Christian Retailing

Health books help readers renew vim and vigor Print Email
Written by Ken Walker   
Tuesday, 18 December 2012 10:25 AM America/New_York

HarvestHouse-SettingBoundariesWithFoodFrom foods to fasting, authors consider what it takes to walk in divine health

With a series of church-based workout groups already inspired by her best-selling “Body Gospel” DVDs, fitness expert Donna Richardson Joyner launches her writing career in January with the multi-city Witness to Fitness publicity tour.

A 28-day exercise and eating plan, Witness to Fitness (HarperOne) includes a foreword by Bishop T.D. Jakes and endorsements from such figures as NBA star Grant Hill and recording artist Kirk Franklin.

“People are finding out that it’s not just about what you eat, but keeping your body moving,” said Suzanne Wickham, senior director of publicity for HarperOne.

For the HarperCollins imprint this is the first specifically Christian fitness title, which symbolizes the expanding appetite for such material in the Christian market.

As evidence of this trend, Seattle-based author Cherie Calbom—known as “The Juice Lady” and a nutritionist to celebrities such as George Foreman and Richard Simmons—cites the proliferation of best-selling health titles, increases in organic food sales and media interest in natural foods.

“The consumption of whole foods, fresh vegetables and green smoothies has been the path of healing for thousands,” said Calbom, whose The Juice Lady’s Big Book of Juices & Green Smoothies (Siloam) releases Jan. 8.

IVPBooks-EatWithJoyAn imprint of Charisma House Book Group, Siloam has also published Dr. Don Colbert’s “Bible Cure” series, which has sold more than 3 million copies in English and 300,000 in other languages. Colbert has written other New York Times Siloam or Charisma House best-sellers, as has pastor Jentezen Franklin with his 2008 book, Fasting, and related titles.

“There is so much published material in the health and wellness genre that reflects New Age-driven perspectives or other beliefs,” said Marcos Perez, vice president of sales at Charisma Media. “Siloam has been successful because Christians want health advice and appreciate sound, practical teaching from a biblical point of view.” 

Dr. Scott Morris, a physician who is unusual in that he is also an ordained Methodist minister, founded the Church Health Center in Memphis, Tenn. Morris aims to help believers examine their health with such books as God, Health, and Happiness (June 2012) and the  ongoing “40 Days to Better Living” series, both from Barbour Publishing.


Jeff Crosby, associate publisher and director of sales and marketing at InterVarsity Press (IVP), identified general market titles such as The Omnivore’s Dilemma (Penguin) and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle (Harper Perennial) as paving the way for Christians to take a closer look at their food choices. 

Siloam-TheJuiceLadysBigBookOfJuicesFilms such as Food Inc. and King Corn have illustrated some of the vagaries of our food system; concern about abusive agricultural practices and justice have also played a role, Crosby added.

“Additionally, the aging baby-boomer population and the fact that people are living longer has caused the church to ask, ‘How do we care well for this segment of our community?’ ” he said. “Books such as Eat With Joy (March) and Health, Healing and the Church’s Mission (July 2012) naturally arise out of that.”

Group Publishing Executive Editor Amy Nappa applauds first lady Michelle Obama for making childhood obesity one of her causes. 

“News reports have shocked us with the levels of obesity,” Nappa said “The costs of healthcare issues related to poor fitness are on the rise.”

The negative results of a lack of activity are alarming enough to make the public interested in doing something different, said Paul Gossard, editor at Harvest House Publishers, where one of the latest health titles is Setting Boundaries With Food by Allison Bottke (August).

“In the Christian market, I think the last several decades have helped us understand again that God is interested in our bodies,” Gossard said.

“Positively, this has helped Christians understand that reasonable attention to our bodies can support our spiritual lives and our usefulness to others.”

Kim Bangs, editor at Regal Books—which publishes the “First Place 4 Health” line and recently released a half-dozen trade titles on health and fitness—sees the secular arena’s emphasis on advertising of weight loss and diet programs playing a major role. 

“Christians are realizing that they can’t live up to their God-given potential and fulfill their mission—whatever that may be—unless they are healthier,” Bangs said. “When Christians make a decision to change their lifestyle and manage their health, I believe they desire resources that are biblically based as well as sound from a medical perspective.”

TyndaleMomentum-IfYouHaveACravingFIRST-PERSON EXPERIENCE 

Just as salvation testimonies inspire fellow believers, first-person experience is a central aspect of health and fitness titles. 

In Setting Boundaries With Food, Bottke wrote about nearly tipping the scales at 300 pounds before taking control of her eating habits. Pastor Steve Willis spearheaded his West Virginia church’s participation in a fitness effort, which led to Winning the Food Fight (Regal, 2012) and the launch this month of his 12-week Food Fight Boot Camp to combat obesity. Willis is also known for his role in ABC’s Emmy-winning mini-series Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.

Another pastor, Steve Reynolds, lost more than 100 pounds before writing Bod4God (Regal, 2009). The book inspired churches to start “Losing to Live” programs and sparked Reynolds’ follow-up, Get Off the Couch (Regal, November 2012)

Popular health entries of past and present, including Reshaping It All by Candace Cameron Bure (B&H Books, 2011) and If You Have a Craving, I Have a Cure by Sheri Rose Shepherd (Tyndale Momentum, January)—demonstrate the value of the authors’ success story.


Publishers believe retailers can capitalize on the health and fitness boom in various ways. Some of their suggestions are:

  • ?Create a health-and-wellness product section.
  • ?Include a health tab on the store’s website.
  • ?Bring in a guest chef, cook or nutritionist to prepare healthy dishes for customers at a special event.
  • ?Sponsor a weekly fitness class in the store or local church, or a walking group that starts and ends its walk at the store—and providing a free water bottle with a store logo for participants. 

Perez said that endcaps and special table promotions are best in the January-February and April-May timeframes. 

Since Christian books have long dealt with such issues as divorce and job loss, Wickham said retailers have strong potential to also minister in the health area.

“People are starting to realize it’s smart to pray to God for healthier bodies,” she said. “So why not go to Christian authors for inspiration as to fitness and diet issues?”