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86 Responses

  1. Siggy the Terrible says:

    Wow, I was going to post the link for this from PulpitandPen on another thread. Awesome that you found it Eric. It speaks to what has been the topic of late on this site.

  2. Siggy the Terrible says:

    That article being Why the Church Doesn’t Need Any More Coffee Bars

  3. Dan from Georgia says:

    On Farewell to Jesus Junk and Family Christian stores:

    Can’t say that I am surprised, but also not ready to dance on their grave. Wife and I just visited said store in Fayetteville GA and spent some money there. I know I know. Don’t flame me just yet. Anyways, I have been tired for many many years of the junk they sell there (e.g., Testamints), they way they up-sell you at the register (almost walked out one time when overly excited man was up-sold into an paid online Bible study he probably never used), their segregation of music and trinkets by white and black (you read that right), and the fact that you can get their products cheaper elsewhere.

    Found a book about a hunting adventure there and a DVD about Rich Mullin’s life. Wife found some good music and a movie.

    BTW “Wild Numbers Claimed for Jesus film” linked twice in the list above.

  4. EricL says:

    Siggy, that story is a tear-jerker. It helps to remind me what the true priorities for the church are ministering to the hurt, the needy, the lowly, the widows and orphans. Not aiming at the best socio-economic niche of the city and building a Christian Entertainment Center.

  5. Siggy the Terrible says:

    As they say

    Fuh sho!

  6. EricL says:

    Never liked the “Jesus Junk” approach to bookstores. Barnes and Noble has ruined their stores with a similar secular approach of carrying all kinds of trinkets and just some books.

    In my area, Lifeway bought up Berean, converted the stores to a Southern Baptist version of Jesus Junk, and then closed the nearest store in less than a year. The local independent Christian bookstore is still going, though its looking kind of sad and long-in-tooth.

  7. Steve Wright says:

    I would not dismiss the numbers associated with viewings of the Jesus Film through the Jesus Film Project. I was associated with this ministry over 20 years ago, knew a few fulltimers, supported some missionaries, invited to attend financial distribution board meeting, and still know people today actively involved in spreading the gospel in one’s original language through that film.

  8. Dan from Georgia says:

    EricL (6)..”though its looking kind of sad and long-in-tooth”…

    Meaning, do they carry lots of outdated material? Do they still sell tape cassettes with “buy 4 get 1 free” stickers on them (circa 1989)?

    Just wondering cuz independent Christian bookstore back in homestate of MN was kind of like this.

  9. Steve Wright says:

    Christian bookstores suffer for the same reason any book retailer suffers today. The need to stock and sell trinkets and non-book merchandise is survival mode. If there is a popular book out there, Costco or Amazon will sell it far cheaper and likewise people will shop online for more specialty books.

    I remember Christian book stores. They used to have a Greek language section. A maps and atlas section. There was an entire row filled with commentaries. Another row filled with ancient classics (many of which available for free online now as they are out of copyright date).

    Times change…

  10. Steve Wright says:

    I think the title of the Relevant article about the world not getting worse is click bait. (Not at this blog but by Relevant)

    The article does not really correspond with the title.

  11. Dan from Georgia says:

    Steve Wright (9)…I have noticed that. The brunt of the stuff at Family Christian was, well…indeed junk. Stuffed Bible characters, books full of questionable and to outright incorrect teachings, lots of pictures of lions and angels praying over a mom-dan-child unit, etc etc etc….with the theology stuff crammed against the back wall.

    But, I don’t think the Jesus junk phenomena is recent. Back in the late 80s it was there at Northwestern Bookstore and Praise Unlimited in the Twin Cities. Yes, including…horror…Chick Tracts.

  12. Dan from Georgia says:

    “mom-dan-child unit” above miss-typed obviously.


  13. Siggy the Terrible says:

    I passed out The Jesus Film in short term missions in Algeciras in ’99. One of the greatest experiences of my life.

  14. Steve Wright says:

    Dan, stuff like coffee mugs sells. People looking for a little gift item and want to have a little witness associated with it.

