The Demise of Christian Bookstores

Publishing a book is not an easy task. Traditional publishers want you to get a literary agent and won’t accept manuscripts if you don’t. A literary agent can be good or bad, but mostly they are limited by their own perspective on what will sell. What sells is frequently not really connected with the Bible or good Bible teaching but more likely something based on feelings only loosely connected with the Bible. If you write a book, as I think I have, that is not only biblical but comes from an unexpected direction then you are pretty much out of luck with traditional publishing. You won’t even get a second look.

Another huge problem in publishing is the Christian bookstore. My wife and I are getting ready to take another trip to see family in San Diego. So I thought perhaps it would be a good idea to buy some copies of my book and take them around to the bookstores there and see if they would like to carry some copies. I started researching on the web to find the stores and got a shock. One chain calling themselves Family Christian had just closed (something like 240 stores) after filing for bankruptcy a couple years previous. Another chain calling themselves Lifeway tells me on their website that they don’t accept Product that is self-published. The “Product” must come from a traditional publisher or a literary agent. A third option I remembered in San Diego was the Evangelical Bible Bookstore which was famous for a long time because they carried a lot of serious theology books, were very knowledgeable and helpful, and discounted their books. To my surprise they had gone the way of many independents and closed their doors too after 40 years in business.

Locally, the three or four independent Christian bookstores we used to have are also out of business. The only stores around here are a Barnes and Noble (not exactly a Christian hotspot) and a couple of church bookstores. We used to have a Borders also, but they bit the dust some years ago. You would think we could maybe try the church bookstores and see if they would carry our book. But the problem with the church bookstores is if you have a book that is not “church friendly,” such as our book Whole Bible Christianity, or you are not one of their own famous people or pastors, you are not going to get a fair hearing from them. They only carry stuff with which they agree, usually written by their own people.

The church bookstore does okay because the overhead is paid by the church, and they don’t have to meet sales goals. They are present just to push the publications and music of the particular church or denomination. Catholic bookstores sell Catholic books, Calvary Chapel sells books by Chuck Smith or others of their pastors, Christian Science sells their own teachings, and so on. Since Whole Bible Christianity just teaches the Bible, and we don’t push a particular church teaching, we are out of luck.

So why is the Christian bookstore (or even just bookstores in general) disappearing from the landscape? Many people jump to blame the internet, and Amazon in particular. They have a point. Amazon has a tremendous selection, fast shipping, discounted prices, and are open 24/7. But did the rise of Amazon kill the bookstore, or did Amazon and others like them come into existence because the bookstore wasn’t getting the job done in the first place? Did Amazon kill the bookstore, or did the bookstore help create Amazon?

In my estimation, Amazon or the internet in general has not killed the bookstore. It is also not the main factor hammering the traditional publisher either (traditional publisher sales, Christian and otherwise, are also slumping). Two things I think are doing it. One is the lack of vision; the ability to discern what people need and would want, or if you will, the ability to tell the difference between a good product and a bad one. The second is the church itself.

Publishers and bookstores have to make money. Printing is expensive, and carrying space in stores costs money. If a publisher prints a bunch of copies of a book and they don’t sell, it can get costly. A bookstore has limited space, so if a book doesn’t sell it is a double whammy because the space could’ve been used by a book that did sell. So the industry is forced to gear all of their decisions around what will sell. If they make a mistake it can get real expensive real quick. So the nature of the market causes them to be super cautious. The publishers use literary agents to sift the writers material, which helps a little, but the literary agents work off of commission and tend to be extra cautious also. They have reputations to protect too, because if they keep recommending books that bomb then they will not be able to continue in the field. Everything is driven by money, which is not necessarily a bad thing (costs have to be paid somehow) but it tends to make people in the industry want to find the guaranteed “sure thing” and stay away from stuff they simply don’t have the vision, skill, imagination or judgment to evaluate properly.

A couple of cases in point. The first Harry Potter book was universally turned down by every publisher by the account of J. K. Rowling. A book called The Shack which has become a multi-million bestseller (although I think it is a piece of trash) was also turned down by everyone. Many more examples could be listed, but I think you get it. People in the book industry have purposefully become dumber than a sack full of hammers, too afraid to take a chance because of the dollars involved and reputations that could suffer.

The same problem afflicts the Christian book industry. But another problem serves to double the damage, and that is the church. I will go out on a limb here and say that the church doesn’t teach the Bible anymore. They just teach opinions about the Bible. Pastors, priests and rabbis have (in general) made themselves into champion ear-ticklers. They have convinced themselves that no one wants the truth, because the truth may not fill the pew or the offering plate. The lure of a bigger paycheck, a mega-church or a spot on late night talk shows is too strong for most of them.

