Written by Leslie Santamaria
Tuesday, 09 December 2014 11:48 AM EST
Looking back on the significant events and substantial sales of 2014
Written by Kathleen Samuelson
Friday, 05 December 2014 05:20 PM EST
Emphasize the true meaning of Easter with resurrection-themed books and gift releases
Written by Jonathan Cahn
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 10:18 AM EST
Could a mystery that began on a desert mountaintop in the Middle East 3,000 years ago possibly be determining the direction of world history, the course of our lives and the specific events that await us in the days ahead?
Is it possible that the words of an ancient Hebrew text are controlling the rise and fall of the American economy, the timing of recessions, depressions and economic crashes, and the collapse of Wall Street and the great stock markets of the world?
And could an ancient mystery that held the key to the timing of Israel’s judgment actually be determining the timing of critical and world-changing events in the modern world so precisely that it involves dates, hours, minutes and seconds?
I didn’t plan on writing this article, much less a new book (just yet). I knew (and still know) I would ultimately write a sequel to The Harbinger, but I also knew this could only be written at the right time. The Mystery of the Shemitah is a book that no one person planned. I had initially agreed to help in the writing of a piece on the coming Shemitah. But as I began to prepare for it, I was flooded with new revelations—as I was with The Harbinger. And as with The Harbinger, The Mystery of the Shemitah flowed onto the pages rapid-fire. The Shemitah is one of the 14 major streams of mysteries that first appeared in The Harbinger. I knew there was more to it, but just how much more there was and just how colossal were the ramifications was beyond anything I could have expected. Not only does it lie behind the rise and fall of the economy, the financial realm, Wall Street and the stock market, the mystery of the Shemitah also lies behind:
• The rise of America to world power
• The First World War
• The rise of the Soviet Union and communism
• The collapse of the British Empire
• The atomic bomb
• The fall of Vietnam
• The Second World War
• The Third Reich
• The return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland
• The collapse of the great colonial empires
• The Cold War
• The rising of the World Trade Center
• The Six-Day War and the return of Jerusalem
• A warning concerning a coming judgment to America
• What lies ahead ... and much, much more
It may sound like something from a Hollywood movie or science-fiction book, but it’s real. In fact, the mystery of the Shemitah is so real it can be measured and quantified. It is so big and far-reaching that it has been affecting the lives of everyone reading this article since birth.
Two-and-a-half years ago, at the time of The Harbinger’s release, I was asked to give an exclusive “peak” or revealing as to some of the mysteries included in that book. With my new book, I have now been asked to give an exclusive peek into some of the revelations in The Mystery of the Shemitah.
The Sabbath and the remission
Most of those reading this know that for Israel, every seventh day was a Sabbath, a day of holiness and rest. But what many people, even believers, don’t know is that the Sabbath was not only a day, but also a year (Lev. 25:1-4). During the Sabbath year, there was to be no working of the land. All sowing and reaping, all plowing and planting, all gathering and harvesting had to cease by the end of the sixth year so the land could “rest and lie fallow” (Ex. 23:11).
At the end of the Sabbath year, something unique took place: “At the end of every seven years you shall grant a release of debts. And this is the form of the release: Every creditor who has lent anything to his neighbor shall release it; he shall not require it of his neighbor or his brother, because it is called the Lord’s release” (Deut. 15:1-2).
“At the end of every seven years” refers to the last day of the Sabbath year. On the biblical calendar, the day was called Elul 29. So on Elul 29, the very last day of the Sabbath year, a sweeping transformation took place in the nation’s financial realm. Everyone who owed a debt was released. And every creditor had to release the debt owed. Elul 29 marked the day all credit was erased, and all debt was wiped away. The nation’s financial accounts were, in effect, wiped clean. It was Israel’s day of financial nullification and remission. The word in Hebrew used for this remission was “shemitah.” Thus Elul 29 became the Day of the Shemitah, while the Sabbath year was known as the Year of the Shemitah.
The Shemitah as the sign of judgment
The Shemitah bears witness that the land and, for that matter, the Earth, belong to God. It is only entrusted to man as a steward. God is sovereign. His sovereignty extends also to the realms of money, finances, economies and possessions.
The Shemitah declares that God is first and above all realms of life and must therefore be put first and above every realm. During the Shemitah, Israel was, in effect, compelled to turn away from these earthly or worldly realms and turn to the spiritual.
But when ancient Israel moved away from God and the keeping of His commandments, one of which was that of the Shemitah, judgment came upon the land. It happened in 586 B.C. when Babylonian armies set fire to Jerusalem, left the land of Israel in desolation, destroyed the Kingdom of Judah and took the people captive into Babylon. But behind all this lay the Sabbath year. The exact timing of that judgment was based entirely on the mystery of Shemitah.
In Israel’s rejection of God’s way, the Shemitah turns from a sign of blessing to that of judgment. Thus the Shemitah became a sign of judgment against the nation that drove God out of its life and culture and placed money and material gain over God. It is a sign of national judgment that specifically strikes a nation’s financial and economic realms. In fact, the effect of the Shemitah itself is very similar to that of an economic collapse and the crashing of stock markets.
The Shemitah mystery operating now
Is it possible that this ancient mystery that ultimately led to the judgment of ancient Israel is at work and operating in our day?
