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Let us entertain you PDF Print E-mail
Written by Natalie Gillespie   
Wednesday, 03 September 2014 08:13 AM EDT

Personal experience and special packages help drive sales in a digital world

LeftBehind-MovieJust a few years ago, music was a significant category for Christian retailers. But what about DVDs? Except for VeggieTales, not so much. Now, entertainment sales have flip-flopped, with 2014 being called the “Year of the Bible” by Hollywood insiders and bloggers while stores struggle to sell in the music category.

“We do books quite well, but the music side has diminished,” said Rick Lewis, owner of Logos Bookstore in Dallas. “CDs—they just don’t work for us.”

Steve Pickering, owner of the Lemstone Parable Christian Store in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, has had a similar experience.

“Music is pretty dead for us,” Pickering said. “A few years ago, music exceeded 20% of our sales. Now it’s down to less than five. We carry the new releases and a few oldies.”

Hallelujah-NewsboysThankfully, that’s not the end of the story. With recent box-office and television hits like God’s Not Dead, Son of God, Heaven Is for Real and History Channel miniseries The Bible now on DVD and Blu-ray, many stores have seen home-video sales pick up.

“DVDs are continuing to sell because there has been so much good stuff coming out on the big screen,” said Martha Brangenberg, manager of Charis Christian Books & Gifts in Largo, Florida. “I keep placing orders. I am down to three God’s Not Dead again. People are wanting to own that movie rather than just watch it once.”

RunWild-ForKingAndCountryIndeed, God’s Not Dead and Heaven Is for Real have set the new Christian entertainment gold standard. With a budget of about $2 million, God’s Not Dead brought in more than $62.6 million worldwide at the box office, while DVD and Blu-ray sales landed the movie at No. 2 on Variety magazine’s sales chart in both categories in August. Heaven Is for Real had a larger production budget of $12 million and took in just over $100 million at the box office worldwide, according to

“I am constantly amazed when I look at the numbers,” Brangenberg said of her DVD sales. “It is very encouraging.”BeautyAndTheBeet


While DVDs still have some brick-and-mortar sales life, it is anybody’s guess whether physical music sales can ever be recaptured. The June 6 headline on the Generation-Y website Elite Daily was shockingly accurate. Accompanied by a photo of a forearm with an IV line, it read: “How One Generation Was Single-Handedly Able To Kill The Music Industry.”

Songwriter and entrepreneur Thomas Honeyman assessed the situation.

“The old music industry clung desperately to sales to survive, but that model is long gone,” he said.

In the past few years, CD sales have given way to digital downloads, which now have largely fallen to streaming.

Jimmy Wheeler, vice president of sales and national promotion at Provident Label Group, is in his 25th year in the music business and has seen significant change.

“We went from stacking dollars from CD sales to stacking quarters on digital downloads to stacking pennies now on streaming revenue,” Wheeler said.

Does that mean consumers no longer care about music? Quite the opposite. A recent Nielsen study found that 40% of U.S. consumers—those classified as fans—are responsible for 75% of music spending. These fans would be willing to spend an additional $450 million to $2.6 billion annually if they could participate in behind-the-scenes perks or get exclusive extras like in-studio updates, real-time emails, limited editions, autographed copies, vinyl records and lyric sheets handwritten by the artist.

So how can retailers persuade consumers to buy music at brick-and-mortar stores? Try the following four tips:

1. Consider the season. Christmas is coming, and it’s pretty tough to gift-wrap a download. Try creating tabletop displays with CDs, books and small gifts that complement the music, like Casting Crowns’ Thrive CD with singer Mark Hall’s book of the same title.

“Casting Crowns’ Thrive came out in January, and it has been in the top five every week since it came out,” Wheeler said. “We have not seen a Christmas with this record yet, so I am treating it almost like a brand-new release.”

Wheeler said Tenth Avenue North’s November release, Cathedrals, also should be good for the season. And he added that retailers can get customers excited about first quarter 2015, which will see new recordings from Third Day, Matt Maher, Red and Brandon Heath. For King & Country also released Run Wild. Live Free. Love Strong on Sept. 16, with T-shirts, necklace, bracelet, drumsticks and a poster at retail.

