Saturday, October 4, 2008

Devoted

A couple of years ago I was cautioned by a publisher that publishing my devotional book Guarding the Trust might be a large lesson in wasted time. He told me that devotionals are among the lowest selling categories of Christian books, and even widely known author's devotionals, just don't sell very well. The interest and demand he told me, was very very low.

I thought about that advice, and thought about why I wanted it published in the first place. It actually wasn't even my intention to ever write it as a book. What began as an idea to blog through a great list of reasons to treasure the written word of God (originally written three years ago by a dear brother and friend) turned into a very long series that lasted over 30 posts. The idea to turn it into book form came from a few blog readers and friends offline that suggested it. For some folks, reading a long post or a series of long posts while sitting at the computer screen was just a miserable deterrant, I was told. I'd have to agree, I've read a full length book manuscript online, and about half-way through, I was more than ready to give up. The only reason I didn't was because I had given my word and promised to read and review for my blog.

So, I decided that for those who just can't sit through a long read in front of a screen, I'd go ahead and publish the series in book form. Regardless of whether it's a top category for sales or not. That was never the goal in the first place. As it turns out, the publisher was exactly correct and the sale of that book has been so low, I can count the number of books sold on just one hand. If I'm honest, I'd have to say that this has been an ongoing disappointment, but I can't say that I wasn't warned. (No, that wasn't a ploy to get you to buy my book, but if you wanted to you could do that via the link the sidebar, and I only hope it would benefit you in huge ways).

Reading Challies blog today he wrote something that really stood out to me about devotionals. In his list of potential books to review he wrote this about the possibility of reviewing a devotional:

"No chance. I do not use devotionals and do not often review them"

When I first read that, my first thought was "he doesn't use devotionals?" I'm not really sure why I thought that, I guess I'm probably more stuck on the idea of knowing their value and usefulness, than other people might be. I'm sure that's more of a personal preference than anything else, but for whatever reason it struck me as unusual.

Little VisitsI know a lot of Christians that don't use devotionals at all, and that's fine. Some folks simply read through the Scriptures for daily family devotionals, and frankly I think that's the best written material to read anyway. Other Christians don't even have a set-aside-time for daily, family focus on the goodness of God, and I've always found that VERY odd. I'm just not sure why they wouldn't. Still others use family-focused writings, or topic specific themes. I suppose it's a matter of preference, and what fits with your own family situation at the time. I know when the kids were younger we used little books with cute titles like Little Visits with God and More Little Visits with God (1960s editions, picked up at a yard sale for 50 cents each) written specifically for younger children. Although it was written for children, we all really loved it and got a lot out of it. We've also read through the Scriptures using the Spurgeon devotional Bible, and many years ago did a Names of God devotional that was also quite enjoyable and educational. Currently, we're in the book of Hebrews (in the John MacArthur study Bible) and we simply read a small section and have a short discussion on what we've read. Sometimes there are questions, other times there aren't, but it's all good, all the same.

Over the years we've used a variety of different material for devotional time, and it's all been profitable in various ways.

So, I'm curious, what do you use, or how do you have your family devotional time? Are there certain books that you've used that you'd recommend, or do you stick with the Scriptures only? Have you ever used daily devotionals just for men, or women, or children, or topic-specific?

I look forward to your thoughts on this.



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