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Coffee Shops or Living Water

I recently had a sort of crisis of confidence about what I’ve been writing. Not about the quality of a specific project, but the lack of continuity in each of the things I’ve done.

I have two middle grade fantasies and one adult Christian non-fiction. I’m releasing a children’s picture book later this year while working on a non-fiction book for Christian singles.

I’m doing this marketing thing all wrong! (Trust me.)

The genre and age group jumping has led to a total lack of continuity in marketing and a general difficulty in building an audience or a platform.

And branding? Let's not even talk about branding!

I felt like I was shooting myself in the foot if the goal was to actually sell books.

The Lord's slowly been showing me things that bring me back to confidence in his guidance. The following story is an example.

A large, old landmark of a church was slowly dying. The membership was declining, the congregation growing older, and very few young people were coming in to replace them. Despite the dwindling numbers, this church remodeled, adding a fancy new coffee shop to their facility.

A coffee shop was their way to draw people in.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with a coffee shop, but when that’s what you do to try to attract young people to church, I feel like a certain focus has been lost.

A coffee shop may draw someone, but is it producing kingdom work? Is it building people in discipleship? Or is it a gimmick to draw numbers just for number’s sake?

And then I saw myself in that story. I had started feeling like I needed to do something to build the numbers and draw the crowds. I could look at what the general market is seeking and write that. I could stick to a certain genre so I can actually have enough books to build that particular audience. My numbers might even go up.

But I have a choice. Do I want to build a coffee shop just for number’s sake - write a book just to sell it - or do I want people to hear truth?

I want to double-down on truth, my friend, and the truth of Jesus draws people in all the ways that matter. (John 12:32) But truth doesn’t necessarily bring the masses to your doorstep. (John 3:19-21)

The Holy Spirit has prodded me to write stories that don’t allow for any cohesive marketing whatsoever, but God knows what he’s doing.

I may plant, and I may water, but God gives the increase. (I Cor 3:6-9) He will grow the crops as he sees fit.

Earlier today, I almost entered one of my books into a Christian Indie book contest. But I felt a subtle unease about it.

I almost entered it anyway. “It’s for your glory, Lord! That’s why I wrote the book! More people will read it if I win!”

But I heard his still, small voice, “But if you do that, you won’t see what I’m going to do.”

“OK, God.” I sighed and closed the browser.

Does that mean he’s going to make the book famous? I don’t know the answer to that. Probably not. But I think there was something in my desire to enter that contest that was less about his glory and more about my own ego. He was protecting me from myself.

The goal isn’t to sell more books. It never was. It’s not about numbers. It’s about truth.

I don’t want to build a fancy coffee shop. I want to show people the living water (John 7:37-39), and I can’t do that if I’m trying to live off the broken cisterns of my own unreliable self-esteem or worldly validation. (Jer 2:13)

So I put the contest aside, and I’ll keep cranking out books that don’t seem to go together at all, because they do go together. They are what God is prompting me to write.

His plans often don’t make sense to the world, but they always make sense in his kingdom. I want to do the work he gives me, not the work I choose. Those are the things that will survive the fire when we stand before him. Anything I do for my own sake (Matt 6:1-21) will be burned up. (I Cor 3:12-15)

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