The amazing answer is yes.
One of the most dramatic manifestations of this biblical phenomenon took place Sept. 29, 2008. On that morning, the opening bell of the New York Stock Exchange refused to ring. Then came the greatest stock-market point collapse in Wall Street history. Massive amounts of money were wiped out as financial accounts were nullified.
On what day did this greatest collapse take place? On the biblical day of Elul 29, the central day of the mystery of the Shemitah, the very day appointed to wipe out the financial accounts of a nation. And it was not only the day, but the year. The greatest wipeout of financial accounts in American history took place on the Elul 29 that only comes around once in seven years, the exact biblical day of financial nullification.
It is a mind-boggling phenomenon. And yet it’s just the beginning. If you go back seven years earlier, according to the ancient seven-year mystery, you end up in September 2001, the month of 9/11. But it was also the month of the other greatest crash in Wall Street history, up to that day. It took place Sept. 17. On the ancient biblical calendar, this other greatest crash in American history took place on Elul 29, the exact same day—and the day that just happens to be appointed in the Bible for the wiping away of financial accounts!
On top of that, the crash of 2001 was caused by the terrorist-inspired events of 9/11. Thus, all of these things could have taken place only on the exact date they did in accordance with the ancient mystery, if the timing of 9/11 was also in accordance with the ancient mystery. Thus, even behind 9/11 lay the ancient mystery of the Shemitah.
And yet even this is only the beginning!
The ancient cycles and the cataclysms
Most people missed it. It appeared in two lines of The Harbinger on page 163 of the book, beginning with a question asked of the prophet by the story’s main character, Nouriel:
“How far does the cycle go?” I asked. “Every seventh year in the past ... and into the future?”
“The subject is for another time,” he said.
The “another time” referred to by the prophet for revealing the answer is now. The Mystery of the Shemitah is, in effect, the revelation of the mysteries Nouriel was searching for. We don’t have the space here to go into what is so gigantic that it resulted in a book that even I didn’t expect. But I will seek to give an idea or taste of some of what is involved.
Nouriel’s question opens the door to the fact that the mystery is much bigger than could be contained in that exchange with the prophet and that the phenomenon of the Shemitah did not begin with 9/11. It has, in fact, been affecting, even guiding the course of our lives, from the moment of our births. The Mystery of the Shemitah reveals:
• How this ancient sign of God has been behind all of the greatest turning points and collapses in the financial and economic realm of the last 40 years.
• How the greatest single-day stock market point crashes in history have been determined by the mystery of the Shemitah.
• How the greatest single-day stock market percentage crashes in history have been ordained by the ancient mystery.
• How the majority of stock market crashes all cluster around a single month, the very month ordained in the ancient biblical mystery to manifest financial nullification.
• How every one of the five greatest point crashes in Wall Street history take place in proximity to the once-in-seven-years Day of Nullification.
• How the Shemitah lay behind the greatest financial and economic collapse since the Great Depression—the Great Recession.
• What all this portends for the future of Wall Street, the financial realm, the economic realm and virtually everyone’s bank account.
And yet this is only a part of the mystery. It gets even bigger still.
The mystery of the towers
One of the most unexpected revelations in The Mystery of the Shemitah begins at Babel. It involves the connection between the building of high towers and the rise of world powers.
This particular mystery is especially revealing concerning the rise (and fall) of America. It includes the following:
• How the rising of one particular tower ushered in the beginning of America’s ascent to world power.
• How the same date of a critical prophetic warning given to America concerning a future apostasy from God reappears in the rising of the nation’s high towers.
• How the mystery of the Shemitah was woven into the World Trade Center again and again from its conception to its completion to its destruction.
• How the mystery of the Shemitah is joined to the rising and falling of America’s high towers.
• What the ancient mystery had to do with the 9/11 collapse of the towers.
• The rise of the One World Trade Center tower at Ground Zero (the fourth of the nine harbingers), the strange omens that have accompanied its rise and the connection between these manifestations and national judgment.
• What all this portends for the future of America and the world.
The Shemitah and the nations
Perhaps the most far-reaching of the Shemitah’s manifestations concerns the rise and fall of nations, kingdoms and empires. In ancient times, it lay behind the timing of Assyria’s destruction, the rise of the Babylonian Empire, the fall of the Babylonian Empire and the rise of Persia. But amazingly, the phenomenon has not stopped. The mystery of the Shemitah lies behind:
• The greatest global cataclysms and shakings of nations in modern history.
• America’s rise to world power in 1917 and to superpower in 1945.
• The fall of the Russian Empire and the rise of the Soviet Union and, ultimately, the Cold War.
• The convergence of World War II to the ancient cycle ordained at Sinai.
• A 28-year cycle that has brought about the shaking, the collapse and the fall of nations.
• The ancient appointed time of nullification and atomic warfare.
• A specific scenario and warning concerning the fall of America, the American Empire and the American age as we have known it.
The mystery of the seventh Shemitah
Many people don’t realize the connection of the Shemitah and the Jubilee. The Jubilee was actually a super- or mega-Shemitah. As the Shemitah brought release, the Jubilee brought liberation, restoration, the redemption of possessions lost and the return of the dispossessed to their ancestral home. The Jubilee’s timing was linked to the seventh Shemitah. Thus it could only take place in the year following the Shemitah.
