Christian Retailing

Influence launches new music division Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:41 AM America/New_York

InfluenceMusicInfluence Resources, an imprint of My Healthy Church, has formed a new music division, Influence Music.

The launch comes on the heels of We Believe, a joint release produced by Influence Resources and Integrity Music, which debuted at No. 1 on SoundScan’s Praise and Worship chart. The live album showcased original music from leading ministries and set the tone for the kind of work Influence Music will champion as a label.

Influence Music will be distributed by My Healthy Church, a provider of church supplies, ministry resources and curriculum. Additionally, Influence Music will provide music publishing administration services for churches and artists.

Sol Arledge, My Healthy Church COO, believes the timing of the launch is ideal.

“The amount of Holy Spirit-inspired creativity coming from our churches and universities is astounding,” Arledge said. “Combined with the marketing and distribution channels already developed by My Healthy Church, we have a truly unique opportunity to serve the church with outstanding worship music.”

Influence Music’s first release is set for August. 

Gospel Music Association honors Hall of Fame inductees Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:40 AM America/New_York

Brown Bannister, Gaither Vocal Band noted as making ‘definitive mark on the fabric of our musical tapestry’

GMAHallOfFameThe Gospel Music Association (GMA) Foundation recognized key industry figures as this year’s Hall of Fame inductees and honorees at the Hall of Fame induction and inaugural GMA Honors celebration. Held April 29 at Lipscomb University’s Allen Arena in Nashville, the ceremony featured Hall of Fame inductees, including Brown Bannister, Gaither Vocal Band, Rich Mullins and Take 6, as well as Honors recipients such as Dr. Bobby Jones, Don Moen, Michael Guido, Show Hope and World Vision.

“We’re excited about this opportunity to raise awareness for the legacy of gospel music,” said GMA Executive Director Jackie Patillo before the event. “Each of these inductees or honorees has made a definitive mark on the fabric of our musical tapestry.” 

Take 6 was featured in a special performance with all members of the group, past and present, for the first time ever as a celebration of the group’s 25th anniversary and of its induction. Other special guests included dcTalk (TobyMac, Michael Tait and Kevin Max), Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, Michael W. Smith, David Crowder, Earnest Pugh, Ellie Bannister Holcomb, Kirk Whalum and Lenny LeBlanc. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the American Center for Law and Justice, talk show personality and FOX News commentator  hosted the evening’s program.

“While each [inductee and honoree] has different gifts and has contributed in different ways, all of their stories highlight God’s faithfulness,” Patillo added. “We’ll be able to celebrate this through GMA Honors with some very special friends and truly inspiring performances.”

Love Your Country. Vote. Faith, Family and Freedom Tour was this year’s presenting sponsor.

Send The Light Distribution celebrates new growth, marks 40 years in service-oriented business Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:38 AM America/New_York

Distributor puts ‘more resources into our most important job—meeting customers’ needs and exceeding their expectations’

SendTheLight40thAnniversarySend The Light Distribution is launching a year of celebration to mark 40 years of service to Christian retailers, churches, ministries and suppliers. 

Among the anniversary events will be a series of monthly specials and prize drawings for accounts. While the 40-year history will be a focus of the company’s presence at the June’s International Christian Retail Show in Atlanta and of its Spring Invitational for key customers, new growth and business initiatives are being announced as well.

Send The Light began as Appalachian Bible Company, founded in 1974 by Tom Torbett in Johnson City, Tenn. Operations expanded to include three regional distribution centers before the company was sold to Send The Light US (STL) in 2005. The 2007 merger between STL and the International Bible Society (IBS) was followed by a 2012 management buyout of the distribution center led by President Glenn Bailey and the reforming of IBS as a separate organization known as Biblica.

“Though Send The Light has grown into the one of the largest Christian distribution companies in the United States, we retain the personal touch and spirit that helped establish Appalachian in our early years,” Bailey said.

“We have retained Tom’s specialty of relationships and service,” he added. “Many stores bought from him because he gave personal attention that wasn’t available from the bigger companies. He knew how to provide great service, and he would cut through the red tape found in larger companies.”

Send The Light continues with an emphasis on service, while using technology and programs to increase efficiency.

“By consolidating operations and now owning our facility, we are able to spend less money on operations and put more resources into our most important job—meeting customers’ needs and exceeding their expectations,” Bailey said.

The company has seen continued growth and expansion since the buyout two years ago. Send The Light continues to focus on high standards in customer service and a same-day order fulfillment guarantee for those received by 1 p.m. through its Elizabethton, Tenn., facility.

The company also is growing with Print on Demand capabilities and expansion into major distribution assortments of gifts and church supplies.