    Plus, the margins are a lot better….

  15. Steve Wright says:

    Siggy, I got to visit and lead the morning devotion for all the staff at their India headquarters when I was there in 1998. Great servants of the Lord. Quite dedicated.

    The thing about numbers is totally different in many parts of the world. It is nothing to have a crowd of 10,000 people or more with even the most minimal promoting ahead of time.

  16. Michael says:

    Christian “bookstores” sell junk at high margins to try to cover overhead.
    Those in malls are doubly doomed as malls no longer have the traffic,but still charge ridiculous dollars per square foot.

    They stock pop Christian crap because that’s what sells.

    I haven’t spent a nickel in one in years and have no intention of doing so ever again.

  17. Dan from Georgia says:

    You ain’t missin’ a thing Michael (16)…just like Christian radio and television. Sorry had to bring those up.

    Y’all keep promoting Church history and good theology material and I may just indulge in said topics. Seriously. After the discussion on church history last week, I have done some thinking about reading up on it.

  18. Duane Arnold says:

    Said this before, but I’ll say it again – The last time I visited my old seminary bookstore, real theology was confined to one small section. All the rest of the stock seemed to be “how to” books… The malaise is not confined to Christian bookstores in malls.

  19. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    The bookstores do not sell the junk because they want to. Most owners got into it to serve the community and local churches with reading and study materials.
    What has changed is the consumer – it is much easier to facilitate your warm and fuzzy faith with a piece of junk jewelry than it is to sit down and crack open a book.

  20. Michael says:


    You made my day…
    Perhaps we can persuade Duane to give us more snippets… I feel bad for the rest of you because I get to read bunches of his stuff. 🙂

  21. Michael says:


    I’m not sure people read many books at all anymore…at least not many of substance.

  22. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Although I am not in the market for books – I just took at least 250 to the dump last week. Will take probably another 350 when I sell my house.

  23. Dan from Georgia says:

    MLD (19): back in MN we had Northwestern Bookstore, which originally was designed as a Church resource (i.e., reading and study materials) store. As times changed, they became a junk peddler, with, as stated by Duane and myself, the real theology and commentaries/etc tucked away so as to not frighten the children….

  24. Duane Arnold says:

    #20 Michael

    As always, you’re too kind.
    OK, here’s a snippet. In the link on Christian Classics, Augustine’s ‘Confessions’ is recommended. The problem is that most of the translations (apart from the archaic Pusey version) are not really great. I would commend the translation by F.J. Sheed with the Introduction by Peter Brown. It is readable! (You might move from that to Peter Brown’s biography of Augustine which remains unsurpassed, in my opinion.)

  25. EricL says:

    I remember the old Berean store in Colton, CA. It was at the back of worn-out business complex off a side road, but the rambling store was always full in those days since there weren’t online sources for all that stuff. The had lots of trinkets and shirts and mugs, but they also had a huge selection of books. I loved it as a twenty-something newer Christian who didn’t have a lot of money. I saved up for many specific books.

    The store relocated to a more prominent spot that was still big, with a third of the store to trinkets, third to books, Bibles, and Sunday School curriculum, and a third to music. The last few years they relocated again to a far more expensive location between a Toys-R-Us and a JC Penney. Square footage was less than half it had been but rent was probably much higher. The book selection shrank terribly, music vanished, and the trinket side became very expensive, especially for the faux Jewish stuff like ram’s horns and candle holders. I couldn’t imagine a poor twenty-something shopping there, not unless they wanted to pile on debt.

    Now the store is gone. Sad, but my sentiment is more for the older version of the store, meeting fellow believers while shopping, praying with almost-strangers, and discovering new books to learn from. Not to mention finding Christian alternatives to the rock music I had been listening to before getting saved: DeGarmo and Key, Violet Burning, Swirling Eddies, Seventy-Sevens… ok, enough with strolling down memory lane. 🙂

  26. Michael says:


    I’m also very pragmatic.
    I’ve now spent a few days reading high end theology made understandable by your pen…it’s a gift.

