End of an Era: LifeWay to Close All 170 Retail Stores

Breaking Story

On January 6th, 2018 the iconic James Draper Tower of the LifeWay complex in downtown Nashville was demolished. Today’s announcement of the closing of the retail chain sends even bigger shock waves. [Source: Tennessean – see below]

Religion News Service reported:

LifeWay Christian Resources announced Wednesday (March 20) it will close all 170 of its brick-and-mortar stores this year.

That comes as LifeWay, the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, shifts its resources online.

Local news media The Tennessean reported:

The company plans to shift to a digital strategy as consumers increasingly rely on online shopping, a challenge that retailers face nationally. LifeWay resources, such as online Bible studies and worship plans, will be offered at LifeWay.com, through the LifeWay Customer Service Center and through its network of church partners

“LifeWay is fortunate to have a robust publishing, events and church services business. Our retail strategy for the future will be a greater focus on digital channels, which are experiencing strong growth,” [CEO Brad] Waggoner said. “LifeWay is moving into a new era with a strategic digital focus that will prepare us for the future and allow us to better serve our customers.”

At LifeWay’s Facts and Trends website, more details:

…The timing of store closings will vary depending on local circumstances. LifeWay expects all brick-and-mortar stores to close by the end of the year…

…In one month, LifeWay interacts with five times as many people through its digital environments as it does through LifeWay stores…

Unlike the 2017 closing of another Christian retail chain, Family Christian Stores, this is not a receivership. The FCS closing affected over 3,000 employees and also devastated publishers, music companies and giftware suppliers who were also sent reeling with the closing of Send the Light, a large wholesale distributor. FCS closed 240 stores in comparison to LifeWay’s current 170. In contrast, the website for Parable explains that, “Parable Christian Stores are locally owned and operated franchise stores run by people who desire to resource their community with Christian products.”

But there is no doubt the LifeWay decision will have an impact on authors, musicians, and a host of other creatives who make the products that Christian bookstores sell. It will also have ripple-effect repercussions on everything from how Christian products are marketed and promoted to Christian music concert tours.

As the story broke in local markets where the company has locations, several reports indicated that store management knew their closing date was coming at the end of May.

More information was being posted on the store’s FAQ page.

[Updated 8:01 PM 3.20]

This is developing story; check back for updates.


When Art Imitates Life

or…When the Books We Sell Echo Store Life

This book is releasing mid-May from Thomas Nelson. This is Katherine Reay’s sixth book with Thomas Nelson. Perhaps some of you reading today “inherited” your store one way or another!

From the publisher website:

The Printed Letter Bookshop
By: Katherine Reay

One of Madeline Cullen’s happiest childhood memories is of working with her Aunt Maddie in the quaint and cozy Printed Letter Bookshop. But by the time Madeline inherits the shop nearly twenty years later, family troubles and her own bitter losses have hardened Madeline’s heart toward her once-treasured aunt—and the now struggling bookshop left in her care.

While Madeline intends to sell the shop as quickly as possible, the Printed Letter’s two employees have other ideas. Reeling from a recent divorce, Janet finds sanctuary within the books and within the decadent window displays she creates. Claire, though quieter than the acerbic Janet, feels equally drawn to the daily rhythms of the shop and its loyal clientele, finding a renewed purpose within its walls. When Madeline’s professional life takes an unexpected turn, and when a handsome gardener upends all her preconceived notions, she questions her plans and her heart. She begins to envision a new path for herself and for her aunt’s beloved shop—provided the women’s best combined efforts are not too little, too late.

The Printed Letter Bookshop is a captivating story of good books, a testament to the beauty of new beginnings, and a sweet reminder of the power of friendship.

336 pages | 9780785222002

Zondervan to Differentiate Sections of Its Brand

Baker has Baker Academic. InterVarsity has IVP Academic.

Now Zondervan, which has always been a leader in scholarly and high-level Bible reference publications is going to clarify what readers of its Zondervan Academic Blog have long-known, by making Zondervan Academic a distinct publishing imprint. The academic division’s tag line has been: “Equipping biblical scholars since 1931.”

