Written by Production
Monday, 05 April 2010 09:32 AM EDT
Newsboys returns June 8 with Born Again and the debut of lead singer Michael Tait (second from right), formerly of Tait and dcTalk. Tait and Newsboys drummer Duncan Phillips (far left) discuss the band’s new record and sound.
Michael, how was it for you joining the band?
Tait: “Newsboys have always been the top in my industry. I thought to myself, ‘Am I ready to do this kind of thing once again without my old partners TobyMac and Kevin Max?’ Prayed about it and thought about it, and I took on the responsibility and learned the songs. That said, I’ve never looked back.”
What can you tell us about the new record?
Tait: “The record is very traditional in the sense of message because the message never changes, but the method does change. Musically, it’s killer, it’s pop-rock, it’s edgy, it’s groovy.”
Phillips: “We have the opportunity with Michael to really kind of explore musically and create avenues that we haven’t done in the past, so it really is like a software upgrade, like an update to the band. This is a new thing, although saying that, there are songs that we are writing right now that are very classical Newsboys’ songs, so we are not just walking totally away from what our fans know. But, on the (other) hand, we want to be so new and fresh, and with Michael, he could sing the phone book and people would buy it. He just has that rich, beautiful quality to his voice. Michael says we are chasing the art—we are absolutely doing that and know that we have a paintbrush that can paint those new pictures on that canvas.”
What do your fans respond to most in concert?
Phillips: “It’s probably ‘Jesus Freak,’ which is a dcTalk song from way back when. It’s real fun for me because it allows me to play this incredibly huge single legitimately within the confines of Newsboys now.”
Do you think it was an easy transition because of the Christian community?
Tait: “Yes, we are blessed by that. Back in the day, they always said that if you were a Newsboys fan, there was a good chance you were a dcTalk fan. I was waiting for the comments … ‘Where’s Peter (Furler)? We want the other guy back,’ and there were a couple of comments here and there, but it lasted for just a minute.”
Phillips: “The first guy we thought to ask to be the lead singer was Michael Tait. It’s kind of a very interesting story looking back now at the hand of God and how He orchestrated this whole thing, and we truly believe it’s divine.”
For an exclusive, extended audio interview, visit the Christian Retailing music blog at www.christianretailing.com.
Written by Rebecca Irwin-Diehl
Monday, 05 April 2010 09:14 AM EDT
Did you know:
• Black Americans are more likely than any other racial or ethnic group in the nation to report a formal religious affiliation?
• African-Americans comprise the largest racial minority market in the U.S.?
• By 2013, African-American buying power is projected to reach $1.24 trillion—a 35.7% increase from 2008?
The question then becomes how to develop the relationships that are key in this new market. Two rules are golden in the African-American Christian community: Keep it real and keep it gospel. If you are authentic about wanting to learn more about your African-American sisters and brothers and if gospel ministry is your priority, then you should find your local black clergy and congregations willing partners.
Consider these strategies for connecting with African-American Christians in your area:
Do your homework. Find out who the African-Americans in your region are. The U.S. Census Bureau and Web sites such as ZipWho.com offer quick demographic information by ZIP code, and you can get a fairly good idea of denominational affiliation by checking your local phone book for churches in your area.
Make the first move. Contact the African-American churches in your area. Invite pastors and ministry staff to develop proposals for workshops or events to be held at your store. Ask about authors or musical artists in their congregation who may have books or CDs that you could accept on consignment, and suggest related events that include a signing.
Get to know the pastor. The black church pastor remains one of the most influential people in the African-American community. Reach out to local African-American clergy, and ask ministry-centered questions:
• What spiritual or practical issues interest or affect your church members?
• What topics are you exploring in Bible study, sermon series or new ministries?
• What Bible version do you—and most church members—use?
• Which authors do you frequently quote or recommend?
• Which Christian music artists are popular with the youth or the choir?
Pay attention to faces. Not just the faces of customers or community residents, but what faces appear on your shelves on book and CD covers and on the figurines, artwork and other merchandise in your gift section? Consider adding multicultural and African-American products in a special section or intermingled with your other resources. At least offer a catalog with special-order options and incentives.
Invite new customer loyalty. When you talk with local pastors, ask what kind of loyal customer program is most appealing. Perhaps a coupon made available in the church bulletin that says, “Pastor Jones sent me,” or a church member discount card in exchange for a certain number of congregational e-mail addresses? Even better, offer to donate a percentage of sales on purchases made by congregation members to a specific ministry of the church.
Rev. Rebecca Irwin-Diehl is editor of Judson Press. Call 800-458-3766 for a catalog or visit www.judsonpress.com.
Written by Ed Underwood
Monday, 05 April 2010 07:48 AM EDT
Latest project: Reborn to Be Wild (David C. Cook)
Resides in: Glendora, Calif.
