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.

 

February 17, 2018

The Sin of Marketing Offers

Early in the week, I was contacted to see if I knew how someone could get their hands on a song by Casting Crowns titled Listen to Our Hearts. They believed it was on the album Come to the Well, but they couldn’t locate it there.

A little research later, I determined that the song was a bonus track which was only sold to people who pre-ordered the album on iTunes.

It’s not the first time something like this has happened.

In the past few years there have been entire albums by Christian artists which were only available at LifeWay stores. Here, I need to point out that there are no LifeWay stores in Canada or the UK, so fans of the artists in questions simply could not obtain the product, no matter how hard they tried.

There’s something about this that just strikes me as wrong.

I saw an article the other day about “The Sin of Partiality.” Not surprisingly it began in the book of James (2:1-4):

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

My brain connected the article with the song request.

I know Casting Crowns needs to make money, and I’m not saying they should give their songs away for free — the influence of Keith Green notwithstanding — but somewhere between open source and restricted access there should be a balance.

I posted a fan-posted YouTube edition the song on Twitter as a type of protest. That way some people got to hear it that day. I added that a year, or two years later, “the song never surfaced in any form.” That brought this reader response:

To which I responded,

I realize that Christian retail is fraught with moral and ethical perils. The one I hear the most is, “The Bible should be free.” (I always have free copies to meet that objection.) I don’t expect the people at iTunes to live by Christian standards, but surely the people at LifeWay must know, in the back of their minds, that at the same time they’re doing something for their customers, they are denying others, right? (In a future article, we’ll look at the related idea of giving greater discounts to people buying in quantity, which is always an ethical dilemma.)

I just think anytime you say “exclusive offer” you’re letting some people in and shutting some people out.

At that point, the connection to what James says about favoritism is valid.


Note: The song was a collaboration between three artists. The versions by Steven Curtis Chapman and Geoff Moore have proved equally elusive in 2018.

February 25, 2012

LifeWay: We Didn’t Know What We Were Talking About

Filed under: bible — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 11:58 am

So now LifeWay Christian bookstores are going to — officially — carry the 2011 revision of the New International Version after all. Profit over principle?

In some sense, yes, but buried in the story is also an admission that in making an earlier decision, the delegates to last summer’s Southern Baptist annual meeting did not have all the correct facts in front of them and went with a knee-jerk reaction instead of getting all the facts. Do that, and you’re always forced to backpedal.

With the strongly emotional issue of Bible translation, this type of response is all too common. A handful of self-styled academics have a legion of followers who believe every words they say about “other” translations, even though the facts — and real academics — don’t support their wild claims. But there are many people out there who would rather believe the worst, and I know this because they make a regular point of sending me email forwards that insist the sky is falling.

At issue is the updated edition of the NIV Bible and a motion that a delegate to the convention put forward in June recommending that entire SBC denomination ban the translation. Some SBC pastors who had been preaching from the revised text immediately discontinued its use.

The bookstore chain and its affiliated publishing company is owned by the SBC, and is a major cash cow. LifeWay’s trustees have decided to go against the recommendation of their parent denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, and continue merchandising and selling the 2011 revision of the New International Version of the Bible published by Zondervan.

But the USAToday story, excerpted below, says the chain “won’t endorse it;” which is a throwback to a controversy a few years ago where the company placed consumer advisory warning stickers on some products (i.e. The Shack) which it did not ‘officially’ approve. Next generation writers like Donald Miller were a particular target in October ’10; though it paled in comparison to a September ’08 decision to pull a music magazine from the shelves with a cover story on female pastors, while continuing to print and market materials by Bible teacher Beth Moore.

The comedic value of this, “We’ll sell it to you, but we don’t approve of it” policy is, like the policy itself, without limits. Lifeway could bring in just about anything in print, CD or DVD without having to sanction it; which means it could make forays into the wider ABA book market or carry CDs or DVDs which its customers enjoy and are buying elsewhere, without compromising principles.

But does a warning notice or sticker on the product exempt the company from those principles?  And isn’t that warning somewhat unnecessary when it’s dawning on SBC leadership that the new NIV isn’t guilty of the translation crimes of which it is accused?

