My Worst-Selling Book
January 17, 2020
I kind of stumbled into becoming an author. I began as a reader and a thinker in the church, connecting a lot of dots in my reading that led to more convictions and questions. And I couldn’t find the next book I wanted to read. So, I wrote it.
My first book basically said, “Women are theologians too! Women, here is a tool to help us really think about that: how what we know about God, whether we are growing theologians or poor theologians, affects our everyday life of faith and obedience.” Both men and women responded well to this call. It was encouraging.
So I wrote another book, doing theology. It’s about how important our confession of hope is to our perseverance in the Christian life. I didn’t want it to be a women’s book, because it’s not a “women’s message.” But I found that my writing and my target in that book really didn’t have a marketable target. Books marketed to women’s studies are fluffier, lighter, and my writing was a bit over their head. This is sad, as it isn’t an academic book by any means. I was hoping that it would serve as a positive challenge to popular-level reading. And, maybe even sadder, men didn’t take it seriously. I remember one conversation I had with a well-meaning pastor when the book came out. He said that he suggested the women in his church use my book for their next study. I thanked him and said, “You know, it’s not a women’s book. The men in your church can read it too.” He and the other pastor beside him looked at each other and laughed. They laughed. Then they switched the conversation to something else. This was my worst-selling book.
This made me explore the reasons women are targets for theological junk, how we view women’s ministry, and how it affects the whole church. That led to my 3rd book, which targets pastors and church officers as well as women, hoping church leaders will lead the way in some of these discussions in their own churches and that women will be motivated as necessary allies in the church, their homes, and society. I wanted to bridge a gap. And the book is selling pretty well. Although, discussing it revealed another issue.
So I wrote my next book, basically saying we have a serious problem with our Christian message if men and women can’t even relate in meaningful, dynamic, and pure ways. This book labeled me as dangerous among a lot of people in my own circles. Hmm. I wrote it because I actually believe what I confess with my congregation on Sunday mornings: I believe in the communion of the saints.
Which led to my next book, pressing further into the question of what the communion of the saints actually looks like. But I quickly realized in the planning stages that writing on this topic of discipleship and communion---as a woman---poses the same problems as my second book, but even worse now that I am dangerous and all that. So, I directly spoke into the elephant in the church: does a female lay disciple have the same agency as a male lay disciple in communicating God’s word, communing in it, and passing it down to the next generation? What’s distinctly meaningful about male and female disciples? What is our aim? I was warned that I may lose everything if I write on this topic. I may get kicked out of the reformedish writing and speaking world. I will probably lose friendships. It could affect my own church life. This is dangerous stuff, you know. (Whatever happened to regular critique, I wondered?) I’m already experiencing some of this. But I only began writing in the first place because I found a need for certain books that I wanted to read. That’s why I write. And if I get kicked out of the whole writing world, I would be very happy to open a modern-day speakeasy or work at a fruit stand. It would be a lot less stressful.
Writing friends also advised me that maybe I should give this gender stuff a break. This book will pigeonhole me, and I am capable of writing on much broader topics. Ah, but that’s the whole point. Remember my worst-selling book?
My worst-selling book is also my favorite topic to speak on. I get to address three areas: 1) How perseverance is not an individual training exercise: we hold fast to the confession of our hope within the covenant community of the church. 2) The confession of our hope is also David’s in the most quoted Psalm in the New Testament (110), with 14 confessions of how Jesus is Lord in his person and his work. 3) We can hold fast without wavering because he who promised is faithful. Man, those basic truths are exciting to me.
By the way, my worst-selling book is 50% off today on P&R’s website with the code TF20.
Which led to all these reflections. Oh, the irony of it all.