Other ways to make it a musical Christmas include hanging CDs on a Christmas tree, looking at concert schedules to see who will be coming your way and playing music in the store.

Michael W. Smith teamed up with a bunch of A-list artists, including Amy Grant and Vince Gill, Bono, Lady Antebellum, Little Big Town, Carrie Underwood and Martina McBride, to create Michael W. Smith & Friends: The Spirit of Christmas, in stores Sept. 30. This fall Smith will launch The Spirit of Christmas Tour, including co-billed shows with Amy Grant in Dallas, Minneapolis and Atlanta.

Aaron Shust releases his first Christmas album, Unto Us, on Oct. 14. Relient K also has a new Christmas offering, Let It Snow, Baby. Let it Reindeer, on CD and vinyl. Newsboys will release a collection of hymns Nov. 4. Hallelujah for the Cross features 10 hymns, including the title track.

At Logos of Dallas, owner Lewis said he does see some sales generated from in-store play. Logos chooses hymns and instrumental music to create a soothing atmosphere.

“We play in-store music that is peaceful, that lends itself to that whole atmosphere of peace,” he said. “We play Chris Rice’s CD of hymns and things like that.”

2. Give customers a gift. Think of creative ways to give customers a bonus with purchase. Make signage offering a special coupon on future purchases with each CD sale. Create a “Buy 10, Get 1 Free” punch card or try a music club or CD-of-the-month subscription card where customers who pay a certain dollar amount each month receive a new CD of their choice.

Wheeler said Provident is seeking ways to connect customers with CDs, and is considering tying physical-music purchases to special giveaway experiences, such as offering concert meet-and-greets, a personal phone call from an artist or other artist connection to customers who purchase a CD with a winning ticket or online code.

Try tying two CDs together at a buy-one-get-one price or package an artist’s CD with the same album for one price. CDs may be struggling, but vinyl records are coming back. The retro factor has customers of all ages looking for LPs. According to the Nielsen SoundScan mid-year sales report, overall CD sales were down almost 20%, but LP/vinyl sales were up more than 40% compared with last year’s sales.

3. Stay savvy. Keep up on trends and technology. Visit and to keep track of new releases, concerts, reviews and news.

“It’s tough for busy retail managers to wade through the flood of new releases that hit every week,” said Marcus Hathcock, executive editor of “We’re already doing the hard work, and we’re trusted for our read of the scene. We can provide the expertise for special displays or endcaps.”

Connections with local radio stations, concert promoters, big churches and social media are also a must. Brangenberg said she recently saw music sales spike somewhat when she switched signage and displays from the national Top 20 charts to her local radio station’s Top 20.

“We have the Top 20 CDs on our wall,” Brangenberg said. “We recently switched to JOY-FM’s Top 20 because that is what our customers are hearing. We have moved some CDs through that.”

If you are not connecting on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook, it’s time to get started. Not only can you get up close and personal with artists, but also you can catch customers’ attention.

4. Initiate an experience. One successful way bands have been launching new projects is through crowdfunding sites like, and Artists ask fans to pledge toward a new recording and offer “incentives” for different levels of donations. For example, a $20 donation might get the donor a T-shirt or CD, while a $5,000 donation might get a donor a trip with the band or a private concert in the fan’s living room. Christian music crowdfunding has been successful overall. For instance, Haste the Day’s August IndieGoGo campaign reached 124% of its $65,000 goal in the first 12 days (with $80,906 pledged).

Retailers can learn a lesson from crowdfunding. Fans want a personal experience.
“Stores need to find ways to make the Christian store shopping experience just that—an experience,” Hathcock said. “In my opinion, it needs to be almost like being at the merch tent at a Christian summer festival—that excitement, that atmosphere.“

He also suggests asking local artists to play in store.

“Create a venue, and you’ll create a scene. Create a scene, and you’ll have a movement. And that movement will be loyal to you, and you’ll see sales increase.”