    My first thought when I read wonderfully written theology is that I want to share it…so much of what folks read is neither good or well written…

  27. Siggy the Terrible says:

    My wife and I served in VBS not long ago. The kids were given little made-in -China dog tag bible verse trinkets that probably cost a buck each, sold online through a middle man just like any Christian bookstore. It struck me the awful disparity that existed between the kid in China (or Vietnam or other place) who made it and who could probably stand to keep it and the American kid who received it and probably lost it the next day.

  28. Dan from Georgia says:


    The Swirling Eddies…”Hide the beer the pastor’s here”!!!!

    I had the same phenomena with finding the Christian Alternative (TM) to my favorite secular music…Sacred Warrior, Vengeance Rising, Deliverance. Were you into The Choir also?

  29. Xenia says:

    Speaking of books, The Benedict Option by Rod Dreher just came out. So far, pretty good.

  30. Duane Arnold says:

    #26 Michael

    Thanks, honestly… I love theology and I love good writing. Augustine was a superb Latinist. Chrysostom’s Greek prose is almost unequaled. Luther, in his early and mid-career was a bit of a literary genius and basically “invented” German as a written language. Chesterton, Lewis, Ramsey and too many others to list, were writers and theologians. If I have any talent for theology and/or writing, it’s all about the people I’ve read…

  31. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Eric L – I used to shop at the same Berean store. I think my last purchase there in the late 80s early 90s what a Bill Medley sings the Christian Hits type cassette tape. 🙂

    The smaller store was outstanding.

  32. Michael says:


    I think Dreher’s premise is interesting…we haven’t got any traction when we’ve posted links about it here, but I’d love your thoughts on it.

  33. Steve Wright says:

    What has changed is the consumer – it is much easier to facilitate your warm and fuzzy faith with a piece of junk jewelry than it is to sit down and crack open a book.
    That’s the difference between me and MLD.

    I commented on the problem with selling books in an online universe. Something hitting across all lines not just Christian books. Been to a Borders lately?

    How much money do you sink in inventory for good books, when people will peruse online (where they can read reviews and summaries) instead of perusing the shelves of a bookstore. I bought lots of solid theological books at stores that no longer exist.

    Remember, our church had a bookstore for many years. It was meant as a resource and used as such. The world changed. We could also talk about how music is purchased today versus in the CD era. (And our store only survived even in the early years because it had no rent or salaries to pay).

    MLD just thinks Christians today don’t care to read or study anymore….Nonsense.

    Heck, even I didn’t buy my commentaries from our book store when we had it since even at our dealer cost for our little store I could get them cheaper online.

  34. Michael says:

    I think MLD has a point…although the online book stores are the real killer.

    I left the brick and mortar when I got home from Geneva after the celebration of Calvin’s 500th birthday.

    I stopped in our local store to pick up a book that had come out when I was there…and the entire storefront was filled with “The American Patriots Bible”.

    There was not a single volume on or about Calvin in the entire store.

  35. EricL says:

    Dan @28, yes I listened to the Choir.

    MLD @31, we must never have crossed paths, because I don’t remember any shopper wearing a black robe and black beret… oh that’s just your online persona 🙂

    Steve @33, you nailed it. The times are changing. I follow blogs for the writing industry and hear much the same sentiment from lots of fellow authors and readers.

  36. Xenia says:

    All Orthodox parishes have book stores on site. Some are paltry, some are spectacular!

    Here’s the shop at a favorite parish of ours up in the Santa Cruz Mtns.

  37. Josh the Baptist says:

    We have a Library. Its not great.

  38. Xenia says:

    Church libraries are often at the mercy of donations. You get a lot of Amish romance novels.

  39. Steve Wright says:

    Not to mention that if you are talking about large, expensive tomes, you can usually get them slightly used (probably some poor seminary student had to purchase it) at a nice discount to brand new if you shop online.