New customer initiatives unveiled in the last year include the Simply 42 program, streamlining a previously multi-tiered pricing structure into a standard, everyday 42% discount. Another new program is the Premier Partners service offering an expanded range of church supplies and resources. 

Jack Countryman, late Brennan Manning receive ECPA lifetime achievement awards Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:36 AM America/New_York

Publishing legends to be honored for contribution to industry

BrennanManning_CREDIT-BenPearsonJackCountrymanThe Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) presented Jordon Lifetime Achievement Awards to Jack Countryman, founder of JCountryman Gift Books, and posthumously to best-selling author Brennan Manning. The awards were conferred April 28 in Colorado Springs, Colo., opening night of the ECPA Leadership Summit.

Countryman’s 30-plus years in Christian publishing have allowed him the opportunity to help create and develop bestselling gift books such as God’s Promises for Your Every Need, God’s Promises for Men and God Listens. This year not only marks 20 million JCountryman books sold, but also the 30th anniversary of the God’s Promises brand.

Manning (1934-2013) is best known as the author of the contemporary classics The Ragamuffin Gospel, All Is Grace, Abba’s Child, Ruthless Trust, The Furious Longing of God, The Importance of Being Foolish and Patched Together. His unflinching honesty about himself as a “ragamuffin,” an imposter and a man in search of the undeserved love of Jesus has encouraged millions of Christians.

Thomas Nelson marks ‘Jesus Calling’ brand milestone Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:35 AM America/New_York

Sarah Young best-selling titles excel in sales, popularity

JesusCallingHCThomas Nelson’s “Jesus Calling” brand has sold more than 10 million units. 

“Each year Jesus Calling sells more than the year before,” said Laura Minchew, senior vice president and publisher of HarperCollins Christian Publishing Gift Books, Tommy Nelson Children’s Books and New Media.

A missionary, Young wrote Jesus Calling as a reflection of what she heard Jesus saying during her prayer time. The original book is now available in 26 languages, and has consistently appeared on multiple best-seller lists, including The New York Times and CBA lists. 

“We often hear of how Jesus Calling has touched someone in a deeply personal way, helping them experience a more loving and peaceful relationship with God,” Minchew added. “It is an honor and privilege to work alongside Sarah on this life-changing book.”

The Jesus Calling: 10th Anniversary Expanded Edition will be released this September. The special edition includes more than 100 additional scriptures selected by Young.

Related title Jesus Today was named the 2013 ECPA Book of the Year.

The line has expanded to other products for adults and children, including e-books, apps, audiobooks, calendars, greeting cards and music. 

Crossway title wins ECPA’s 2014 Christian Book of the Year award Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:34 AM America/New_York

First-ever Quadruple Diamond sales award conferred on Tyndale House Publishers’ ‘The Living Bible’

CrazyBusyThe Evangelical Christian Publishers Association (ECPA) announced eight winners for the 2014 Christian Book Award program, honoring Christian publishing’s best book and Bible releases of the year—and one top book winner. The awards were presented at the ECPA Awards & Anniversary banquet April 28, held the opening night of the ECPA Leadership Summit at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Crossway’s Crazy Busy: A (Mercifully) Short Book About a (Really) Big Problem by Kevin DeYoung received the Christian Book of the Year, the industry’s highest book honor bestowed upon one title from all the finalists, which takes into account  the book’s overall impact in the marketplace.

Category winners were Bibles: The MacArthur Study Bible NIV (Thomas Nelson); Bible Reference: Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, Second Edition (InterVarsity Press); Children: The Sparkle Box, Jill Hardie, Christine Kornacki (Ideals Publications); Fiction: Iscariot: A Novel of Judas, Tosca Lee (Howard Books); Inspiration: He Walks Among Us: Encounters With Christ in a Broken World, Richard and Renee Stearns (Thomas Nelson); New Author: Falling Into Place, Hattie Kauffman (Baker Books/Baker Publishing Group); and Nonfiction: C.S. Lewis–A Life, Alister McGrath (Tyndale House Publishers).

At the ceremony, ECPA also presented Diamond Awards to two Tyndale House Publishers Bibles, including the first-ever Quadruple Diamond designation.

Tyndale’s The Living Bible received the Quadruple Diamond Award for selling more than 40 million copies. The New Living Translation Bible received a Triple Diamond designation for surpassing more than 30 million copies sold, only the second title in history to do so. The Diamond Award is given to books or Bibles that sell at least 10 million copies.

In addition, seven Platinum Awards (for more than 1 million sold) and 10 Gold Awards (more than 500,000 sold) were presented at the banquet.