The official media announcement was posted on March 11th.

“As a leader in Christian higher education and digital learning, Zondervan Academic seeks to show the breadth and diversity—both theologically and globally—of Christianity in its broadly evangelical expression,” says Katya Covrett, executive editor. “As a publisher of textbooks, reference books, and monographs, we consider ourselves both a broker of ideas and an equipping partner for our readers, wherever they are teaching and learning.”

…Upcoming titles in the Zondervan Reflective imprint include Clay Scroggins’ How to Lead in a World of Distraction (September 2019), a follow-up to the bestselling How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge. Lead titles this fall for the Zondervan Academic imprint include The New Testament in Its World by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird and America’s Religious History by historian Thomas S. Kidd (both November 2019).

In the same announcement, the publisher launched Zondervan Reflective,

…a new imprint featuring the familiar voices of Christian leaders, pastors, and leaders in ministry like Andy Stanley, Clay Scroggins, J.D. Greear, and Peter Scazzero. Books in this imprint aim to spur readers toward insight and responsible action in their personal lives and in the public realm. Zondervan Reflective focuses on deep, yet applicable content, and will address topics related to leadership, the intersection of faith and culture, and growing and exploring a reader’s ministry.

Zondervan, Thomas Nelson and Vida are part of HarperCollins Christian Publishing. The parent company also publishes faith-interest books under the HarperOne imprint.

The Newest NIV Study Bible is Actually a Rebranding

I hate to say, “I told you so.”

At the time of its original release, I said the name, “NIV Zondervan Study Bible” would be too easily confused with the flagship “NIV Study Bible.” Time and the marketplace proved this correct.

So when the time came to convert the Bible to the new Comfort Print font — a change still in progress involving every Bible product sold by both Thomas Nelson and Zondervan — they decided it was a good time to change the name to “NIV Biblical Theology Study Bible.”

They also moved D. A. Carson’s name to the top which is both in keeping with what is seen on academic books in a series, and also creates resonance for the all important Reformed/Calvinist market, which Zondervan would love to lure from the ESV back to NIV.

The other bonus was that with comfort print, people who formerly needed large print can get away with the regular edition. The large print version of the older title was simply huge. So they’ve effective killed two birds with one stone. I actually proved the truth of this yesterday with one satisfied (I hope!) customer.

The original advertising from a few years ago highlighted many of the Reformed/Calvinist contributors. I’m sure they would argue this isn’t, strictly speaking, a Reformed product.

NIV Zondervan Study Bible

And a comparison chart showed the main differences in chart form:

NIV Study Bibles compared

Appendix One: People who feel they are in the market for larger print in a Bible are actually looking at five factors:

Font Size – To meet expectations, “large” should be at least 10.0 point and “giant” should be at least 12.0 point; but the key phrase here is “at least.” Ideally, I’d like to see “large” at about 11.5 and “giant” at about 14.0.” Also, generally speaking large print books are much more generous in font size — as well as the other four factors listed below — than large print Bibles. Some readers who have purchased large print books before question the application of the term when it’s applied to Bibles with smaller fonts. If you’re in a store and they have a font size guide posted, that gives you the language to express what you’re looking for, but don’t go by online guides, as they are sized at the whim of your monitor settings.

Typeface – This consideration is the basis of Zondervan and Thomas Nelson’s move — started last year and continuing throughout 2018 — to “Comfort Print” on all their Bible editions. Some typefaces are simply fatter than others. Personally, I like the clean look of a sans serif font (think Arial/Helvetica) such as Zondervan was using on its Textbook Bibles. But others like the look of a serif font (think Times New Roman) instead. But Comfort Print is a great innovation and I find when it’s available that people who think they need large print don’t, and other who think they might need giant print (with other publishers) can work with Comfort Print’s large print. You can think of this in terms of the difference between regular and bold face.

