|Charismatic authors expand reach|
|Written by Troy Anderson & Natalie Gillespie|
|Friday, 13 March 2015 10:39 AM America/New_York|
Fastest-growing segment of the church helps build consumer market for best-selling authors, Spirit-focused topics
Amid the burgeoning Jesus Movement and charismatic renewal, Lloyd Hildebrand began his publishing career in 1969—packing books in the back room of a jewelry store that doubled as a publishing company.
At the time—shortly before Time magazine’s “The Jesus Revolution” cover story would bring worldwide attention to the phenomenon—Hildebrand’s fledgling company, Logos International Fellowship, published Run Baby Run by Nicky Cruz with Jamie Buckingham.
The autobiography of the former New York City gang member featured in David Wilkerson’s The Cross and the Switchblade would become a blockbuster, selling more than 2 million copies. In the next two decades, considered by many as boom times in Christian retailing, Pentecostal and charismatic publishers released a number of blockbuster books, including the testimony of how Pat Boone was filled with the Spirit in A New Song (Creation House).
Now, more than four decades later, another boom in Pentecostal/charismatic publishing is underway as people worldwide join the planet’s fastest-growing religious movement and search for books to help them grow in their faith.
“I honestly believe we are going to see another move of God in the near future, and it will have a charismatic flavor,” said Hildebrand, now president of Bridge-Logos. “When that happens, we will see people take interest in more charismatic books, new and the classics. Charismatics will be introducing them to their children and grandchildren.”
Today, nearly 700 million of the world’s 2.4 billion Christians are Pentecostals, charismatics and independents, and that figure is expected to hit 800 million by 2025, according to the Center for the Study of Global Christianity at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary.
“Many of our retail partners—both chain stores and independent bookstores—have told us that Pentecostals and charismatics are among their most frequent customers and make up a very large percentage of the customer base they serve,” said Marcos Perez, vice president of sales for Charisma House, which is owned by the publisher of Christian Retailing.
“Charismatic shoppers buy lots of Christian Living/spiritual growth books, with both charismatic and non-charismatic content. These are very loyal customers. There is demand for these titles. That’s hard to say about certain book categories, and it gives good reason to stock these titles.”
Hildebrand said the charismatic movement comes out of a “vibrant faith,” and books that appeal to this audience are among today’s biggest best-sellers.
“I think people are looking for an expression of faith today that feels alive,” Hildebrand said.
Today, some of the best-selling and biggest names in the inspirational market are authors who come from the Pentecostal/charismatic community, including Joyce Meyer, Joel Osteen, T.D. Jakes and Rabbi Jonathan Cahn, whose books The Harbinger and The Mystery of the Shemitah (both FrontLine/Charisma House) are both New York Times best-sellers.
“The fastest-growing segment of the church today, not just in the United States, but in the world is the charismatic, Spirit-filled church,” said Tessie DeVore, executive vice president of Charisma House. “Consequently, it’s a segment of the church that cannot be ignored in terms of book sales and the popularity of books that appeal to this part of the church. That’s why these books are going to continue to do as good as they are doing, and they are doing very well.
“While other segments of the church are decreasing this segment is growing and the need for producing books and reading materials to equip and inspire this segment of the church is going to continue to grow too,” she added.
While classics such as God’s Smuggler and titles by Pentecostal pioneers such as Smith Wigglesworth remain perennial sellers, today’s big-name personalities sell millions of books each year. Osteen, Meyer, Jakes, Joseph Prince and others reach the masses with messages on women’s issues, leadership and positive living. Sometimes criticized for being more self-help than gospel truth, books by these authors continue to reach top spots on the New York Times’ best-seller lists.
Meyer’s 2013 ministry financial statement showed the well-loved speaker sold just under $7.3 million in books and other materials that year, while Osteen is reported to have sold more than $55 million overall. Jakes’ books have reportedly sold more than 20 million copies, which brought in more than $115 million in revenues. Prince’s ministry IRS 990 for fiscal year 2012-2013 showed the ministry had nearly $28 million in revenues.
“I do think there is a blurring of the lines, that charismatic books are becoming more accepted,” said Brad Herman, sales manager for Destiny Image. “Of course, Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer, but even Bethel Books, are becoming more accepted and crossing into the Christian Living section.”
Traditional publishing houses, while not charismatic overall, do publish books by pastors and personalities with charismatic backgrounds. For instance, Zondervan has published Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor Jim Cymbala, releasing his latest title, Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In, last October.
On Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s February list, Osteen landed at No. 4 and Meyer at No. 15, and Perry Stone’s Deciphering End-Time Prophetic Codes (Charisma House), hit No. 24.
NEW BOOM IN BOOK SALES
Charismatic book sales overall are on the rise, although numbers are hard to track. One reason for that difficulty is that charismatic authors order many of their own books to sell at their speaking engagements and in church stores.
