Despite the fact that last year The Purpose Driven Life outsold Harry Potter 5, other than a blip around the time of Mel Gibson's record breaking film The Passion of the Christ, there has been a steady decline in the number of Christian bookstores over the past two years. And yet religious books are big sellers. Popular fiction is strong. Evangelical publishers are moving beyond Christian versions of secular genres and even breaking new ground in some areas. Ray Blackston's Flabbergasted (Revell, 2003) pokes fun at Southern church culture, where singles rank churches according to which has the best pick of the opposite sex. It has been called "chick lit from a male point of view."

The good news is that evangelical fiction IS getting better- there are fewer bad books being published. Publishers note more professionalism and solid technique from writers, as well as a less sanitized view of life. Eerdman's is bringing out fiction that is moral but without specific Christian references. They are also republishing the classics - George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, Charles Williams, etc. And there is a growing amount of Christian literary fiction. Lawrence Dorr's short stories about a Hungarian Calvinist during and after World War II are wrenching struggles with God, human nature and the problem of evil. (A Bearer of Divine Revelation, Eerdman's, 2003) W Dale Cramer's Sutter's Cross (Bethany, 2002) received a starred review from Publisher's Weekly. They wrote, "Contemporary offerings such as this well-crafted debut from Cramer give the evangelical Christian fiction market reason to hope that the term 'excellent CBA novel' is not an oxymoron."