|Walking in the Spirit|
|Written by Natalie Gillespie|
|Monday, 11 November 2013 04:55 PM America/New_York|
Charismatic authors’ reach extends beyond traditional readership
More than one in four Christians today identify themselves as Pentecostal or charismatic, and many feel that this population is the fastest-growing in Christianity today. Yet perhaps nothing stirs debate within the global body of Christ-followers faster than the topic of the Holy Spirit.
Recently in the same week in Southern California, hundreds of surfers “paddled out” into the surf to honor the memory and work of Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel independent churches and the man remembered for fostering the “Jesus Movement” of the late 1960s and 1970s.
On the same day, close to 4,000 people met to hear megachurch pastor and author John MacArthur denounce charismatic beliefs in his Strange Fire conference, which also featured prominent guest speakers such as R.C. Sproul and Joni Eareckson Tada. Another megachurch pastor, Mark Driscoll, dropped by MacArthur’s event and stirred further controversy by giving away copies of his new book, A Call to Resurgence. As his books had not been approved to give away at the conference, Driscoll was asked to stop distributing them and claims they were even confiscated, creating a Christian media firestorm.
The gifts of the Spirit manifesting today can certainly be a polarizing subject, but since the Pentecostal movement in the early 1900s and the charismatic movement that launched in 1960, they continue to be popular topics. Publishers such as Whitaker House, Bridge-Logos, Harrison House, Destiny Image and Charisma House were formed in part to help Christians explore these topics and continue to find success by serving this ever-changing market.
“The Charismatic Interest category continues to have a strong demand in the CBA market with decidedly charismatic topics and authors known in that category,” said Marcos Perez, vice president of sales for Charisma House.
In a global political and economic climate that seems shaky at best, many Christians are asking, Where is the power? That question causes some Christians to “cross over” from evangelical to charismatic.
“It seems that people are hungry for a Christianity that is free from the trappings of the American culture and that gets back to the power and day-to-day experiences of a truly radical gospel,” said Joe Jestus, chief matchmaker for Destiny Image. “They are tired of seeing God’s power and love on Sunday and then going through the rest of their week devoid of that same power and love. They are hungry for an everyday gospel that shines with not only God’s supernatural power, but also his love that will draw people in.”
Harrison House title Taking Your Life Back: Overcome Any Obstacle From the Enemy by Rick Shelton (March) is just one example that may fill this need. Shelton experienced six years of chronic illness and fatigue until God supernaturally healed him.
Other books that will appeal to emerging charismatics include the Chosen titles Seeing the Voice of God: What God is Telling You Through Dreams & Visions by Laura Harris Smith (January); The Making of a Prophet: Practical Advice for Developing Your Prophetic Voice by Jennifer LeClaire (February); and 7 Secrets to Power Praying: How to Access God’s Wisdom and Miracles Every Day by Jane Glenchur (March).
“I find it true that people are hungry for a church that is alive again; that’s true of what is being reflected here,” said Carolyn Albert, owner of 10-year-old The Open Door Christian Bookstore in Gardiner, Maine. “We have a lot of Baptist churches in our area, but we also have Church of God, Assembly of God, Foursquare—and it seems like the Nazarene church is really coming to the front with the Holy Spirit. Charismatic books are about 10% of my sales.”
Ruth Ann Page, book buyer for Cedar Springs Christian Store in Knoxville, Tenn., agreed, noting that “there are more people that are interested in the topic of the Holy Spirit because there is a broad spectrum of people writing about the Holy Spirit, like Francis Chan. It seems as though the evangelical church is getting more aware and interested in the Holy Spirit.”
If people are craving for God’s power, authors are also hungry to reach more of them. That keeps the lines of the charismatic market shifting, as authors known for their stance as charismatic Christians are writing about topics that have broad appeal. The category lines between mainstream and Spirit-filled Christianity continue to blur as authors like Joyce Meyer, T.D. Jakes and Joel Osteen sell millions of books to Christians and even non-Christians worldwide. Books that once would have been labeled “special interest” now are lumped into the Christian Living category.
“We are seeing trends of charismatic/Pentecostal authors reaching a broader audience, not necessarily just a reader that shares the exact same doctrinal beliefs,” Perez said. “Many authors are crossing generational, racial and denominational boundaries.”