Hathcock recommends hosting in-store, live online chats with artists, hosting Dove Awards watch parties and keeping YouTube playing in the store.


On the film front, most retailers say their 2014 sales were on the rise. Several theatrical releases should keep DVD sales spiking, including the City on a Hill Productions’ The Song (having opened in theaters Sept. 26); Left Behind (due in theaters Oct. 3) starring Nicolas Cage; Exodus: Gods and Kings (Dec. 12); and the final installment of The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies (Dec. 17).

“I prescreened The Song and loved it. It was so very different,” Brangenberg said. “The intentionality of the curriculum is very helpful.”

Mary—a film that speculates on Jesus’ mother Mary’s life as a girl and young woman, including her marriage to Joseph and struggles to raise Jesus under the reign of Herod—is expected to land in April. An as-yet-untitled fifth movie from the Kendrick Brothers (Fireproof, Courageous) is also due out next year. For family fun, VeggieTales’ Beauty and the Beet releases Oct. 11, featuring songs by country artist Kellie Pickler.

New to DVD is Mom’s Night Out (Sept. 2) and Holy Ghost (Sept. 16). Holy Ghost was created after a crowdfunding campaign brought in more than $300,000 to fund the project. It included a digital premiere in August, a two-day live stream in early September and a Holy Ghost tour running Sept. 6 through Oct. 10.

“We threw out everything we thought we knew about releasing a movie and recreated a film release from the ground up,” said Braden Heckman, CEO of Wanderlust. “What we came up with looks very different from traditional DVD releases, but we hope this will become a new model for other independent filmmakers in a world where all the rules are changing.”

On Oct. 17, Creation Ministries hosts a premiere in Atlanta to celebrate the in-store release of its documentary and companion book Evolution’s Achilles’ Heels. It features commentary from 15 Ph.D. scientists aiming to expose evolution’s weaknesses.

Fans of prairie novelist Janette Oke and the Hallmark Channel TV series based on her “When Calls the Heart” series can expect the fifth (Change of Heart) and sixth DVD (Rules of Engagement) to hit stores Oct. 14 and Nov. 11, respectively. A 10-DVD boxed set will release in November as well.

To capture sales, connecting with fans is important, with church congregations an easy place to pitch small-group studies and congregation-wide viewing events. Consider partnering with churches to sell out a showing of an upcoming Christian film, and gather contact information for future marketing e-blasts when the DVD releases. Pitch DVDs for small-group studies and churchwide focus to pastors, and host in-store movie nights. Check for book tie-ins, and invite authors to sign the book at a movie party. Find film trends, upcoming releases and box office numbers at and

A Nielsen study revealed in April suggests that retailers display DVDs prominently during the Easter season, when sales of faith-based DVD/Blu-ray titles spike. In 2013, stores reported sales were up 61% in the three weeks prior to the holiday and remained positive for seven weeks following Easter.

close up Max Lucado PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 04:19 PM EDT

MaxLucado-2014Latest project: Before Amen: The Power of a Simple Prayer (9780849948480, $19.99, Thomas Nelson).

Why do you call yourself a “recovering prayer wimp”?

I think we assume Christian leaders or communicators are by nature people of strong prayer, and I’m not. I’ve always battled to have a regular time of prayer. I’ve struggled wondering why my prayers would make a difference. Serving God and doing things for God made a lot of sense, but talking to God made less sense to me, and so I’ve battled it in my life. And as I found out, many people in our church do as well. All of my books are sermons before they become books, and when I began talking to the church about my own personal struggles with prayer and how I wondered if there was a right way to pray or a wrong way to pray, I realized a lot of people ask these questions. That’s really where this whole book came from.

What is the pocket prayer you refer to in the book?

One of my struggles as a recovering prayer wimp is my thoughts wander. I zig and I zag, and I think this and I think that. One thing that has helped me through the years is having a prayer outline. I realize not everybody needs a crutch to help them stay focused in prayer, but I do. I went through the prayers in the Bible and realized most of them fall in one of five areas I’ve created: God, you are good—that’s worship; God, I need help—that’s request; they need help—that’s intercession; thank you—that’s praise; in Jesus’ name, Amen. So I would simply categorize my thoughts according to those simple statements. That’s where the pocket prayer came from.