Obviously, the Bible is the champion bestseller in history, so why would we back away from teaching it? Money and ego, again. It is easier to write and sell a book catering to the latest fad or to sentiment than it is to take the time to learn and teach the Bible or anything from it. You also don’t (seemingly or immediately) get very far with Bible teachings because those require humility to learn and teach.

Fortunately, God doesn’t need the world’s systems (including the worldly church) to get His Word out. One way or another He gets the job done. His Spirit is causing all sorts of people all over the world to wake up and embrace the pure, plain, soul-saving teachings of the Lord of Life. We may or may not be able to sell a single book, but His work goes on and on for eternity. His holy, just and life giving will is being done, and you can come along for the ride if you want. A bookstore could find that the difference between bankruptcy and success lies in the radical marketing concept of the Book that beats all others. Publishers would see fewer reverses if they would just commit to serving up the meat of the Word instead of the bland, nutrition-less saccharine they insist on providing at the present time. If we submit to His Word we find that judgment for finding what really matters comes roaring back.

The bookstore, the publisher, and the church/synagogue are sowing the seeds of their own demise. Blame Amazon if you want and it makes you feel better. But you might want to look in the mirror instead.


Passover 2014

We are getting ready for our lamb barbecue tomorrow night, looking forward to spending time showing love for God by doing as He commands His people to do. We touch God and touch each other in an intimate fellowship that goes way past the physical markers and deep into a spiritual connection. His love flows to us, and our love flows back and between. We remember what God has done for His people, is doing, and will do. Remember means to speak or act on behalf of someone, which is why we can “remember” the future promises of God.

Some are speaking of the “blood moons” that will appear on this Passover and the Tabernacles celebration this year, as well as the same two holidays next year. I’m not big into that stuff, but it probably has some significance. Coupled with the increase in earthquakes, volcanic activity, and cultural degradation, we can definitely see that labor pains for the world are increasing. Maintaining our love for God through His commands is coming under attack at a greater intensity, but He said a “falling away” would happen before the end. Therefore be encouraged and keep your faith strong, standing on the Rock of His Word and our Savior Jesus the Christ.

I feel sorry for those who do not participate in God’s holidays, either because they just don’t follow God or because they classify His living oracles as “old” or “outdated” or for another group besides believers. Paradise awaits a change from a heart of stone to a heart of flesh, sensitive and trembling at His Word. All it takes is humble obedience to find out the nature of real love and spiritual renewal and refreshment. I feel sorry for those who choose their own way, like Cain, substituting their own understanding for God’s Word and offering slovenly disobedience through physical symbols such as ham and bunnies. The symbols show the disobedience in the balance of their lives, corrupt and unclean and spurning the love that is waiting. Compromise shows its fruit in sexual immorality and unfruitfulness through acceptance of behavior God said would cause death. No wonder they are known for hypocrisy. One cannot practice hate for God in trashing His commands and expect God to accept the resulting uncleanness using the cosmic eraser of Jesus. If we harbor iniquity in our hearts, our offerings mean nothing. “If you do well, will you not be accepted? And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door. Its desire is for you, but you must rule over it.” (Genesis 4:7)

Rejoice, children of God. Look up for our redemption draweth nigh. Stand strong in the Lord and the power of His might. Pursue righteousness through humble submission to every word of His glorious instructions. Hold fast to the hope He has given, practicing as best we can every tiny utterance from our loving God and Savior Jesus our Messiah. Eat His body and drink His blood, taking in every breath from God through His Word and breathing it back to Him. Rejoice as our meager offerings of obedience gain His regard and we find acceptance in Him because of our love and practice of His Word.


Draw Near

If a stranger shall sojourn with you and would keep the Passover to the LORD, let all his males be circumcised. Then he may come near and keep it; he shall be as a native of the land. But no uncircumcised person shall eat of it. (Exodus 12:48, ESV)

If any one term is the closest to the reason I follow the whole Bible, this is it. The term I’m speaking of is “come near.” In my view this is what Torah is all about. The term can be used for simply getting together (if we are talking about a pair or group of people), but when one of the parties is God it takes on a whole different character. We can “come near” God for judgment as in Malachi 3:5, or we can come near in love and intimacy. A similar term is “draw near.”

Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded. (James 4:8, ESV)

We “draw near” to God as we do what He says. The more we do, the closer we get. In humility we use His living oracles to wash the parts of us that get dirty. Though He has cleansed us wholly, we still need to wash occasionally.

Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” (John 13:10, ESV)

We are clean, but we still need to wash some in order to continue “drawing near.” Notice that Jesus did the foot washing during the Passover meal. Jesus continues to wash our feet by the washing of the Word as we “draw near” to Him through His commands. There is a continual cleansing by His Law because we are in a dirty world and sometimes we step in something odoriferous that needs to be removed. If we judge (cleanse) ourselves and wash our hands (or feet) then Jesus doesn’t have to judge us. His eye is on us for good and not for evil.

