Cause to Celebrate Print
Written by Ann Byle   
Wednesday, 11 June 2014 12:21 PM America/New_York

CBA calls on industry to commemorate the past and celebrate the future

The 2014 International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) is nearly underway in Atlanta, and the theme—Cause to Celebrate—highlights the good things going on at the show and in the Christian retailing industry as a whole.

“Our theme is a clarion call to embrace change, celebrate God’s work for the future, and commemorate 65 years of industry work producing and distributing Christ-honoring resources,” said Curtis Riskey, president of CBA, the Christian retail association that hosts the annual show.

Crediting the improved economy, new programming and the popularity of Atlanta,  CBA estimates that about 5,000 will attend ICRS (, a significant boost over last year’s 3,700, with about 300 exhibitors.

“We think an added attraction this year are the insights about larger faith issues that are affecting Christian stores and the church,” Riskey said. “The unprecedented dialogue with leading authorities on faith concerns that affect every Christian will help provide a vision for the future of Christian stores and how faith will be lived in coming years.”


International guests will find a warm welcome and ongoing education at this year’s show. The International Welcome session Sunday from 10 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., held at the Atlanta Hilton, features Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, who will give the morning message. Australian Peter Furler and the Peter Furler Band will lead worship, and Gary Wilkerson, president of World Challenge—an international mission organization founded by his father, David Wilkerson—will speak.

While CBA has focused on international attendees since the early days of the convention, the emphasis may be more visible this year because of the absorption of the Christian Trade Association International into CBA. Training sessions with Ramon Mocha of Media Associates International will follow the luncheon, with additional training sessions for international retailers continuing throughout ICRS.

“The International Market Square and the broad range of product providers reach more than 100 countries and attract hundreds of international attendees to ICRS,” Riskey said. “Today with growing middle classes in emerging economies, we are seeing increased growth in the distribution of Christian resources and lifestyle products around the world, especially in the Southern hemisphere.”


ICRS is “always working to innovate to make ICRS more meaningful and valuable,” said Riskey, citing a public festival to promote the industry and benefit a local ministry; revamped training; a new Creative Pavilion to feature new voices and artists; and a cooperative pastor-appreciation program with RBC Ministries.

The Change A Life Festival, 3-6 p.m., at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC Hall C3) is open to the public, which is asked to donate nonperishable food to benefit Atlanta-based Buckhead Christian Ministry. Duck Dynasty’s Phil and Alan Robertson, the Peter Furler Band, comedians Anita Renfroe and Torry Martin, and Abigail Duhon from the movie God’s Not Dead will be on hand to entertain ICRS attendees and guests from the metro area. Local Christian retailers are participating as donation drop-off points and will be featured on radio ads and websites to help raise awareness of the stores.

“From comedians to Dove Award-winning artists to popular Duck Dynasty stars, the Atlanta community will get to engage in a very positive way for the community’s benefit,” Riskey said.

The CBA leader observed that what began as just an industry project changed into a community project. Buckhead Christian Ministry is a network of 28 churches that serve people in Atlanta who are facing life transitions such as job loss.

“We’ve invited the community to a memorable experience with Christian content creators and local stores while helping their neighbors,” Riskey said.


The revamped training program, called Moving Retail Forward, is billed by Riskey as “a mini-conference” complete with keynote speaker and workshops throughout ICRS (see our May-June issue roundup of educational opportunities at ICRS).

Another innovation at the 2014 show is the Creative Pavilion, which includes the Author Avenue and Artist Avenue areas and a stage where presentations will occur throughout the conference.

“We’ll showcase new talent, new voices and demonstrations,” Riskey said. “One demonstration will be a LifeTree Café experience, a new concept to help churches and Christian stores see how they might engage with their communities and relevant issues through dialogue and personal interaction.”

Pastors and church leaders are the focus on the last day of ICRS, June 25, thanks to Mission & Community: Embracing the Kingdom Today, a cooperative outreach by RBC Ministries and CBA to offer inspiration, encouragement and gratitude. The first part of the program is titled “Strengthening the Servant’s Heart,” held 8:30-11 a.m., which includes breakfast, free resources and gifts, and a message of encouragement from Our Daily Bread contributor Marvin Williams, senior teaching pastor of Trinity Church in Lansing, Mich.

“Capturing the Millennial Mind” takes place 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m. and features a panel of Christian leaders who will discuss reasons why millennials are leaving the church. Registration is required for the event that takes place in rooms 202-204 of the Georgia World Congress Center.


Worship has always been a key component of ICRS, and this year is no exception. Sunday evening’s Worship Him event directly follows the Change a Life Festival and is open to the public (GWCC Hall C3). The event features prayer, praise and a message from Kyle Idleman, author of AHA: The God Moment that Changes Everything (David C Cook) and teaching pastor at Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky.

Immediately following Worship Him is the Celebration Showcase, which takes place in the same room and is hosted by comedian Anita Renfroe. The Robertsons will keynote the event, with four artists following: Dove- and GRAMMY-winning Tasha Cobbs, Dove winner Aaron Shust, the JJ Weeks Band and third-generation gospel artist Amber Nelon Thompson.

The trade show officially opens Monday morning, June 23, at 8 a.m. with a brief devotional and prayer by Phil and Alan Robertson (entrance to Hall C1 and C2). There are industry prayer meetings on the exhibit floor as well.

“As Christians, worship and prayer are who we are,” Riskey said. “We depend on God as our Rock and Strong Tower, and look to Jesus Christ for guidance, creativity and innovation to accomplish what He has called us to do.”

