IVP - Behind the Books - The Significant Work of the Christian Bookstore

September 14, 2012

The Significant Work of the Christian Bookstore

The following article is an adaptation of a piece from CBA Retailers + Resources by Jeff Crosby, associate publisher and director of sales and marketing for InterVarsity Press.

The theologian Klaus Bockmuehl once wrote that books are “God’s instruments in the history of salvation.” As a long-time bookseller in Bloomington, Indiana before joining IVP in 1998, I clung to Bockmuehl’s thesis as I went about my front-line work putting books in the hands of readers. I believed wholeheartedly that he was right on target—that there is something of significant, transcendent value in ideas expressed carefully, artfully in books.

I still do.

In my travels representing InterVarsity Press, I continue to find bookstores doing their work in light of that belief, and serving readers like you and publishers like IVP exceptionally well. Bookstores like Hearts and Minds in Dallastown, Pennsylvania; Logos Bookstore in Dallas; and Eighth Day Books in Wichita, Kansas. They are shining examples of stores distinguishing themselves through the stocking and promoting of thoughtful books.

When Logos Bookstore opened in 1974, there were 25 Christian retail stores in Dallas. Today there are comparatively few, but the store in Snider Plaza on the near north side of the city still stands, still serves readers.

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“Our establishing of a niche with a broader selection of books (than simply bestsellers) has helped us weather the storm,” said Rick Lewis, who with his wife, Susan, owns and manages the store. “We do carry many of the best-selling titles—they help us generate the capital that enables us to carry the titles that I believe have a deeper impact, a more long-lasting impact.”

The familiar injunction from Matthew 6:33 (“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well”) guides the work going on at Hearts and Minds Bookstore, owned and managed by Byron and Beth Borger.

Byron Borger.jpgThe Borgers see their store's mission embodying at least four key characteristics: >Serving the diversity of the church as a theological principle even more than as a business strategy; equipping students of local colleges in the integration of faith and learning; helping people integrate faith and vocation; and guiding men and women in toward experiencing more of God through reading on the contemplative life.

“We carry the sorts of books that we think will be useful for the vision we have of equipping the saints to live faithfully in every area of life,” Byron said. “We keep books on hand that aren’t as popular, but can help folks think through these significant areas of whole-life discipleship.”

Eighth Day Books, owned and managed by Warren Farha, has specialized in classic books across the disciplines of art, science, and the humanities since 1988, when the original store was opened in Wichita.

Eighth Day Books.jpg

“From the beginning, we have not been a typical independent bookstore; we eschew the trendy, and do not carry books solely based on their salability,” Farha says of the store. “Instead, we’re selective, offering an eccentric community of books based on this organizing principle: if a book—be it literary, scientific, historical, or theological—sheds light on ultimate questions in an excellent way, then it’s a worthy candidate for inclusion in our catalog” or store.

These and many other stores across the country are doing significant work serving the breadth of the church and their communities with thoughtful Christian literature that can be an essential part of the awakening and deepening and enlarging of the faith of men and women they come in contact with.

Do you have a store like this in your area? If so, are you supporting it? As a publisher of thoughtful Christian books, we encourage you to do so wherever possible.

“The best disciplers I’ve had through the years have been authors,” Lewis said. “Having read these books enables me to sell them. I can say that George MacDonald deepened my love for God. Reading Henri Nouwen helped me grow in compassion. C.S. Lewis and John Stott sharpened my thinking. Richard Foster encouraged me in the disciplines. The storytelling of Walter Wangerin, Stephen Lawhead and Madeleine L’Engle improved my imagination and aided my wonder. Brennan Manning told me God loves me, as I am. I cannot not tell others about them.”

If you have a bookseller like this in your area, we encourage you to support them and their work. We’ll all be better off when you do.

Posted by Leah Kiple at September 14, 2012 3:53 PM Bookmark and Share

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