Thursday, 26 January 2006

Your local Christian bookshop: 4

After an introduction and a reminder of the good, we've considered the complaints, both widely and more specifically. We've had a testimonial look at the ministry. Now for a consideration of the ministers - that is, the shop staff of our reforming Christian bookshops.

The ministers in your local Christian bookshop...

Scott commented, "To effect any significant change, one would have to be employed in the store." While I object that if we all participated in the ministry of the Christian bookshop towards its reformation it would have a significant change, it's clear that much does depend on the staff. And certainly it's the staff who we blame when we complain about the shop! So, even given that we're all going to work towards the reformation of the Christian bookshop, what makes a good staff member in a local Christian bookshop?

  • to be a Christian - obvious, but becoming increasingly difficult with anti-discrimination laws. Love for God (so for his glory in the propagation of his gospel not reduced from its glorious truth), for his people (a commitment not just to 'sell books' but to minister to God's people) and for those not yet in his people (to take every opportunity to minister to non-Christians). We also assume that what I detail below is pursued with consistency in all of life, by the grace of God.

  • theological understanding and interest in growing it, including knowledge of church history - so that you may 'proclaim Christ, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ'. So that you may advise on which commentaries are best (at each level). So that you may discern the truth and nuances of error in popular books plugged by distributors, in the latest academic texts, in childrens stories. So that you may advise seminary students on the titles on their reading lists, and often on good evangelical alternatives to complement their reading lists. So that you may advise every Christian on the best books to build them in knowledge of Christ from 'where they are' presently. So that you may advise preachers on what books faithfully address current issues and challenges. So that you may advise on issues of Bible translation. So that you may help Christians in conviction and grace in non-gospel issues through books, recommendations and discussion. So that, effectively, you may be a faithful minister of God's word in the context of the bookshop.

  • pastoral concern for your customers - to seek to get to know them and care for them with the ministry of books, advice and fellowship. This can be done to an extent even in serving someone you've never met before. This necessitates some people skills - ability to relate to customers, communicate, etc. So that, effectively, you may be a loving servant of God's people in the context of the bookshop.

  • a passion for evangelism - to serve the church with easy ways of getting evangelistic material out to as many people as possible as cheaply as possible. So that, effectively, you may be a committed link in the spread of God's gospel through the context of the bookshop.

  • a commitment to get to know the books available - this is necessary to all of the above. A computer stock search just doesn't do it! You're a doctor, listening to the symptoms, taking a history, diagnosing the solution and providing the cure. But you need to know the medecines available to know exactly what to proscribe! So that, effectively, you may be a skillful worker in God's house in the context of the bookshop.

  • good business sense - inc. arithmetic, etc. You've got to keep it in the black. So that you may be under God a faithful steward of the resources of the bookshop.

  • you also usually need to be fit and healthy - there's no small amount of lifting boxes & standing on your feet all day serving etc.

    Now do you have some idea of why you complain about the staff in your local Christian bookshop?

  • If you had someone in your church who was a Christian of tested service in the church, with theological understanding, a pastoral concern for God's people, a passion for evangelism, and people skills, what would you advise them? To go manage a Christian bookshop for the whole of their life? No, you'd have signed up to be a pastor - or if you were feeling more sacrificial, a missionary. We leave the Christian bookshops to the Christian business people, and then criticise them because they don't minister the gospel faithfully according to the qualifications of eldership. So elders: rather than despair of your local Christian bookshop, perhaps you should 'set apart' some of your godly church members for ministry in a Christian bookshop. Staff of a Christian bookshop are ministers in a ministry. We don't expect them to be less. Why not encourage them to be as much?

    -> Pray for the ministers (staff) who serve in your local Christian bookshop.
    -> Encourage them in their ministry both by expressing your appreciation of it in as much as it is good (encourage the good wherever you find it, and if you can't find it, look harder) and perhaps sharing a little of your vision for its ministry. Encourage them by participating in the reformation of the ministry as I've suggested in previous posts. Encourage them by telling them that you pray for their ministry (and do so!).
    -> Also: Consider whether this ministry is for you. Yes, that's what I said. Also consider whether someone in your church has this character and gifts and could be encouraged to consider it.
    -> Look over the role of the staff of a Christian bookshop again. Now pray for the Lord to give the vision, burden and equipping for this ministry to some such people! Every time you find yourself thinking about your local Christian bookshop (or lack of it), pray this again.

    To wrap up this mini-series of posts I'll add a brief testimonial epilogue as the next post.


    Cate said...

    Rosemary, have you ever wondered if God might be calling YOU to serve Him by running a (fantastic) bookstall or two? :) :) :) You seem to fit the bill...

    mama said...

    Well said, RDG. But it can all be summed up in one word really. Love. (and you could spell that one ok :))

    Well said, Cate. And her dad will be looking for a replacement in the next few years!

    PG said...

    Hey what about me :P
    I never stop getting told that either! lol But I don't think people realise the lack of reading I do (still more compared to most in my generation but not alot) nervmind anything else...."link by obvious generation progression" I would call it or something along the lines...but o well, for now I will have to put up with M going on "u dont read" bla di bla bla etc etc

    étrangère said...

    Thanks Cate, you know I run bookstalls at the drop of a hat. Though having said that I haven't managed to get to grips with it yet in Belgium :(

    To be fair, pg, you won't be through uni in a few years' time, and you wouldn't actually want your parents making assumptions about what job(s) you'll go into, now would you?!

    mama - What did I spell wrong, oh ever-trusty proof-reader mine?

    mama said...

    it's the staff who we blame (whom, or better, that)

    childrens stories (children's)

    medecines (medicines, remember by med-IC-inal, or medical)

    to know exactly what to proscribe (prescribe!!! proscribe=ban)

    skillful (UK skilful)

    Also, effect=make smthg happen; affect=have an effect on smthg.

    You did ask! Have to keep you humble somehow when you're writing such good stuff :)

    I wonder what they do teach them in these schools *sigh*

    étrangère said...

    Deary me on most of those, I really mustn't have been concentrating. I did contemplate 'whom' but thought you'd told me not to be so pedantic at one stage and that I was overusing whom so I didn't ;-) As for 'medecines', I blame French...