    Before Amazon began to sell everything under the sun, their whole business was books. Then they went to music and DVDs (also main bookstore product)

    I remember the radio ads which were ubiquitous back in the day. They were themed about finding warehouses to stock all the books they were selling or something.

    In fact, if memory serves, wasn’t the company originally known then as “Amazon Books”. I think that is how I used to refer to them many years ago…

  40. Steve Wright says:

    As an aside, let me add that having a son in college reminds me that university textbooks are truly a license to steal.

    Good grief man.

  41. Josh the Baptist says:


    We have none of that. Lots of old commentaries, some decent resources. All the C.S. Lewis books. Tons…and I mean TONS, of fluff popular books that pastors wrote between the 60’s and the 90’s. I actually found a Skip Heitzig book in their one time.

  42. Steve Wright says:

    Our church “library” (really just reading room) is all the books I can’t find space for at my house.

    No joke.

  43. Xenia says:

    The bookstore I linked to used to sell coffins as well as books and icons.A coffin was displayed on top of the book cases.

    Typical EO coffin:

  44. Josh the Baptist says:

    Yeah, my pastor has his own library at his house. The house is probably 1500 sq’ and his books take up 500 of it. I actually go there to check out books for classes.

    I’ve started my own collection. It fills one wall in what used to be my music studio. Wife won’t give me two rooms of my own.

  45. Michael says:

    Dan Wallace’s audio course on textual criticism is available for free for a limited time.

  46. Siggy the Terrible says:

    #42 has me roflol

  47. Michael says:

    The link on when the Bible isn’t a book is interesting.
    Almost all my folks are using tablets now…

  48. Josh the Baptist says:

    I went back to paper 5-6 years ago.

  49. Josh the Baptist says:

    And that was with all books. I do much better reading paper. Easier to flip through, mark pages, etc.

  50. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Michael – thanks for the Dan Wallace tip
    36 downloads for free – it’s why I don’t buy books any longer 😉

    I read real books like Josh – don’t own a tablet.

  51. Steve Wright says:

    I have always preferred paper as well. Even with reference books. Except I do use an online strongs concordance.

  52. Siggy the Terrible says:

    Biblehub. Com
    Pretty useful commentaries, concordances. But the internet just feeds the ADD beast. Books are better, but sleepy…

  53. Jean says:


    The bookstore you linked makes a very efficient use of wall space. We have a Benedictine monetary nearby, which sells coffins at its bookstore. They make them too as a ministry and are quite well known for their craftsmanship.

  54. Steve Wright says:

    Josh, you musicians do have it tougher as to space issues…the married ones at least. 🙂

  55. Dan from Georgia says:

    College textbooks…ugh… the prices…I remember back in 1991 when my calculus text was $64!!! That was a lot even back then.

    Tablets are easier in the neck and back to carry around in a backpack, but still would prefer paper.

  56. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I remeber once paying $12 of a college textbook – and I thought I was going to go broke 🙂

  57. covered says:

    Steve, we rent all of our daughters text books for Wheaton on Amazon. It has saved us a ton of money.

  58. Josh the Baptist says:

    You’ve got a kid at Wheaton? How cool!

  59. DavidH says:

    “Christian” bookstores have been dealing in tchotchkes for decades. It’s a sad state of affairs when a good store has to resort to selling useless stuff to consumers. I could see the writing on the wall years ago when stores like Bereans had areas filled with “stuff” which were larger than the book section. They’re great if you want the latest Moses action figure, or a nice “Jesus is Lord” pocket knife.

  60. Dan from Georgia says:

    Moses action figure with kung-fu grip too!

    Yep, in some of these stores you had to really look hard to find the good books.

  61. covered says:

    Yes Josh. We are pretty proud of her. She’s a sophomore majoring in Physics. The best part for me is that she’s on a full scholarship. Okay, I will stop bragging on my kid for now… 🙂

  62. Anon says:


    Gotta love the ecumenical spirit of the “EO” bookstore webpage

    Western “Christian” churches,

  63. Josh the Baptist says:

    Wow Covered, that is worth bragging on, for sure!

