Thinking Out Loud

January 11, 2019

When Should Christian Bookstores Pull Authors from Shelves and Online Listings?

Some of you know that when I’m not writing this blog and editing Christianity 201; when I’m not leading or assisting in weekend worship at a local church; when I’m not occasionally speaking at a church; during the rest of the time I am making decisions for our local Christian bookstore.

One of the hardest decisions I made in 2018 was to remove books by Bill Hybels from our shelves. It isn’t that those books don’t contain much truth and that many of them have been personally beneficial to me. It was just that — with shelf space at a premium in our small town store — we didn’t need the distraction.

I didn’t just make the decision, but personally removed the books, title by title, and put them in a box where they remain today. There were more than a dozen titles. Bill was a big influence on me and I have to say doing this really, really hurt, but as long as there were new ongoing developments in the story, I felt we needed to do this.

Christian bookstores have pulled product many times in the past. I got into this business through the Christian music industry first as a broadcaster and then as a performer and later as a vendor of records and cassettes. I once sat in a restaurant in Newport Beach, California and was interviewed for the job of assistant editor of Contemporary Christian Music magazine. My friends called me a ‘walking encyclopedia’ on CCM, and I given about seven seconds of audio, could name just about any song and artist, including that obscure cut at the end of side two.

When Amy Grant and Sandy Patti went through divorce, many stores pulled product. Oddly enough, those divorces are still in their past, but their music is back on the shelves. Divorce became more widely accepted among Evangelicals. I would argue that the whole LGBT thing in the church is where divorce was a couple of generations back. And I expect that, as in the case of Ray Boltz or Jennifer Knapp, stores still actively pull product when an artist comes out.

Why all this today? Because I’m staring at the shelves under “M” for James MacDonald. Christian radio stations are rapidly dropping his program (see Wednesday’s column) and James is trying to control the situation by announcing the shutdown of Walk in the Word’s broadcast division. There are calls for him to resign. Unlike those who were divorced, or Hybels’ flirtatiousness, the issue with MacDonald seems to be money and the control of money. It’s definitely his Achilles Heel.

Once again, those books contain much truth. James MacDonald is a great communicator and his writing includes a constant, unabashed call to repentance. He has served many people well in that area of his life. But at this point, I wonder if those books are also going to prove to be a distraction.

This isn’t about judgment. It’s about a shortage of shelf space, and a host of new, upcoming, younger authors who deserve to be heard. Some of those will prove themselves as the leading Christian voices to their generation. The cream rises to the top. By their fruit they will be known. Some will disappear off the scene within five years. Again, it’s not about judgment.

It’s also too easy for stores just to keep ordering key names; somewhat akin to living in a county — as I do — where every time there’s an election, people simply vote for the incumbents. So Max Lucado, Tim Keller, Mark Batterson, Lee Strobel, Stormie Omartian, John Bevere, Joyce Meyer, Neil Anderson, etc.; are always assured their latest title will get picked up at the local store level.

And honestly, if the sales reps came around with new titles by Hybels and MacDonald there are store owners who simply aren’t investing time keeping up online and would simply order those titles unwittingly.

The best analogy I ever heard was when a local pastor called my wife and I “gatekeepers.” I never thought of our role that way, but it’s a responsibility that needs to be taken very seriously. Conversely, pastors need to guard who they quote in sermons. They can easily grant authority and credibility to an author whose life doesn’t line up with their teachings.

Chances are, at the end of today, James MacDonald will still be on our shelves, but we’ll monitor the situation closely before making a knee-jerk reaction. Prayer helps as well!

July 3, 2011

Radical Together by David Platt

You can begin reading some of Chapter One of Radical Together here, or click the link at the bottom to open your own .pdf file of the entire chapter. (There’s much more in the preview than what’s here and it’s easier to read!)

Before Mark came to the Church at Brook Hills (the church I
serve), he had spent practically his entire adult life involved in
church programs and serving on church committees. “You name
it, and I did it,” Mark said. “I was on finance teams and personnel
teams. I worked on capital building campaigns and sat in long term
planning sessions. Every week my schedule was filled with
church activity.”

After becoming a part of our faith family,Mark started hearing
people talk about making disciples. That’s when he realized
that, despite all the good things he had done in the church, he
could not name one person outside his family whom he had led
to Christ and who was now walking with Christ and leading others
to Christ.Mark said to me, “David, I have spent my life doing
all the stuff in the church that I thought I was supposed to do.

But I’m realizing that I have missed the most important thing:
making disciples.” At his workplace and in our community, Mark
is now intentionally leading people to Christ and teaching them
to follow him.

The story of Mark’s life as a Christian should frighten us.The
last thing you and I want to do is waste our lives on religious activity
that is devoid of spiritual productivity—being active in the
church but not advancing the kingdom of God.We don’t want to
come to the end of our days on earth only to realize that we have
had little impact on more people going to heaven. Yet if we are not
careful, we will spend our lives doing good things in the church
while we ultimately miss out on the great purpose for which we
were created.

That’s why I say one of the worst enemies of Christians can
be good things in the church.

Of course, some will disagree with my claim. “How can good
things in the church really be one of our worst enemies?” some
might ask. “Sin and Satan are our worst enemies,” they might say.
And they would have a point.  But let me point something out: We
know sin and Satan are our enemies. We know we need to be on
our guard against them. But too often we’re oblivious to the threat
posed by the good things we’re doing. We’ve laid down our
defenses against the way that the good can hinder the best. In this
sense, good things can subtly and effectively become one of our
worst enemies.

As Christians today, you and I can easily deceive ourselves
into thinking that dedication to church programs automatically
equals devotion to kingdom purposes. We can fill our lives and our
churches with good things requiring our resources and good activities demanding our attention that are not ultimately best for the enjoyment of the gospel in our churches and the spread of the
gospel in our communities.

We must be willing to sacrifice good things in the church in
order to experience the great things of God.

continue reading the preview chapter with this link:  .pdf file

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