The seminal event of end-time prophecy is the return of the Jewish people to their land and the liberation of their ancient city, Jerusalem. But behind this return is the mystery of the Shemitah moving on a prophetic stage and focused on the land of its beginning.
There has been no greater manifestation of the Jubilee in modern times than the restoration of the Jewish people to their land. It is the fulfillment, on a massive and prophetic scale, of the Jubilee’s ordinance that every man return to the land of his fathers.
Yet the key in the timing of these events is contained in the seven-year mystery of the Shemitah. It involved a world war, the collapse of empires and a British general’s march into the Holy Land. It also would dictate the timing of the Six-Day War and the return of Jewish soldiers after 2,000 years to the Holy City and the Temple Mount in 1967.
If the progression continues, there is even a possibility of a major prophetic event happening in the near future.
The Shemitah mystery and what lies ahead
There is now intense interest swirling around this ancient mystery—for a very simple reason: The next year of the Shemitah is now upon us.
So what does the future hold? The book’s subtitle is: “The 3,000 Year Old Mystery That Holds The Secret of America’s Future, The World’s Future ... And Your Future.” The mystery’s precision with regard to the timing of world-changing events has been uncanny. In its last two manifestations, the Shemitah’s Day of Nullification has pinpointed the day of greatest stock-market collapse in American history, twice.
This brings up two inescapable realities. The phenomenon of the Shemitah is intensifying. At the same time, America’s moral and spiritual apostasy from God is likewise increasing in intensity, deepening and accelerating. Considering the link between the Shemitah and national judgment, these two phenomena are ominous.
The book includes the key dates concerning the ancient mystery with regard to the future—the form, nature and dynamic the mystery assumes, as well as the scenarios in which it manifests. I included this, as I believe we should be ready for what could take place.
There are two notes of caution, however: The first is that things do not have to happen as they have in the past. One cannot put prophetic manifestations into a box or onto a regular schedule and expect them to perform on cue. The phenomenon does not have to manifest in every cycle or with the same intensity. It may appear dormant in one cycle and manifest in the next. Nothing has to take place in this current year of the Shemitah.
This second is this: The mystery can manifest as it has before. If so, the pattern is generally that it is the end of the Shemitah rather than the beginning that bears the most dramatic repercussions.
Either way, God’s people should be prepared. We should also take note that the Hebrew word “shemitah” not only means “the release or the remission,” but also “the shaking, the fall and the collapse.”
A great shaking
Whether or not it takes place in the parameters of the Shemitah, I believe a great shaking is coming to this nation—and the world. I believe the shaking will involve the financial and economic realm but not be limited to those realms. It may even begin in another realm.
I believe it will involve a breakdown of functioning and a time of scarcity as a type of famine in the land. I believe it will strike the pride, power, blessings and glory of this nation. And most importantly, I believe its purposes, beyond that of the judgment of sin, will be to call those who will hear the call back to God. It will even be a wake-up call to God’s people.
Are we ready?
Jonathan Cahn is the New York Times best-selling author of The Harbinger, president of Hope of the World ministries and senior pastor and messianic rabbi of The Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel in Wayne, New Jersey.
Written by DeWayne Hamby
Wednesday, 05 November 2014 10:08 AM EST
Mainstay category thrives but changes with the times
Christian Living, the anchor point for book sales in Christian retail stores, continued to thrive in 2014, strengthened by a renewed focus on content from a new, more diverse group of authors.
The category, labeled “Christian Life” by the Book Industry Study Group, includes such topics as relationships, death and bereavement, personal growth, spiritual growth, social issues and women’s issues.
“We see a consistent demand for books that cause tangible change in people’s lives,” said Marcos Perez, vice president of sales at Charisma House. “Broad-based topics are becoming more challenging to move. Titles where specific needs are being met tend to do better.”
Women authors have been a mainstay of the category in recent years and often aim to meet some of those specific needs in their Christian Living books. Among them are Beth Moore, Ann Voskamp, Christine Caine and Lysa TerKeurst, who have released chart-topping sellers that have energized women readers.
“Compared to 10 years ago, the growth of female communicators has been astounding in the Christian Living category,” said Matt Baugher, senior vice president and publisher of W Publishing Group. “That was a definite need, and it’s been encouraging to see that need filled by so many talented women. Years ago, all of us at publishing houses sat around figuring out how to have more Beth Moores in the marketplace. Obviously there’s only one Beth Moore, who is a leading woman voice. In the last few years, the number of female communicators is exponentially higher and one of the biggest shifts that we’ve seen in the last decade.”
SPIRIT & TRUTH
Top-selling author Joyce Meyer also represents the continued integration of more Charismatic-flavored books into the general Christian Living category. Books such as The Confident Woman and I Dare You attract a broader base of customers more receptive to Charismatic speakers.
“I think a lot of Charismatic authors transcend the category,” said Brad Herman, sales coordinator for Nori Media Group, of which Destiny Image is a part. “I think there’s a crossover into the Christian Living section, but a very strong Charismatic author like Bill Johnson is not going to cross over into Christian Living.”
Herman noted the market changes that have been roadblocks to some publishers of Charismatic titles, such as Christian retail chains that do not stock such authors or titles. LifeWay’s acquisition of Berean is one such example of a lessening retail market for Charismatic Interest books, but one to which Herman—who previously operated two bookstores and now sells at conferences and at arsenalbooks.com—has adapted.
