The Tragedy of Christian Bookstores

Why do Christian Bookstores make me thoroughly depressed every time I go in them? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Yesterday, while doing some driving to pick up some groceries, I went to a little shopping center that has a Christian bookstore in it that I shall leave unnamed. I thought maybe there was some opportunity I could find to serve in a place like that or something on a bulletin board in there that would indicate something I could do.

Unfortunately, what I saw when I went in was absolutely tragic.

To begin with, I see a salesperson from there talking to a retired pastor as I find out in conversation and what are they talking about? Blood moons. The pastor is wanting to buy a book about blood moons and from the conversation I heard, it sounds like he buys into it entirely. Of course, I have pointed to an excellent resource on this already.

The great irony here is that in the midst of the conversation between the pastor and the salesperson, the salesperson also being in ministry, it was said that there were too many people in churches who were growing fat off of the flock and fleecing them for all they were worth.

Kind of like blood moons.

When I got to talk to the salesperson there, I offered my help in Christian apologetics if ever the need arose. I was told I’d be contacted to which I said “Won’t you need my contact information if you’re going to contact me?” I’m quite sure that while I wrote it out for him, it was either ignored or promptly thrown out. Who needs this stuff? We have blood moons!

I am quite confident of a number of things with this.

#1-John Hagee will be shown to be wrong again.

#2-John Hagee provided he is still alive will write another book on prophecy.

#3-John Hagee will not confess any wrong in the past on misleading the people with past theories.

#4-The church will still eat it up and refer to him as an expert.

What else do we find? A big display on Heaven is for Real. That is another book that I have written about elsewhere. I have a greater concern with this book now that a movie has come out. Colton Burpo, the kid in the book, has entered his teen years from what I understand.

What happens if he stumbles?

There are two ways I can see this happening.

Let’s suppose that he abandons his faith first off. Let’s suppose that peer pressure or sexual temptation or some combination of those two or any other events lead him to apostasize and if asked about this says that it was all the imagination of a small child and he never really believed it. What will happen to all those people who put their hope in Christ based on his testimony? What about all those people who claimed knowledge of what Heaven is like based on his testimony?

Or suppose this scenario. Suppose he ends up doing something like sleeping with a girlfriend. Now he doesn’t abandon his faith per se, but he tells us something like “God said that it was okay if I really love her.”

Keep in mind I don’t want any of this to happen. It’s a tragedy when anyone apostasizes or gives in to sexual sin. I am warning about the danger. However much we put our eggs of trust in the Colton Burpo basket, the more danger we are in if something goes wrong with that.

Unfortunately, you can be sure that when William Lane Craig, Mike Licona, Gary Habermas, etc. has a new book coming out, these will not be put on front display and everyone encouraged to buy them. No. The apologetics books and serious theology books are going to be buried on some back shelf away from plain sight.

In fact, I was sent a web site with a list of Christian booksellers on it. Now there are some good things from time to time. The Five Love Languages for instance, or Boundaries. Not everything in the bookstore has to be apologetics and I’m not opposed to all Christian fiction, but what else do I see on the list? Heaven is for Real. Blood Moons. Joel Osteen. Not one work by a serious Christian scholar in theology or apologetics is on the list.

Is it any wonder the intellectual growth in the Christian church is stunted. We’ve been feeding them junk food for so long their diets aren’t equipped to handle real meat. At least the church the Hebrews writer wrote to was drinking milk. We’re not even at that level. It would be interesting to see what he would have to say about our churches today if he saw them.

Of course, there’s also the constant witnessing tools and each time it’s some other gimmick whether it be mints in the shapes of crosses or just witness wear. Now if someone wants to buy a T-shirt with a Christian message on it, fine. That at the same time does not constitute evangelism if you wear one. To do evangelism, you have to directly share the Gospel somehow or at least prepare people for the Gospel. Too many of us can think we wear a T-shirt in public and we have done our evangelism.

So I go into these places and I come out depressed. It is apparent why it is that the Christian church is failing. They receive no meat in their diet whatsoever. Some stores might want to sell other books, but to stay in business, they have to give people what they want.

Yet how many of you with children would say “Well if my child wants junk food, that’s the way it is.”

No. You’d seek to change their desires.

How’s it going to happen?

First off, pastors have to start really preaching the Scriptures. A pastor who gets more of their sermon from blood moons than they do from Scripture is a pastor who is a disgrace to the pulpit. You are meant to exegete the text. You are not meant to exegete the newspaper. Of course, a good pastor can be a futurist or a dispensationalist and if you want to touch on current events, fine, but remember the meat of the message MUST come from Scripture.

