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Johne

Responding to the LifeWay Closing - Christian Culture In A Secular World

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Yesterday LifeWay bookstores announced they were closing their physical stores and opting instead for digital distribution. Author Mike Duran had some thoughts about that this morning on FB.
 

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Thinking (rambling) out loud here:

Yesterday the news was released that LifeWay is closing all their stores and moving towards a digital strategy. It's led to lots of discussion among Christian authors (my circle is fiction authors), some seeking to rally the troops and spin this news positively, others bemoaning a possible trending down of Christian Fiction. I got into a couple scrapes because I am of the latter camp.

I can't help but see a fundamental difference in how Christians view culture and our interaction with it (or lack thereof) as being firmly in the mix. How you respond to the LifeWay closing says something about how you view Christian consumers and Christian culture in a secular world.

Seeking a "solution" requires a shared objective, which evangelicals don't have, regarding art and culture. Christians bookstores have been united around a kitsch aesthetic, with varied degrees of theological contours to product inclusion. As such, I can't say I'd personally want to see any sort of revival of LifeWay. This isn't to say that Christians shouldn't have a place for selling their wares, but that I'm deeply troubled by the cultural signals (and the theology) such Christian products convey.

This leads me to suggest a potentially radical solution.

In his book, the Benedict Option, Rod Dreher suggests that "religious conservatives would be better off 'building thriving subcultures' than seeking positions of power." Whether or not you believe that, tactically, such an approach would work to transform culture, just go with it for the sake of argument. One of the things that keeps a "Christian subculture" from "thriving" is the very notion that subcultural Christianity is not necessarily biblical. In other words, Christians should disperse into the world (like salt and light) rather than cluster. (Of course, Christians must "cluster" at times.) My point is, without a fundamental agreement on the role of Christian culture in secular culture, the idea of said Christian culture will fragment. Which leads me to wonder if LifeWay wasn't enough of a subculture. It wasn't narrowing its focus to the more avid contingent who ascribes to the Christian fiction, Christian art, Christian greeting cards, Christian action figures, etc. consumer. It wasn't a "thriving subculture."

And its people like me who are an enemy to said subculture. My belief that Christian art and artists should engage, rather than cordon, secular culture subvert the LifeWays of the world. Sure, I realize that both can be true. But ONLY if those of a "thriving Christian subculture" contingent are clear to a.) Draw theological distinctions between us and/or b.) Condemn those who don't ascribe to their isolationist aesthetic as worldly, or at worst heretics.

 

 

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39 minutes ago, Johne said:

How you respond to the LifeWay closing says something about how you view Christian consumers and Christian culture in a secular world.

 

From the article:

 

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The Southern Baptist affiliate announced in January initial plans to reduce its locations this year due to declining sales and financial pressures, but ended up deciding it wasn’t viable to keep any stores open past 2019. 

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For over a decade, Christians have been asking how to save the Christian bookstore (the title of a 2008 Christianity Today cover story) as shoppers increasingly turned to the internet, megachurch bookstores, and mainstream stores for top titles.

 

It seems to me that Christians are seeking better values through other outlets, and LifeWay couldn't compete. While I'm not in disagreement with Duran's overall feelings about Christian culture, I think his analysis as it relates to LifeWay is reading too much into the situation (which is economic, according the to article).

     

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All said, this is pretty sad. 

 

The Christian Bookstores are disappearing rapidly.  Many remain to walk in a store vs. always viewing online.   It gives of a special place to know we can purchase gifts, books, all in the name of increasing our walk with theLord, not to mention, the go to place to share with others.

 

Just sad.  Let the Christian family pray.

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The Christian Subculture is the 'not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together' Heb. 10:25 ESV  As the world isolates itself with surrogate mothers (ie electronic babysitters), AI lovers etc, we shall be the place of human contact.  This will be strange enough that it will both repel and attract, as God leads each soul.  

Therefore, bookstores are counter cultural.  Losing money is counter cultural.  Instead of pumping money into crumbling buildings, let's pump money into Christian cafe's that sell books.  

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Or cafes that sell Christian books! If we are going to be counter cultural, we don't want to limit our outreach to other Christians.

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Everywhere brick and mortar stores are closing. This makes business sense. I really don't see what is wrong??

 

Do you see Walden book stores anymore? How about Borders bookstore, gone.  I don't know how long Barnes and Nobles will last.

 

Be happy that at least people are still reading ebooks. I am afraid that will die out too, since the next generation doesn't read, they watch video.

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Posted (edited)

I have some radical opinions of why Christian bookstores are folding, but I think they're too controversial. We'll just say they drove most of the committed Christians away by refusing to sell real Christian books, and turned instead to what they perceived as the future. 

