Archives For LifeWay Christian Stores

By Meredith Flynn

The announcement that LifeWay Christian Resources will close its brick-and-mortar stores by the end of the year dismayed many Southern Baptists who have long shopped the shelves for books, music, and Lord’s Supper wafers. The reaction was predictable—it’s sad to lose a trusted source of information and resources. What some seem to be missing even more, though, is a unique service LifeWay offered customers: vetting.

“I think one of the greatest competitive advantages LifeWay could have had, and had in some ways, was being trustworthy, where pastors could tell their congregations, ‘You can go into the store, and anything you buy is trustworthy,’” Indiana pastor Tim Overton told Baptist Press.

LifeWay, he said, “was unique [among bookstores] in holding very high standards and not simply allowing a profit to motivate all choices.”

In the weeks since LifeWay announced the closures, that quality has been celebrated by pastors like Overton, and lamented by some authors whose books weren’t sold in LifeWay stores. Others, though, praised the organization’s principled stand, even while not agreeing with its actual principles.

“I genuinely respect them (or any company) that is driven by principles other than profit alone,” tweeted Tish Harrison Warren, an author and Anglican priest whose book LifeWay declined to sell. “My book has sold well. LifeWay likely lost $ by not selling my book. Props for being willing to.”

When LifeWay stores close their doors this year, books and Bible studies and curriculum resources will still be available online. In fact, LifeWay plans to invest more in digital strategies to meet the needs of online customers. One aspect of the shopping experience they should consider is how to communicate to the buyer that the resources they’re scrolling through are held to the same standard as what was previously on LifeWay shelves.

In a world full of online bookstores, it may be hard to distinguish a sell-anything-that-sells mentality from a thoughtfully curated collection. The end of LifeWay stores puts more responsibility on readers to judge carefully what books are worthy of a place on their own shelves.

LifeWay stores weren’t controlled by profit, but as a Baptist Press article pointed out, finances were ultimately what brought the publisher to the decision to close. The stores lost money while LifeWay’s digital channels grew.

Faced with the numbers, the publisher made what they deemed to be the wisest choice. Now, smart phone in hand, it’s up to readers to do the same.

– Meredith Flynn

LifeWay_storeTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

LifeWay Christian Stores opened its third Illinois location August 1 and will celebrate with grand opening festivities throughout the month. The Wheaton store, located in the Town Square Wheaton on South Naperville Road, is formerly a Johnsen & Taylor Bookstore operated by Tyndale House Publishers.

“I’ve heard from many individuals and churches who are excited about LifeWay Christian Stores being here,” said store manager . “We are grateful to see the continuation of the ministry started by Johnsen & Taylor.”

LifeWay also operates stores on the campus of Moody Bible Institute in Chicago and in Carterville, Ill.

Other news:

‘Wrath of God’ too much for hymnal
The Presbyterian Church USA chose not to include the song “In Christ Alone” in their new hymnal, all because the song mentions the “wrath of God.” On ChristianCentury.org Mary Louis Bringle, chair of the committee that made the decision, wrote that the song propagates “the view that the cross is primarily about God’s need to assuage God’s anger,” and that view could be harmful to future generations of worshippers.

Southern Baptist leaders, including Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission President Russell Moore, have weighed in on the decision. Read his commentary on The Washington Post’s On Faith blog here.

Most churches still do VBS
A Barna study found 68% of churches held a Vacation Bible School last year, including 91% of Southern Baptist churches. The research also found that churches in the South are most likely to host VBS, along with churches with larger budgets and more adult worship attenders. And churches with “Buster” pastors, those aged 30-48, are the most likely to participate in VBS, according to Barna. Read more findings here.

Street preaching resumes on Bourbon St.
The city of New Orleans has revised an ordinance that prohibited street preaching on Bourbon Street, ChristianPost.com reports. The ban, enacted in 2011, controlled preaching from sunset to sunrise and forbade individuals or groups from gathering “for the purpose of disseminating any social, political or religious message…” Several preachers are suing the city after being arrested or threatened with arrest for preaching during last year’s Southern Decadence Festival, an annual pro-gay event. Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.

Graham calls for prayer for Abedini

Franklin Graham is urging people to pray for Pastor Saeed Abedini (right), an American imprisoned in Iran since last September. Graham, the son of evangelist Billy Graham and president of Samaritan’s Purse, spoke to FOX News about Abedini’s plight and the prayer vigil scheduled for Sept. 26 – the one-year anniversary of his captivity. He also questioned President Obama’s response: “President Obama has been silent on the issue as an American Christian endures the horrors of Evin Prison,” Graham said.

“Many in the international community are expressing outrage over this blatant example of religious intolerance,” he said. “I ask that our government do the same and demand that Pastor Saeed Abedini be released and allowed to return home to his wife and family in the United States.” Read more on reporter Todd Starnes’ FOX News page.