Thinking Out Loud

March 21, 2019

America’s Last Significant Christian Bookstore Chain, LifeWay is Shutting Its Doors

On January 6th, 2018 the iconic James Draper Tower of the LifeWay complex in downtown Nashville was demolished. Thursday’s announcement of the closing of the retail chain sends even bigger shock waves. [Source: Tennessean – see below]

Yesterday, Religion News Service reported:

LifeWay Christian Resources announced Wednesday (March 20) it will close all 170 of its brick-and-mortar stores this year.

That comes as LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, shifts its resources online.

Local news media The Tennessean reported:

The company plans to shift to a digital strategy as consumers increasingly rely on online shopping, a challenge that retailers face nationally. LifeWay resources, such as online Bible studies and worship plans, will be offered at LifeWay.com, through the LifeWay Customer Service Center and through its network of church partners

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business. Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [CEO Brad] Waggoner said. “LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers.”

At LifeWay’s Facts and Trends website, more details:

…The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year…

…In one month, LifeWay interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores…

Unlike the 2017 closing of another Christian retail chain, Family Christian Stores, this is not a receivership. The FCS closing affected over 3,000 employees and also devastated publishers, music companies and giftware suppliers who were also sent reeling with the closing of Send the Light, a large wholesale distributor. FCS closed 240 stores in comparison to LifeWay’s current 170. In contrast, the website for Parable explains that, “Parable Christian Stores are locally owned and operated franchise stores run by people who desire to resource their community with Christian products.”

But there is no doubt the LifeWay decision will have an impact on authors, musicians, and a host of other creatives who make the products that Christian bookstores sell. It will also have ripple-effect repercussions on everything from how Christian products are marketed and promoted to Christian music concert tours.

But not every author, musician, or film producer is affected as the RNS story reminded us that many had their products outright banned by the chain:

[Rachel Held] Evans said Wednesday that she doesn’t rejoice over any bookstore closing and she is mindful that LifeWay’s closing means many people will lose their jobs.

But, she said, “for too long Lifeway’s fundamentalist standards have loomed over Christian publishing, stifling the creativity and honesty of writers of faith.

“I hope this news reinforces to writers, editors, and marketers across the industry that we don’t have to conform to Southern Baptist doctrine and culture to sell books. Readers are hungry for literature that embraces the complexity, nuance, and ragged edges of real-life faith and for bookshelves that reflect the diversity of the Church.”

Other people on Twitter responding to the closure didn’t share Evans’ compassion and were outright gleeful that the chain, long known for its restrictive practices was shutting down. “News we can celebrate;” said one, while @SBCExplainer, an official SBC account, countered with, “[L]et’s band together to dispel any notions that LifeWay is ‘going under’. LifeWay will continue to be the largest Christian resources provider in the world.” 

Patheos blogger Jayson D. Bradley, who himself once worked at a Family Christian store, observed, “Without intending to, LifeWay and Family Christian Stores helped create an evangelical ghetto. By choosing what was orthodox enough to sell and then only carrying what sold, they helped create the hyper right-wing political evangelical culture we all get to enjoy now.”

As the story broke last night in local markets where the company has locations, several reports indicated that store management knew their closing date was coming at the end of May. SBCExplainer also noted that outlets on seminary campuses would also be closing. Also included in the closing is the new flagship store built less than a year ago in the new LifeWay building after the first property was sold and demolished. (See picture above.)

More information was being posted on the store’s FAQ page.

 

This is developing story; check back for updates.

 

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January 25, 2012

Wednesday Link List

The rug and lamp cozy living room theme from Grace Community Church in Fremont, Ohio as seen at the blog, Church Stage Design Ideas

Why are opening remarks called an introduction, but concluding remarks are never called an extroduction?

  • Emotionally stirring:  Caiden Hooks, eight-years-old, lost his eyes to cancer.  He shares his faith in a baptism video produced at LifePoint Church in Columbus, Ohio: “We live by faith and not by sight.”
  • Frank Viola attempts a classification of Evangelicals into four distinct streams.  It’s actually part two of an article he posted in May.
  • Last week I found myself in the middle of a discussion concerning a Catholic parent whose eight-year-old daughter is being invited to Bible study run by Evangelicals.  It’s good to see both sides of this scenario.
  • Or how about this one which goes all the way back to December 30th — that’s so last year — where he’s Baptist and her parents are Church of Christ and insist he convert before marrying her.  They say that otherwise, he is “leading her to hell.”  Yikes.
  • When a faith healer like Todd Bentley reports of crusade miracles taking place, it would be helpful if there were sufficient information to verify the claims. Update: Bentley has just been refused admittance into Australia.
  • Here’s a fun idea; the world’s most popular provider of cosmetic beauty — Photoshop — marketed as if it’s a consumer product that actually changes people in the real world.
  • Haiti for Christ was in line for much needed financial support from Mark Driscoll’s network of churches, but when they found out the organization had a female pastor, they pulled the plug on that support.
  • Comment of the week: At an article at Reformed Arminian about KJV Onlylism, this response: “I am KJVJSB — KJV Just Sounds Better. I can’t bear the ugly English in the NIV in particular. So I swap between the NKJV and the KJV…”
  • An excellent piece from across the pond about the ongoing value and need for the ministry of Christian bookstores.
  • Speaking of Driscoll, Todd Rhodes thinks we’ve gone from speaking too little about sex, to talking too much; especially Pastor Patrick Wooden. (Note: Audio clip content is unnecessarily and uncomfortably graphic.)
  • One of the worst things about being newly — or not so newly — married is hearing the same question over and over and over and over again: So when are you having kids?
  • Meanwhile, over at Mandy Thompson’s house, the topic of contention is FDT or Family Devotion Time; somewhat complicated by the fact that he’s the preacher and she’s the worship leader.
  • Often by promoting a moral high ground, the church unknowingly is pushing sexually active young people toward having abortions.
  • Polish pop star Doda this week was fined the equivalent of $14.95 — no, make that $1,495 — by a Polish court for comments she made in 2009 suggesting the Bible’s writers were drunk and on drugs.  Doda disagreed: “If someone is a deep believer, I would not think such words could offend someone.”
  • How about a blog that mixes video games and theology?  That’s what David is trying to do at Reclaimer 105.  Or maybe you’re in youth ministry and just need a good game analogy to get a message across.
  • Still lots of heat over a July piece here concerning Perry Noble’s charge to his congregation, ‘Show up on time for church, or else.’
  • Martin Luther King, Jr. Day last week, turned up a rare 30-second clip of King’s humorous side when he guested on The Tonight Show.
  • So why is the Pajama Diaries comic here today? It was the words “Sunday School Tuition” that got me. We use the phrase in one context and forget that it means something entirely different in a Jewish context. Besides, most church children’s programs don’t charge fees, while the various synagogues I checked online were charging between $200 and $550 per child.

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