Earth’s loss is heaven’s gain.

Bestselling pastor Rick Warren won the Christian Book of the Year Award Tuesday night for his weight-loss book, “The Daniel Plan: 40 Days to a Healthier Life,” written with doctors Daniel Amen and Mark Hyman.

The Book of the Year award was presented, along with additional prizes in various categories, at the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association’s annual banquet in Nashville, Tenn.

Warren, the founder of the Saddleback mega-church in Lake Forest, Calif., began writing “The Daniel Plan” after noticing that he and many of his congregants had grown too fat. While preaching one Sunday, he asked if anyone would like to join him in a biblically based effort to exercise, eat better and lose weight. More than 12,000 people immediately signed up. Legions more have since joined the cause through his interactive Web site, which offers an inspirational workout music CD, a DVD that demonstrates his “comprehensive fitness system based on God’s power, not just will power,” and “The Daniel Plan Cookbook.” (Daniel-branded moisture-wicking T-shirts are available, too.)

“The Daniel Plan” takes its title from the Bible story in which young Daniel refuses to defile himself with meat or wine from the Babylonian king’s table. Warren’s program involves working with a small group, exercising regularly, avoiding processed foods and eating a diet that emphasizes fruits and vegetables. But the “special sauce,” he says, is faith and friends.

Warren is no newcomer to the bestseller list, of course. His 2002 devotional book “The Purpose Driven Life” has sold tens of millions of copies around the world.

The Christian Book Awards are the oldest prizes in the religious publishing industry. To be eligible, titles must “include explicit Christian content, an overtly Christian message, and/or a distinctively Christian world view.” Nominated books must also be in harmony with the ECPA’s statement of faith, which includes belief in the Trinity, the infallibility of the Bible, the Virgin Birth, the Atonement, the Resurrection and the eternal damnation of sinners.

Long before tonight’s awards ceremony, some church members apparently expressed concerns that “The Daniel Plan” is associated with high-profile doctors who do not share the orthodox theology of the Saddleback church (Dr. Mehmet Oz also provided consultation). “You can rest assured we will never compromise our belief that Jesus is the only way to heaven or that the Bible is the 100% completely infallible and perfect Word of God,” the Daniel Plan Web site says. “The Doctors are helping us as friends, but are in no way advising our church on spiritual matters.”

Among the other winners at tonight’s ceremony was Nabeel Qureshi. He won in two different categories — Best New Author and Best Nonfiction — for his memoir “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus: A Devout Muslim Encounters Christianity.” Qureshi published this book, he writes, “to tear down walls by giving non-Muslim readers an insider’s perspective into a Muslim’s heart and mind.” He also wanted to share what he learned: “There is no good reason to believe that either Muhammad or the Quran teaches the truth about God.”

The other winners tonight’s Christian Book Awards are:

“NIV First-Century Study Bible,” by Kent Dobson (Zondervan).

Bible Reference
“1, 2 and 3 John: Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament,” Karen H. Jobes (Zondervan).

“My Bible Animals Storybook,” by Dandi Daley Mackall, illustrated by Heather Heyworth (Tyndale).

“The Advocate,” by Randy Singer (Tyndale).

“The Hardest Peace: Expecting Grace in the Midst of Life’s Hard,” by Kara Tippetts (David C Cook).

The ECPA, founded in 1974, is an international trade organization of about 200 Christian publishers and book distributors with a combined revenue of nearly $1.4 billion.