Mark Driscoll admits ‘manipulating’ book best-seller system Print Email
Written by Jeremy Burns   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:32 AM America/New_York

MarkDriscollAuthor Mark Driscoll was thrust into the spotlight once again when WORLD magazine accused the Seattle’s Mars Hill Church pastor of obtaining “unreal sales” of Real Marriage (Thomas Nelson), a 2012 book written by Driscoll and his wife, Grace.

The church hired San Diego-based book marketing company ResultSource to the tune of $210,000 to make Real Marriage: The Truth About Sex, Marriage & Life Together a best-seller. WORLD revealed that the church Driscoll serves, Mars Hill in Seattle, paid ResultSource for a “best-seller campaign.” Such campaigns cut out the consumer middleman and facilitate authors’ bulk purchases of their own books.

Many best-seller lists only count individual purchases toward sales in an effort to prevent authors from gaming the system. ResultSource circumvented this safeguard by placing thousands of orders shipped to individuals’ addresses provided by the client.

The Driscoll-book contract stated, according to WORLD: ResultSource “will be purchasing at least 11,000 total orders [of Real Marriage] in one week.” It also called for the author to “provide a minimum of 6,000 names and addresses for the individual orders and at least 90 names and address [sic] for the remaining 5,000 bulk orders. Please note that it is important that the make up of the 6,000 individual orders include at least 1,000 different addresses with no more than 350 per state.” 

Even though this practice isn’t illegal, the ethicality of such campaigns has been impugned in the publishing industry. 

Coming on the heels of plagiarism claims against some of Driscoll’s other books, coupled with the fact that the campaign was paid for from the congregation’s coffers rather than the author’s own pocket, the Real Marriage campaign has thrust this controversial marketing practice into the spotlight.

In the aftermath of the ResultSource revelations, Mars Hill admitted the campaign’s strategies were “unwise,” while Driscoll also claimed to have misunderstood the strategies used by the company.

“My understanding of the ResultSource marketing strategy was to maximize book sales, so that we could reach more people with the message and help grow our church,” Driscoll wrote March 18 in an open letter addressed to Mars Hill. “In retrospect, I no longer see it that way. Instead, I now see it as manipulating a book sales reporting system, which is wrong.”

Forbes noted that fellow pastors-cum-authors Steven Furtick and Perry Noble also have been accused of mounting similar campaigns with their congregations’ funds.

Continued  bad press apparently has caused ResultSource to go into stealth mode. With its business model thrust into the public consciousness and thoroughly derided, the company has reduced its website to nothing but a logo and a “Contact Us” form. Though ResultSource is still in operation, CEO Kevin Small deleted his Twitter account, while what appears to be the company’s Facebook page is now blank, according to an April 18 Forbes article.

Driscoll has asked Thomas Nelson to remove the “No. 1 New York Times best-seller” notation from future printings of the book. Nelson did not respond to Christian Retailing’s request for comment. 

In an open letter to congregants, Driscoll said he also has cut down on his speaking engagements and interviews, dialed back his future writing and abandoned social media for the near future to renew his focus. 

The congregation’s board also praised Driscoll’s ongoing generosity related to book sales: “All monies from the sale of Pastor Mark’s books at Mars Hill bookstores have always gone to the church and Pastor Mark did not profit from the Real Marriage books sold either at the church or through the Result Source marketing campaign.”

Hobby Lobby awaits Supreme Court contraception decision Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:29 AM America/New_York

James Dobson’s Family Talk organization wins similar healthcare case in U.S. District Court

HobbyLobbyPrayerThe Hobby Lobby arts-and-crafts giant and sister company Mardel Christian & Education await a Supreme Court decision in the historic Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby Stores case. The court is expected to rule on the case before the end of its term in June after hearing oral arguments March 25 in the case that addresses the rights of business owners to operate their family-owned companies without violating their religious convictions.

The court combined the hearing of two similar cases brought by Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood Specialties, who both challenged the Health & Human Services (HHS) Mandate that would force them to pay for abortion pills or face substantial daily fines.

Former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement argued on behalf of the companies, stating that they are protected under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.

The principal lawyers in the case, Solicitor General Donald Verrilli for the Obama administration and Clement for Hobby Lobby and Conestoga argued against each other in another Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) case in 2012. In that case, the justices upheld by a 5-4 vote the constitutionality of the aspect of the law that requires people to purchase health insurance.

“The choice that the government has forced on us is unfair and not in keeping with the history of our great nation founded on religious freedom,” Hobby Lobby’s Barbara Green said in a video taken with her husband, David Green. “We believe that Americans don’t lose their religious freedom when they open a family business. We were encouraged by today’s arguments. We are thankful that the Supreme Court has heard our case, and we prayerfully await the justices’ decision.”