Currently reading: Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton and just finished re-reading John Steinbeck’s East of Eden.
What was the inspiration for Reborn to Be Wild?
“I was agreeing with another theologically trained church leader about the excesses and dangers of the ‘Emergent’ church when God’s Spirit broke in with this rebuking thought, ‘You sound just like the church leaders who shamed and discouraged you back then!’ Back then, when I was part of an extreme movement of younger Christians; back then, when our hearts were full of unusual ideas about Jesus and His church; back then, when we were the ones church people talked about in sentences full of mistrust and shame. I realized right then that I miss the Jesus Movement, not the lifestyle of the ’60s, but what it felt like to be a part of a revival. That dissatisfaction with my own spiritual status quo led me on this journey that resulted in this book.”
Did you have your own spiritual reawakening?
“There have been several, the most dramatic being my battle with leukemia that is chronicled in my book When God Breaks Your Heart. I came to realize that I had allowed the institutional church to tame my wild heart. I simply wanted to go all out for Jesus in the same radical way we did during the Jesus Movement.”
What are some of the lies that believers have accepted as truth?
“I’m sure of at least six lies we Jesus Movement converts believed that sidetracked our revival and tamed our wild hearts. Here are a few of them: ‘Bigger is better’—we threw our energy into building megachurches that marketed Jesus instead of doing the hard work of disciple-making. Another one is that ‘it’s all mine’—this is the lie we most wanted to believe. We allowed convoluted interpretations of Jesus’ teachings on money to explain away our materialism and we’ve paid a huge spiritual price. Another lie is that ‘power is good’—we were the generation that brought down the presidency of Lyndon Johnson. We understood the power of politics, and too many times, let the politics of the right define us.”
What are the main culprits driving church-goers to complacency?
“I believe Christians want something real. We’re tired of plastic Christianity and life-in-the-suburbs mythologies that let us wiggle out of the hard sayings of Jesus. We also seem to have forgotten that Christianity is a supernatural endeavor. Words like ‘faith’ and ‘transformation’ seem to have given way to self-help spiritualities and campus-building programs.”
What are the positive signs you see in today’s generation?
“They’re fed up with the emphases on size and sizzle. They want to do something for the Lord Jesus. They don’t know exactly what they want, but they want to experience true spiritual community and make a tangible difference for Christ. They remind me of … well, us—the Jesus Movement rockers who lost our way. I hope this book can help them avoid the same mistakes we made.”
Written by Production
Monday, 05 April 2010 07:41 AM EDT
Peter Hitchens, brother of prominent atheist and author Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great), explains his own spiritual journey in The Rage Against God: How Atheism Led Me To Faith ($22.99, 978-0-310-32031-9, Zondervan), releasing this month.
In the book, Hitchens, who burned his Bible in prep school but later came to faith in Christ, says he wanted to offer something for atheists and Christians.
“I want to explain how I became convinced, by reason and experience, of the necessity and rightness of a form of Christianity that is modest, accommodating, and thoughtful—but ultimately uncompromising about its vital truth,” he writes. “I hope very much by doing so, I can at least cause those who consider themselves to be atheists to hesitate over their choice. I also hope to provide Christians with insights they can use, the better to understand their unbelieving friends and so perhaps to sow some small seeds of doubt.”
Hitchens presents the circumstances that influenced him toward atheism, which he said were similar to those his brother encountered.
“We are separate people who have lived different lives,” he writes in the book’s introduction. “But since it is obvious that this book arises out of my attempt to debate religion with him, it would be absurd to pretend that much of what I say here is not intended to counter or undermine arguments he has presented in his own book on this subject.”
Hitchens writes about a public debate he had with his brothers in Grand Rapids, Mich., in 2008 and a “softening” of blows between them. In the book’s epilogue, Hitchens shares candidly about their decades-long sibling, and now intellectual, feud, which he gratefully proclaims is over.
For more information or to order, call Zondervan at 800-727-1309, or visit www.zondervan.com.
Wednesday, 31 March 2010 03:44 PM EDT
‘Facts of Life’ actress reveals personal journey to a sense of community
Although Lisa Whelchel portrayed a character with close friends while starring in television’s The Facts of Life, a busy work schedule during the crucial adolescent years kept her from truly connecting in real life. In Friendship for Grown-Ups: What I Missed & Learned Along the Way, she opens up about her personal life and struggle with relationships.
“Learning the ins and outs of navigating friendships in your 40s is really awkward, especially when you make the silly mistakes that you make as a young girl,” she told Christian Retailing. “Making them as a middle-aged woman is not pretty.”
Whelchel said she had been reluctant to get too personal in her latest book, bypassing her personal hurts and struggles and instead deciding to focus on friendships, some of which she made as a member of the Women of Faith team of speakers. During the process, however, she began to notice that the book was becoming more revealing than she expected.
