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Churches and Christian Stores

I’ve now seen a few churches that have a Christian store somewhere about them. I’m not sure this make a whole lot of sense. Am I the only one who feels uncomfortable with things being sold in church? So much of the gospel and early church displays a level of radical sharing that is antithetical to consumerism. Even when the store is in the lobby of a big church, I don’t like it. You wouldn’t have a store on the property of your home. Were not churches at first homes?

I also believe these stores often play upon our guilt. After a strong sermon, a pew-sitter feels motivated to make a change. They however have the wrong impression that something they can purchase in that store will change things. Believing they’re following up, they buy a book, journal, trinket, etc. and bring it home. Maybe I’m cynical but I’ll bet in the majority of those cases, that purchased item just collects dust.

Far more attractive to me is the idea of a library. I believe a library without fines somewhat models the radical sharing found in the Christian faith. Going a step further: churches could be so radical that their stores would simply give away goods. What we really want is a library that quickly forgives the loans people make against it. Critics may cry that people will take advantage of the situation. So? If the thing is really so meaningful, how can we insist on having it back?

Bringing it home, I’m sometimes tempted to sell Christian software. I’ve made a handful of tools which I could possibly sell; generally things that provide hyperlinks to cross-references or concordance lookups. If I did push out some shrink-wrapped software, it could even end up in one of these stores-within-a-church type places. And maybe the pastor would give a rousing sermon on the importance of going back to the Greek or Hebrew words and people would be encouraged to buy my software. However, I don’t do this, and today I don’t want to do this.

Throughout the gospel Jesus warned of the taint that money could cause.  Some of his strongest sayings were against storing up treasures that could rust or be stolen on this Earth. Money is critical as a means of providing but I personally have to be careful not to become so distracted by it that I forget the ends. The ends are loving God and loving others.

(I’ve used the term “Christian” here as an adjective. I hate doing this as it comes to classify things rather than people. There’s really no way a store or book can be Christian. The term Christian refers to a miniature of Christ. It was first probably meant in a derogatory way. Using the term as an adjective encourages a dichotomy of cultures that is hard to overcome. I wish there were no Christian culture. Only to better express my ideas to others, have I here used the term as an adjective.)