Hachette Book Group’s FaithWords has three new releases from best-selling “crossover” charismatic authors in 2014, including You Can Begin Again: No Matter What, It’s Never Too Late by Meyer (April); New Beginnings by Osteen (October); and Instinct: Unleashing Your Natural Drive for Ultimate Success by T.D. Jakes (May). Osteen topped the New York Times’ Advice, How-To and Miscellaneous best-seller list in October with Break Out!, his most recent release. Top authors continue to dominate the market often because of their visibility on television, social media and in their own megachurches and ministries.
“As far as our demographic, my sense is that people who are listening to certain authors on TV are the ones who come in asking for those specific authors because they have seen them on TV,” Cedar Springs’ Page said.
But it’s not just the biggest names that equal substantial sales, publishers say. Blockbuster best-sellers may appeal to a broad spectrum, but charismatics looking to grow in their faith want books from classic authors and new voices who give readers a fresh perspective on age-old truths.
“Two trends or topics that we see emerging in 2014 in this category are that of fully understanding the Father’s love and getting back to the radical message of the gospel,” Jestus of Destiny Image said. “Three books that we are releasing along these topics are Prone to Love by Jason Clark (February), The Illusion of More by Harris III (April) and Undiluted by Benjamin Corey later on in the year.”
Charisma House saw success with last year’s The Spiritual Warfare Bible, which continues to exceed sales expectations. The Bible includes more than 250 one-sentence declarations that readers can pray and speak out loud to defeat Satan’s attacks.
“The Spiritual Warfare Bible was our biggest new initiative in the last year for this market,” Perez said. “It clearly met a need as it generally exceeded all of our expectations and that of our retail partners. It continues to sell well each week throughout the market. Books on prayer and spiritual warfare remain hot topics.”
Charisma House’s key releases in early 2014 include The Bait of Satan: 20th Anniversary Edition by John Bevere (January), which shows readers how to stay free from offense and escape the victim mentality; Holy Fire by R.T. Kendall (January), which offers a balanced biblical look at the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives; The Power of Hope by Dutch Sheets (January), which shows what God wants to reveal to us during difficult times; and There’s a Crack in Your Armor by Perry Stone (April), which identifies key strategies to help readers stay protected and win spiritual battles.
Pentecostal and charismatic growth is occurring throughout the world. In fact, the largest congregation in the world is the Pentecostal Yoido Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea, which claims almost 1 million members worldwide and seats as many as 480,000 congregants across seven services each weekend. Churches throughout Asia and Africa are exploding with growth, counting tens of thousands at their services each week. That gives retailers the opportunity not only to find creative ways to connect products with people overseas, but also to try to “globalize” their American customers by offering books that expand their thinking beyond American culture.
“There is growth worldwide, with the biggest growth, I think, taking place in Third World countries,” said Lloyd Hildebrand, co-owner of Bridge-Logos. “We are seeing charismatic churches grow in Nigeria, Uganda and so on. Also, the movement continues to grow in South America and Latin America. And in the United States, we also see a rising number of young evangelists who would be considered charismatic or Pentecostal.”
One Bridge-Logos author sharing his story is Michael Cunningham, whose Adversity to Freedom (February) outlines his life in Ireland and the way he found new life in Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit.
“We continue to produce a good number of charismatic and Pentecostal books, from biographies to Spirit-filled topics,” Hildebrand said. “Raise the Dead by Dr. Phillip Goldsedder actually presents a case for bringing dead people back to life, based on Matt. 10:8. He believes that commandment is for believers today. We have another title simply called Speaking in Tongues: Heaven’s Language by Robert Engelhardt (February).”
While charismatic and Pentecostal movements are growing around the world, they’re also increasing in the United States, especially among Generations X and Y. In a 2010 Pew Research Center Report focused on the millennial generation, researchers discovered that members of Gen Y consider themselves “spiritual,” not religious. They are skeptical of denominations and institutions. They want authenticity, not organizations, and many of them do want a connection with God and are open to discovering Him in a powerful way.
“They are seeking, and my belief is that they are going to be led right to the Lord and the Holy Spirit just as the Jesus People were back in the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s,” Hildebrand said. “It was really amazing back then. You had a church that was basically kind of cold, relatively empty, devoid of life. Then all of a sudden these people started appearing with their long hair and dressed in jeans. Some were barefooted, yet they really brought revival to the church. I can see that same thing happening again. The important thing is to show them reality and personal relationship, not to put on a show to try to draw them.”
