“Let me urge you to keep reading, and encourage your relatives and friends to do the same. For this is a much neglected means of grace” John Stott in the Postscript/Farewell to his final book, The Radical Disciple.
Christian bookshops have seen depressed sales in recent years and many have closed. Their problems are common to the book trade. Last November, Borders, a major chain of secular bookshops, went into administration citing increased competition from online retailers and supermarkets as a major factor in their failure.
A month later a well-known chain of Christian bookshops went into administration. Happily many of the latter have reopened, or hope to reopen, under new management.
So do we need Christian bookshops?
Why not buy all our Christian books on-line?
This article is produced by re:fresh books & christian resources, an independent Christian shop in SW London but applies to any Christian bookshop. It is an appeal to church leaders and individual Christians to support their local Christian bookshop with their own business and to encourage their congregation to use it also. In particular we ask Christians to see their local Christian bookshop as a mission field.
Make us your first resource,
not your last resort!
More than just a bookshop
View your local Christian bookshop as a resource centre. Most Christian bookshops offer a selection of Bibles, books, cards, CDs, DVDs, gifts and teaching materials. Some offer counselling or other services for the community.
Browse before you buy
Christian bookshops offer the opportunity to browse, handle and compare books and so make an informed decision before buying. People who do not use the internet would be at a particular disadvantage if they lost this facility.
There are many opportunities for bookshop staff to minister to people’s emotional and spiritual needs and pray with them. Some Christians need an opportunity to share burdens with somebody who is not a member of their own church or their immediate circle of friends. There are also opportunities to help members of the public at times of need or when they are starting to enquire about the Christian faith.
“I am a Muslim. I want to read the Bible and hear God speak to me for myself” - A young man purchasing a Bible in re:fresh books in March 2010.
A mission opportunity
Many Churches pray and give financial support for mission at home and overseas but do not recognise the self-financing mission in their own High Street! Christian bookshops are an extension to local church mission with opportunities to reach out to people who may not be touched by other means.
Open when churches are closed
Most Christian bookshops are open eight hours a day, six days a week, at times when people are shopping or going about their daily business. Most churches are closed at such times. They offer a place where people can go and browse, or find a listening ear in times of difficulty and stress.
“The sign of the fish brought me in.”
A man attracted by glassware in a shop window
A shop window for the Christian faith
Not only does a Christian bookshop represent a Christian presence on the High Street, the shop window itself offers an opportunity to convey the good news of Jesus. At times like Easter and Christmas, when the significance of the season is lost amongst the Easter bunnies or Santas, a carefully thought-out display can convey the real message of the season. A simple nativity scene will often promote discussion between parents and children about the story depicted. A display of books addressing questions that people are asking, may draw them into the shop and can open up ministry opportunities.
A familiar retail environment
More and more people today are strangers to church and would be apprehensive about going into one. But most people shop! In a Christian bookshop they can browse through Bibles and books looking for something that will meet their specific need without feeling threatened. Sensitive staff can be on hand to offer help. This often provides opportunities to talk to people and, where appropriate, point them to local churches or courses such as Alpha and Christianity Explored.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Use your local Christian bookshop
Buy your books, music, course materials and church supplies from the local Christian bookshop. If they don’t have it in stock, ask if they can order it. Many will also do mail order.
Think about Christian books the way you think about Fairtrade goods
Many people seek out Fairtrade goods and are prepared to pay a little bit extra for them. Why not take the same approach to Christian books rather than support secular on-line retailers?
Recommend good books in church
Preachers can recommend books they have found helpful, service leaders can include book reviews in a service, church magazine editors and website managers can include book reviews and news from their local Christian bookshop. But please encourage people to use their local Christian bookshop – not Amazon!
“If the Pastor says it’s worth reading, then it is worth reading”
Heard in re:fresh books recently
Pray for their ministry
Pray for your local Christian bookshop just as you pray for missionaries and mission organisations. Find out about their needs.
Start a reading group
Reading groups are popular outside the church, so why not inside? They can be used as a way to promote fellowship and reach out to friends.
re:fresh books & christian resources
23 The Broadway, Tolworth, Surrey KT6 7DJ
Tel: 020 8390 5400