Here’s the story from USAToday:

Complaints that the New International Version of the Bible (NIV) is inaccurate and too gender-inclusive are not going to stop one of the world’s largest Christian resource producers from selling it.

That translation was criticized at the 2011 Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Phoenix. Church representatives there approved a resolution asking Nashville-based LifeWay Christian Resources — owned by the denomination — to take it off its shelves.

Critics said the translation, which was updated in 2011, is filled with errors when it comes to language about gender, using “brothers and sisters” instead of “brothers” and “they” instead of “he” for a single pronoun. That kind of approach undermines the authority of the Bible, they said.

LifeWay’s trustees disagreed.

After having a committee review the 2011 NIV, they voted unanimously this week to keep selling it, while making clear they don’t endorse it…

…That decision disappointed the Rev. Tim Overton of Halteman Village Baptist Church in Muncie, Ind. Overton wrote the resolution against the NIV that passed in Phoenix.

His resolution initially was rejected by the committee that vets resolutions before they are presented at the annual meeting. But he brought it to a floor vote, where it was approved.

Overton, like many other Southern Baptists, believes in verbal plenary inspiration — the idea that every word of the original texts of the Bible comes from God. Adding words to a translation undermines that belief, he said.

“If it says ‘brother’ and you say ‘brothers and sisters,’ you are adding to the Scriptures,” he said.

Marty King, spokesman for LifeWay, said a committee of trustees reviewed the NIV to decide whether it was acceptable. Under Southern Baptist rules, he said, they were not required to comply with the resolution, and representatives at the annual meeting had inaccurate information about the translation.

“People thought this Bible used female language for God,” he said. “It does not. We think that messengers* voted without accurate information.”

continue reading here

*insider term for delegates to the SBC convention

January 14, 2012

Wednesday Link List – Saturday Edition

Weekend List Lynx

The link list bucket is overflowing and needs to be emptied a few days early…

  • We’ll start out serious. Here’s a scorecard, so to speak, of how your persecuted brothers and sisters in other parts of the world made out over the holidays.  “Because the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is on its way to reaching epidemic proportions…”  Read. Pray.
  • Stuff Fundies Like has a Sunday School curriculum done in the style of the Westminster Catechism. If you grew up in church this is a must-read, must-forward.
  • Another Baptist church dumps the NIV in favor of the Baptist-owned HCSB translation.  If it turns out that the majority of SBC churches switch to the Holman-published HCSB, then this whole affair was undermined by a massive conflict of interest.
  • Mars Hill’s Shane Hipps reflects on the departure of Rob Bell.  “I was aware of something stirring in him for some time.  While I wasn’t surprised, I was full of grief and joy.”
  • Because the people need to know, here’s Justin Bieber’s take on the subject of church attendance.  “…I focus more on praying and talking to Him. I don’t have to go to church.”
  • And in the same vein, here’s rapper Jefferson Bethke’s rap, Why I Hate Religion but Love Jesus.  “Religion’s like spraying perfume on a casket.”
  • And going for the three-peat on this subject, here’s Matt Hafer’s take on why “good enough for church” just isn’t good enough.”People, without saying it out loud, seem to think that God exists in about 4 places.The church building…,funerals,hospitals, sporting events…”
  • Did you sponsor a child through Compassion or a similar organization?  For those who need motivation, here’s ten reasons to write your child.
  • For all the young moms and new moms in the audience: How does a mother in a large family create some time for God in the course of a day? Alyssa gives a great answer.
  • In one of the longest articles I’ve ever seen on Christianity Today online, Duanne Litfin writes about clothing; in particular, what we wear to church.  “…[W]e should not conclude too quickly that because God looks on the heart, what we wear to church doesn’t matter.”
  • Also at CT, an interview with David Crowder on the occasion of the band’s retirement after sixteen years, and David’s move to Atlanta. “There’s just so much life has passed among us, and the depth is really deep relationship feeling, friendship.”
  • The Wall Street Journal sits up and takes notice when Christian media company Salem Web Network surpasses one million Facebook friends. Be sure to read the last paragraph; you may interact with this corporation more than you realize.
  • And speaking of corporate culture, Shaun In The City thinks churches should rethink the concept of competition in ministry.  “In the end you end up with dozens (even hundreds & thousands) of organizations with similar missions, visions, and goals that are not only not speaking, but are often downright combative.  They miss collaborative opportunities and so much more because of this faulty way of thinking.”
  • Also on the topic of church, here’s a megachurch in Nigeria with a major staff shakeup involving the resignation of 200 pastors.
  • In an election year, we have to forgive our U.S. friends for forgetting that the rest of the world still exists. So we tend to ignore American politics here to balance things out, but this article accurately identifies the issues that the election brings to church in 2012.
  • Thanks this week for link leads goes to Todd Rhoades.

