Visiting a Lifeway Store is a Depressing Thing

Lifeway (which used to be known as the Baptist Book Store but which changed its name because it wanted to sell more than it wanted to serve the Church), the publishing arm of the SBC Sunday School Board is one depressing place to visit.

I had to today… to pick up some things for the youth group.  While there I snapped this photo of the ‘best sellers’ that Lifeway is shoving down the throats of Baptists.  The display is near the door so you can’t miss it…

Is this really the depth of thought to which Baptists are summoned?  Is this the best we have to offer Christians and Churches?  Heaven help us.

18 thoughts on “Visiting a Lifeway Store is a Depressing Thing

  1. wken

    “Radical” is a good read.

    Other than that … you’re on your own. My nearest Christian bookstore is about an hour away, and that might be for the best.

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    1. Jim Post author

      they have more junk than genuinely useful theological/ biblical studies stuff. no wonder so many baptists are biblically and theologically ignorant.

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  2. Robert

    Let me first state that I am a Southern Baptist…but also one with a PhD in theology from a non-SBC school. I love rigorous theology and biblical studies.

    That said you can’t blame Lifeway or call their ministerial fidelity into question because of their best-seller kiosk. It is a business (yep it is) and they will appeal to the books people buy. Why is that a bad thing? When was the last time you walked into a Barnes & Noble or other large commercial retailer and complained about their best-seller rack?

    Do you really think Lifeway (or any other bookseller) would be able to build a sustainable business by putting Barth’s “Dogmatics” or Calvin’s entire commentaries at the front and the popular literature in the rear? Really?

    The reality is, as scholars, we know not to go into a chain store for our literature. But the vast majority of other people aren’t scholars. They enjoy and need these resources. For what it’s worth the books “Radical” and “Nearing Home” are very good, very profound, very needed. I liked Tebow’s book too.

    Maybe we need some more perspective before lampooning ministry focused Christian stores. Lifeway does a lot for ministries. We should give them some grace and understanding.

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    1. Jim Post author

      no- we shouldn’t. Christians should be encouraged to read solid food and not just fed milk all their lives. lifeway could be a positive influence in that direction if it offered more substantive material. as it it, it’s simply pandering to the lowest common denominator.

      to be sure it is a business. sadly, anymore, that’s all it is.

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  3. Chuck Grantham

    Well of course we shouldn’t go to Lifeway for Calvin’s Commentaries. We can get them free for eSword from Biblesupport.com. Along with the Biblical Illustrator, the Pulpit Commentary, Alford’s Greek NT notes, Expositor’s Bible, Expositor’s Greek NT, the old ICC NT commentaries, Vincent’s Word Studies, Robertson’s Word Pictures, and a about 5500 more resources. (I’m wearing my shill tshirt today).

    My two local Lifeways have some indepth material, but the support is very weak. Of course Amazon is killing them on price, so that’s part of the problem. And I am encouraged to see some Greek and Hebrew resources and an NRSVA or two in local Lifeways.

    In many ways, Lifeway’s problems are the problems of all brick bookstores these days. I don’t envy them the tough choices.

    But I’d still like a deeper, richer, more technical selection. And cake too.

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  4. wken

    I guess the question is, is Lifeway just supposed to be a niche bookstore chain or a ministry.

    Those are two different business models, and will result in different emphasis. If it’s a bookstore that just happens to focus on “the Christian lifestyle,” then it will serve up whatever pablum is doing well in the market. If this week it’s Tim Tebow, next week it’s John Shore, and in February it’s Jim’s new exhaustive translation of everything Zwingli ever wrote, then so be it. Just like the healthy living bookstore will push Atkins one year and veganism the next year, Lifeway would serve the whims of the book-buying masses, differing from Barnes and Noble only in that it doesn’t have the New Age section and the romance section calls the books “Christian romance.”

    If it’s a ministry, and an arm of the SBC, then it might require some subsidy from the SBC to offer up books that should be encouraged for the edification of the Church without having to sell garbage.

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  5. wken

    Exactly my point.

    If we believe that the market is a good way to determine ministry direction, then … well, … we’re wrong.

    I think that Robert’s position is good for defending Christian Book Distributors or something, which is just a niche marketer. But a ministry should own some responsibility for what it’s doing.

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