“That author market really can’t be discounted because the bigger ministries sell almost as much as we do,” said Julie Werner, managing editor at Harrison House. “They are taking and moving a lot of books if they have that platform.”
Pentecostal/charismatic books also are reaching the masses in grocery stores and airports. And as independent publishing becomes more readily available, some charismatic pastors are producing their own materials.
Christian Family Church International, headquartered in Johannesburg, South Africa, has created a three-year Bible college program with full curriculum taught at its church campuses.
“We are seeing many traditional, evangelical believers who are more open than ever to the Holy Spirit and the presence of God,” said Jennifer Mallan, co-pastor with her husband, Rob, of Christian Family Church in Tampa, Florida. “Five years ago, it just seemed hearts were more closed. I think the culture is so liberal that people are looking for plumb lines that say right is right, whether everybody’s doing it or no one’s doing it.”
Hildebrand agrees, citing an “upsurge in sales.”
“A lot of charismatic books, especially our older titles, do extremely well in Africa, particularly Nigeria,” he said. “We also are doing well in England through our distributor, Joining the Dots.”
Christina Mussman, marketing and data manager for Harrison House, is looking for further growth, pointing out spiritual hunger among the youth.
“I think the younger generation is coming around to the power of God and healings and miracles and the Holy Spirit because once they experience that, it’s life-changing,” Mussman said.
While some segments of the church believe that gifts of the Spirit ceased in the first century and these differences in beliefs were a source of controversy, those lines have largely blurred today with the growing acceptance of the charismatic movement.
“When I got baptized with the Holy Spirit many years ago, it was verboten in the circles I grew up in; it was just wrong,” said Jane Campbell, editorial director at Chosen Books, a division of Baker Publishing Group. “It was considered theologically aberrant. Today, few believers consider charismatics theologically aberrant, and many accept that the gifts of the Spirit are for today.”
Glenn Bailey, president and chief executive officer of Send The Light Distribution, said this was a “source of conflict back in the 1970s,” when the Jesus and charismatic movements were growing rapidly and garnering media attention.
“Pentecostal authors were fighting for the spot in the Christian trade,” Bailey said. “I’d say today it’s a non-issue. It’s really more important whether they are a good writer and are getting across good concepts than they are writing about the gifts of the Spirit. I went to Oral Roberts University and learned about the gifts of the Spirit there. Back in those days, it was really a war over the legitimacy of the gifts. I just don’t see that anymore.”
Still, while the controversy may have faded, some Christian retail stores, including the LifeWay chain, do not carry charismatic/Pentecostal resources.
“The content of products carried in LifeWay Christian Stores does not contradict our doctrinal guidelines,” said Marty King, director of communications.
Others carry limited stock, according to the needs of their customer base.
“We are in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, and we have every customer from straight Amish to traditional denominations to Pentecostal,” said Greg Culbertson, owner of Blessings Christian Bookstore in Harrisonburg, Virginia. “We have a charismatic section that’s about 20 feet, and it stays fairly active.”
Perez of Charisma House encourages Christian retailers to serve these customers in their community.
“It behooves a retailer to serve this customer well,” he said. “Otherwise, they risk losing that customer to other outlets that will deliver the books they search for, especially with such a large segment of charismatic TV and radio that reaches this charismatic consumer throughout the country,” he said.
A BRIEF HISTORY
The modern American charismatic movement is largely credited as starting April 3, 1960, when Rev. Dennis Bennett of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church in Van Nuys, California, announced that he and some church members had spoken in tongues.
Then, with the Jesus Movement in the late 1960s and ’70s, some charismatics broke off from mainline denominations to form their own independent congregations.
Out of this era grew Christian publishing houses that are still impacting the book industry. For example, Whitaker House got its start in 1970 after founder Robert Whitaker experienced healing.
“He had severe hay fever and was cross-eyed, and God healed him,” said Christine Whitaker, his granddaughter and the author liaison at Whitaker House. “His belief in divine healing lent itself to the charismatic expression of his faith. I think that’s why he stayed in charismatic books so strongly for more than 40 years.”
John and Elizabeth Sherrill teamed up with Catherine Marshall LeSourd and Leonard LeSourd to launch Chosen in 1971 with the story of Dutch Holocaust survivor Corrie ten Boom. The Hiding Place has since sold millions, placing Chosen on the map along with the Sherrills’ other popular titles The Cross and the Switchblade with David Wilkerson and God’s Smuggler with Brother Andrew.
“I remember the Sherrills saying a long time ago that they talked to Corrie and she was a Spirit-empowered believer, but they decided not to get into the specific gifts of the Spirit in the book so more conservative audiences would still read it,” Campbell said. “Chosen continues to try to communicate Holy Spirit truth and Holy Spirit gifts in a way that will be comprehensible to conservative evangelicals, modern evangelicals and even people off the street who buy our books off racks in airports or Walmart.”