These pastors will need to be teaching their church serious theology and discernment. They need to be able to let their congregations ask questions. Joel Osteen and Joyce Meyer are not going to prepare our youth for Bart Ehrman in college and neither will they prepare our adults for Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. In fact, for the latter, they’ll feed a mindset that will make them more prone to the message of these groups.

Now some of you pastors might think “Well I’ll lose a lot of members.” You might. But ask yourself this. Would you rather have twenty people in your church who were thoroughly committed and knew their Bibles well and could make the Christian case, or would you rather have two hundred who just hear what they want to hear and do nothing with it?

Next on the list is parents. Parents should seek to get their children in a church that does really teach Scripture seriously, but even then, you can’t expect the church to do all the work. You need to be teaching your children at home proper tools of thinking. Get them engaged with other worldviews. Don’t isolate them. Don’t just hide them from threats. Teach them how to face those threats. Equip them.

If your children were just eating junk food, you wouldn’t put up with that. You’d do everything you could to make them eat healthy. If you will take care of their physical condition, how much more should you take care of their spiritual condition?!

Unfortunately, Christian bookstores won’t change until Christians say enough is enough. That won’t happen until we get serious about real Christian growth in the church.

Until then, I suspect I’ll be spending more time on Amazon or even secular bookstores. At least secular bookstores don’t know better when they put the holy next to the heretical. Christian bookstores have no such excuse.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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6 Responses to “The Tragedy of Christian Bookstores”

  1. J.W. Wartick Says:

    I think you have good thoughts here, but one concern I have is that Christian bookstores are for-profit companies, not churches. They are out there to make profit. If they don’t make profit, they close. Then there would be no Christian bookstores. My local Christian bookstore sells a lot of garbage, but it also has a pretty solid theology and apologetics section, which occasionally appears on front displays (the last time I went in, Nabeel Qureshi’s book on “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus” was on the front display).

    So another concern, I guess, would be lumping all Christian bookstores together. They do need to make money still, but they also do carry some of the other “good stuff” being written.

    Finally, I think a huge part of the blame should also lay upon Christian publishers (with the realization they also need to make money to stay open). If publishers weren’t paying for or encouraging shelf space for poor quality books, they wouldn’t be so prominently displayed.

    I see your critiques, and I’m not saying they’re invalid, but I do think that some nuance may need to be added.

    • apologianick Says:

      I think I did deal with these. I pointed out that it is because this is what Christians want so pastors need to change. I also said that buying Christian T-shirts and such is fine, but don’t think that equals evangelism. I also mentioned that not everything needs to be apologetics and some literature like the Five Love Languages is fine.

      Of course, not all bookstores are the same, but too many are.

  2. Jon Says:

    A drive-by reader with a thought to share fwiw: There’s a lot of evidence that your assertion about “If your children were just eating junk food, you wouldn’t put up with that. You’d do everything you could to make them eat healthy” simply isn’t the case. I’m far from any sort of health nut/foodie/etc so I’m not passing any judgment there, just stating what seems to be a fairly obvious fact based on average weights of children, popularity of various food choices, etc. Seems to me that there’s probably case to be made (which you touched on a bit but IMO not strongly enough) that the parental tolerance for junk food is analogous to their interest in fluff vs substance in Christian literature. As I said … offered strictly fwiw.

  3. agholdier Says:

    Reblogged this on A.G.Holdier and commented:
    I really can’t say it better.

  4. Thoomas Says:

    We have one remaining bookstore in our town (central CA, about 180000 people) which has recently downsized and moved to a cheaper section of the mall. They’re obviously financially struggling, and I feel for them, but I still don’t recommend them. In their previous location, they had about 60% kitsch, 20% Veggie Tales and similar, 15% Joyce Meyer/Joel Osteen and 5% works by significant scholars and solid pastors (Tim Keller, Ravi Zacharias, WL Craig, Michael Horton et al). Since they’ve moved, they’re 80% kitsch, 10% Joyce Meyer et al and 10% Veggie Tales. The reasoning: this is the only stuff that sells. People who want apologetics materials are all buying it online anyway. There’s obviously a bit of a vicious cycle: I generally don’t even bother going in any more, because anytime I ask for a title, it’s “we can order it for you”, which is lovely, but I can order it for myself with less hassle, faster shipping and less money. I’m afraid they’ll just be gone in a year or two, but I’m frankly not sure they’ll be missed.
    My hunch is that one solution is a library/bookstore associated with a local church. This can still degenerate into kitsch and theocrap, but ideally there would at least be integration with the wider life of the church and some accountability by people (pastors and elders) who can act as spiritual diet counselors, to continue your junkfood analogy. If the staff is onboard with the idea that it’s important to love God with your mind as well as your heart, then it could work. I’m still working on my church, but there is some hope.

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