How do you describe prayer at its best?

BeforeAmenI think prayer at its core is an honest conversation with God. I do not think we can mis-pray any more than a child can mis-hug. I think at its core, prayer is children talking to their heavenly Father. But I do think we can grow in prayer. We can learn to talk to God in a fashion that we see him answering our prayers. We can use our prayers as an opportunity to reflect upon the qualities of God, the character of God. We can use prayer as an opportunity to unload our anxieties and our fear. And I think we can see prayer as an opportunity to do spiritual battle in which we are literally directing the traffic in the universe because God wants to engage us in prayer. So these are all things we can grow in in our prayer.

What would you say to someone who prays for health, but then wonders why healing is not coming?

I think we can safely say God hears every prayer for healing, and He does heal us, either instantly [or] He may choose to heal us gradually, but He chooses to heal all of us ultimately in heaven. I’ve seen Him heal instantly, and I’ve seen it in my own life. More commonly, I have seen Him heal gradually, over a period of time. We read of cases [of this] in the New Testament, like with the blind man in John 9. Jesus took His time healing Him. It wasn’t just one second to the next. There is the promise that God will heal us all ultimately in heaven. That’s no small promise. Our time on earth is a short time, and all of our struggles here on earth are intended to prepare us for heaven. Part of healing prayer is understanding God does hear that prayer and trusting Him to do what is right. Prayer is not asking God to do what I want. It’s really asking God to do what is right. It’s a surrender of my will to His. And that’s good for me.

What else should Christian retailers know about Before Amen?

I have several books on prayer, but as I read those, I thought, This is a book for somebody who already gets prayer. Most books on prayer are written for very meditative, pensive, monastic, spiritual people. I’m not one of those. I’m a roll-up-the-sleeves and get-busy kind of guy. Is there a book for me? My book is a partial response to that question.

Bookbeat October 2014 PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 04:18 PM EDT



From Mike Bickle, founder and director of International House of Prayer, comes a book on prayer that includes everything from a basic overview of prayer to the Bible’s two model prayers to the results of prayer in the world today. Releasing Oct. 7 from Passio, a division of Charisma House, Growing in Prayer: A Definitive Guide for Talking With God (softcover, $16.99) offers a practical strategy for incorporating prayer into everyday life.


In the new Harrison House book by Andrew Wommack, the author and Gospel Truth broadcaster urges believers to experience the abundant life God provides. Wommack helps readers of Don’t Limit God to recognize the areas in which they are limiting what God can do in and through their lives and move forward. Releasing Oct. 7, the softcover book retails for $14.99.


The Reason: How I Discovered a Life Worth Living is once-atheist Lacey Sturm’s story of physical abuse, depression and suicidal struggles before her conversion to Christ. Baker Books (Baker Publishing Group) releases The Reason in softcover ($15.99) this month. Once the voice behind the Christian hard-rock band Flyleaf, Sturm is now a solo artist, a speaker for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and co-founder of the Whosoever Movement.


A new book for married couples comes from New York Times best-selling author Craig Groeschel and his wife, Amy. Zondervan releases From This Day Forward: Five Commitments to Fail-Proof Your Marriage (softcover, $15.99) on Oct. 8. It draws from Scripture and the Groeschels’ ministry and 23-year marriage to outline five choices couples can make each day to not only save, but also enrich their marriages. Craig is founding pastor of, a multicampus church and creator of the YouVersion Bible app.


In The Legacy Journey: A Radical View of Biblical Wealth and Generosity (hardcover, $22.99), Dave Ramsey examines a biblical view of wealth and generosity and explores how Christians can manage their money for the benefit of God’s kingdom. Published by Ramsey Press and distributed by Nelson Books, The Legacy Journey is available Oct. 21. Ramsey is a New York Times best-selling author and host of a nationally syndicated radio show. His books have sold more than 7 million copies.