Kenneth Hagin’s daughter Pat and her husband, Buddy Harrison, founded Harrison House in 1975. Since then, Harrison House has published and distributed more than 100 million books in 42 languages to more than 175 countries.
“Pat grew up in the Rhema, Word of Faith, and from everything I’ve heard of her and Buddy, it was their passion, their life,” Werner said. “They wanted to be able to get that out to other people.”
While in his 20s, Orlando Sentinel reporter Steve Strang persuaded the leaders of megachurch Calvary Assembly in Orlando, Florida, to start Charisma magazine. Today, Charisma Media includes the book publishing arms Charisma House and the Spanish Casa Creación.
Beginning with The Faith of George W. Bush by Stephen Mansfield in 2000, Charisma Media’s book imprints have had a dozen New York Times best-sellers, including Cahn’s The Harbinger, which has sold more than 2 million copies.
Meyer started speaking in the mid-1970s, and pastors like Hagee, Jakes and later Osteen became celebrities on the charismatic scene, in part due to Christian television networks like CBN and TBN.
In 1982, pastor and newspaper advertising salesman Don Nori founded Destiny Image Publishers in Pennsylvania after receiving visions of starting a publishing company. In the 1990s, another wave of revivals occurred, including the Toronto Blessing and the Brownsville Revival, and Pentecostalism spread globally.
NEW READS ON THE HORIZON
Today, Christian retailers will find releases from a variety of charismatic publishers and personalities.
In April, Destiny Image will release an eight-part curriculum entitled the Power to Heal: 8 Keys to Activating God’s Healing Power in Your Life by Randy Clark. In honor of the 20-year anniversary of the Brownsville Revival, Destiny Image will release in June The Fire That Never Sleeps by Michael Brown and John Kilpatrick. Destiny is also repackaging a former Bill Johnson title into another eight-part curriculum called Strengthen Yourself in the Lord, due to hit stores in August.
In May, Charisma House will release an expanded edition of Bill Johnson’s Face to Face With God. In June, Charisma House releases Tales of a Wandering Prophet by Hubert Synn. In August, Unshakable by Apostle John Eckhardt hits stores.
In May, Chosen will release a young reader’s edition of The Hiding Place, abridged by editor Lonnie Hall Dupont. In July, look for Paranormal Conspiracy: The Truth About Ghosts, Aliens, Mysterious Beings and the Deepest Longings of Your Soul by Timothy J. Dailey, and in August, author James W. Goll unveils What Love Looks Like: 12 Leaders Tell When Love Broke Through Their Darkest Moments, which includes stories by Randy Clark, Barbara Yoder and others. In September, look for Chosen to release a special edition of God’s Smuggler to celebrate the 60th anniversary of Brother Andrew’s ministry, Open Doors International.
Harrison House has found success with titles by Andrew Wommack and has high hopes for his May release, How to Become a Water Walker: Lessons in Faith. The company also is repackaging 25-year-old title Divine Healing: God’s Recipe for Life & Health by Norvel Hayes, due out in June.
FaithWords has new releases or repackaged titles from Osteen, Meyer, Jakes and Prince this year. Destiny: Step Into Your Purpose by Jakes releases in August and expands on his No. 1 best-seller, Instinct. The Mind Connection: How the Thoughts You Choose Affect Your Mood, Behavior, and Decisions comes from Meyer in September, while Prince offers Grace Revolution: Experience the Power to Live Above Defeat, and Osteen brings The Power of I Am in October.
Today, Pentecostal and charismatic believers are enjoying more mainstream acceptance and their influence is reaching around the world.
Amid this trend, a new wave of younger believers is among those concerned about the environment and social justice. They are technologically savvy, making services appealing to millennials hungry for signs of authentic spiritual life.
To this end, the Assemblies of God created Influence Resources in order to “move people to action” with apps, graphic novels and interactive websites, as well as books with a younger, crossover appeal.
Susan Blount, publisher of the Assemblies of God imprints Vital and Influence Resources, said everywhere she goes she encounters spiritual hunger.
“We have just been amazed at the hunger in people who are asking us for resources, discipleship materials and books on how you live in and engage the Holy Spirit,” Blount said. “I think the fact that we are launching a new imprint tells you one thing. We wouldn’t be launching them if we didn’t see that there was a market.”
With difficult things happening in the world, people are “looking for some power outside of themselves that can help them with all the things that are coming,” Blount said.
“People are hearing about the Holy Spirit who have never heard about Him before, and they want to know more,” Blount said. “I think when people read about ISIS and the financial situation, for some people, not all, but for some people, they see the world is not getting better and that perhaps it’s later than they thought, and on their own, through their own power, they aren’t enough for the times we are living in.
“So even mainline publishers are creating imprints that have a Spirit-filled nature to them and so when I see large, major publishers doing that, that tells me that there is a substantial market there.”cr