A few minutes ago I got a bit of a morning jolt and it wasn’t from my coffee.
I had forgotten that one of our family’s favorite stores, Family Christian Stores, closed.
It was one of my family’s favorite stores, one we could stay in for hours at a time if we had that time available (we usually didn’t). Matt and I were always content to peruse aisle after aisle of Bibles, commentaries, DVDs, clothing, etc. Over the years, particularly since he became a deacon, we’ve probably spent thousands of dollars in the store. I assumed the store was doing relatively well, but then again, I should have recognized that in the world we live in, Christian businesses might not get the support they should.
Although FCS had been in business well over eighty years, the store’s journey had its fair share of bumps and bruises recently. A few years ago, suppliers forgave millions of dollars in debt so that the company could remain open. I thought that was a blessing directly from God and that that meant the store would be alright. Each time I went in the store, there were always plenty of customers, and you couldn’t beat the employees. Happy, helpful and upbeat, they truly seemed to enjoy their job. I was quite surprised when, in February, it was announced that all 240 stores, employing 3,000 people, would close.
Up until our last visit there, which was May 12th, I was hoping the tides would shift and someone would buy them out. Or perhaps they could switch gears and only close some of the lower-performing stores… Negative. The president of the company at one point in time said that sales had declined and that consumer buying habits had shifted. I inferred that people shopping from home on the Internet is to partly to blame. That, I don’t understand… do people not understand the absolute MAGIC that is a bookstore? How could you not love the feeling of going into a bookstore with no idea what you might want, and finding more than you even knew you wanted in one book? Am I the only one who goes into a weird meditative state in a bookstore, with a laser-sharp focus and ability to tune out even one of my noisy children, as my eyes skip from title to title, cover to cover? Don’t you get excited when you finally find The One, the book that you have been looking for all of your life, the one that you open intending only to skim the first few pages and end up reading the first three chapters?????
Apparently I’m in the minority, because if more Christians had supported the store, perhaps it wouldn’t have folded.
To me the closing of FCS is reflective of a different problem. Christians don’t want to read or study. If this problem doesn’t apply to Christians in your area, I’m happy for you. But here, in this city, Christians are too busy to dedicate time to God. And it shows in the state of our homes, our schools, and our communities.
The dogged apostle Paul tells us in 2 Timothy that we are to “study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth”. Mind you, I looked up this verse in several different translations and was dismayed to find that they ALL removed the very important word “study”. I disagree with that word being changed, because it alters the meaning of the verse. In my humble opinion, that is the key word in that verse. Why? Because how can we “rightly divide the word of truth” if we don’t study it????
As the coordinator for Moody Bible Institute, it has frustrated me to no end over the past few years to STRUGGLE to get people to attend the classes. Christians, who supposedly serve the true and living God, will NOT come learn about him. The classes sponsored at my church through Moody are only sixty bucks, and in several cases, my pastor, who is a pastor who fiercely supports his parishioner’s desire for knowledge, will pay for people to attend. Christians can spend sixty bucks on stuff they don’t need and think nothing about it–as a matter of fact, they can spend sixty bones on stuff they don’t need and derive pleasure from it, but won’t spend sixty dollars to learn about what thus says the Lord.
Each six-week session, I make an announcement to my own church and send information to other local churches. Each six-week session, I prepare for an onslaught of students–and we don’t get them. Some people have said they’re too old to learn and that the thought of having to take tests scares them. I believe that the spirit of the Lord doesn’t accommodate that type of attitude. Last time I checked all things were possible through Christ Jesus.
I wondered if maybe the cost was an issue. But then I realized that the two Bible studies offered on Wednesdays never get more than a handful of students either. Sunday School gets the same students each week. People don’t want to get up that early. They have other things to do. Then they want church to hurry up and be over so they can go home and sit on the couch and do nothing. Simply put, we give God a remnant of our time and think He ought to be satisfied and are surprised when we don’t receive the innumerable blessings we for some reason think we deserve simply for living and breathing God’s air.