To empower believers to live a victorious life, Destiny Image releases Breakthrough Faith: Living a Life Where Anything Is Possible (softcover, $15.99) by Larry Sparks on Oct. 21. The author teaches how to activate breakthrough faith through overcoming obstacles, unlocking the true desires of one’s heart and more. An author, speaker and columnist, Sparks can be heard on his weekly radio program “Voice of Destiny.”


The companion to Sacred Marriage by best-selling author Gary Thomas releases Oct. 1. In A Lifelong Love: What If Marriage Is About More Than Just Staying Together?, Thomas focuses on three key aspects of a strong marriage and provides the tools couples need to make their marriages all God intended them to be. From David C Cook, this hardcover book retails for $18.99.


With sensitivity, Ravi Zacharias, with Vince Vitale, explores the complex problem of pain and suffering in Why Suffering? Finding Meaning and Comfort When Life Doesn’t Make Sense ($22, hardcover). Zacharias is the founder of Ravi Zacharias International Ministries and best-selling author of many books, including Why Jesus?. Vitale teaches at Oxford University and is senior tutor at the Oxford Centre for Christian Apologetics. FaithWords will release Why Suffering? on Oct. 21.


Praying women have powerful impact PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 04:07 PM EDT

ScarletThreads-CharismaHousePerry Stone, best-selling author and director of Voice of Evangelism, has not found a single case in Scripture where a praying woman did not have her prayers answered. Stone says the Bible shows that while a godly woman cannot resist praying, God also cannot resist her prayers.

Releasing this month, Scarlet Threads: How Women of Faith Can Save Their Children, Hedge in Their Families, and Help Change the Nation (9781621369981, $16.99, Charisma House) focuses on the biblical story of Rahab.

Rahab received three instructions from Israel’s spies: to keep silent, place a scarlet thread on her window and remain inside the house. The thread was a sign to Joshua’s warriors that Rahab’s family should be protected, and, Stone says, a visible symbol of God’s covenant. He suggests that Rahab’s instructions can be used as an example for prayers of protection.

A woman’s prayers, he says, wrap a thread of faith around those in her household.

“If your house has been consecrated to God, through prayer there is a certain level of protection any person receives as a covering when he or she remains in your dwelling,” he writes.

Stone asserts that God can even grant a “hedge” for a woman’s family members who are not in her home, like the hedge he assigned around Job’s extended family. Further, Stone calls godly women “the immune system in the church and the nation.”

Learn more at

Shining the light of Christ in stormy seasons PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Tuesday, 02 September 2014 04:04 PM EDT

Brooklyn Tabernacle pastor Jim Cymbala urges refocus on early church practices and spiritual renewal

StormWhen Hurricane Sandy swept through New York City one October evening in 2012, Jim Cymbala, pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, saw the lights of Lower Manhattan go dark. When he saw the devastation Sandy left behind, he felt the storm was a relevant metaphor for the current state of the Christian church.

Based on several warning signs, Cymbala believes the church is in the early stages of a big storm.

“Our light in the world is flickering and we must face that reality,” he writes.

In Storm: Hearing Jesus for the Times We Live In (Zondervan), written with Jennifer Schuchmann, Cymbala discusses what he calls “calamitous” signs: the shrinking number of evangelicals, the lack of personal transformation and the decline in biblical literacy.

Believers are tempted to blame forces outside the church for these problems, Cymbala says, because our culture is increasingly antagonistic to biblical faith. Yet, the New Testament church thrived in worse conditions. Rather than blaming external targets, members of the early church concentrated on “the simple instructions Christ gave them and expected his grace to help them,” he writes.

While he acknowledges that some churches are fruitful, Cymbala adds, “on the whole we are not seeing anywhere near the fruit in our churches that we read about in the New Testament.” He draws readers back to these early church principles: devotion to prayer, focus on Christ and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Hannah’s Old Testament prayers are the model Cymbala suggests for today. He describes them as desperate, but also filled with deep faith.

Cymbala also reminds readers that the New Testament church was a powerful witness only because of God’s Spirit.