“My bookstore is extremely Charismatic, so I’m always searching for things that don’t make it to the mass market because that keeps my store alive,” Herman said.
Research has shown the market is still growing for the subgenre. According to Barna Group research, at the beginning of the 21st century, 25% of Christians identified as Charismatic or Pentecostal and in 2008, that number climbed to 36%.
“I have people coming to me all the time and asking why their local bookstore doesn’t carry what I carry,” Herman said.
Perez of Charisma House agrees that Christian retailers give attention to the subcategory to their benefit.
“The Charismatic/Spirit-led category has been a growth category for many retailers,” he said. “That’s great news in a time when flat growth has become a new goal for many.”
Some upcoming Charisma House titles are: Jennifer LeClaire’s devotional Holy Spirit Calling (January); Randy Clark’s The Battle Has Been Won (April); Bill Johnson’s Face to Face With God (May); and Hubert Synn’s The Tales of a Wandering Prophet (June).
Jane Campbell, vice president and publisher at Chosen Books, an imprint of Baker Publishing Group, also sees a growing market for books that were once relegated to small shelves or ignored altogether.
“Everett L. Fullam, a gifted teacher in the charismatic renewal, used to say that the church was going to be either charismatic or dead,” Campbell said. “We are seeing that he was right. The gifts of the Spirit are no longer ghettoized as ‘charismatic’ or ‘emotional’ or even ‘demonic,’ but are accepted as biblical by much of evangelical Christendom. Houses that once avoided or even deplored deliverance or spiritual warfare topics now publish them.”
Upcoming titles from Chosen include School of the Prophets by Kris Vallotton (January); Self-Deliverance by Rabbi K.A. Schneider (June); and The Paranormal Conspiracy by Timothy J. Dailey (July).
Campbell also attributes the growth of the category to better books.
“There used to be tons of testimony books, some with pretty shallow roots,” she said. “Now we find fewer but more powerful and biblically grounded stories of the amazing acts of God. [It’s] the same with expositional works. These books are deeper biblically and more balanced. Not to say there are not excesses. There are. But in my view, the excesses are fewer and more widely identified.”
How can retailers adapt to the needs of the market in this area? Campbell offers a simple answer.
“Actually stocking the books would help, rather than retailers deciding for their customers that certain titles from Christian publishers are unacceptable or even dangerous,” she said.
Steve Oates, Chosen’s vice president of marketing, recommends not isolating such books in a “Charismatic” section, but mixing them in with other Christian Living titles.
“You’ve also got to feature these authors occasionally,” Oates said. “Putting them in an endcap or front-of-store display that says, ‘I carry the people you read and follow in my store.’ ”
Herman has seen success with dedicated endcaps, sometimes focused on subjects rather than authors, such as “a group of books on healing, for instance, or we would have a bunch of Bethel authors,” he said.
Placement is not enough, however, if none of the store staff are familiar with the books or receptive to the authors.
“A friend of mine bought a Chosen book at a store, and while she was checking out—it was a book by Sandy Freed, The Jezebel Yoke—the cashier said ‘Are you sure you want to buy this?’ ” Herman said.
Destiny Image recently released Hosting the Presence by Bill Johnson and is prepping Randy Clark’s The Essential Guide to the Power of the Holy Spirit for release in January.
INSPIRATION & INFORMATION
Perhaps the mainstreaming of Charismatic offerings into the Christian Living category is due in part to a change in tone.
Jeana Ledbetter, vice president and publisher at Worthy Publishing, has noticed a stronger emphasis on “people sharing with people.”
“My observation is that back in the day, [Christian Living] was primarily pastors and professionals, psychologists writing, pastors writing to every man in the pew,” Ledbetter said. “But what I see now is it’s all of us in the church talking to one another. We went through this phase where everyone said it’s all about story. With Donald Miller, it started changing. Primarily, you see a lot of journey telling instead of storytelling. This is what I have gone through walking out my faith.”
Worthy’s upcoming titles include Fight Back With Joy by Margaret Feinberg, who writes of her battle with breast cancer (January), The Miracles in You by Mark Victor Hansen (April) and Fallen by Annie Lobert (February).
Nancy Clausen, senior marketing director for Tyndale House Publishers, still sees a market for self-help books by experts, but “more important to a new generation of Christian readers are stories from people who have been there. They’re inspired by the faith journey of people who’ve been in their shoes.”
Has the popularity of devotionals such as Sarah Young’s Jesus Calling bitten into the Christian Living market share?
“I don’t think so,” Clausen said. “I think that readers are looking for different inspiration and information at different times. And just as Christians and the church are constantly growing and changing, Christian books will always see category cycles.”
Some soon-to-come Christian Living titles from Tyndale are Own Your Life by blogger Sally Clarkson (January) and Your Beautiful Heart by Lauren Scruggs (March), who made national news when she was severely injured by a spinning plane propeller.
A stronger emphasis on social action also is changing the tone of the category.
“What we are seeing is fewer 10 steps to a better ‘blank,’ which I think is a better thing,” Baugher said. “The last five to 10 years have brought far more challenges to the establishment, calling out believers on desiring changes in the church, renewed focus on social action and faith that is not afraid to ask questions. Still, by and large, somewhat traditional orthodoxy continues to be the strongest.”