“We are seeing an influx in sales to a younger audience,” Jestus said. “The young people are hungry for a faith with power and want a closer relationship to the Holy Spirit that has an effect on their everyday life.”
Gen Xers remember the sex-and-money pastor scandals of the 1980s and 1990s that affected huge ministries. They cringe at flashy, overdone evangelists and televangelists begging for money, claiming “prophecies” that don’t come true, and abusing the pulpit and platform for their own gain. Today, Gen Xers want churches that are about changing lives, restoring community and getting up-close-and-personal with the Trinity, and that translates to a desire for books that will teach them to dig deeper.
“Spirit-filled Christians want to build their faith and increase their knowledge of Scripture,” said Bob Whitaker Jr., president of Whitaker Corp., which publishes charismatic titles through Whitaker House. “Biblically based teaching from godly, well-respected Christian leaders does much better than some of the flashy hype we’ve seen in the past.”
Whitaker points to Guillermo Maldonado, Whitaker House’s best-selling author for the past two years, as an example.
“He is both a pastor of a 20,000-member church and apostle to a worldwide network of churches,” Whitaker said. “Others like Dr. Myles Munroe and Joan Hunter—mature, well-respected teachers and evangelists—continue to appeal to Spirit-filled readers hungry for Bible-based teaching.”
Key upcoming titles for Whitaker House include Raised From the Dead: The Miracle That Brings Promise to America by Reinhard Bonnke (January), the story of a partially embalmed Nigerian man being resurrected; Prophetic Praise: Upload Worship, Download Heaven by Joshua Fowler (February), which challenges readers to give “passionate praise for an extravagant God”; and a four-book series by Marilyn Hickey and Sarah Bowling, starting with 30 Meditations on Rest (fall).
Whitaker is also introducing a line of “Spirit-Led Bible Study” books that focus on specific topics and encourage interaction. The books are formatted like class workbooks—8.5-by-11 inches—to add enough room to answer study questions and make notes. On its Anchor Distributors side, a standout product for charismatic readers for 2014 will be Richard Mull’s God Speaks Interactive Bible, published by Light Force Publishers (www.operationlightforce.com).
Andrew Wommack takes readers into the life of one of the Bible’s most famous prophets in Lessons From Elijah (Harrison House, January); and Tommy O’Dell, grandson of evangelist T.L. Osborn, takes readers on a journey to discover Miracle Working Faith: Experience the Fullness of God in Your Daily Life (February).
As the number of Spirit-filled believers grows, publishers in this category aim to keep up—figuring out how to remain viable and vital in an increasingly digital world. Publishers want to continue to reach Christians through traditional Christian bookstores, but are also broadening their bases by rebranding, creating self-publishing divisions, increasing their digital offerings, building relationships with church stores and developing international accounts.
Destiny Image owners recently created a parent company, Nori Media Group, to oversee its three divisions: Destiny Image, Sound Wisdom and Destiny Image Films.
“We’ve taken on several new challenges—curriculum development, church market growth and digital products,” said Nathan Martin, president of Nori Media Group. “We’re cutting back the number of titles released per month and focusing more time and marketing efforts on each new release.”
Bridge-Logos underwent an ownership change this year, passing into the hands of Suzanne Wooldridge, daughter of company founder Kitty Morrell, who died in 2009; Ed Harding, former president of New Wine Ministries in the United Kingdom; and Lloyd Hildebrand, Bridge-Logos’ publisher.
In 2011, Strang Communications rebranded itself as Charisma Media, and its book division was renamed Charisma House in an effort to both diversify and position the company for growth in the digital age, founder Steve Strang said. In September, Charisma Media teamed up with Xulon Press founder Tom Freiling to launch Excel, the world’s first self-publishing endeavor to offer print-on-demand technology specifically for Christian authors. The program offers a zero inventory system, enabling print books upon request in just 24 hours or less.
“The way this specific category is headed is the way the entire industry is headed—with more connection happening between authors, their message and the people who love them,” Jestus of Destiny Image said. “It will probably happen even faster in this category, as those in the charismatic/Pentecostal realm tend to embrace the tools and technologies of our day even faster.
“The exciting thing about this is that it will lead to quicker expansions of the moves of God that we are already seeing as we become more and more connected with one another through these new communication tools. The key will be, as it always has been, the quality of what’s being said, not necessarily how it’s being said.”