Thinking Out Loud

April 13, 2019

Stories Can’t Change Lives if No One Reads Them

Filed under: books, Christianity, ministry, personal — paulthinkingoutloud @ 7:49 am

This “Bible Book Store” serves as a generic stand-in for our own. (I’m surprised Shutterstock doesn’t own this picture by now!)

Each week I work two days at the Christian bookstore that we own. By taking the two day shifts and working without pay I make it possible for the store to remain viable financially in a smaller market. Even so, the store is continuing to lose money. After filing this year’s tax return I fully expect Revenue Canada to tell me I either need to start working more weekly shifts or I need to shut it down.

The primary work that I do is done on my laptop at home. I don’t bring my computer to the store nor is there really a decent place to set it down — the store is that crowded — nor can the store afford Wi-Fi. Some work I do at the store consists of everything from merchandising and receiving shipments to emptying the trash in the washroom.

Business has been slow lately so I often pick up a random book off the shelf, open it somewhere in the middle and start reading. This time the book was Love, Skip, Jump, a 2014 book which Shelene Bryan did for Thomas Nelson.

She’s a good writer. The place where I had landed was a story about her volunteering to organize a community barbecue in a neighborhood in East Los Angeles she had always been told to avoid.

It was a moving story. There are similarities in it to situations that my wife has found herself in over the last decade in terms of ministry to the disadvantaged. At one point I got goosebumps as I was reading. At another point I felt tears welling up. Remember, I was only reading one chapter.

The book is a $4.99 bargain book in our store. It got chosen for stock among the hundreds and hundreds of books which have remainder status each year because the foreword was by Francis Chan who turned out to be Shelene’s pastor at the time. I don’t know that we’ve ever sold any copies.

I’m not sure where all of these books will end up after we close the store but it occurred to me that hers was a story which was moving me to tears but no one in my community might ever read. I thought how sad a situation that was; that such a powerful story is just sitting here for the taking at a reasonable price and yet no one will ever see or hear of it.

I don’t have a happy ending to this, I just think it’s unfortunate that we live in a part of the world where we have such a glut of print resources; instead we spend our time watching cats on YouTube.

Part of the reason I had time to pick up the book off the shelf is that over the winter I’ve had a real sense that we’re not immune from the circumstances affecting Family Christian Stores or LifeWay Christian Stores. Our store is also dying and there is a perfect storm of circumstances contributing to its death.

Amazon didn’t help the situation, but I remain unconvinced that the part of the market that it stole is actually represented by an equal amount of sales of the same types of products. My guess is that what many unsuspecting Christians are buying from them is a dog’s breakfast of doctrinal ideas.

As I write this my seven hour shift at the store is half over. So far I’ve had one customer and she is usually there waiting for me to open every Friday morning. I know the day can turn itself around, but sometimes it’s hard to pray; the reality seems to be so far removed from the desire.

When the kids were young we would have prayer time which would always include, “Please help the store to do well so that we can pay all the bills.” I realize now that’s not really the right goal. Through shrewd management we’ve been able to enter a situation where we actually are able to pay all the bills, but unfortunately cash position in and of itself is not an indicator a profitability.

My new goal would be, “Lord, please help us to be busy in the store so that the many stories contained in those books can be told to more people.”

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2 Comments »

  1. Your post is touching, relevant and really conveys the transition in our society from reading to “watching cats on YouTube” – as you said. So many parts of this post are excellent. I enjoyed reading this and agree with you wholeheartedly. God bless your store.

    Comment by Family to the 5 Power! — April 13, 2019 @ 9:47 am

  2. It’s OK to pray for prosperity, too. It, in and of itself, suggests you are selling enough books which, if the customers actually read, will make the kind of impression on them as it does you.

    Comment by The Purging Lutheran — April 14, 2019 @ 2:44 pm


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