I have never really liked bugs and I have what some might describe as a phobia about bees. The bees thing might have something to do with my being stung on my tongue in college while drinking ice tea and not seeing that something “extra” was in my glass. In any case, I was a little creeped out when we were taken on a tour of a bug museum this summer in Ecuador. I had expected to see lots of interesting things on our one day to tour around Quito, but seeing humongous bugs was not on the list. As we entered the museum, we were quickly pared up with the curator of the museum who only spoke Spanish. Our tour guide attempted to interpret for him, but could not keep up with his rapid fire explanations of what we were looking at. In the end, it did not matter as the curator’s enthusiasm and hand gestures made up for any gaps in our understanding of exactly what he was saying. Surprisingly, I found this museum much more interesting than I had expected and I even learned a thing or two about bugs. As if this was remarkable enough, as we came to the end of the tour they actually had live bugs for you to hold and take pictures with. I politely declined that opportunity.
This past Friday, I had the joy of working in one of our bookstores and realized that one of the key roles we play in a ministry like CLC is that of a curator. We get to select what books to display and how to display them and then we get to take people on guided tours of our handiwork. In many cases, people come into a Christian bookstore knowing exactly what they want and we can help them find it quickly, but more often than not they only have a vague idea of their need and we get to function as a curator for Christ. What a privilege it was for me to show a young man what a concordance was and how to use it and then discover that what he really needed was a good study Bible. In another case, a young woman came in with a friend who had recommended that she get a Bible as she was just starting to go to church again. The friend assumed that a King James version was all that she needed, but after discussion, she chose a Bible that was far easier to understand and was a lot more likely to be read.
If you have ever been to a museum before, you probably remember both good experiences and bad ones. I remember being taken on field trips as a kid to museums that were not the best place for the fidgety little guy that I was with the “do not touch” signs and boring exhibits. Once, however, I got to go to the Franklin Museum in downtown Philly and it changed my perspective on museums forever. You could actually walk through a life sized heart or touch a sphere that made your hair stick out straight as they demonstrated the power of electricity. Everything seemed to be interactive and this was long before the internet was even invented. I remember thinking how much fun it would be to create these amazing things for kids to learn from even though I had know idea what a curator did.
Far too often Christian bookstores view themselves as the gift shop in the museum of Christianity and overlook the reality that we are the museum itself. People are curious about who Jesus is and what this “evangelical” Christian thing is all about. Many may actually have a Bible in their homes and have never read it or don’t know what it means anyway in 1611 English. The local church is a great option for these types of questions to be answered, but very often they are not open during the work week and are intimidating for a seeker to enter. The local Christian bookstore is the perfect place for for these conversations to take place.
As I pondered all of this it struck me that all great museums have live, often interactive, exhibits and so do we. We allow and encourage people to pick up, touch, feel and explore the books and Bibles that we sell. Museums that are doing their job most effectively when people are not simply entertained, but are in fact educated. As curators for Christ, our goal is far bigger. We desire that people will not only be educated by their interactions with us, but that their lives are transformed. Prayerfully, as we create environments that showcase the incredible resources we have in our stores, we will have the joy of seeing people experience not just a wow factor, but a recognition of the power of the gospel to change their lives forever.