"Cross-over" Products Gain More Attention from Secular Market

( [email protected] ) Apr 16, 2004 04:24 PM EDT

Christian books are receiving much more attention from the secular world in the U.S. as they are anticipated to “cross over” from the Christian market to secular market. Experts notice that prominence of such trend is arising from the popularity of the movie “The Passion of the Christ.”

"That movie has caused many people to rethink their approach to life, to respond to a higher calling that involves being more in tune with the needs of others, to be less selfish and more giving," Dan McClelland, owner of Danville Christian Bookstore and Music Center, said, "It tells us that, given what Christ did for us, occasional, much less violent sacrifices should be the least we should do. The movie tells us to forget the little, petty things that distract us from much more important matters."

Media refers it to “crossing over” when either a Christian book becomes one of the best-seller list books or a Christian song enters Billboard’s hit list, calling it entering heaven from the earth.

McClelland said there are some examples of Christian music that have hit America's top 40, but Christians books becoming best-sellers in the secular market happens more often.

"It is not a new phenomenon that Christian books have gained a general, secular audience," said McClelland, noting that books by Billy Graham, Norman Vincent Peale, Paul Tillich and Thomas Merton, to name just a very few Christian authors, have been top sellers in both Christian and secular markets. "But it does seem that cross-over books are becoming even more prevalent."

Two good examples of the cross-over book would be “The Purpose-Driven Life” by Rick Warren and “Left Behind” series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins.

“The Purpose-Driven Life” has been No. 1 among all genres of Christian books for 27 weeks and is a national best-seller in the secular market.

"The book not only has attracted millions of readers across the spectrum but it also has been the foundation for a lot of special sermons and programs in churches and for discussions by non-religious groups involved in counseling programs," McClelland said, "In the churches, pastors have used the book as the basis of series of sermons, and the book has been the topic for many Sunday school programs.”

"The book seeks to promote spiritual growth and develop faith-based ministries, both on an individual and a corporate or collective basis," he added. "While it is absolutely Christian in its message and approach to life, it has a general appeal to all people who are looking for a purpose in life, at least a purpose to do good for one's family and community."

"Left Behind" was published in 1995, and more than 8 million copies have been sold since then, making it one of the top sellers of any kind of book in the history of publishing, not far behind the first of the "Harry Potter" books.

"That series is definitely based on Christian and Biblical theology but it has bridged the Christian-secular gap because it is about a topic everyone thinks about - the end of their lives on earth," McClelland said, "The books are compelling and riveting reads."

McClelland didn’t forget to mention the Bible, which is the all-time best-seller both as a religious book and a cross-over book. Bible sales was also spurred by the movie.

"The movie has moved many people, non-Christians as well as Christians, to see how this man gave his life for humanity, but it also has created a lot of questions that Christians need to be able to answer, for themselves, their children, their friends who aren't Christian," he said. "To be able to equip ourselves to answer these questions, the absolute best source is the Bible."

Recently, “The Faith of George W. Bush” by Stephen Mansfield has become a popular cross-over book..

"The book tells how the president's faith is reflected in his responses to various crises and situations, including 9-11 and the war in Iraq," McClelland said. "The book is popular among Christians because of the president's very public Christian faith, but it also has attracted many other readers because it shows how the most powerful man in the world makes decisions and also offers some biographical information on the president."