Your local Christian bookshop: Intro and
Your local Christian bookshop: 1 (Complaints considered)
I ended my last Local Christian Bookshop post with this:
"Therefore I contend that Christian bookshops are not to be abandoned, but reformed. Because whereas you may be able to advise those around you which books to read, and they can get them online, the group of Christians you know are not alone in the body of Christ. The reformation of Christian bookshops matters to the building up of Christ's church."
Before continuing, I want in this post to deal with one objection to my call for prayer and action to the reformation of Christian bookshops. The conclusion of many Christians is "(I've had good advice and) I know the books I want - and I can get them online cheaper anyway."
Well, nice one for you! What about all those Christians who haven't had good advice? They're stuck with what's in their local Christian bookshop, which, if bad, isn't going to get any better if all of those who know what the best books disappear to the internet. Those who haven't had the good advice (young? new Christians? non-Christians?) are stuck with the popular fiction with an emphasis away from the primary things of the glorious gospel of our blessed God, and the best-selling heresy being plugged by glossy posters. They're left with the man-centred therapy books and the works-centred 'how to' books. They're left with the bland and poisonous semi-Gospel With the Hard Bits Taken Out books and the treacherous Jesus PLUS My Hobby Horse books. But we're not to worry, because all the well-advised Christians are happily buying healthy God-centred, Christ-exalting books online. We'll keep ourselves well-fed, and use the energy to bewail or berate the others for their lack of discernment that they haven't found similar food to eat. Natural selection perhaps - the strong get stronger and the weak are weeded out? What? Is this how we act in the body of Christ? If you care about the church of Christ, which is his body, his bride, then you will not leave others to this! You will not abandon the Christian bookshop to feed others rubbish while you look after yourself elsewhere.
I remember when with a friend I walked into our local Christian bookshop in a new town and asked for J.C.Ryle's 'Holiness'. The staff had never heard of it. I explained who J.C.Ryle had been, what the book was about and what a classic it was... but stopped short of ordering it - I was flabberghasted and walked out again. I only cared for my friend getting the book. I didn't care for all the other Christians in that city who would use the shop. Of course I wouldn't have said that - I was appalled by the shop and of course I wanted it to be better, to feed healthy food to the Christians of the city. But I obviously didn't love them that much - I just focussed on the needs of my friend and myself, and left the rest to rot.
So if you care for Christ's church and want good books, what can you do apart from go online?
You walk into your local Christian bookshop and ask them to order the Good Books you want if they don't have them. You may need to tell them the publisher. And yes, they may be available cheaper online. But online you wouldn't get the opportunity to help the staff better stock their shop for the building up of the church. Online you don't have the opportunity to edify the other customers who are in there in a vague search for something to help them live as Christians, hear you extolling the merits of said Good Books and may decide to get them too. By being in your local Christian bookshop you also have occasion to discuss with other customers, helping them onwards, sharing about books you've found helpful and even being encouraged by them in what they've learnt from some books too. In your local Christian bookshop you have the opportunity to fellowship with Christians from other local churches and build each other up in the body of Christ by discussing and pointing to great gospel-centred books.
And as all the 'well-advised' Christians who have gone online start revisiting their local Christian bookshop, and, praying for its reformation, are determined not to roll the eyes and walk out again, but to order what books they want and engage in building up the staff, shop and customers, those local Christian bookshops will start bit by bit to reform.
-> Don't just go to your local Christian bookshop to receive, criticise and give up on it. Go to your Christian bookshop to minister, and if you don't receive, then minister some more. And keep praying for the reform of Christian bookshops.
Coming next: the ministry of the Christian bookshop (or "What might a reformed bookshop look like?")