June 17, 2011

Southern Baptists Reject New NIV Translation

SBC shindig in Phoenix, four days ago

“We’ll get Mikey to try it, he hates everything”
classic Life cereal commercial line

At their annual convention in Phoenix, Arizona, “messengers” of the Southern Baptist Convention voted overwhelmingly “not to commend” the newly revised edition of the New International Version translation of the Bible, aka NIV 2011.

Their unstated reason is simple: They don’t like it.

Specifically, they don’t like it when passages that traditionally referred to males — using words like he, him, his, man, men, etc. — get changed to gender neutral pronouns.

But gender neutral is usually how the original texts read.  In the book, How To Choose A Bible Translation for All It’s Worth by Gordon Fee and Mark Strauss, the latter talks about working on the translation committee for the TNIV.  He notes that the Greek “anthropos” — from which we no doubt get the word anthropology, the study of human civilization — refers to  ‘person’ or ‘persons.’  You could say, tongue in cheek, that “in anthropos there is neither male nor female.” 

But he goes on to explain that forms like “Son of Man” cannot be jettisoned so easily, since they are both a poetic form and a doctrinal statement.  In other words, God is not a ‘she’ in either the TNIV or the NIV-2011, though this is how some hot-headed people would have you believe it reads.   It’s the end of doctrinal purity as we know it.

Consider this verse which we’ve been discussing here on this blog and at Christianity 201 recently:

If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.

What possible major doctrinal violation takes place when I paraphrase that as:

If anyone would come after me, let them deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.

[The so-called “singular to plural” crisis is, in this case, solved by the antecedent use of “one.”]

The answer is: Nothing.  It’s a much closer rendering of what Jesus is saying here, unless, of course, he is extending the invitation of discipleship entirely to males.

The Southern Baptists simply don’t like the change.  And they don’t like it with the same venom that characterizes King James Version Only people.  (And yes, I said King James Version only, which KJ-Onlyites hate because it concedes there are in fact other versions.) 

You can read the wording of their resolution here.

Furthermore, when you read it, you’ll note this interesting clause:

RESOLVED, That we respectfully request that LifeWay not make this inaccurate translation available for sale in their bookstores;

Ah yes, the power of an economic boycott.  The SBC controls the LifeWay chain of bookstores and websites; an organism about which I’ve already expressed a certain degree of contempt here.  This is the group that believes women should not teach men, but rakes in huge piles of cash daily from the sales of books by Beth Moore.  This is the same mentality that caused a group of 800 male pastors to turn their chairs so that their backs were to the podium during an address being given by Billy Graham’s daughter, Anne Graham Lotz; a story referred to in a chapter of J. Lee Grady’s book Ten Lies The Church Tells Men, that was referred to here a few days ago.

What is Zondervan to do about all this?  The remaining editions of the NIV-1984 version in the Thinline and Church Bible (formerly Pew Bible) style — the two most popular formats — have already been discontinued and remaining copies donated to mission agencies.  The devotional, teen and study Bibles are not in reprint awaiting the fall release of the rest of the NIV-2011 product line.

Zondervan made an “all-in” commitment to the new translation, and is now met with this slap in the face from North America’s largest Protestant denomination.

But largest for how long?  As we reported here on Wednesday, USAToday’s religion page states that baptism statistics for the SBC are at a virtual all-time low for the past two generations, dropping to 1950s levels.  The denomination is going the way of many mainline Protestant ones; losing relevancy and losing younger families.