“It ended up being a deep look at the messiness of what happens when God comes and does an overhaul on your heart,” she said. “Everything God has done, He has done within the context of community and relationships. It’s definitely a book about friendships, but it’s also a book about what God does when He wants to do a deep, healing, growing work in our hearts. He usually does it through people.”
Whelchel, who has begun sharing from the book during Women of Faith tour stops, said she feels women are identifying with her insecurities.
“I’m learning more women feel the same way I do, even if they had the traditional school experience,” she said. “By opening up my life and my journey, I think women are identifying with where they are, and it feels safer to know they’re not the only ones who are insecure or have been really hurt in a relationship and are wondering if it’s really worth it to open up again.”
Despite the pain, sometimes caused by friends, Whelchel said building bonds is definitely worth it.
“Friendships are more than just somebody to go the mall with,” she said. “I think it’s one of the primary ways that God lets us know about Him and who He is—and lets us know about ourselves. My walk with the Lord has exploded as I have come to open up more to relationships.”
Whelchel, who became a Christian at age 10, credits a strong faith for keeping her stable in Hollywood. In light of the recent news of former child-actor deaths, she attributed her stability to “the grace of God and His covering over my life.”
“I knew I was a child of God, and it doesn’t get much better than that,” she said. “I didn’t go down the typical paths looking for something to identify me or fill me up.”
To order Friendship for Grown-Ups, call Thomas Nelson at 800-251-4000, or visit www.thomasnelson.com.
To listen to an extended audio version of the interview, visit the book blogs section at www.christianretailing.com.
Monday, 08 March 2010 04:21 PM EST
Current project: Frenzy (Book 6 in "Dreamhouse Kings" series), releasing May 16.
Resides in: Monument, Colo.
Now reading: Reviewing advance manuscripts for endorsements and judging novels for a writing competition.
Tell us about the final "Dreamhouse Kings" book, Frenzy.
"The whole series has been leading toward this final installment. While I tend to write stories that are subtle in the spirituality of the characters and themes, that I'm a strong Christian does come through my stories and my themes. The themes in the first five books, in my view, could be very spiritual in that the family has to learn to be a family and support each other. To me, that's a very godly theme, but not specifically Christian. Over the course of the six books, the family gets pretty beat up. They're at the bottom of the well. Just when you think here's how they get out of the situation, they always use their wits. They find themselves in the time of Christ and they're facing Jesus as He's carrying the cross to His crucifixion. I think a lot of people who have followed the story are going to be pleasantly surprised."
Many of your books have been optioned for films. What is the status of those?
"The last year has been really hard for Hollywood. A lot of projects got put on hold, and my projects were put on hold while they figured out the finances and what the economy was going to do to that town and industry. All of the books except for Deadlock are in some stage of pre-production, whether
it's a script or casting. None of them have been canceled which is a good thing. Just in the past few months, they're starting to pick back up again. Universal just this week had a big meeting about the 'Dreamhouse Kings' and moved forward on that, deciding what the budget might be, who the director might be. In this process, almost anything can go wrong, so while I'm not holding my breath, I am hopeful."
How do you balance realism without offending readers of Christian fiction?
"I tend to like really being in your face with gritty realism. I don't like pulling my punches when I write. I think stories ought to be hard hitting and not soft-pedal issues. Sometimes that means when you're dealing with a Christian reader, you could be encroaching on boundaries they're not wanting to cross. The way I balance that is I try to remind them that the Bible is very gritty and very real. We have to remember the consequences of evil can be very ugly. I think it does not benefit us as Christians to pretend that when someone dies, it's not gross, disgusting or tragic. If there's any conflict in terms of my Christian readers and what they would prefer to read, it's in that level of violence."
Any thoughts on the iPad? Is it a game changer?
"I think the Kindle was the game changer. What Amazon is doing with the game changer there, it's changing, if not all models, then at least hardcovers. I don't know if that means the demise of hardcovers. When a hardcover is running $25-26 and you can get a Kindle version for $9.99, I think a lot of people are going to go that direction. What I suspect we'll see probably is the ability to purchase Kindle books or iPad books in a bookstore, like in a Christian bookstore, because really what's missing in the whole process is the knowledge of the product that people want. I don't want to go online and read about a book. I want to be able to talk to somebody who knows the nuances of a particular story or someone who knows if you like this book, you'll like this (other) book. I think what'll happen is you'll get that back and forth with a retailer and consumer, and the retailer can punch it in and before you leave the store, you have that in your Kindle and don't have to go to Amazon and get it. It's unfair if you go into a Christian bookstore and (someone there) convinces you to read the Ted Dekker book, and the guy goes into his car in the parking lot and downloads it. All the work of the retailer doesn't pay off."
How many words do you write a day?
"I tend to immerse myself in a story when I go to write. I tend to write 4,000 words a day when I'm writing."