SUCCESS & SALES
Baugher has observed a decreased market share for established authors.
“An author’s past success will not guarantee a purchase of their next title, and that is very different than 10-15 years ago,” he said. “It puts more of an onus on us publishers to publish really fine content, but also makes [it] exceedingly more difficult to establish new ongoing brands. Name retention and sales level is not as simple as it once was.”
He cited Max Lucado as “someone who continues to have great success from book to book, much of it based on his name and perceived value of the content, but it’s not as automatic as it once was.”
Baugher stressed the importance of “discoverability” for breakout authors.
“Discoverability has never been more important, and it’s never been more difficult with far fewer people in the stores and fewer stores themselves,” he said. “You don’t have those new writers and perhaps even established authors being discovered by meandering customers. It is those who are heavily on the speaking circuit or very established in some sort of media—social or traditional—to get people to even know that they have a new book out.”
Charisma House’s Perez sees retailers as balancing two significant goals.
“Sometimes it’s tempting to not be as concerned about discoverability as it is to be concerned with selling volume. It’s a fine line between trying to move volume and addressing the needs of the consumers with great content that is maybe not as well known. A healthy balance is important along with each staff member understanding the needs of their local community in order to recommend the right book.”
Worthy’s Ledbetter cites LifeWay as one Christian retailer who is doing a good job of displaying Christian Living titles up front. Because of the category’s importance, retailers “are intentional about giving them as much visibility as possible,” she said.
Baugher points to a team approach as a model of successful marketing.
“We do our best to plan with the retailers as much as possible so we’re all focusing on the same thing,” he said. “We don’t want to put too much focus on something the retailers are not that interested in, nor do we want to let something go by the wayside if the retailer sees tremendous potential—and communication is key to all of that.”
Although there are changes and challenges with the category, Baugher said that HarperCollins Christian Publishing as a whole is “optimistic” about it.
“I think our entire culture, believers or not, are most interested in story,” Baugher said. “At the end of the day, this is all about story because each person’s story is meaningful and interacts with God’s story in a larger [way], and it is completely unique. God speaks to each generation in new and exciting ways, and we’re excited to play a part in that.”
Written by Christine D. Johnson
Tuesday, 07 October 2014 08:03 AM EDT
B&H Publishing Group president settles into role at helm of Nashville publisher
Christian Retailing was privileged to chat with B&H Publishing Group’s Selma Wilson earlier this year. Wilson took the helm of B&H in 2010 and oversees the company’s products, which include the Holman Christian Standard Bible; B&H Books—fiction, nonfiction and children’s; B&H Academic; Broadman Supplies; and Crossbooks’ self publishing. A former social sciences teacher, she is married to a marriage and family minister.
CR: could you tell us about your publishing background?
We launched a women’s magazine [in the early ‘90s] and then shortly after that, they asked me to lead all of our magazine work. ... I love all that we have to offer today with our women’s Bible study leaders who are teaching, curriculum, and our trade books that are written by women for women—we’ve come a long way.
CR: How are you using social media?
I just recently launched a blog and Twitter and all that. ... I’m surprised at the influence. I’m now dialoguing with people around the world. I now hear back from just a diverse group of people, and it’s really made me a better leader because I’m in the space.
CR: what are your thoughts about where our industry stands now?
It’s all in! You’d better be in shape spiritually and physically. But at the end of the day, what we do has never mattered more, and we have more opportunity than ever before. The needs of people haven’t changed. In fact, people are reading now more than ever. They’re just reading differently, bytes of information. Who would have ever thought Twitter would be such a powerful communication tool? Then what’s happened with blogs and just the power of that. Now the down side of that is people can say whatever they think without any filters, but I’ve found that takes care of itself. You don’t throw away the baby with the bath water.
I think with our industry we have more opportunity than ever before. We’re going to have to adapt to the times that we’re in. I’m 58 years old. I boil everything down to [what’s] simple. I’m a simple country girl who was profoundly impacted by the gospel, and I haven’t gotten over it yet! If we really believe what God’s Word says, God’s not wringing His hands in heaven saying, “Oh my, the world is changing.” He is totally in control. He puts His people in every time and place throughout time to advance the gospel. So here we are today. The world is not too hard to God. I believe that He’s brought all this together. The vaults of content that this industry has, all the knowledge that this industry has, plus the digital revolution is going to give us opportunity to do more to advance the gospel around the world than ever before.
CR: “every word Matters.” how is that B&H motto put into practice?
One of our B&H logos for our team says, “Every Word Matters,” and I do believe that fundamentally. We have to be careful with our words and definitely when you cross cultural lines, you’ve just got to be sensitive to the words we use. To be careless with words can be so damaging to individuals, and I care so much that the words we say give people life and hope and help them, it’s so important.
We have to be very sensitive to think beyond ourselves. I really believe in diversity in the industry and on our leadership teams. We need gender diversity, age diversity, ethnic diversity. We need people who have been out in the world beyond Western cultural experiences. One of the things I love about the millennial generation—I love so much about them—[and] in my view, if you have any doubt about the future of the gospel, just go meet with the millennials. They’re worship-driven, they have a less-is-more mentality, they’re willing to sell everything to go, they just are bold in their faith, and it’s beautiful to see. We need those voices. They give us such hope. But the geographical walls have so come down for the millennial generation. It’s nothing for them to study abroad, to do mission work abroad, to go for years. I mean, it was kind of novel in my generation. Now it’s normal, and that’s a beautiful thing.