As for the translation issue:  C’mon guys (which implies both male and female here).  Look at the example above from Luke 9 and tell me that some element of the Christian faith is being compromised by the paraphrase I offered. 

If not, then suck it up. 

Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today and forever.  Our faith is based on unchanging truth.

But the English language is changing, and male-dominated, patriarchal language simply doesn’t mean what you think it means anymore; it isn’t heard that way, and simply doesn’t cut it.

~Paul Wilkinson

January 30, 2010

Who Exactly Is Teaching The Women in Your Church?

Other bloggers can talk all they want about John Piper, Scot McKnight, Tim Keller, Francis Chan,  etc., but I work in a Christian bookstore and in that environment, only one name mattered this week: Beth Moore.    Her So Long Insecurity: You’ve Been a Bad Friend To Us (Tyndale, 2010) is out in hardcover at $24.99 US this month and has captured the top spot on a couple of the Spring Arbor overnight Top 100 charts this week.

Before going further, I have to ask:  What’s with the United States and all their hardcover releases?   I thought y’all were in the middle of an economic downturn?

Okay, the question is rhetorical.   When it comes to Beth Moore, money is no object.   Almost all her book titles have released in hardcover, a situation she shares with her slightly more charismatic friend, Joyce Meyer.   Neither one of these women have any problem sucking money out of the pockets of their fans.

In fairness though, while Meyer may not be able to control everything her publisher does with her hardcovers, she apparently does give away many of her teaching DVDs and CDs to ministry organization.

With Moore, the commercialism is more overt.   When Moore isn’t writing general book titles for publishers such as Tyndale, she’s producing another small group Bible study for Lifeway.    I gotta be honest here, I have a hard time even typing Lifeway into a sentence, and I just about retch saying it out loud.

Lifeway is the most ingenious money sucking device ever invented by Baptists, and trust me, they’ve invented several.    My anger knows no bounds in this, but fortunately it’s righteous anger, so I can rationalize it in large amounts.

Here’s how the scam works:   Lifeway, a producer of dated Sunday School curriculum decided long ago that there was far more money in delineating its non-dated adult small group material as curriculum also, and sells it to distributors at what is called a short-discount.    Your favorite Christian bookstore or online vendor is simply not making a lot of money on it.   So who is?

Often, such as in the case of church choral and orchestral product, or certain esoteric Bible translation materials, the discount is shortened to keep the price affordable.    But with many of Moore’s DVD teaching sets retailing at $250 US, that simply isn’t the case here.

Years ago, Serendipity House held back products from distribution — selling them only through their own system — to cover development costs.   That’s not the case here, either.   The retail prices of the study guides — almost always $19 US and coyly termed “member books” — usually cost participants twice the price of any other DVD-related participant guides and more than cover any possible development costs.

But the price is minor when you factor in the volume.   Moore and Lifeway together are selling thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands and thousands of these things.   The Lifeway anchor store we visited in Nashville had a staff member assigned solely to this one aisle of product, and when he went to lunch someone else covered for him.   The appetite of Christian women’s groups for Beth Moore knows no bounds;  not denominationally and not geographically.    James MacDonald, who won’t let the wives of any of his staff members do anything other than be stay at home housewives, included her on his Downpour tour.    She’s ubiquitous; able to boldly go where no woman has gone before and command fees that no one has ever charged before.

And what qualifies this person who is teaching our mothers, daughters, wives, sisters and girlfriends?

She has a degree in political science.

Okay, let’s be fair,  she also has an honorary doctorate in humanities from Howard Payne University (no I haven’t heard of it, either) a Baptist (surprise) university located in Brownwood, Texas (surprise) whose basketball team won a national championship in 1957.   According to Wikipedia she went to a Biblical doctrine class (whoo hoo) and then started a women’s Bible study that grew to over 2,000.    But when it comes to earned education, their report stops with this:

She has a degree in political science.

Joyce Meyer?   She claims an earned degree from the non-accredited Life Christian University, and also has an honorary degree from ORU.   She doesn’t have $250 DVD teaching series, nor do her various publishers and DVD creators stiff Christian bookstores with a short discount.   And I’m willing to give her points for growing up in adversity and having attended the school of hard knocks.