  64. Xenia says:

    “Anon” at 62:

    I think I heard some version of “Catholics are not Christians” at my old CC every Sunday for 20 years. They sold anti-Catholic (and by extension, anti-Orthodox) books in the bookstore, such as “The Woman Rides the Beast” by Dave Hunt.

    A little uncomfortable isn’t it, to discover it can go both ways.

  65. Xenia says:

    At least the Orthodox bookstore sells books by worthy non-Orthodox authors. You would never find a book written by a Catholic or Orthodox (or even Lutheran) author in my old CC’s bookstore.

  66. Jean says:

    “You would never find a book written by a Catholic or Orthodox (or even Lutheran) author in my old CC’s bookstore.”

    Lutherans are the worst. 🙂

  67. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    I think that articles like this are the perpetrators of the problem. They try to pigeon hole people into classifications that either do not exist or that no one would self identify with.

    The alt -right claims – I would venture if you did a Jay Walk survey (man on the street — and I am not assuming anyone’s gender 😉 ) I would bet that at the very most .5% – 1% would even recognize what you are talking about if you asked them “are you alt – right?” Even I would look at them funny and ask back “are you asking me if I am all right?”

    Even to try to figure out who is the conservative Christian – and to ignore the fact that the “unchurched” have still be influenced by THE CHURCH just as much as the weekly attenders.

    Again, all of this is just anti White Men trash. I brought up after the election, that most historic Black churches are just as conservative as the whites — but never mentioned. This article and those that have preceded it and the ones you will post in the future are just another form of racism.

  68. Michael says:

    I ran into the bathroom to use the mirror just to be sure…but I was right…I am a white man.

  69. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Perhaps not you, but many liberals find that denying that to be the high road.
    And you don’t need to be white – Some blacks are racists against fellow blacks and some Jews are the same towards their own.

  70. Michael says:


    I would submit that you are as guilty of building false caricatures of liberals as you think liberals do to conservatives.

    The practice of putting the worst representatives of both sides on social media for our tribes to mock has done it’s evil work.

  71. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Well my comment about the article wasn’t conservative vs liberal – it was that it is an anti White Men attack. Is that a liberal issue?

  72. Michael says:

    I’m a liberal.
    I’m not anti white men.
    I’m all for me.
    Despite your weak attempt at duplicity, I am aware that some people think it’s a liberal issue.

  73. Victor says:

    The Atlantic article similarly shines light upon left wing movements like BLM, the common things between so-called “alt-righters” and BLM, is that both seem to be driven primarily by secular cores. BLM, for instance, is juxtaposed with the previous Civil Rights movements, which were primarily lead by Christian leaders, and whose members had a faith-based institutional background.

    …secularization isn’t easing political conflict. It’s making American politics even more convulsive and zero-sum.

  74. Duane Arnold says:


    Thanks for posting this. It is not “anti white man” as stated by MLD. It’s about the abandonment of church attendance as part of normative American aspirations ( i.e. you have a job, you get married, you have children, you go to church on Sundays, etc…) We just have to face it, that is no longer part of the aspirational life of most younger Americans, black and white, liberal and conservative.

    My question (not really expecting an answer) is what part we have played in the Church in this happening? More darkly, I wonder if the Church in the past couple of generations was merely “window dressing” for the American dream…

  75. Michael says:


    This morning I fall on the “more darkly” side of your musings…

  76. Jean says:

    “More darkly, I wonder if the Church in the past couple of generations was merely “window dressing” for the American dream…”

    Another Duane quotable.

  77. Duane Arnold says:

    The article brought up something I’ve mused on since the election. When Bruce wrote ‘The River’ in 1980 he wanted to express disappointment and wrote:
    “And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat..”
    Today, to a kid (black or white) in most of the rust belt, that line doesn’t sound like disappointment, it sounds like a dream that he can never achieve – no job, no union, no wedding, no church.
    Wrapping ourselves into part of the American dream, may end up being our biggest mistake.

