Good Book

Taking his message to the masses, Kirbyjon Caldwell works another miracle.

THE REVEREND KIRBYJON CALDWELL approached the idea of writing a book much the same way he did leaving Wall Street to enter the ministry: reluctantly. He didn’t think he had time, with his 11,000-member church, Windsor Village United Methodist in Houston; his community work; and his directorships on civic, charitable, and business boards like the Greater Houston Partnership, Chase Bank of Texas, and the Children’s Defense Fund. But after meeting two years ago in New York City with a book editor who had read a front-page story on Caldwell in the Wall Street Journal , the minister changed his mind. “The editor said, ‘If you write this book, it will go in the Library of Congress,’” Caldwell recalls. “‘You could have a legacy, something to show your children.’”

He can now see his legacy in print: The Gospel of Good Success: A Road Map to Spiritual, Emotional, and Financial Wholeness, published by Simon and Schuster, hit bookstores last month. Writing in a hot market for self-help and religious books, the 45-year-old reportedly received a six-figure advance, an impressive sum for a first-time author who is only a regional celebrity. But if The Gospel does well, it could make Caldwell—whose church family includes pro athletes Warren Moon, Zina Garrison, and Evander Holyfield—a national celebrity on a par with best-selling spiritual guru and fellow Houstonian John Bradshaw.

The title of the book (which was co-written by Texas Monthly contributor Mark Seal) was originally “Holistic Salvation,” reflecting his belief that God cares not only about the soul but about all aspects of a person’s life. But Caldwell thought “holistic” sounded too “new age-y,” so the title was changed to The Gospel of Good Success, a reference to Joshua 1:8. The book takes readers on a six-step journey to achieve that goal, including finding a calling (“Do what you love, the money will follow”), staging a comeback (“Don’t ever allow the funk of your past to freeze the promise of your future”), and forging successful relationships (“Get to know the other guy’s people”). Caldwell’s favorite section is the epilogue, which helps readers “inventory” their needs. “In the eyes of some, it may be a religious book, but it really isn’t,” Caldwell says. “It encourages a person to look at himself from the inside out.”

And though the ink on the book is barely dry, Caldwell has turned his attention to another project: creating Corinthian Pointe, a master-planned community close to the church designed primarily for low- to moderate-income families. The development, which has tentatively been approved by the city, will have 440 homes, a prayer center, a park, and shops, with help from Chase Bank, Houston Lighting and Power, and Ryland Homes—a nod to Caldwell’s corporate credibility. He hopes to break ground early this year. And what will he do after that? Perhaps run for public office, as has long been rumored? “Nah,” he says. “It’s fun empowering people, starting businesses, and transforming neighborhoods, helping folks to see their potential.”

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