Is David Jeremiah Buying His Bestsellers Too?

David Jeremiah Wally Nell/Genesis
David Jeremiah
Wally Nell/Genesis

Is David Jeremiah another gifted pastor who has used what some say is an ethically dubious method to promote books?

No single event brought down Seattle’s Mars Hill Church and its celebrity pastor Mark Driscoll. However, the revelation that Driscoll and the church used nearly $250,000 in church funds to buy one of Driscoll’s books onto The New York Times bestseller list was a key factor.

Gaming The New York Times bestseller list is not illegal, but Justin Taylor at Crossway Books called the practice “dishonoring to the Lord.” Dan Busby, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability (ECFA) , calls it “unethical,” and ECFA adopted a rule against members in good standing engaging in it. Rick Christian, a literary agent who founded Alive Communications in 1989, calls such practices “outright fraud” and says, “Let’s quit sugar-coating bad practices, quit looking the other way, quit justifying complicit involvement because others are doing it.” He calls for rules of conduct “every agent, publisher, agency, church, and ministry should sign off on.”

Pastor and author David Jeremiah seems to disagree. According to former employee George Hale, Jeremiah’s ministry, Turning Point, purchased copies of at least three of Jeremiah’s books to push them onto The New York Times bestseller list. WORLD asked Jeremiah about his book marketing practices in an interview last year. He was vague on the specifics but did say: “You can’t just write a book and say I’m not going to have anything to do with marketing. If you don’t care enough about it to try and figure out how to get it in the hands of other people, nobody else is going to either.” In the acknowledgments section of his 2012 book God Loves You, Jeremiah even credits the man who got Driscoll in so much trouble—the president of Result Source, Kevin Small—as the “genius behind the plan.”

Marketing has certainly been successful for Jeremiah and Turning Point. The ministry has doubled in size since 2007, at a time when—because of the Great Recession—many Christian ministries have struggled to maintain their donor bases and break even. In 2012, the ministry took in about $40 million.

Hale, who was chief financial officer of Turning Point Ministries from July 2007 to January 2010, says the growth was the result of many changes in the ministry, but he says it coincided with the beginning of the book-buying plan. Hale said each time Jeremiah released a book, Turning Point radio and television programs promoted it, promising a free copy for a donation. This is standard fare for Christian radio. But, according to Hale, Jeremiah and Turning Point bought at least some of the books not at wholesale prices directly from the publisher, but at full retail prices from bookstores.

Hale says he became aware of the book-buying scheme “shortly after I got to Turning Point in July of 2007. David and his son [David Michael Jeremiah, now Turning Point’s chief operating officer and a member of the board] told me we needed to buy a bunch of books. They asked me to use my personal American Express card. When I asked them how much, they said about a quarter of a million dollars’ worth.” Hale says he told them he would not put that much on his card without prepayment.

On Oct. 4, 2007, Turning Point made two payments of $99,999.99 each to George Hale’s credit card, both via wire transfer. (Hale has provided WORLD with copies of his American Express statement showing the payments.) Hale says after he was sure the money had cleared and American Express had credited his account, he OK’d the ministry’s two online purchases using his American Express card at one for $113,038.40 and another for $141,298.00. (Hale’s American Express statement also shows these purchases.)

On Oct. 29, 2007, Turning Point made another payment to Hale’s American Express account of $50,000. Hale said that even though he cooperated with these transactions, he was uncomfortable with them; but he does say one of the effects was to “cause secular stores to stock and sell the books.”

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Warren Cole Smith

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