I have heard concerning faith in Northern Ireland it seems to be a very strictured and conservative affair, constantly defying anything remotely controversial. I agree that controversy should be confronted, and the less conventional voices heard. From what you say I wonder how this bookshop manages to fill so much shelf space!

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  15. Real faith is as exciting as it is messy – and this should be reflected in the books we are able to buy. My faith has been shaken, trod on, and squashed…and it is wonderful to be able to read about others’ real experiences. One of the most inspiring people I’ve met was the local drug dealer, tattoos, swearing, and not your ‘typical Christian in church’. And yet he is. He is in church and searching. Swearing and searching. And I love that. Thank you for your post.

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