What the Closing of LifeWay Stores Teaches Us About Christians

In March 2019, LifeWay Christian Resources executives made the announcement that their stores would all be closed within the year. While the publishing side of the company is doing well, the brick and mortar stores have struggled to stay afloat. Like many other chain and local book stores, LifeWay was losing money and had to make an adjustment.

While the financial picture is what it is, plenty of people were still disappointed by the announcement. LifeWay stores used to be the place to gather church resources, scan new books, and get your fix of Christian retail. It is definitely the end of an era.

I first read the news on social media of people decrying the move. Many people were shocked and appalled by the announcement. Many Christians wanted the opportunity to visit the store but apparently, not enough were committed to supporting it.

You can’t really be angry about a book store closing if you have an Amazon delivery box in your trashcan.

In reality, we are the problem. Not enough people were buying merchandise in the stores to keep them open. We like the idea of the store but we aren’t doing what it takes to keep it open.

This symptom is actually part of a bigger problem.

Christians want the conveniences without the commitments.

  • We want the bookstore to be open, but we aren’t willing to purchase our books there.
  • We want the church to keep the visitation program, but we aren’t willing to do personal visits ourselves.
  • We want the church to have a larger staff, but we aren’t willing to support that endeavor financially.
  • We want the church to have numerous programs, but we aren’t willing to serve in one of them.
  • We want the church to grow, but we aren’t willing to invite anyone.

We can’t get mad at the failure of the institutions if we are overrun by the neglect of the individuals.

We get angry when religious programs and perks don’t go our way, but our apathetic commitment is the reason so many of them are failing. Our fear from our declining churches and ministries are because our commitments are waning. Why should they grow if our support is lacking?

Christians cannot be the type of people who want all the opportunities without any of the responsibilities.

As I went into the local LifeWay store to search for closeout deals, I loaded up on commentaries, books, and resources on ridiculous prices. It was sad to think about not having those stores anymore. I remember going there on dates when I was in college as Amanda and I would look through books together. That time is gone, but I’m partly responsible. I hadn’t bought a commentary there in years, but I have gotten plenty of commentaries. As the world changes, our consumeristic culture isn’t going anywhere, and the church is not invincible from it.

I pray we can each stop bemoaning those ministry declines of which we are responsible.