I said two weeks ago that I wanted to talk about a trope that pops up from time to time in not just Christian speculative fiction, but every genre of Christian fiction. I don’t think it’s as prevalent nowadays as it used to be, but every now and then, when I’m at a conference, I’ll hear a newer writer fall into a particular trope, one that strikes us all at one time or another. it’s not necessarily a single factor in the story, such as characters or plots or anything like that. Instead, it’s an attitude that develops in these certain authors that then spills over into their books.
Now sharing the Good News of the Gospel with the unsaved, unchurched, dechurched, lost, seeking, or what-have-you is a worthy and laudable goal. As a matter of fact, it’s something that I think more Christians have to take seriously. Just last night, I found just that message in a YouTube video from a most unlikely source:
My problem with that attitude creeping into Christian fiction is this: writing Christian fiction to help save the lost and fallen sinners out there simply doesn’t work. There’s a fundamental flaw with that plan, and it has to do with who we’re trying to reach.
Or, to put the question another way, who is our audience?
That’s a question that I was taught to ask myself when I was in the Seminary. My Homiletics 101 (not the actual title or number, but you get the idea) professor taught us that a necessary step in preparing a sermon is to consider who it is you’ll be delivering it to. Is your congregation made up of older folks? Younger folks? New marrieds? Veteran Christians? Beginners? While God’s Word doesn’t change, the message we craft to speak about it must depending on who it is we’re trying to reach. The example that he used is that you wouldn’t deliver a scathing sermon about the need for sexual purity before marriage to a group of senior citizens in a nursing home, just as you wouldn’t preach about how to deal with the fears of impending death to a group of high school students. Two different audiences in two different places in life, and thus, you would tailor what you’re saying to each group.
We have to ask ourselves a similar question when we’re writing our stories. Who is the target audience for our stories? For example, while working on Failstate, I had to remind myself that I was writing my story for older teens, most likely boys, who enjoyed superheroes. The situations, emotions, and challenges that my characters faced had to ring true for that target audience or my story wouldn’t work.
I think we need to keep a more basic question in mind when we’re writing our fiction: who is it that actually reads Christian fiction? I’ll give you a hint by re-asking the question: Who is it that actually reads CHRISTIAN fiction?
I know, it’s a stumper.
That’s why, while it’s admirable to want to reach the lost and unsaved with our stories, it may not be a reasonable goal. They aren’t reading our stories and, truth be told, we’re wasting our time and, not only that, some great opportunities to minister to the folks who are reading our stories.
But that’s enough of that for today. In the next few weeks, I’ll come back to this topic and discuss who it is we’re trying to reach and what we can and should be saying to them. Until then, I look forward to hearing what you have to say. Have I completely lost it?