And the people groups that are here—I live in Nashville, Tennessee, the buckle of the Bible belt, as it’s been referred. We have over 100 different people groups in the Middle Tennessee area. The world is here. … I think there’s enough kingdom work for us to do, and we all matter. God gives us different assignments, different things that we’re good at. We refer people to other publishing houses all the time. We want to be good in the places that we’re strong in, but we don’t have to do it all.
CR: IS B&H moving more toward reaching millennials?
Yes, we’re partnering more and more with young pastors. I think about Matt Chandler, for example. We’ve just done a book with him, Recovering Redemption, such a powerful message of redemption, which is so central, but Matt’s a good example of how God has raised up someone in the millennial generation who is having such a huge impact in reaching many with the gospel. So we think about that intentionally. I think we in leadership who are older are going to have to be more intentional about developing and raising up leaders in the industry from that millennial generation so that we hand off the baton well. Our team has been doing that intentionally. You take the strength of those of us who have been in the industry for a long time—you don’t throw that out—but then you marry that with those who are passionate for the gospel, excellent in their space, and they just bring a richness to the team.
CR: LifeWay has its “groups matter” initiative. Does that tie in with what you’re doing at B&H?
We work strategically with our church resources partners. They have the primary assignment for doing the more in-depth curriculum for the church. … We know in trade publishing that a lot of people are not going to do the in-depth Bible studies, so we try to whet their appetite because we still fundamentally believe that it’s best for you to be in a group to study God’s Word. Yes, you can study alone, and we’re supposed to have our individual quiet times, but you just don’t get the richness of the group experience when you do a study alone.
CR: I’m not the first to ask about your being the only woman president in our industry, but what do you think about it?
Dr. Thom Rainer at LifeWay busted the glass ceiling for LifeWay. I’m the first woman in leadership in our history. Most of the time I don’t think about it. I’m aware of it. I’m honored. I do believe that we need more women sitting at tables. God has made us different and it’s in that different perspective that we’re better [together]. The men that I work with at LifeWay are incredible. They’ve taught me so much. I feel like an equal at the table. When you have to think about it, there’s a problem. When you can be yourself, [there’s not]. I had a dear friend who prayed over me when I got my leadership role at LifeWay. And one of her prayers, that word of wisdom, she said God didn’t put you in this role for who you’re going to be. He put you there because of who you are, so be yourself, and I love that. I’m a country girl; I was raised on a farm in eastern Tennessee.
CR: growing up, were you involved in a southern baptist church?
My mother was raised in a family where she didn’t go to church, and she came to faith in Christ at 15. She began to pray that God would give her a husband and that she could take her children to church. That’s my daddy. My mother loved the church with everything in her. We didn’t miss church, but I had the privilege of being discipled by Southern Baptist resources, and I grew up studying the Word, discipled in the Word from the time I was a little girl. [With] our missions emphasis when I was a little girl in this little country church, I learned that I was a part of something bigger, that we were united with other churches to advance the gospel around the world.... I had the privilege throughout all of my formative years of being deeply engaged with God’s Word, being a student of God’s Word and asking questions and digging deep. That’s my foundation, and I probably take it for granted because I’m so anchored there. In God’s plan, here I am back in God’s institution that has provided those resources that impacted me.
Written by Deonne Lindsey
Monday, 11 August 2014 10:30 AM EDT
Devotional books offer rich spiritual content for the growing Christian
Devotional books didn’t often make headlines, that is, until Sarah Young came along with her 10-million-copy-selling “Jesus Calling” brand from Thomas Nelson. Ann Voskamp of One Thousand Gifts fame also has had success with a devotional based on her best-selling Zondervan book that helped readers cultivate thanksgiving and joy—and this year Tyndale will release her Christmas devotional, Unwrapping the Greatest Gift. Whether headline-making or not, readers of devotionals often want new titles for themselves and to share with others.
MEETING THE MARKET
With fall and winter the key selling seasons for the category, Christian retailers may be asking what’s trending.
Publishers are releasing to market devotionals that include morning and evening readings, sometimes as a value-oriented pairing of two different previous or classic works—for example, the classics God Calling and God at Eventide edited by A.J. Russell (Barbour Publishing, September)—and at other times as way to offer multiple brief readings such as in the holiday offering All I Really Want: Readings for a Modern Christmas (Abingdon Press, October).
Marketers are using words such as “quick” and “convenient” to appeal to consumers as well as pocket sizing for readers on the go. For many readers, devotionals that fit into their busy lifestyles, often promising that they can be read in anywhere from one to five minutes, are a must.
Another focus is encouragement, which seems increasingly to be oriented not around major life occurrences, but simply around the routine challenges of life and trusting God in them. It’s a theme on which Voskamp continues to focus.
In terms of price point, this category hovers under the $20 glass ceiling, as publishers recognize the reluctance of customers to spend much more for the type of book they’ll want to purchase annually. In format, devotionals remain evenly split between specialty bindings and trade paper or traditional hardcover options.