The people that will buy a book inspired by two new wave physics, channeling God is not the people that buy the $299 Bible commentaries.

The people that buy the book that encourages binge drinking alcohol and cursing is not the people that stick around to spend thousands over a lifetime in discipleship materials and books on prayer,

 

That's all II'm going to say. Apologies for offending.

Edited by Nicholas Reicher
Had to add erring comma usage

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The last time I was in a Lifeway Bookstore, I couldn't find any books I was interested in reading. I don't read "fluff", but that seemed to be all there was available in terms of fiction, studies, or self help. I went there looking for specific items but couldn't find them (couldn't find them at Mardel either, so there's that), I have to go online to find most of the Christian fiction or Bible studies I'm interested in.  That last time I was there was the time I had decided I had no need to ever go back. Sorry I helped drive them out of business. 😨

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On 3/22/2019 at 9:21 PM, Nicholas Reicher said:

We'll just say they drove most of the committed Christians away by refusing to sell real Christian books, and turned instead to what they perceived as the future. 

The people that will buy a book inspired by two new wave physics, channeling God is not the people that buy the $299 Bible commentaries.

The people that buy the book that encourages binge drinking alcohol and cursing is not the people that stick around to spend thousands over a lifetime in discipleship materials and books on prayer,

This puts a new complexion on things. I'm not US-based, so don't know anything about LifeWay, but this makes a lot of sense. 😕

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Well, the Christian book owners are succumbing to the secular style-compromising to stay open.  However, rather they realize it or not -confusing the mind that is not sure about God-in the first place.

 

We could have another conversation on that...but I will not go any further.😐

 

Again, let us pray for the customers and those searching for something to hold in their hands to read about life and God.

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Hummm. My first thought is not to depend on software to get you through.  Go back to basics. Granted, it is much easier with software  However, when changes begin happening to our study tools, we must be watchful and careful depending fully on them.

 

Now, I am not sure that makes sense, but I am sure you get my drift.

 

Are you paying monies for this? If yes, well.  If no, diffentenly no loss.

 

If this affects you in a mightly way, take it to the Lord for directions and discernment.

*I do this also.

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When it comes to Bible study, we can do things now that were impossible twenty years ago. For me to do Bible study with books would require a small library and tables that could feed 110 people - literally.

I have in my study almost 50 books, grammars, lexicons etc etc, To spread those out would require more tables than there are houses on my street - and I have a SMALL library!

To look up everything in my hardbound library on John 3:16 alone would require probably three weeks.

To look up everything in my electronic library  on John 3:16 if it were hardcover books would probably require several years.

Using Bible software, I can look up everything on that verse in 15 seconds, and have all the results presented to me in the order of what resources I have prioritized.

 

Bible study is awesome. It's literally amazing to get a top line piece of software like Logos and give yourself 20 minutes with it!

 

Wordsearch is essentially Bible Explorer given an upgrade and facelift, and that's the software I went through Seminary with.

 

Now here's the partb to beware of...

On 3/26/2019 at 4:10 PM, Virginia Winterstorm said:

when changes begin happening to our study tools, we must be watchful and careful depending fully on them

In the premium software, this is a very real hazard. You are absolutely correct we must be careful about this. People who depend on Bible gateway have no idea that the NIV has changed several times, because few people pay attention. That's why I encourage the use of King James Only based Bible software as a backup - programs like Sword Searcher and Bible Analyzer,

The owners of that software would absolutely not dream of changing the Bible.

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You know, I just stumbled on this thread again, and it has some wonderful ideas embodied in it.  There is much food for thought here.  Makes me feel somewhat like I missed the point earlier.

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On 3/29/2019 at 11:11 PM, Nicholas Reicher said:

That's why I encourage the use of King James Only based Bible software as a backup - programs like Sword Searcher and Bible Analyzer,

What's your opinion on the Blue Letter Bible app, @Nicholas Reicher?

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I've never used it... It's for cell phones only. I use the Logos phone program since it syncs with my laptop software.

 

My opinion on most Bible programs is essentially they are Quickverse with an updated interface. The idea is you read the Bible in one window and click on strong's numbers. It takes almost as long as pulling the books down off the shelf to study. Logos and Accordance go a lot faster. TheWord is not as fast, but faster than E-Sword. TheWord is abandoned with no support in four years.

 

The B;ueletter website passes my KJV tests - I searched for Alway, which is almost alway changed to alwayS. However, there's no guarantee that Blueletter won't some day alter texts to suit theological agendas.

 

It's no guarantee with Swordsearcher and Bible Analyzer, but the programmers are KJV only and not likely to change things.

 

One thing I didn't mention is to find a Bible program like Quickverse on Ebay or a flea market, and keep that as a backup. Nobody can edit Quickverse's library!

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