Curtis Riskey, President, CBA

After a few decades of attending and now coordinating CBA’s UNITE conference, I’ve got a pretty good handle on why this annual event is so important to our industry. Not only is CBA one of the most experienced organizations at hosting a convention, but we have a history of producing the largest-attended conferences in the industry. For decades our convention has been the premiere opportunity for exhibitors to showcase their faith-based product lines to retailers throughout the United States and internationally.

Historically we’ve successfully lined up an extraordinary roster of inspiring speakers and top artists.

But despite all my convention experience, there’s one element that always surprises me. It’s the piece that no amount of planning and attention to detail can actually create. Even our trained convention staff know it’s the most astonishing element each year at UNITE: the hard to explain and impossible to replace gift of “connection.”

Proverbs 27:17 tells us, “People learn from one another, just as iron sharpens iron.” And one of my favorite admonitions from the apostle Paul to the church in Thessalonica is, “And so encourage one another and help one another, just as you are now doing” (1 Thessalonians 5:11).

Connection is one of the most powerful tools in our arsenal. Our ability to stand together, to encourage one another, and to collectively reap the benefits of an industry primed for a turn around is extraordinary.

This is our year. The time is now. Here at CBA we’re not doing business as usual. We’re taking bold, audacious steps to invest in what we believe in. We’ve locked arms with the Roush Foundation to develop strategic partnerships that are bringing value to retailers desperate for a turn around. We share in the Great Commission of proclaiming the Gospel to a hurting world and to encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ. And we’re ready to do it better! To provide the tools and connection that faith-based retailers need to turn the corner, the local Christian bookstores that represent what no big-box or online retailer can. But if our industry keeps doing things like they’ve always been done, the struggle and store closings will continue.

People who describe themselves as people of faith do a third of the nation’s spending. And they’re ready for us to change. They prove through their sheer buying power that they want to declare a lifestyle of faith. We’re ready to help connect those who aren’t being reached to their local stores through customized data and message-focused, online marketing tools that reach them where they are.

We’re all familiar with the story of Jesus arriving at the temple. He demonstrated then and many times throughout Scripture what radical change looked like. Jesus was a disrupter of the status quo. As He overturned tables, some people chose to remain seated on the temple steps. Here at CBA, we’ve chosen to not sit this one out.

We’ll follow the lead of the One who knew best how desperate our world is to see change. UNITE 2018 is a time of important roll outs, inspiring speakers, and extraordinary connection. But it won’t be business as usual. Programs will be unveiled at that we believe are industry changers. Let’s move off the step together.