Over my lifetime I have had a “hot and cold” relationship with books. From a young age until my early teen years I loved books! I would usually have a stack of books on my desk at school, and I frequently entered reading contests at both the school and the library. When I was in high school I determined that reading wasn’t cool, so I stopped. I was that kid who would watch the movie version of the book and try to write a book report based on the film, which is never a good idea! But when I became a Christian, my love for books began to grow again. So naturally, I started going to Christian bookstores to see if I could find some good Christian books to help me grow in my faith. I have had many experiences with Christian bookstores since that time, some good and some bad. Sadly, the bad experiences are starting to outweigh the good.
Before I get to the negative experiences, I just want to take a few moments and discuss some of the positive experiences that I have had with Christian bookstores. My favourite bookstore is called “Reformed Book Services” and it is in Brantford, Ontario. This store has a great selection of new and used Christian books. They have biographies, theology books, children’s books, Bibles, and more. Though I may disagree with a few of the finer theological points put forth in these books, I don’t think that there is a single author in the store that I wouldn’t recommend. Another bookstore that I like, even though it has its issues, is Lifeway. Lifeway is an American chain of bookstores that is owned by the Southern Baptist Convention. Most of the resources sold at Lifeway are theologically sound, but they have been known to let a few things slide. For example, they have sold heaven tourism books like “Heaven is For Real” and they have had books written by prosperity charlatans like T.D. Jakes. But in all fairness, I prefer Lifeway over most Christian bookstores in Canada.
Some of the Christian bookstores that I have visited in Ontario probably shouldn’t even have the word “Christian” in front of them. Though you can find solid material from authors such as John Piper, John MacArthur, or Kevin DeYoung, their books sit next to some of the most rank heresy of our time. There is such an obvious lack of any attempt or care to use discernment when ordering books to sell in these stores. There are entire sections that are devoted to Catholicism, which is a completely different religion! On top of that, the “Top 10” shelf is usually filled with prosperity preachers and self-help gurus such as Joel Osteen or Joseph Prince. Christians who lack discernment (especially new believers) will go into these stores and eat this stuff up simply because they are sold at a “Christian” bookstore. It’s a sad thought, but I actually dread the thought of a new believer or a weak believer going to one of these stores. There are so many books that could lead them astray.
I have actually stopped going to Christian bookstores for the most part, with the exception of RBS. I frequently purchase my books on the Internet. But let’s face it, the Internet will never compare to a physical bookstore. So what should we do? Should we just keep going to these stores and try to take the good and leave the bad? We could. But these stores are doing more harm than good because they are selling and promoting heretical material. I just don’t think that it is worth it.
So should we all buy online or drive to Brantford to check out RBS? Be my guest! But I think that we can do more than that. My church, and some others that I have been to recently have their own bookstores! And I have fallen in love with the idea. To my knowledge, the bookstores are not for profit. The books are sold at cost and are much cheaper than your local Christian bookstore. If you attend a Bible-believing church, then the books sold there will most likely have been approved by the leaders of the church. This way you don’t have to pick through all of the garbage to try and find something good. If you trust your church, you can probably trust the bookstore. I think that these bookstores are a solution to a great need in churches today. This is really a great opportunity for church leaders to shepherd their people in their homes by helping them to buy theologically sound books. This is by no means a perfect solution, and I know that not every church can do it, but it would be immensely helpful. I would love to see more Bible-believing churches take this initiative to sell theologically sound, Christ-centred books in their churches. May the Lord make us into a generation of Christians that is discerning and passionate about the truth.