I was only seventeen years old when I was introduced to the crazy family that I am now a part of. Not my biological family of course or some distant relatives, but the family that call themselves Christian Booksellers and Publishers. That first year, in 1985, I got to attend the CBA (Christian Booksellers Association) trade show for the first time and was overwhelmed by the variety or people and products that were there. It seemed like a cross between a circus and a huge book fair and I loved it. I got to see and meet authors that I had only heard of or seen on the spine of a book and I got my first Thompson Chain NIV Bible.
Like every family, there are strange aunts and uncles and people that you are not even sure are really a part of your family. Some of the gift product companies at this event had products for sale that were definitely tacky and some that were just plain strange. Others had items for sale that captivated my imagination and allowed me to experience my faith in new ways. As a teenager, I loved the fact that Christian music companies were represented at this event and I got to meet and hear some of my favorite artists. They were like the cool cousins I wanted to get to know better.
Today, I am attending this event for the 18th time and can’t wait to see my old friends. All of us have gotten older and much has changed in the world around us. Despite that reality, I look forward to this week as one of the highlights of my year. I get to see people who have dedicated their lives to making Christian resources available in a day and age when people need the life giving message of the gospel more than ever. Some of these folks have been doing it for their entire lives.
It is true that today, the various book publishers are competing harder than ever for shelf space and the attention of a dwindling number book sellers wherever they may be found. The book sellers themselves are facing the ongoing challenges of internet competition, big box retailers selling Christian products and now e-books. With this back drop, it is so refreshing to see my fellow family members collaborating, praying and dreaming together each day of this event. There is a clear sense that we are in this together regardless of our differences.
One of my favorite aspects of the ICRS (International Christian Retail Show) as it is called now called, is getting to meet my brothers and sisters from around the world. They are coming from many different countries and share great stories of the hunger for God’s word and Christian books in places that are experiencing increasing spiritual warfare even as the church is growing. These precious people really value the content of the books that are being produced and recognize the power of the written word to change lives for eternity.
I am here representing CLC Publications and our fantastic family of authors. Some of those authors attend this event as well and we get to celebrate together. Several of the CLC leaders from around the world are also here and we always get together for a time of sharing, prayer and fellowship on Sunday afternoon. What a wonderful occasion that has been over the years.
If this bookseller’s family reunion had a commemorative t-shirt, I would wear it with pride as I am proud to be a part of this fun and crazy group of people.