For some time now, there have been a growing chorus of nay-sayers predicting the end of brick and mortar bookstores. With the closure of Borders and many large independent stores, the volume seemed to increase as the chorus got louder. Shouting in the midst of this ever increasing din was a recent post by influential blogger Tim Challies. He suggested that Christian bookstores have now largely become irrelevant and primarily cater to the lowest common denominator in the evangelical Christian sub culture.
Having just spent a week with some of the most talented and committed professionals in the independent Christian retail arena, I have a bit of a different perspective. These folks have chosen to ignore the nay-sayers, don’t listen to the prevailing media choristers and have taken a different path. To a person, they are operating brick and mortar stores that matter to their local communities and provide an oasis of peace in a world of chaos.
Fundamentally, they understand that selling Christian resources is about the potential for life transformation and not simply a money making venture. In some cases, these brave merchants have taken other jobs outside their bookstores in order to keep the doors open and maintain viable ministry locations in the commercial heart of their towns. In other cases, their presence in the community has granted them access to the movers and shakers that influence the very future of their city.
What unites them is a deep commitment to the reality that what they do every day is not simply Christian retailing. At the most basic level they are in the business of:
and as one person I met said,
“Helping people feel closer to God.”
That is a business that is not only relevant, but worth doing every day with joy and excitement. What a reason to get up in the morning with a smile on your face knowing that you have the potential to impact someones life for eternity each and every day.
I hope that in the years to come, there will be a new set of voices pointing to the vital nature of these light houses on main street. I know that I will certainly be one of them, no matter how bad I sing.