“We can still experience the stirring power of his presence today,” he writes.
Cymbala shares inspiring stories of people he has encountered in his ministry whose lives demonstrate the power of God.

The author also beseeches the church to remain salt and light in the world.

“A Holy Spirit renewal with a return to the New Testament as our authoritative guide is the only hope,” he writes.

Learn more at

FICTION FILE [ ASK THE AUTHOR ] Gina Holmes PDF Print E-mail
Written by Leslie Santamaria   
Monday, 11 August 2014 12:00 PM EDT

GinaHolmesLATEST PROJECT: Driftwood Tides (9781414366425, $14.99, September).
PUBLISHER: Tyndale House Publishers.

What is the premise of your new book, Driftwood Tides?

Libby Slater gets the shock of a lifetime when she receives the results from her premarital genetic testing and learns her blood type doesn’t match either of her parents. She confronts her mother and is given the name of her biological mother. Libby isn’t able to locate her, but is able to track down her husband, Holton Creary, who knows nothing of the child his wife gave up for adoption. Together the two try to find out the truth about Libby’s mother and the place they fit in each other’s lives and hearts.

What type of character is Libby Slater?

Libby is a seeker. She’s always known she didn’t quite fit in with her family, so besides it being a shock to learn she’s not who she thought she was, she learns no one in her life really is. In many ways she’s been dealt a tough hand in life, but she realizes she’s also been given many blessings—although it takes her the majority of the story to come to that conclusion.

What is Holton Creary like at the start of the story?

Holton is a temperamental artist through and through, but also a sheep posing in wolves’ clothing. He drinks to numb the pain and guilt of losing his wife and tries to be as standoffish as he can to keep others at bay so he doesn’t hurt anyone else or get hurt.

Why is forgiveness such an important theme for you?

I’ve had an interesting life and have needed to offer a lot of forgiveness to the people I love the most. Being just as human as they, I’ve needed to ask for quite a bit as well. I think Christianity at its core is about forgiveness. God gives so much grace, but in return, He asks us to extend it to others. There seems to me to be so much difficulty with not just the world, but the church also, being willing to forgive others. I have a hard time understanding how we can think we are any less wretched than those who’ve hurt us. Surely we’ve hurt others just as often. Surely we’ve hurt God’s heart.

Are there other themes in this novel?DriftwoodTides

The question of what makes someone a parent. I was raised for a vast part of my life by a parent of no biological relation. I struggled with who was really mom and dad and have come to the conclusion that biology, to me, is far less important than commitment and love.

What is one thing you want readers of this book to take away?

That no one is perfect. The person sitting in the pew on Sunday every week and doing their daily devotions each morning is no less a sinner than the alcoholic down the street who has fallen into a pit of despair. God longs for both of them, and no one is beyond the reach of Jesus.

Did your background in nursing help in writing this book?

It always does. Being a nurse has allowed me to see people in the most vulnerable situations without the mask we all put on to face the world. It’s given me an incredible opportunity for insight into what makes people really tick when they’re scared, mourning, witnessing the miracle of birth or the (worldly) finality of death. It’s been such a gift.

How would you describe your style as a writer?

I try my best to write the way I really think. Friends would describe me as down to earth, and I hope that shows in my writing. I don’t want to be fancy or throw out big words that readers have to stop every other page to look up. I want to speak in a way that most will understand. I’ve always assumed I’m pretty common, so if I struggle with something or have thoughts that may seem off the wall, I assume others do, too. Some of the stuff I write is a little quirky.

What else should Christian retailers know about Driftwood Tides?

I’ve, to date, written about some really tough subjects: death, abandonment, infidelity, abuse and alcoholism, and although I again take on alcoholism to some extent, this book, I’d say, is less issue-driven than my others and quite a bit lighter. The setting is my favorite part. Who doesn’t want to spend the time it takes to read a novel digging their toes into the soft sands of the Outer Banks and counting their blessings? That’s what I think the biggest takeaway from Driftwood Tides is. It was for me in writing it at least.

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