The Greens do not object to providing 16 of the 20 contraceptives under the HHS mandate and will continue to provide contraceptives at no additional cost to their employees.

In the meantime, a lower court favored Dr. James Dobson and his Family Talk organization in a related healthcare case. 

Family Talk won a preliminary injunction blocking enforcement of the Obamacare employer mandate. Fighting the same contraception-coverage requirements that Hobby Lobby is protesting, Dobson won the injunction before the U.S. District Court of Colorado, where Family Talk is headquartered.

“In America, we don’t try to separate what people do from what they believe,” Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for Alliance Defending Freedom, said of the case. “Faith-based organizations should be free to operate according to the faith they teach and live out every day. If the government can fine Christian ministries out of existence because they want to uphold their faith, there is no limit to what other freedoms it can take away. The court was right to block enforcement of this unconstitutional mandate against Family Talk.”

Judge Robert E. Blackburn stated in his decision that “there is a substantial likelihood that the plaintiffs can show the ACA [Affordable Care Act] and the regulations constitute a substantial burden on the exercise of their religion.”

Blackburn also cited Hobby Lobby’s lower court victories as precedent for Dobson’s legal standing in bringing the case, stating that it is “directly analogous to Hobby Lobby [v. Sebelius].”

Todd Starnes to host Christian Retailing’s Best Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:17 AM America/New_York

FOX News’ commentator expected to draw interest at Christian retail show event

ToddStarnesWinners of the 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best awards will be announced Tuesday, June 24, at the International Christian Retail Show (ICRS) in Atlanta. Todd Starnes, author of God Less America (Charisma House, May) and host of the “FOX News & Commentary” daily radio show, will present the 2014 awards, Tuesday, 9-10 a.m., at the show floor’s Creative Pavilion stage at the Georgia World Congress Center.

Christian Retailing magazine, sponsor of the awards, invites all ICRS attendees to attend the free-of-charge awards presentation and see the outcome of their votes.

Along with his own radio program, Starnes is a regular contributor to TV’s FOX & Friends and Hannity. His column is read by nearly 4 million people, and his syndicated column appears at and He is also the recipient of an Edward R. Murrow Award and an Associated Press Mark Twain Award for storytelling. This year, he was honored to win the National Religious Broadcasters’ Board of Directors award.

B&H Publishing Group led the field in number of finalists with 15. Baker Publishing Group had 14, while Abingdon Press had 12 finalists. Some of the key finalists named were: Happy, Happy, Happy, Phil Robertson (Howard Books) in Auto/Biography; I Am a Church Member, Thom Rainer (B&H Books) in Church and Culture; The Guardian, Beverly Lewis (Baker Publishing Group) in Fiction: Amish; and The Daniel Plan, Rick Warren, Dr. Daniel Amen and Dr. Mark Hyman (Brilliance Publishing) in Audio. See the complete list of 2014 Christian Retailing’s Best finalists online at

Those who are part of the Christian products industry were qualified to vote in the awards, and were asked to judge the nominations on their impact, including their ability to speak to people’s hearts and evoke emotion; open people’s minds to new ways of thinking; and encourage and affirm Christ-like living.

Introduced in 2001, the awards sponsored by Christian Retailing have been acknowledged as an important way of recognizing some of the most significant new life-changing products in the Christian retail industry.

Baker holds special event to celebrate 75 years of publishing, retailing Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:16 AM America/New_York

Recently renovated store hosted anniversary occasion serving as ‘mile marker toward our vision of a world living in Christ’

RichBaker-VIPBaker Publishing Group celebrated 75 years in business with an invitation-only event April 24 at its prime Baker Book House retail location, which underwent a $1.6 million renovation starting in 2012.

Managed by Sue Smith, the historic store in Grand Rapids, Mich., was the site of the Easter-week reception that drew guests including “representatives from our companion publishers Zondervan and Kregel along with many other business associates, ministers, agents, authors, media, current and retired employees, friends, family, shirt-tail relatives and bewildered bookstore customers,” Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group, told Christian Retailing. “We celebrate this occasion as a mile marker toward our vision of a world living in Christ, where the message of God’s love is provided to all who seek it.”

A harpist offered background music, while guests visited and dined on appetizers and desserts during the two-hour afternoon event.

Smith, who recently became chairperson of CBA, was “very pleased” with the turnout.