But the private jet always comes up in conversation.   You gotta be careful here, however, since the counter argument is always to look at the places she travels in a year and then compare the cost (and time) involved in commercial flights.     I’m willing to let her have the thing.

I’m not so willing to concede on the luxury homes or the lifestyle that goes with them, regardless of how much money she gives away.   There are casinos which payout 94% of all they take in.   That’s nice.   It’s the 6% that bothers me.  Check out this estate plan:

Here’s the extended photo caption for this picture by Robert Cohen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch: “Joyce Meyer Ministries bought these 5 homes for Meyer and her family. The Ministry pays all expenses, including landscaping and lawn care, property taxes and rehab work. Meyer, her husband and each of their four married children live in the homes, free of charge.”

  • (1) Principal Residence of David and Joyce Meyer
    Bought: April 27th, 1999
    Purchase Price: About $795,000
    Square Footage: 10,000
    Cost of Improvements: $1.1 Million
    Features: 6 Bedrooms, 5 Bathrooms, Gold Putting Green, Swimming pool, 8 Car Heated and Cooled Garage, Guest House with 2 more bedrooms, Gazebo.
  • (2) Residence of: Daughter, Sandra McCollom and her husband Steve
    Bought: February 12, 2002
    Purchase Price: $400,000
    Square Footage: About 5,000
    Cost of Improvements: About $250,000
    Features: 4 Bedrooms, 3 full and 2 half Bathrooms, All-Seasons room, Prayer Room, Media Center and a Home Office.
  • (3)Residence of: Son, David Meyer and his wife Joy Meyer.
    Bought: June 18, 2001Purchase Price: $725,000
    Square Footage: 4,000
    Cost of Improvements: Unknown
    Features: 2 Story Colonial, 4 Bedrooms, 2 1/2 Bathrooms, 2 Garages and a Utility Shed
  • (4) Residence of: Daughter, Laura Holtzmann and her husband Doug
    Bought: March 7, 2001
    Purchase Price: $350,000
    Square Footage: 2,358
    Cost of Improvements: $3,000
    Features: 3 Bedrooms, 2 Bathrooms with a Fireplace.
  • (5) Residence of: Son, Dan Meyer and his wife Charity
    Bought: Mar 13, 2000
    Purchase Price: About 200,000
    Square Footage: About 2,000
    Cost of Improvements: $33,000
    Features: Brick Ranch With Full Finished Basement
  • [Read more here] (Last updated 1.11.09)

    Better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.   Here’s some alternatives for you to consider:  Donna Partow, Luci Swindoll, Elizabeth George, Thelma Wells, Lysa TerKeurst, Liz Curtis Higgs, Shaunti Feldhahn, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, Stasi Eldredge, Lisa Bevere, Stormie Omartian, Jill Briscoe, and the list goes on and on.  (DVD and/or workbooks are available for study material for the majority of these authors; all at lower cost than the aforementioned Ms. Moore.)

    In conclusion, Moore and Meyer are teachers that lead and inspire the women in many, many churches; and many women either dream or consciously want to emulate Meyer or Moore.   In Moore’s case, a denomination holding solidly to the premise that women should not pastor (see link below) has no problem ceding the responsibility for much teaching to a woman whose only earned degree is in political science.   In Meyer’s case, it’s often both men and women who enjoy her teaching, while she herself enjoys a personal life of excess.

    Related article in this blog:  Lifeway Reveals Its Total Hypocrisy – 09/28/08

    UPDATE: April 4, 2011 — After more than a year of taking a lot of heat for this particular blog post, I’ve decided to close comments.  I appreciate the replies to this article, which is the closest thing I’ve ever done to anything investigative, but I really don’t have a vendetta here, and I carry both Joyce’s and Beth’s products in the two bookstores I do buying for.

    I’ve defended my reasons for running this and leaving it up in various responses to the comments. Please read them. I’ve tried to make it clear my goal was not to wound or hurt anyone.  Still, some writers have made it their goal to judge me for posting this. I’m sorry we don’t know each other better.

