Although few talk about it publicly, I continue to be astonished by the rotten fruit in the Christian book publishing industry. I feel almost forced to say this at the outset:
There are still good publishers. There are still good authors. There is still some good material being produced.
It’s just not mostly in the popular categories/circles (makers).
Checking out Christian retailing online the other day was a real downer. Among the top-selling books/authors making their rounds through evangelical circles: “Jesus Calling,” “The Power of I Am” (Joel Osteen), Thom Rainer, Rick Warren, Jen Hatmaker, Steven Furtick and “Half Truths” (Adam Hamilton).
Among the product created around the “Jesus Calling” publishing phenomenon: “Jesus Calling Deluxe Edition,” “Jesus Today,” “Jesus Calling Women’s Edition” and “Jesus Calling Large Print Deluxe Edition.”
Anyone who has paid attention to the research of Warren Smith regarding Sarah Young’s “Jesus Calling” mess should be dismayed. That this non-biblical book has become the publishing sensation it has indicates biblical illiteracy is at epidemic levels within the American Church.
Rainer, who runs the Southern Baptist Convention’s LifeWay Publishing Division, a cash-cow for the denomination, doesn’t like to answer uncomfortable questions about LifeWay’s business practices. He finally blocked me on Twitter for asking questions about Alex Malarkey. He is a major change-agent within evangelicalism.
Osteen … what more needs to be said? “The Power of I Am”? “I Am” is the self-identifying name God used to announce … Himself. Of late, American evangelical “leaders” have begun using the phrase to describe themselves.
What’s next in Christian bookstores, mini golden calves?
Hatmaker, on her way to superstar status among the lecture circuit in evangelicalism, promotes folks like Cornel West, and has of late jumped on a particular broad road bandwagon.
Furtick? His weird cocktail of Word Faith practices is especially ironic since his Elevation Church was an SBC plant. Cyberspace is heavy with critiques of Furtick’s “teachings.”
I could go on, but hopefully you get the idea.
Now, what’s interesting is, ECPA is a major conduit for this stuff. On the group’s website we see the tagline: “Transforming Lives With Christian Content.”
They’re transforming lives, all right.
They also claim to be on a mission: “ECPA is the association of Christian publishers, who work together to strengthen and lead the industry through connection, education, and resources. ECPA programs provide tools and opportunities for networking, collaboration, professional development, business solutions, market intelligence, and discoverability. Participate in an industry on a mission.”
The Association’s statement of faith reads thus:
I. We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
II. We believe there is only one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
III. We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
IV. We believe that for the salvation of the lost and sinful, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
V. We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
VI. We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
VII. We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.
No. 1 is problematic because if you sell “Jesus Calling” (and too many others), you don’t really believe in the authoritative Word.
No. 2 is problematic if you sell books by T.D. Jakes.
Et cetera, et cetera.
I will say this: a combination of apathy/lack of knowledge in the pews, and a stranglehold of power at the top will ensure this status quo continues. There simply isn’t an option for conservative, Bible-believing Christians to have much of an impact on these realities.
If Rainer or Ed Stetzer don’t want to answer about an issue like the Malarkey book, they don’t answer. Then they blog about the nattering nabobs of negativism that are trying to rain on their parade.
End of story.
We live in a world of huge roadblocks to Truth. The monolithic LifeWay controls the flow of information going into 51,000 Southern Baptist churches.
Don’t like what the cash cow is doing? Shove off, Mac.
The reality is, millions of self-identifying Christians in America think “Jesus Calling” is a great book. Just like “The Shack.” Or “Plug in a Title.”
What is a Bible-believing/studying Christian to do? Simply this: have an impact within your own family and circle of friends. We can’t save the country or even the evangelical community.
Alerting your own network to the truth about bad “Christian” books is Mission Critical.