“I am new at this and really need your help” were her opening words as she stood in front of the imposing wall of Bibles in our Chestnut Hill store. She was either a new believer or someone going back to to church for the first time in a long while and needed a Bible that she could understand. I had been praying for divine appointments this past Saturday and now I had one standing right in front of me. As we talked, it became clear that she was not sure if she should “try” a new translation as her church still used the King James version of the Bible but she really wanted to understand what she was reading. Together we read Luke 5 (the passage her pastor had just preached from) from several different versions and I was able to share about my favorite study Bible – The Life Application Bible and how it was available in multiple translations. As we read the Bible and the study notes together the words began to make more sense and I could see a look of joy coming over her face that replaced the apprehension she had started with as she had stared at that intimidating wall of Bibles.
What she did not know was what joy this simple interaction brought to my heart and what a a reminder it was of the value of watering a seed. I had not introduced her to the gospel and I was not her pastor and yet I was one more link in the chain of her spiritual growth. So many times over the years, I have had this privilege of helping someone chose a Bible and the thrill never goes away. Having used lots of Bibles myself and seen the value of being able to understand what I was reading as critical to my own spiritual walk, I knew how much this new Bible was going to mean to her as she began to use it on a regular basis.
Recently, I read an article about kingdom building versus empire building that really hit home. At times over the years, I fear that some of us (including me) got confused about our roles and began to be more focused on empire building rather than kingdom building. Far too often, I have to confess, the conversations at trade shows and other industry events revolve almost exclusively around sales growth ideas, innovative marketing techniques and ways that our businesses can become more efficient. While none of those things in and of themselves are wrong, it is the obsession with them that has often gotten us off track viewing others as competitors rather than collaborators. Years ago, as I was helping to plan for the remodeling of one of our stores, I visited several Christian stores in other parts of the country asking questions and taking pictures. To my dismay, some did not want to share much in the way of advice and others refused to let me take pictures at all.
As I think about kingdom partnerships, it struck me that we in the world of Christian publishing and retailing have lots of opportunities to collaborate and have a unique place in God’s ecology. We may not be street evangelists or pastors of large congregations, but we are dealing with the real people who have real needs on a daily basis. As we better understand our place in the kingdom, it is exciting to see how God can use our knowledge of various Bible translations, types of study Bibles and the content in the books that we produce and sell to help others in their daily spiritual journeys. We are uniquely qualified for this role and God has prepared us for just such a time as this. People need our advice and counsel in the choice of their books and Bibles more than ever. With the growing number of resources available and the shrinking number of Christian bookstores, a knowledgeable “book person” can really make a difference in someones life. A timely recommendation can have eternal ramifications.