I understand that a lot of people have that one day a week that they can breathe. Monday through Friday constitutes the typical workweek for most people, and Saturdays are usually busy with activities. I get it. But God is the very reason that Sunday is not considered a typical workday. Did you ever wonder where the concept of a weekend came from? Jewish and Christian workers, who, over one hundred years ago, tussled with their employers about having to work on days that were supposed to be relegated to worship (the Jewish Sabbath day is Saturday, of course our day of worship is Sunday). Up until the onset of the Industrial Revolution of the 1800s, American society was largely agrarian. Once the factories began employing people, they found that workers who were used to making their own hours were highly resistant to working on their days of rest and worship. Although the concept of the 40-hour workweek had not yet become popular, it was Henry Ford who realized that his employees did better work and were more loyal to the company if he allowed them those two days off.
But I digress.
When Christians get to feeling that church is a drag, are they really understanding why God has instructed us to forsaken not the assembling of the saints? I’ve seen televised church services before. I think they perform an invaluable service for people who are sick or otherwise shut in. But able-bodied Christians should be happy to come to church and reap the benefits of not only a good Word, but fellowship with the brethren. Whatever you’re going through, there’s a good chance one of your fellow parishioners has been through the same thing and can offer you advice, support and encouragement. It’s almost funny to me because as soon as people get sick, that is when they finally realize that they took getting out and about and being around people for granted. When they can no longer physically attend church, only then do some people realize how truly special belonging to a good church truly is. (Key word there is “good” church).
Christians have allowed money, the pursuit thereof, and leisure get in the way of their relationship with God. Therefore we are missing out on a lot of blessings. Look at what is happening in this nation. How can we be so polarized? Simple. Lack of God=lack of love. I spoke about this briefly during my Sunday school class. Some of the kids seem to have dwindling enthusiasm for the Lord. In most cases, I blame their parents for not being firm enough in their faith to have discussions with their children about God. Some parents are obviously not talking to their kids about the goodness of God outside of church and they think praise and worship is a one-day-a-week deal. I’ve been trying to encourage them to give God some of their time each day. I can understand how kids and their status as spiritual babes can go through periods of waning faith, but adults who have been through something and had God bring them through… I can’t understand them.
I reminded the kids how they go to school without fail, do their assignments and act appropriately while they are there. Adults go to work, clock in on time, and come each day they are scheduled. The rules for school and jobs are often restrictive. Things must be done how and when the teacher or boss says so. God offers no restrictions. While you might have to dress up to do a work presentation or write down notes for a speech in school, with God you can be laying in the bed at night in your raggediest (and usually most comfortable) pajamas and talk to Him about whatever. I looked over the class and saw that each of them looked to be well-fed, nicely dressed, and were definitely not homeless. This God that provides all of their needs is not worthy of five to ten minutes of time each day, or even a brief acknowledgement? What in the world is that all about?
Adults and their lackadaisical attitude about church attendance and Bible study is to blame. I don’t blame the kids. I blame adults. Adult Christians are the ones not coming to church, not teaching their children, not supporting Christian endeavors such as FCS because they don’t care to study their Word. And it’s a shame. It’s a shame that after eighty years in business a great company had to close its doors. I will admit I was a bit disheartened during our last visit when I picked up one of the few books that was left, by some dirtbag who claims he is a pastor that had written a book in which he used the “N” word. (Yes, it’s true. I won’t put his name because I don’t want you to read it. Point blank). I do feel a Christian book store has to be smarter than to sell anything by anyone who claims to be a Christian without doing its due diligence to make sure the merchandise truly represents Jesus Christ and His teachings. But either way it goes, this company that supplied vacation Bible school materials; Sunday school commentaries; various Bibles; church supplies such as tithing envelopes, fans, and Communion materials; was very valuable in the Christian realm and I hate to see it go.