BOOSTING THE BRANDS
While lesser-known names still manage to gain footholds with segments of readers, it’s no surprise that recognized author names and brands, as well as best-sellers, tend to dominate the category.
The popularity of Tyndale House Publishers’ One Year brand has led to new releases under that moniker for September. Capitalizing on the general rise of interest in biography and history, The One Year Women in Christian History Devotional by Randy Peterson and Robin Shreeves (Tyndale) will cover women of significance from biblical times through modern history. The One Year Book of Bible Promises by James Stuart Bell (Tyndale) is the most recent in a series of similar books with a focus on praying the Scriptures, and Walk Thru the Bible Editor Chris Tiegreen has written The One Year Hearing His Voice Devotional (Tyndale Momentum). All three release Sept. 14.
Baker Book House Manager Sue Smith notes that Tyndale’s promotion on its One Year line is one that her store staff looks forward to each year since it allows them to stock up for Christmas and the New Year when sales are heaviest.
Joyce Meyer appeals to viewers of her TV program, Enjoying Everyday Life, with The Power of Being Thankful, coming out in October from FaithWords. Another popular pastor, Joel Osteen, offers Daily Readings From Break Out!, based on his Break Out! trade title, both from FaithWords.
Pastor and best-selling author John MacArthur focuses on the believer’s ongoing communication with God in A Year of Prayer (Harvest House Publishers), releasing Sept. 1. The September releases of Faith for the Journey by Charles Swindoll (Tyndale) and Beside Bethesda by Joni Eareckson Tada (NavPress, distributed by Tyndale) focus on courageously trusting God and on deeper healing, respectively.
Best-selling author and pastor Dr. David Jeremiah capitalizes on the popularity of his Turning Point TV broadcast with Turning Points With God (Tyndale), a year-long daily devotional releasing in October. New York Times best-selling author Steven Furtick—the young but popular pastor at Elevation Church based in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area—delivers The Greater Devotional: A 40-Day Experience to Ignite God’s Vision for Your Life (Multnomah Books, Sept. 9).
Pastor Kyle Idleman is back with a 40-day devotional, 40 Days to Lasting Change: An AHA Devotional (David C Cook, January), which ties in with his AHA book. Also from Cook, Tullian Tchividjian, pastor of Coral Ridge Presbyterian Church and grandson of Billy Graham also is set to release his 365-day devotional It Is Finished in January.
John Piper has penned a 25-day Advent devotional, The Dawning of Indestructible Joy, released last month from Crossway.
PROMOTING THE PRODUCTS
Apart from the December-February selling season, devotionals comprise a category that lags for many retailers. Digital availability may be a factor that has added to the issue of seasonality.
Manager Sue Smith of Baker Book House in Grand Rapids, Michigan, asks a good question about the genre: “I’m wondering if the release of new devotionals has declined with increased blog traffic—people using blogs for devotionals or email delivery of devotionals—and the total domination of the devotional section by Jesus Calling.”
Smith and other Christian retailers, including Mark Hutchinson, president of the Blessings chain in Canada, indicated that Jesus Calling and the other titles in that brand have remained top sellers in the last several years. Indeed, three of the top 20 nonfiction and three of the top 25 Evangelical Christian Publishers Association best-seller spots for July belong to Jesus Calling-branded projects.
To keep other devotional options in the mix for their customers, Smith’s team has gotten creative. One successful strategy has been making use of promotions offered by publishers, including the Manager’s Choice Promotions offered by HarperCollins Christian Publishers, which also publishes Jesus Calling.
“This allows us to create a sale around the book of our choosing,” Smith said. “We have a few titles that are continual best-sellers, so we keep those devotionals on a perpetual promotion. One good example would be Cowman’s classic Streams in the Desert.”
Mollie Lassiter Flowers, owner of Gospel Music & Christian Bookstore in Laurinburg, North Carolina, said that several of her top sellers annually are Christmas titles from Guideposts or The Upper Room daily devotional guide (Abingdon Press). These make up about 50% of the year’s sales of devotionals, while the other half comes from a small group of continual customer favorites like Max Lucado’s Grace for the Moment (Thomas Nelson), Joyce Meyer’s Starting and Ending Your Day (FaithWords) and Rick Renner’s Sparkling Gems From the Greek (Harrison House).
Renner’s book is proof of the power of knowing your customer and employing hand-selling approaches. The book carries substantial weight at more than 1,000 pages and is priced at $34.95, much higher than typical devotionals.
One title that may be easier to promote than others is Jesus Daily by Aaron Tabor, M.D. (FaithWords, Oct. 21). Based on Facebook’s No. 1 fan page with its more than 27 million followers, it includes interactive devotions. The book features creative elements in its design and uses the author’s posts, fans’ comments and questions, and responses from what Tabor considers “the largest ‘Roman Road’ in history.”
New Morning Mercies (Crossway, Oct. 31) by Paul David Tripp also was born out of a social-media concept. It provides 365 meditations led off by a gospel-centered tweet (140 characters or less).
Another gospel-centered title is Gospel Formed by J.A. Medders (Nov. 27). The Kregel Publications book focuses on the sufficiency of the cross for everyday life.