  78. Siggy the Terrible says:

    My old CC had some stuff by amillenialists and annihilationists. It was interesting.

  79. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Color me sad. I went out at lunch today for my annuakl search for the new Who’s Who in Baseball.
    I have every edition from 1959 and a few back as early as 1949 (the year of my birth).
    For the past 15 years I would buy one for me and one for my son. Every year from early spring until the end of summer – there it sat on the toilet tank cover – ready and waiting for me.

    Today, even though we are at the mid point of March – it was no where to be found – not at Barnes & Noble, not at Albertson’s, Walgreen’s or any of the usual carriers. I looked online and read of its demise. After more than 100 years and just like that, another victim of the internet.

  80. Siggy the Terrible says:

    “Why did these religiously unaffiliated [read white] Republicans embrace Trump’s bleak view of America more readily than their churchgoing peers? ”

    The article is kind of duplicitous, maybe not intentionally but a bit proof texted. Ignoring the thesis of the argument, the author states once again “Donald Trump AND the alt-right”, as if one is causal of the other. Now that we have Trump in mind our attention shifts to studies of the rates of economic failure, divorce, etc., among ….
    non-churchgoing conservative whites.
    Then a quote from an expert about protestant white males once again presupposes causality of Trumps election to white people, specifically white males in answer to the question in quote.

    This ignores the fact that overwhelming numbers of black, white, Hispanic, you-name-it voters who voted for Barack Obama came out again in disaffected numbers and put Trump in office. Has no one watched Survivor? It was a blind side.

    It’s not an attack, it’s another excuse looking for a scape goat, rather than the systemic infection within its own ranks.

    It does make some decent points though.

  81. Siggy the Terrible says:

    For instance, though it makes good points about the religiously unaffiliated, the article does not consider that moralistic governmental systems such as leftism are religions unto themselves. This is not unlike Marxism or Islam.

  82. Siggy the Terrible says:

    I find it interesting that both myself (Calvin’s Corner) and this author see growing within secularism and Christianity a massive root of bitterness.

    Yay me.

    Interesting verses about bitterness:

    Exodus 15:22-25
    Deuteronomy 29:18
    Hebrews 12:15

    2 kings 19Then the men of the city said to Elisha, “Behold now, the situation of this city is pleasant, as my lord sees; but the water is bad and the land is unfruitful.” 20He said, “Bring me a new jar, and put salt in it.” So they brought it to him. 21He went out to the spring of water and threw salt in it and said, “Thus says the LORD, ‘I have purified these waters; there shall not be from there death or unfruitfulness any longer.’”

    “You are the salt of the earth; but if the salt has become tasteless, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled under foot by men.

  83. Steven Wright says:

    When Bruce wrote ‘The River’ in 1980 he wanted to express disappointment and wrote:
    Disappointment? Well, yes.

    Here is the verse. (I see you noted wedding and church in your comment)

    Then I got Mary pregnant
    And man that was all she wrote
    And for my nineteenth birthday I got a union card and a wedding coat
    We went down to the courthouse
    And the judge put it all to rest
    No wedding day smiles no walk down the aisle
    No flowers no wedding dress

    The whole verse, indeed the whole SONG is about his relationship with this girl. How it used to be in the past..
    How it then was..
    Remembering how it used to be…
    Wishing it still could (going to the river at the end even though he knows it’s dry)

    (In fact, it is based on Bruce’s sister and brother in law)

    Not sure exactly the point you were making above, but this song was always one of my favorites by Bruce. It should have been on the Nebraska album. 🙂

  84. Martin Luther's Disciple says:

    Lenny Bruce was always one of my favorite 😉
    Died too young

    In light of what you are saying about that other Bruce – Lenny once said “The only truly anonymous donor is the guy who knocks up your daughter.”

  85. Duane Arnold says:

    #84 Steve

    The point I was trying to make is that a line used in a song 30 some years ago as being melancholic, now seems like an unobtainable dream to many kids in the rust belt these days…

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