Film fans will find much to take in at this year’s ICRS. Persecuted, The Song, The Letters, VeggieTales movies and more will be shown. Times and locations will be announced.


ICRS is the go-to event of the year for Christian retailers, who learn about upcoming products, meet authors and artists, attend educational workshops and discover trends in the retail business. CBA’s Riskey sees a number of developing trends.

“We see Christian stores moving into becoming community centers that encourage interaction and social engagement that reflect their Christian worldview in an atmosphere of service and ministry,” he said.

Stores are hosting small groups, community meetings and concerts, and helping with service projects and fundraising.

“Christian stores are becoming a stronger part of the community fabric and church network because of what happens through the store,” he observed.

Another trend Riskey sees is omnichannel retailing—connecting with customers how they want to connect.

“In the new economy, competing just on price or an exclusive item will become increasingly difficult,” Riskey said. “Today’s retailers will need to connect at a different level than just selling things. They will have to connect on heart levels that allow people to become a better person or to serve a cause that will help others. That emotional bond will build loyalty more than a cheap price.”

CBA and ICRS are helping.

“We are working to provide improved services that lower operating costs, adding new research to help members navigate the new business and faith environments, and advocating for members through education,” Riskey said.

He sees ICRS as confirmation that Christian retailing still matters, that single stores are connected to the larger story God has for the industry.

“We have journeyed a long way together as an industry, and I believe we have a bright future despite the changing and turbulent times,” he said. “ICRS is where people come together to confront challenges, celebrate victories and share stories. It’s a time to see what the Lord has done, and to see what He will do. History has been made at CBA’s conventions and will continue to be made as people who co-labor in this work join together.”


Awards, nominees announced throughout ICRS

chrawd_lrg_300ppiICRS has become a popular place to announce nominees and winners of author and industry awards.

First up this year are the 2014 Golden Scroll Awards, presented by Advanced Writers and Speakers Association (AWSA) and held Sunday, 12:30-3 p.m. at the Georgia World Congress Center (GWCC). AWSA will present the Golden Scroll Awards for book, novel, author, publisher and editor of the year, as well as the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award. Jerry Jenkins is the keynote speaker and recording artist Gwen Smith will offer special music. Advance tickets only available at

American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) will announce finalists for the Carol Awards on Monday at 1:30 pm in GWCC’s Media Room. ACFW also will announce the 2014 Lifetime Achievement Award recipient during the press conference. Christian fiction pioneer Carol Johnson (for whom the Carol Awards are named) will open the event with thoughts on the power of story. The Carol Awards are ACFW’s recognition of the best Christian fiction published by traditional publishing houses. Winners will be announced at the ACFW conference in September. Visit

The 15th annual Christy Awards for excellence in Christian fiction will be presented Monday at the Atlanta Marriot Marquis. The awards are given in eight categories including Contemporary, Contemporary Romance/Suspense, Historical, Historical Romance, Suspense, Contemporary Series, First Novel and Visionary. To register, visit

Winners of Christian Retailing’s Best awards will be announced Tuesday, at 9 a.m. at the show floor’s Creative Pavilion stage. Todd Starnes, author of God Less America (Charisma House) and host of the “FOX News & Commentary” daily radio show, will present the awards given in a variety of book, Bible, gift and other categories. For more information, visit


More to do in Atlanta

media-Centennial-Olympic-Park_2Coming to Atlanta a day early or staying for a little vacation after ICRS? Take advantage of the many things to do in this beautiful city. Use the MARTA bus and rail system ( to get you were you want to go, including from the airport to your hotel.

Atlanta Cyclorama & Civil War Museum ( View the Civil War’s Battle of Atlanta via the world’s largest oil painting, see Civil War artifacts and the steam locomotive Texas made famous in 1862. Hours are 9:15 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.

Atlanta History Center ( Located on 33 acres in Buckhead, the center invites you to explore Georgia’s past through exhibitions, historic homes, gardens and trails, and the Olympic Games Museum. Hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday.

Center for Puppetry Arts ( Opened in 1978, the center presents the history of puppetry in various cultures. See more than 2,000 puppets and 1,000 posters of historical and cultural significance. Dr. Seuss’ The Cat in the Hat is on stage during ICRS dates.

Jimmy Carter Library and Museum ( The library is museum and research space that documents the life and times of our nation’s 39th president. Hours are 9 a.m.-4:45 p.m. Monday-Saturday, noon-4:45 p.m. Sunday.

Margaret Mitchell House (atlantahistorycenter/ Book and movie lovers won’t want to miss the turn-of-the-century home where Margaret Mitchell wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Gone With the Wind. House hours are 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Saturday and noon-5:30 p.m. Sunday. Tours available.

Public Art Guided Tours (, 404-546-6980): The Office of Cultural Affairs Public Art Program hosts guided tours of public art in downtown Atlanta. Tours include 15 public artworks and last about two hours. Reservations required with a minimum of 10 people.

The King Center ( The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change offers a memorial, archive and self-guided tour. Open seven days a week, 9 a.m.-6 p.m.

The World of Coca-Cola ( Discover the story of the world’s most famous beverage and see rare artifacts, view a 4-D movie, see the bottling process and taste-test more than 100 beverages.

Zoo Atlanta ( See America’s only twin pandas and 43-year-old Alan the Sumatran orangutan, as well as the Carnivorous Plant Bog. Hours are 9:30 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Monday-Friday and 9:30 a.m.-6:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.