It Really Isn’t Funny

kinnon —  July 16, 2008 — 8 Comments

Ed Stetzer is in Orlando this week and today is at what used to be called CBA, the Christian Booksellers Association convention. It’s now the International Christian Retail Show – or more appropriately Jesus Junk for the Jaded Masses. Ed’s been posting photos to TwitPic – with links showing up in Twitter. The photos are funny – but the reality is profoundly sad. (As Ed says, his Twittering might get him “in trouble.”) Western Christians apparently waste 4.5 billion dollars a year on “Christian Apparel”. Let alone all the other crap available at the ICRS. From their site:

We serve a big God, and we have a mission that is not of this world. You need to attend the International Christian Retail Show to work on how to achieve your mission and reach the fullest potential of what God has planned for your store in this New Day for Christian Retail. [emphasis added]

They recommend you

Fill Your Stores with the Products Today’s Christians Are Seeking
Hundreds of the leading publishers, recording companies, and gift manufacturers, and other suppliers covered the 130,000- square-foot expanse of the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, FL.

We Western Christians can never get enough Jesus Junk. God help us all.



A television editor, writer & director since 1978. A Christian since 1982. More than a little frustrated with the Church in the West since late in the last millennium.

8 responses to It Really Isn’t Funny

  1. half of our office is down in orlando this week.. god bless icrs for giving me some breathing room and the chance to crank my music up for a week.

  2. Ya… glad I’m out of that racket. I managed the old EP bookstore on Yonge for a few hellish months back in the late 80’s. It was then that I had my first realization that something was drastically wrong with North American christianity, and I really started becoming suspect of the whole sub-culture of “christianity for us/by us/to us”.

  3. hey … the jesus action figure on Ed’s blog doesn’t look like Kevin Smith’s ViewAskew version of Buddy Christ. what’s up with that? don’t retailers know good Dogma when they see it?

    oh well …

  4. “how to achieve your mission and reach the fullest potential of what God has planned for your store”

    seems to me that Jesus turned over a coupla tables for something kinda like this … maybe He doesn’t have anything planned for a store. I’m just sayin’…

  5. i think someone might have misinterpreted someone saying, “God has something wonderful in store for you”


  6. Nancy Guthrie July 18, 2008 at 2:06 pm


    I can certainly appreciate your concerns about the commercialization of Christianity. I think if we met, there would be a whole lot we’d agree on. I think there will be a whole lot of us who have a “whole lot of ‘splaining” to do one day for how we’ve used the gospel toward our own ends and for our own enrichment. Because as people broken by sin, our motives are just never pure.

    I wonder, though, have you ever been to the International Christian Retail Show yourself, or are you just going by news reports and blogs like Ed’s (and, by the way, Ed, were you only at the show to blog about it or did you by chance have a product to sell. Full disclosure required!)? If you’ve been to the show, then I assume you were there with a company that had a product for sale which you would not have categorized as “Jesus Junk”, and if you haven’t been to it, I’m thinking that maybe you should not make too many blanket assumptions about what is there and the motives of those who are there.

    While I certainly see things at the show that cross the line of taste, and things that I do not think bring honor to Christ, that is not what dominates the Show, in my opinion. One thing that dominated the Show this year was the introduction of new Study Bibles—NLT Study Bible and ESV Study Bible coming this fall and an updated NIV Study Bible. Would you call that “Jesus Junk”?

    Highlights of my week were meeting J.I. Packer, Randy Alcorn, Wayne Grudem and Os Guiness, and the publisher from Korea who published a beautiful edition of one of my previous books in Korean — not hunting the floor to find things to make fun of.

    And just for the record, here are the correct statistics on sales as the article you linked to for $4.5 billion was inaccurate:
    The most recent study conducted by CBA shows that sales of Christian products by CBA member suppliers through all distribution channels were $4.63 billion in 2006. This is all suppliers— which includes books and Bibles, Music, gifts, and church supplies. Apparrel accounts for about 2% of sales in the typical Christian retail store—so small it falls into “other”. The breakdown of sales in the typical store is: 29.8% of a store’s products sold were books. Bibles accounted for 11%, Gifts: 24%, Music: 14.6%, children’s products: 4.2%, church supplies: 7.1%, video: 3.1%, software: .4%, and other: 6%.

    Remember that what may be “junk” to you, may mean something to someone else because it reflects the faith they hold dear.

  7. Christian bookstores are a joke in our area. Yes they sell Bibles and a few other books of value, but the vast majority of the stuff is “Jesus Junk for the Jaded Masses.” And how about many of the Christian books being published today? Take about Jesus Junk!

  8. Nancy,
    I appreciate your input and do recognize the amount of effort you’ve put in as an author to write books that impact people. I doubt you write books designed for a market – but rather write books that are meant to positively impact your readers.

    I would suggest that much of Christian music, book publishing, gifts, etc is specifically produced to make money from a large Christian market. (See News Corp’s purchase of Zondervan and the fact that much of the Christian music industry is owned by multi-nations with no faith position whatsoever.) They are busy producing products that we will consume – feeding a market with much stuff we do not need.

    I would appreciate a link to CBA’s stats. (I’m sure you’ve heard Benjamin Disraeli’s line, well used by Mark Twain that “there are lies, damned lies and statistics.“)

    My last visit to a “Christian Bookstore” was this spring in England. I wrote about that experience in A Little Retail Aversion Therapy.

    Like many Christians, I’ve spent way too much money in Christian retail. My bookshelves overflow with Christian books (50% of which now embarrass me and must be gotten rid of poste haste). My library of Christian music rarely gets played today (other than Rich Mullins and a few others).

    I’ve also had “products” for sale in this “market.” Two Live Worship projects in the ’90’s for Maranatha! Music would be examples. And I’ve seen the ugly inside of this “industry.”

    To put the 4.5 Billion in perspective, it’s estimated that it would cost 10 Billion USDollars to solve the water crisis problem in the developing world. Cutting our purchases in half in “Christian Retail” – whether Jesus Junk or otherwise – and using that money for water projects would solve the problem in five years.

    If we Western Christians chose to live simpler lives rather than just cutting back on our “Christian” purchases – and used that money for Kingdom purposes in the developing world, we could probably cut that time by 2/3rds.

    Please see the Worldvision video on water that I’m putting up in a few minutes on this site. And thanks again for commenting. Perhaps at some point we can sit down and talk about this stuff.


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