Home > Uncategorized > Stores Need to Take a Hard Look at Carrying Jerry Jenkins and James MacDonald

Stores Need to Take a Hard Look at Carrying Jerry Jenkins and James MacDonald

In light of what I wrote here on Friday about the need for Christian retailers to practice greater discernment, and in light of an article posted at a James MacDonald watchdog site, The Elephant’s Debt which links to an article at World Magazine, I do not see how I can continue to stock books by either author.

The articles, which have corroboration from reader comments, link both men to recreational gambling, including a trip to Las Vegas. Both recently collaborated on the fiction book, I, Saul, published by Worthy Publishing and distributed here in Canada by David C. Cook. Jerry Jenkins, co-author of the 70-million selling Left Behind series is the chairman of the board of Moody Bible Institute and owner of the Christan Writer’s Guild;  while MacDonald is the senior pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel, the founder of Harvest Bible Fellowship (a network of churches) and the host of Walk In The Word (a radio show).

Both of these articles were posted the same day that MacDonald and Mark Driscoll ‘crashed’ John MacArthur’s Strange Fire Conference to hand out copies of Driscoll’s book, which you can read about at this article, or this commentary. One online writer suggests that on the opening day of the Act Like Men Conference (which MacDonald created, much to the surprise of Promise Keepers) the two were acting like boys.

The Elephant’s Debt is a website primarily devoted to controversy surrounding James MacDonald’s salary, his lack of income disclosure, his home and lifestyle, and his dealings with people who have challenged him on these issues. They have exercised much diligence in their reporting.

The Christian Bookstore industry in Canada consists almost entirely of independent, privately-owned stores. No one is compelled to carry product by anything other than local demand and their own informed opinions as to what titles are worth investing in. In other words, dealers can “just say no” if an author’s lifestyle does not conform to the type of standards they would set, for example, for their bookstore staff or the staff of the church they attend.

Furthermore, promoting products by an author whose ministry is a “house of cards,” means that the eventual disappointment that young, vulnerable believers will experience when these people are stripped of their ministry and their reputation, really amounts to “causing someone to stumble” if you know these things to be the case and don’t act.

My advice to my fellow retailers is to flag products by these authors as ‘discontinued’ in your inventory systems and allow existing stock to simply run out.

Additional articles at Thinking Out Loud:

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  1. Tony
    October 21, 2013 at 4:05 pm

    Really? Bookstores shouldn’t carry a Jerry Jenkins book because he plays poker (different from gambling, not that that matters) as his hobby? Could you point out anything scriptural to support the notion that his ministry is flawed or unworthy because of this?

    • October 21, 2013 at 4:53 pm

      If you actually click the links and read the comments, I think you’ll see that I’m not alone in this view. Personally, I don’t think Las Vegas is any place for a Christian, except maybe to stay overnight and take a few pictures to file under “D” for decadence, and then leave quickly the next morning. Jenkins is engaging in an activity that up until a few weeks ago would not have been permissible for staff at Moody Bible Institute, its broadcasting company or its publishing subsidiary.

      In Poker there are winners and losers. To win, is to win at the expense of someone else. You could argue that this is true of capitalism, and that Christian bookstores themselves are predicated on this capitalistic paradigm. That, I’ll grant you. But in Vegas, every win is directly at the expense of someone else. If you win, someone else lost. Simple as that.

      The point is that that there are lifestyle issues with James MacDonald (and Jenkins who got swept up into this article, along with Mark Driscoll) that are, to those in the know, deeply disturbing. The Elephant’s Debt website seems fairly well-researched with contributions from a variety of respected leaders who are far from anonymous. If Jenkins is MacDonald’s friend, then, “a house is known by the company it keeps.”

      My article is very clear that in Canada, bookstore owners are independent and can make their own buying decisions. What they do with this information is entirely up to them. For my part, every time I make a wholesale purchase, I am casting a vote for that author. Every unit sold wholesale is another ‘like,’ and unless the online information is shown to be fabricated, I am taking responsibility for my own actions. (I am not withdrawing existing units from display nor refusing special orders; I’m just not going to add to inventory on these authors.)

      Again, read the articles and comments at The Elephant’s Debt.

  2. Jeremiah
    October 21, 2013 at 4:56 pm

    I have no problem with your choice, or any retailers choice, of which authors to carry or not to carry. Your final advice, and the way you arrive at your conclusion, is duplicitous. You’re encouraging others (evidently what you plan to do) “to flag products by these authors as ‘discontinued’ in your inventory systems and allow existing stock to simply run out.” So if it would be wrong for you to sell these authors products, at risk of causing others to stumble — but your on hand inventory is somehow absolved? If you believe they deserve to be no longer carried, “if you know these things to be the case and don’t act” how is it OK sell your remaining inventory?

    • October 21, 2013 at 9:09 pm

      I can see how it appears the way you state. I’m trying to avoid a situation where any customer or staff member would say that certain authors had been “banned.” However, doing it as a stock “run out” eliminates featuring, promoting or having bulk displays of the product.

      My thinking was “if you continue to order and stock these products…” then you are acting irresponsibly.

      However, if an author was caught in a more overt (for example, sexual) moral failure, or theological error, then I wouldn’t hesitate to go the next step and purge the shelves of existing stock.

      I was trying to motivate retailers to some type of response, while at the same time avoiding extremism.

