Left Behind may get left behind. And it now seems Jabez doesn't know enough about expanding ministry borders. The runaway bestseller in the country is The Purpose-Driven Life by Rick Warren, pastor of Saddleback Church in Southern California. And that fact, along with the mega-sales of these other books, gives us an insight into the culture we are trying to reach.

Let's put this in perspective with the latest bestseller. Since October 2002, The Purpose-Driven Life has sold nearly 13 million copies. It outsold the Harry Potter series in 2003. Actually, make that Harry Potter and The DaVinci Code combined. Only when you then add the sales of The South Beach Diet to those books do you get close to matching the sales of The Purpose-Driven Life.

What is going on here? Good marketing plays a role. Zondervan, the publisher, has targeted the number of shoppers who frequent Wal-Mart and warehouse stores. Group purchases have been another key. According to Warren's church, more than 6,000 churches in 80 denominations and 12 countries have used the book as a primary text for "40 Days of Purpose" Sunday school classes and weekday Bible studies.

We think the main thing going on is this: People are tired of focusing on themselves, and they are looking for meaning elsewhere. Some people faulted the Left Behind series and The Prayer of Jabez as playing to Americans' perpetual self-interest, at least spiritual self-interest (get saved and expand your borders). Maybe, but that's a narrow reading of such books. No fair-minded reader can fault The Purpose-Driven Life on such grounds.

Life is not about you, says Warren. It's not about your bliss or your self-actualization. It's about God and finding your life purpose in him. Warren summarizes Christian ...

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March 2004

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