    I think the replies, 37 as of now, show the variety of opinions people have on this issue. Also, I need to suggest that for some, the “wrongness” or “excess” of any preacher’s housing, if any, will diminish as the U.S. climbs out of recession.

    I’d also invite you to read a follow up piece that appeared here several months later.

    Finally, I would want to remind you that a great many people found this because they were indeed searching for pictures of Joyce’s house.  I really don’t know why. And I also want to reiterate that the main issue concerning Beth had to do with the politics by which her products are sold.

    For the record, I am in favor of women as elders, women in ministry and women as pastors. But I would like to think there was a solid theological education underpinning that role. However again, I would also like to say that education isn’t everything, and that the main criteria noted with the disciples in Acts was that they were seen to have “spent time with Jesus.”


    September 23, 2008

    Lifeway Publishing Reveals Its Total Hypocrisy

    Filed under: Christianity, Church — Tags: , , , — paulthinkingoutloud @ 8:44 am

    I am in no way a fan of Lifeway Publishing.   The Southern Baptist curriculum publisher is, in my humble opinion, a giant money-making machine.  They buy up the rights to produce curriculum for many top selling Christian books and brand-name Christian authors, in many ways capitalizing on those authors’ concepts.   They then sell those books through the trade as “short discount” items, giving stores less than half of their usual margin.   Huh?  When is a book publisher not a book publisher?  (And they aren’t the only one, David C. Cook invented the term “programmatic curriculum” so they could short-discount their non-dated curriculum in a similar manner.)

    The sales on this stuff are so brisk that when we visited the Lifeway store in Nashville, they had a sales clerk somewhat permanently assigned to the aisle containing their adult curriculum.   Their number one product, the workbook to Experiencing God by Henry Blackaby has sold enough copies to have long-recovered any developmental or research costs.   The ethical thing to do at this point would be to call it — and several others — a regular book publication and drop the short discount.   But if Lifeway has ever debated that possibility, I’ll never know.   They have refused to answer any correspondence I’ve sent them on this issue for about three years.  They’re Baptists.   They don’t have to answer to me.

    So it was hard to have any sympathy for Lifeway whatsoever when I saw this story about the company being caught in a classic case of double-speak.  The magazine at left, Gospel Today, got pulled from their retail store shelves because it featured a cover story on — are you sitting down? — female pastors.  Yes, I know a few Bible verses on this subject, also; but this is Lifeway, home of Beth Moore, the Southern Baptist equivalent of Joyce Meyer. (Or is Joyce Meyer the Charismatic equivalent of Beth Moore?)

    Here’s how Kentucky writer and blogger Michael Spencer at Internetmonk summed it up so well in this editorial.  I don’t share his biting anti-evangelical rhetoric, but I’ll grant that in this case, the comments are completely well-deserved:

    Rereading the story of the story of Lifeway Christian stores pulling from sale a magazine with five female pastors on the cover, I was really overwhelmed with the vacuity of evangelicalism.

    At what point is someone allowed to say that in those same Lifeway stores, the #1 selling Bible teaching marterials are the resources published by Lifeway by Beth Moore? When are we supposed to notice the dozens and dozens of Beth Moore books and workbooks? The Beth Moore aisle in most Lifeway stores? When are we supposed to notice that Beth Moore’s materials in Lifeway DWARF any male pastor or teacher? When do we get the exercise in pretzel logic that explains there’s no inconsistency in having a female Bible teacher with an audience larger than any pastor in a denomination that opposes women pastors?

    When are we supposed to notice the howling hypocrisy of chattering endlessly about the tragedy and threat of women pastors, but pocketing who knows how much money from Beth Moore’s Bible teaching?

    Moore can teach more individual Southern Baptists and in more churches (via video, etc) than any other Bible teacher, but as long as we have our Pharisaical lenses on, it can all be explained as within the boundaries we’ve drawn.

    And you wonder why people equate evangelicals with an inability to think critically. It’s this kind of nonsense that makes any pretense to principle comedic. It’s the authority of the Bible….as we creatively construe it.

    … If you link to the article, don’t miss the more than 70 comments that have been posted.

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