I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. Be not like a horse or a mule, without understanding, which must be curbed with bit and bridle, or it will not stay near you. (Psalm 32:8–9, ESV)


Am I a Violent Person?

A few years ago I was a participant in a forum of which I’m no longer part. A lady asked everybody for help in determining how to respond to a professor teaching a church Sunday School who was giving her a hard time about her beliefs. My response encouraged her to be bold and challenge him on the Bible, and I used some western gun-fighting illustrations. I love Louis L’amour westerns. I also love being bold and strong in the Lord. So I encouraged her to stand up and not let the professor mow her over.

Finally, be strong in the Lord and in the strength of his might. (Ephesians 6:10, ESV)

One guy got on my case, telling me that I was an “anti-Semite” and that I was “speaking in crass language” and using “an incredible amount of violent terms.” This is the same thing as calling me violent. He was always getting on my case. He didn’t like the fact that I was against many traditions that I thought led away from the Word both Christian and Jewish. He had spent years learning orthodox Judaism (though he was a Gentile) and bristled every time I pointed out where that kind of stuff wasn’t in the Word or would detract from the Word.

The wicked flee when no one pursues, but the righteous are bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1, ESV)

I’m not sure what constitutes an “incredibly violent” person. Scripture says we will know people by their fruits, so I would think there would have to be fruit in my life that was “incredibly violent.” Like maybe felony convictions for violent crimes. Or testimony from others (like police officers or judges) as to my “violent” nature and actions. This guy had none of that. All he had was some gun fighting analogies I used. I told him I would accept his name calling if he would accept a label of “pompous self-important Jewish wannabe windbag who uses knowledge like a hammer to make himself feel important at the expense of others.” For some reason he didn’t want the even exchange!

He said to them, “But now let the one who has a moneybag take it, and likewise a knapsack. And let the one who has no sword sell his cloak and buy one. For I tell you that this Scripture must be fulfilled in me: ‘And he was numbered with the transgressors.’ For what is written about me has its fulfillment.” And they said, “Look, Lord, here are two swords.” And he said to them, “It is enough.” (Luke 22:36–38, ESV)

Jesus told us we would need swords. I’m sure He didn’t mean for beating up on people, but that things were going to get rough and believers would have to be bold and strong.

The guy falsely accusing me had nothing on me. He twisted the Word, when he bothered to use it at all, for his own wicked ends. There was no investigation as the Word requires and sadly the forum leadership went right along with him and punished me. But Jesus warned me about wolves in sheep’s clothing. The truly violent are those such as the hypocrites who arrested Jesus using trumped up empty charges and murdered Him for threatening their power. That’s what I was doing, threatening the name-caller’s power. He demanded adherence to traditions of which he approved. He wanted to be in charge, but I was a biblical thorn in his side. I was bold, I spoke the Word of power with the hand of the Lord strong upon me. Violent men are those who divert attention from themselves by decrying the actions of the teachers of the kingdom of God, calling them names. Jesus knew the nature of their agenda.

From the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven has suffered violence, and the violent take it by force. (Matthew 11:12, ESV)

Jesus means that violent men were taking hold of Godly men and throwing them in jail or killing them. John, Jesus, most of the prophets and apostles such as Paul and Peter and more suffered violence from violent people with pious traditions. Darkness is always fearful of the light, and takes steps to quench it. They were killed by people who thought they were doing God a favor. But we will not be cowed; we will be bold in the Lord and continue to teach His Word. I’m not a violent man, but I am a man capable of action. I will defend my people and land against those who would try to take it by the hidden violence of the cowardly. I will not be fearful of wannabe Jews (or wannabe Christians) steeped in plausible arguments captivating people with philosophy and empty deceit according to human tradition. I have the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6), and I’m not afraid to use it. That’s not violence. That’s just the power of the Spirit. The minions of darkness are right to be afraid and to fear the violence of the fiery wrath that is coming. All they have for defense is name calling.

For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10, ESV)


Walter C. Kaiser on Women

A good article on women in the Body by Dr. Walter C. Kaiser Jr. on his website. He translates the word for ‘helpmeet’ for instance as ‘strength’ rather than ‘helper.’ Although he points out that helper is not a pejorative since God is also called a helper on occasion. Four pages, and has quite a different viewpoint than you might expect. We like what he has to say, and we think most believing women will like it too.

Correcting Caricatures: The Biblical Teaching on Women

Dr. Kaiser is a professor of Hebrew and was president of a seminary.


Rejoice in the Lord though famine overtakes us

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation. GOD, the Lord, is my strength; he makes my feet like the deer’s; he makes me tread on my high places. To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments. (Habakkuk 3:17–19, ESV)