Monday, September 22, 2008

Can good come from closing Christian bookstores?

 I was on vacation in Tennessee when I received the news about R. G. Mitchell Christian bookstore going into receivership. I admit that I was surprised but not shocked. There has been so much discussion recently about the failure of Christian bookstores in today’s market.
While I am concerned for those who have been depending on these markets for their livelihood, I have also been wondering if there is not something in all of this that might be shifting us out of our comfort zones, as Christians involved in the creative arts.
It seems that for many years instead of being in the mainstream of society, as Christians we have had a tendency to isolate ourselves from the mainstream culture. We have Christian recording companies, Christian media, Christian publishers and Christian bookstores. I have even seen Christian motorcycle groups.
These are all good things, but they remind me of a story told by John Stott about church people sending up rockets to let the world know that they were around. They congregated on one side of a great abyss, while those outside the church were on the other side. The rockets went up and made a great noise, but they landed on the same side of the abyss, and apart from the noise, those outside the church were untouched by them and their message.
Perhaps some good can be salvaged even in the tragic loss we experience in the failure of Christian bookstores. This may force us to find opportunities to impact those who are not a part of our subculture. Many of us are well aware of the spiritual hunger so often expressed in the movies and songs and art forms of the wider culture.
We know that the longings expressed can be satisfied in a relationship with Christ, yet our peers seem to be rejecting that option. Why? Perhaps the reason for rejection is that we who inhabit the subculture have given an unintended message. To welcome our message means that one must opt to become a part of the Christian subculture and reject the mainstream culture. Our friends find this inconsistent with a desire to be authentic, unable to understand how they could embrace eternal values yet acknowledge the reality of the world in which we live.
If as creative Christian people, what we offer is presented in the arenas of the mainstream culture, not only may we reach people who would never venture into the Christian counter-culture, we may discover ourselves that we have nothing to fear. Our faith is not so fragile that it cannot stand quietly and confidently on the truths upon which we have based our lives, in a world that so much needs to know there is solid ground. When it is authentic, it fears only God.
One day last spring, my hairdresser told me she was looking for a gift for her mother for Mother’s Day. She heard there was some kind of Christian bookstore in the mall where her shop is located. She thought she might go there to try to find something, since her mother was quite religious. As she talked, I sensed her fear of going into this strange place that was part of the religious subculture.
My prayer is that this young lady and many like her will discover not only books for her mother, but books to encourage her to journey toward the arms of a loving God who longs to embrace her. She might find him in her local bookstore.

No comments:

Popular Posts