July 19, 2009

ICRS 2009 - The Church in the Marketplace

 Me and Joseph Chambers



The Internet, the Economy and the Apostasy = three elements that spell out the decline in the Christian publishing market. The recent bookseller’s conference reflects today’s atmosphere in publishing at a time when the publishing industry is taking a hit. Christianity Today has had to stop some of its sister publications and there’s no saying how long both CT and Charisma can keep going while the amount of pages and ads in those magazines diminish. And as more and more people are leaving traditional churches, they are also reading more Oprah and less C.S. Lewis.

An anonymous source reported that back in the 1980s, the Christian Booksellers Association’s (CBA) annual national conferences used to attract an average of 7,000 visitors. The recent conference, now renamed ICRS, International Christian Retail Show, had an average of 700 attending, according to the same source. (Perhaps, but only if you exclude the people manning the booths and just count bookstore owners who are declining.)

The ICRS held last week in Denver is a veritable snapshot of the condition of the visible church today under one roof. Prosperity teachers such as Larry Huch and Marilyn Hickey autographed their latest books.  Books by Emergent authors such as Brian McLaren and Richard Foster were abundant. Faith teachers like Fred Price and the late Kenneth Hagin had fancy booths - Hagin’s booth had a big supply of chocolate candy to lure in the buyers. Faith evangelist Reinhard Bonnke walked around with an unwelcome expression on his face. Catholics nuns manned a booth selling contemplative prayer paraphernalia such as icons, statues, candle holders and incense burners. And the “former” cult, the Local Church, was there now that they have been given a clean bill of health by some would-be apologists.

The biggest draw of the conference appeared to be Mormon celebrity, Marie Osmond, signing copies of her new inspirational CD. She brought her own camera crew to capture the moment when an endless line of Bible-believing Christians, so-called, formed a line to greet the idol of Utah.

A book by another show-biz celebrity, actress Candace Cameron-Bure, best known as D.J. Tanner, the eldest daughter on Full House, is a devotional book for busy moms called, “Be Still and Let Your Nail Polish Dry.”

I was there to do a book signing for my new book, “The Fleecing of Christianity: Televangelism in Bible Prophecy,” in the Anomalos Publishing booth within STL Distributors. I would say that was the section with the best selection of Christian books in the entire place. STL is distributor for many smaller publishing houses. 


jackie and aaron
TBN had an i
mpressive booth to promote their Orlando amusement park, the Holy Land Experience. The TBN crest was mounted high above porticoes resembling ancient buildings from Bible times. They showed highlights on a monitor of visiting preachers and biblically clothed actors performing at the HLE. The booth was manned by four men in biblical garb: Jesus, Peter, the high priest Aaron, and a Roman centurion. I had my most fun talking to those guys.

The high priest has been with HLE since before TBN purchased it from Marv Rosenthal. “Aaron” is a former foreign missionary and seemed very sincere in his efforts to use his job to lead people to the Lord. When I questioned him about TBN’s influence with bad teachers and gaudy sets, he dismissed those concerns as not affecting him and his call to witness to visitors. 

“Jesus” was not as impressive. His family is friends with Benny Hinn’s family and he supports the get-rich prosperity message, reasoning “wouldn’t you rather a preacher of the Gospel like Benny live in a 20 million dollar mansion than someone like Donald Trump?” I responded that we should ask what would Jesus do? To that he had no answer, knowing that this world treated Jesus badly and he did not live in a palace. 

I gave both “Jesus” and “Aaron” each a copy of my book. I told “Jesus” he could pass it along to Benny Hinn when he was done reading it.

I came home from the ICRS with lots of books and trinkets. My favorite sample was of a stuffed animal - a lamb that resembles the lamb on the cover of my book. It’s cute and squishy. 

As in the visible church, there were good and bad books. In fact, some publishers sell solid teaching right up alongside of heretical books. For them, I”m sure the bottom line is the dollar sign. If the real Jesus was there, I can picture him turning over the moneychangers’ tables.

One very thick book caught my attention. It was at the B&H Publisher’s booth - it was an anthology called, “Tough-Minded Christianity,” a play on the title “Christianity for the Tough Minded,” written by Lutheran apologist John Warwick Montgomery. The new book was a tribute to Montgomery’s legacy featuring such luminaries as J.I. Packer, Norman Geisler, John Ankerberg, and Rod Rosenbladt, among other academics.

Part of Montgomery’s legacy that is missing in the tribute is how in the late 1980s he abandoned his abused wife, the mother of his children, divorcing her without her knowing it and then leaving her desolate going on to marry a harpist and moved overseas until the heat was off. Also missing was how he was kicked out of his own law school due to this marital fraud and his treatment of employees at the then Simon Greenleaf School of Law. 

I suppose real heroes are hard to find for “Christian” academia - It’s either John “Warlike” Montgomery or apostate Tony Campolo or pretender Leonard Sweet. Excuse me for venting my righteous indignation but everything I wrote can be documented. Some Christians have such short memories.

Overall, the trip to the ICRS was a good opportunity to network with like-minded people - and there were some of those. Those in my party had a swell time of fellowship and even some good music. And the Denver Convention Center was a beautiful place with a 4-story-tall blue bear staring in the window.


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