Christianity Today (CT) and Relevant Magazine (Relevant) are written for an evangelical audience. Their readers are not always the same though. To overgeneralize, CT is read by evangelicals in their thirties or older while Relevant is intended for twenty-somethings. Their “top books” and “top stories” for 2011 provide an interesting glimpse into these two segments of evangelicalism.
CT divides their books into categories like apologetics/evangelism, Christian living, biblical studies, Christianity and culture, spirituality, history/biography, missions/global affair, the church/pastoral leadership, fiction, and theology/ethics. Relevant has a top ten lis with no categories. I may be finding something that isn’t there, but this seems to align well with the generational difference over how to view the secular-sacred divide. For some evangelicals there is a major difference and for others “all truth is God’s truth”.
CT’s nomination for best theology book was Michael Horton’s tome on Reformed Systematic Theology, The Christian Faith. The highest ranked book of this category for Relevant was Scot McKnight’s King Jesus Gospel. Relevant gave honorable mention to Rob Bell’s Love Wins as well, though it didn’t make their top ten.
When it comes to spirituality and Christian living CT nominated Ravished by Beauty by Belden C. Lane, Jesus + Nothing = Everything by Tullian Tchividjian, and The Colors of Hope by Richard Dahlstrom while Relevant chose Practicing the Way of Jesus by Mark Scandrette who leads an “emergent” style group in San Francisco, CA.
What about biography? CT chose a book on Charles Hodge while Relevant’s was on Steve Jobs.
You can read CT’s article here and Relevant’s here.
As to news stories CT listed their top stories. Subjects include Rob Bell, John Stott, Tim Tebow, the Arab Spring, the church in China, the church in Sudan, abortion, homosexuals being ordained in the PC (USA), Bible translation, and Christian publishing (see the list here). I didn’t see a similar list by Relevant, but their front page currently mentions their article “Is Rob Bell a Universalist” as one of the best of 2011 indicating that Bell grabbed the attention of evangelicals across multiple generations. Some other articles are mentioned as their top choices for this year including one on the need for boring Christians. I assume they will mention a few more this week, but it seems like their highlights are less about traditional news coverage and more about “relevant” articles (pun intended).
Evangelicalism is different from one generation to the next. These broad generalization are interesting and they say something about the difference between evangelicals of various generations. What do you think? Does the differences between CT and Relevant provide any observations of note?
Only that the people who try hardest to be ‘relevant’ are most often irrelevant in a very short time. ‘Relevance’, in other words, has a very short shelf-life.
I was thinking the same thing about CT’s choice of Horton’s tome. The whole Neo-Reformed movement is so posh. 😉
I do believe this is helpful to reflect upon. I’d be interested, and maybe you could lead it forward, as to do a survey of both age and favourite theologians. I suppose people in there 20’s to early 30’s would choose an N.T. Wright, Scot McKnight, and maybe a few other Patheos or BioLogos type people (those that are challenging particular perspectives amongst overall evangelicalism). I think those in their 30’s and 40’s would be drawn to a more neo-reformed, conservative perspective. It’s not to ridicule, but I am more and more convinced that neo-reformed theology will not help the western world faithfully move into the 21st century, making the good news known as a shift takes place in both the religio-spiritual Christian world and the economic world.
As an editor for a CT publication, I think you’re on to something here, though CT’s readership does trend younger than the stereotypical 30+, and much of Relevant’s trands older… people who feel in danger of irrelevance, perhaps.
But I’ll share a secret with you… if you really want to analyze a publication’s demographic, then look at the content second. Pay attention to the advertising first.
There may be something to it, but I think it is probably more about the process than anything else. CT’s list means something to sales, so there are hundreds of books and some real competition. Not sure Relevant’s list really means much to sales and so it is more about what the editors like.
I am not sure that the 20s/30s split means much. Maybe it is my skewed realm of people, but I know a lot more 20 something reformed than I do 30s-40s something reformed. But I did find it odd that CT had so many reformed books in their list.
I think both lists are focused too much on the short term popular. Relevant’s list only has two books that I think will have much staying power. CT’s list will probably be more influential over time, but primarily because it has more books.
*Trends. Gahhhh. And I make a living from working with English?
and the size of the typeface. really, magazines that want to appeal to younger readers exclude us oldsters by using smaller font size (and busier layout that confuses us). i think they also try and sound more ‘hip’ by more casual use of profane language that would offend…well, anyone who would actually use the word ‘hip.’
The only Christian magazine I subscribe to or read regularly is Books and Culture – owned by Christianity Today, but quite different, and probably not read by many 24-year olds! 🙂
I guess I have sympathies with the Relevant crowd (I’m not neo-reformed), but it does seem like they try too hard with the “cool urban Christian” ethos, and some of the articles I’ve read from them are pretty poor.
Scott: That would be interesting. Maybe I will post on this sometime soon.
Paul: That is a good observation.
Adam: I was surprised by the choice of so many Reformed leaning books as well. They are the new emerging church!
Joel: Relevant could use more balance, for sure.
Comments are closed.