“We had a grand time overall,” she said. “I feel that it’s important to celebrate in this way because these landmarks are important. It’s a vital time to stop and be thankful for where we’ve been, both for Herman’s vision and God’s provision all these years.” 

Baker also spoke to the gathering, commending Karen Steele, manager of conventions, corporate events and corporate publicity at Baker Publishing Group, for planning the reception well in advance.

Christian Retailing presented a special VIP (Visionary Industry Pioneer) award to Richard Baker, who worked at the company full-time for 40 years and served as president from 1987 to 1997 after founder Herman Baker. Presented on behalf of Charisma Media, the award commended him for “building one of America’s greatest publishing companies and blessing the lives of millions.”

After the award presentation, the company’s third-generation president invited guests to pick up a copy of The Baker Book House Story, a book written by Ann Byle, who also was present at the event.

Indicating that writing one’s own company history is “a somewhat self-conscious process,” he joked about telling the story that would be read by authors.

“We were very concerned that it’s hard to make a good story when you have a narrative thread that involves no drama, no romance, no violence, no conflict, and you all know the ending,” he said, citing the difficulty of “keeping you engaged as a reader with a narrative that really doesn’t hold up to other literary expectations—and our solution to that was to make it very thin.” 

The company has annual revenues that run about $50 million with sales up 6% for the fiscal year ending in April. Baker is the third-largest publishing house of Christian titles behind HarperCollins Christian Publishing and Tyndale House Publishers, and is owned by Richard Baker and his four children, Dawn Baker Faasse, Dwight Baker, Dave Baker and Dan Baker.

In the process of acquiring Regal Books’ authors from Gospel Light, Baker’s divisions include Bethany House, Baker Books, Revell, Chosen, Brazos Press and Baker Academic. The company has exclusive rights to God’s Word Translation Bibles and will distribute Cambridge Bibles through 2014.

Baker Publishing Group to acquire Regal Books Print Email
Written by Christine D. Johnson   
Wednesday, 14 May 2014 08:14 AM America/New_York

Gospel Light to concentrate on core mission of resourcing churches with curriculum rather than trade titles

Regal-Color-logoGospel Light has signed a letter of intent to sell the publishing assets of Regal Books to Baker Publishing Group. Stan Jantz, interim CEO of Gospel Light, and Dwight Baker, president of Baker Publishing Group, say the goal is to have the transaction closed by June 30.

“Over the last several months, the board and leadership of Gospel Light made a strategic decision to concentrate on Gospel Light’s core mission,” Jantz said. “From the time Henrietta Mears founded Gospel Light in 1933, resourcing churches with curriculum and Vacation Bible School materials so they can reach children and families with the gospel has been at the core. In order to concentrate on that mission, the board decided to find a compatible new home for Regal’s authors.”

Baker is aware of that compatibility. 

“Baker Publishing Group has a long-standing fellowship with the Gospel Light/Regal Books community,” he said. “Our two respective publishing programs complement each other well. I have observed with admiration as Regal introduced such authors as George Barna, John Perkins, Norm Wright and Dutch Sheets to a wide readership. This is the legacy of Regal and a standard that we are compelled to maintain.”

“They went from a three-generation independent to a three-generation independent,” said Baker of the transaction.

Baker told Christian Retailing that his company “can’t add any expertise to Gospel Light,” but can support Regal’s 280 active authors, 59 of which have been published by Baker and Regal, including J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul and Os Guinness.

Baker’s reason for acquiring Regal Books’ authors was to provide “readership for the long term,” he said. “The setting there was more difficult for them to insure that long-term support and availability, so part of it was structural. They decide to capitalize on their trade books and invest fully in the continuity of their curriculum publishing.”

It was decided in consultation with Jantz that Baker would not do a Regal division in part because of the similarity of the name Regal to Baker imprint Revell, which was thought to be “an invitation to confusion,” Baker said, but also because Regal authors fit into what Baker is already doing with its four trade divisions, Baker Books, Chosen, Bethany House and Revell. Baker Publishing Group was allocating Regal authors to their respective divisions at press time.

With its “Spirit-filled” emphasis, Chosen has the “largest overlap of any by far,” Baker said.

Gospel Light “viewed author care as the top priority in the sale of Regal,” Jantz said. “One of the primary reasons the board selected Baker was its compatibility in this area, plus the Baker family and their teams are just good people. We feel a kinship with their mission and the way they do business—for the glory of God and the benefit of their authors.”

Because Gospel Light retained the Regal Books trademark, they have the option to rebuild Regal should they so choose.

Founded by Bill Greig Jr. in 1965, Regal published How to Be a Christian Without Being Religious by Fritz Ridenour as its first book, which is still in print.