RELATING TO READERS
Not surprisingly, women’s and children’s devotionals remain popular choices. With a number of the women’s devotionals done in a gift-friendly, fashion-forward style and with many children’s devotionals inviting family participation, these two groups of readers are perhaps less impacted by blogs, e-books and other digital offerings.
Women’s devotionals remain a mix of feminine covers and giftable bindings. The 2015 edition of Daily Wisdom for Women (Barbour), available in October, provides readings for each day in a floral-inspired cover that can be imprinted for personalization. At $14.99, it represents the sweet spot that has become the median price point for devotionals. The annual has sold over 80,000 copies in previous editions.
Other Barbour offerings for women include Encouragement and Hope for a Woman’s Heart (October); Where God Leads, I Will Follow (October); 180 Prayers for a Woman of God (September); and The Woman’s Secret to a Happy Life (October), a daily devotional journal based on the Hannah Whitehall Smith classic The Christian’s Secret of a Happy Life.
One of Tyndale’s latest offerings was written specifically with busy moms in mind. The September title 365 Pocket Prayers for Mothers applies the successful concept of convenient pocket-sizing along with daily prayers and Scripture readings to the challenges women face as mothers.
Revell (Baker Publishing Group) adds a new devotional from Holley Gerth to the September releases with What Your Heart Needs for the Hard Days. Gerth, co-founder of (in)courage and a partner with DaySpring, wrote the devotional as a companion to her book You’re Going to Be Okay after seeing a need among women for reassurance that God is still God regardless of all the hard things that may come into their lives.
That trend is something that Kim Venema, associate at Living Water Christian Resource Center in Big Rapids, Michigan, sees as a key factor devotional sales.
“Many times, people come in looking for something that will help someone through a time of trial, whether that be grief or something else,” said Venema, who pointed out that devotionals must often be in the best-seller range to find year-round sales.
For the younger set, a number of new releases this coming year are part of a larger brand that already has seen success in the marketplace. That may mean building on a brand already connected with devotional products for adults to appeal to parents. For example, The One Year Devotions for Active Boys (Tyndale, October) and Daily Whispers of Wisdom for Girls Journal (Barbour, September) would be familiar to many parents. Another new release for girls is God Hearts Me (Barbour, October), a devotional collection for 10- to 14-year-olds.
Beauty of Believing (Zonderkidz, Oct. 7), a year-long devotional collection connected with the Faithgirlz! line, is a good example of one of the ways publishers such as Zondervan are freshening up their materials with new packaging and fewer ISBNs, yet still keeping a strong brand in play.
Other new releases include the revised edition of Adventure Bible Book of Devotions for Early Readers, NIrV by screenwriter Marnie Wooding (Zonderkidz, Oct. 7) and Devotions for Beginning Readers by author and Mothers of Preschoolers speaker Crystal Bowman and filmmaker Christy Lee Taylor (Thomas Nelson, Oct. 14).
New from B&H Publishing Group in September are 40 Days of Purity for Girls by Shane King and 40 Days of Purity for Guys by Clayton King, both tied to King’s True Love Project trade book.
Another category returning in devotionals is marriage. Tyndale is betting on the value of well-known names with two projects from best-selling brands. The publisher will be releasing The Uncommon Marriage Adventure from Tony and Lauren Dungy (Tyndale Momentum) in October as a companion to the Uncommon Marriage book released earlier in the year.
Tyndale also is set to release The Best Year of Your Marriage, a 52-week devotional with readings from Focus on the Family counselors and edited by Focus President Jim Daly and his wife, Jean. Rounding out the fall offerings from the company is the November release of a tan imitation-leather edition of The One Year Love Language Minute Devotional by Gary Chapman.
FINDING NEW NUGGETS
From the United Kingdom come two voices lesser known to Americans. Angus Buchan, a farmer-turned-evangelist in South Africa, offers Now Is the Time (Nov. 27), available through Monarch Books and distributed by Kregel. Buchan is known to those who watched the 2006 Affirm Films movie about his life, Faith Like Potatoes, available through Kregel.
Simon Guillebaud writes of his life in Burundi, Africa, where the contrast between Christianity, militant Islam and the repressive powers of witch doctors is stark. His devotional, Choose Life (Monarch/Kregel, Sept. 27), releases in September.
Mercy and Melons by Lisa Nichols Hickman (Abingdon Press, September) features meditations that help readers pray through the alphabet in the spirit of the Hebrew acrostic tradition. Also from Abingdon, Slowing Time: Seeing the Sacred Outside Your Kitchen Door by Chicago Tribune columnist Barbara Mahany (October) offers thoughts on seeing the sacred in the everyday.
Retailers may want to know how to give lesser-known devotional works a fair shot with their customers. For Flowers, one of the biggest aids is hand-selling.
“When people come in looking for a gift, I go and get one that fits what they’re looking for and just about every time I get one and put it in someone’s hands, they end up buying,” she said.
Flowers admits that another part of the equation is having an extremely loyal customer base, but notes that the practice of hand-selling works well with many types of devotionals.
“I like to ask customers what their birthday is and then I’ll turn to that day in a devotional and let them read through the day’s thought,” she said.
Keeping a balance between best-sellers, classics and fresh voices, as well as putting effort into merchandising devotionals near related books or in prime spots for impulse buys and making sure to hand-sell your staff’s favorites will help give devotional sales a boost throughout the year.