      • Jeremiah
        October 21, 2013 at 10:36 pm

        A poor metaphor, admitted, but how much e-coli would you want the grocer to tolerate? Do you mind the grocer selling suspicious meat? I am not saying you or others should or should not sell certain writers. It seems you’ve concluded their books are dangerous (potentially harming the young, vulnerable…). I’m simply pointing out your advice is duplicitous. As to the retailer, they do not have to make a big deal about it. “We’ve chosen to carry / not carry certain authors at this time.” How is that “extremism”? If a retailer believes he / she has some responsibility to guard customers (which would be an enormous philosophical discussion) and you believe it’s right to do “x or y,” then please do it. Doing the right thing isn’t hard. Or maybe doing the right thing is selling many authors with different positions, who also have personal problems (debt, obese, divorced, played cards, watched an “R” or “NR” movie, given to anger, charismatic or not…) and trust the buyer to be a discerning, growing, thinking person. Or perhaps we only sell Bibles and concordances. (KJV only?)

      • October 21, 2013 at 10:57 pm

        You accuse me of being duplicitous. Fine. I’m going to give you all the proof you need that you are right. In this article:

        http://bookshoptalk.wordpress.com/2012/03/26/publisher-second-guesses-what-we-will-and-wont-carry/

        I take the exact opposite view. I suggest that both stores and one publisher are being far too prudish when it comes to Rachel Held Evans’ most recent book and need to allow for broader viewpoints. I am, in your words suggesting they, “trust the buyer to be a discerning, growing, thinking person.” I believe there is a market segment that’s not going to read Charles Swindoll, but will want to engage what Rachel writes.

        So now I’m genuinely duplicitous.

        But most readers don’t track what’s going on at Real Clear Religion or Christianity Today. They don’t know beans about MacArthur’s conference or MacDonald’s big house. They don’t really know much about the authors we stock. So they come to me and say, “What do you recommend?” And the answer is that I tend to recommend what I’ve committed bigger numbers to. Those are the products I believe in. Those are the products that I’ve voted for with my wholesale spending; money that ultimately is coming directly out of my own pocket.

        I know things about many of my authors that would make my customers cringe. (I have, after all, been 38 years in this business.) But if you see a house of cards with the potential to collapse, good business sense, good spiritual discernment, and good Christian leadership dictate that you sell your shares and invest in something (someone) else.

        KJV only? I’m more likely to be The Voice only or CEB only. I don’t think you know me well.

  3. Tony
    October 22, 2013 at 3:32 pm

    ” Personally, I don’t think Las Vegas is any place for a Christian”

    Good thing Christ didn’t have that attitude!

    That attitude is exactly why Las Vegas seems godless–not enough Christians are there.

    “Jenkins is engaging in an activity that up until a few weeks ago would not have been permissible for staff at Moody Bible Institute, its broadcasting company or its publishing subsidiary.”

    So? He’s not on staff at Moody, the radio station, or the publishing.

    “Again, read the articles and comments at The Elephant’s Debt.”

    I have. And most of them are uninformed and extreme. You’ve decided to believe the perspective of two outsiders over independent auditors, banks, and ECFA that Harvest’s finances are in trouble, and you’ve decided to believe the perspective of a handful of disgruntled former employees over the hundreds of employees and dozens of elders who remain in support.

    • October 22, 2013 at 6:00 pm

      We don’t, in Bible hermeneutics, automatically map everything directly from what Christ did to what we can or cannot do. Yes, he ate with tax collectors and sinners. We should not cut ourselves off from the world. There is a strong church presence is Las Vegas, NV. But does that make it okay for a prominent Christian leader to enter in to all that the place that everyone calls Sin City has to offer?

      Leaders need to live by the highest standard. Romans 14:19-21 reminds us not to cause “the exercise of our liberty” to cause others to stumble:

      Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of food. All food is clean, but it is wrong for a person to eat anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall.

      This is the essence of the warning in James 3:

      Not many of you should become teachers, my fellow believers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

      Jerry Jenkins should be held to the same standards that were in place for students and staff at the time of his actions. If you’re prepared to give him a pass, that’s fine; then you need to allow others to see it differently.

      Besides J.J. and J. MacD. ultimately don’t answer to me or you or anyone else reading this; they have to answer to God.

  4. March 4, 2014 at 2:48 am

    Jerry should be forced to resign in disgrace! Let’s bring back public whippings like in Puritan days. I’m willing to bet (pun intended) that if an undercover team tracked Jerry they would find him doing more than gambling. That’s how Swaggart was found out; a fellow minister shadowed him and got the goods on him. Jerry has already seared his conscience with his mass promotion of a pretrib rapture which was never part of any organized church or official theology before 1830 – and Jerry has to know this since “Pretrib Rapture Dishonesty,” “Famous Rapture Watchers” and “Pretrib Rapture Stealth” etc. are on Google. Jerry (and LaHaye) had better have tribulation hideaways ready because when thousands find out soon how inhumanly they’ve been deceived by money-mad rapture traffickers, they’ll want to do more than give Jerry and Tim some free facelifts – what’s happened in other countries after date-setting fizzles! It’s time for the rest of us to express, in tangible ways and face to face, what some of us think of latter-day Laodicean leeches! (PS – What I’ve said about Jerry and Tim I apply to other Laodicean church leaders also.)

    • March 4, 2014 at 9:14 am

      It may be hard to sell the public on the public whippings part, but I do actually agree with you about the rapture.

      • March 5, 2014 at 6:55 am

        Irv, whilst I also would question the validity of the pre-trib rapture theory, I know many wonderful Christians who do incline to this view. Paul rightly talks about the need for leaders to set a good example; and there are obvious issues here if all that has been said is true.

        But, in the light of Jesus’ command to, ‘Judge not, lest you also be judged,’ I think we should be wary of assuming the worst about someone’s actions or motives, and especially of letting our view of their theology colour our assessment of their moral character.

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