Leading – This one is actually quite important, and we’ll leave the definition to Wikipedia: “In typography, leading (/ˈlɛdɪŋ/ LED-ing) refers to the distance between the baselines of successive lines of type. The term originated in the days of hand-typesetting, when thin strips of lead were inserted into the forms to increase the vertical distance between lines of type.” One Bible publisher which I won’t name is notorious for using a large font but then crowding their lines of type together. The issue here is white space. If you look at the Wisdom Books of the Bible (which are typeset as poetry with more white space and wider margins) and compare to the History Books or Gospels (which are typeset as prose, both right-justified and left-justified) you see the advantage created by white space.

Inking – Some Bibles are not generously inked. There are sometimes also inconsistencies between different printings of the same Bible edition, and even inconsistencies between page sections of a single Bible. Text should be dark enough to offer high contrast to the white paper. Furthermore, some older adults have eye problems which make reading red-letter editions difficult. If that’s the case — and you don’t always know ahead of time — use a page from the Gospels as a sample.

Bleed Through – On the other hand, you don’t want to see type from the previous or following page. Bible paper is usually thin paper, which means the potential for bleed-through is huge. On the other hand, holding Bibles up to the light isn’t a fair test. Rather, the place where you check out the Bible should be well-lit and then pages should be examined in the same context you would read them at home. It is possible that an individual simply needs a better quality reading lamp.

Appendix Two: An edited list of features from the publisher marketing includes:

• 28 theological articles by authors such as Tim Keller and Kevin DeYoung; over 60 contributors.
• 20,000 verse-by-verse study notes
• 2,560 pages!
• Hundreds of full-color photos
• Over 90 Maps and over 60 Charts
• Book Introductions
• Cross-references and Concordance
• Single-column, Black Letter

Note: This is a news article. Zondervan didn’t supply a review copy — I already have the original which I traded for the large print I desired — and did not sponsor this blog article.  

Retailers: The graphic which heads the article is proportioned for store Facebook pages.

with files from Thinking Out Loud blog


Books and Authors in this week’s Wednesday Connect

To read the full, uncompressed edition of Wednesday Connect, click this link.

Michael Frost’s reading audience includes a wide demographic.

Apparently Michael W. Smith’s infatuation with this diamond pattern is a long-running thing. The current album (r) and his second album (l) are separated by 35 years.

Welcome to Wednesday Connect #52. This is where all the cool get people get their Christian news and opinion pieces. You can also stay in touch during the week here at the blog and @PaulW1lk1nson on Twitter. (Just remember the number one substitutes for the letter I.)

■ So the past week brought us the image of Donald Trump autographing Bibles. What’s up with that? Michael Frost probed the subject and didn’t look to far to find those who said Trump was desecrating Christianity’s sacred textbook.

■ Canada Crisis: Or maybe it’s common to other countries in Western Europe and North America. “A national charity that works to save old buildings estimates that 9,000 religious spaces in Canada will be lost in the next decade, roughly a third of all faith-owned buildings in the country. National Trust for Canada regeneration project leader Robert Pajot says every community in the country is going to see old church buildings shuttered, sold off or demolished.”

Dave Stone (l), Kyle Idleman (r)

■ With a weekly attendance of over 21,000; Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Kentucky is definitely one of the largest megachurches in the country. After 30 years, this week it was announced that Dave Stone is handing the role of Senior Pastor over to former teaching pastor Kyle Idleman. “Stone himself is following the lead of Southeast’s former senior pastor, Bob Russell, who handed the reins to Stone in 2006. Russell was 62 at the time, and felt the church would benefit from a younger leader.”

■ FREE Book Excerpt: Yesterday marked the latest release of a new fiction title by author Joel Rosenberg. You and your customers can read a 19-page .pdf sample of The Persian Gamble at this link. (If anyone knows of more of these chapter excerpts, please let us know so we can share them with everyone.)

■ New Author: Derek Vreeland is the author of By the Way: Getting Serious About Following Jesus. Here’s a sample of his writing dealing with four wrong assumptions about Christ’s death.

■ This could be helpful to some bookstore employees who have difficulty moving to a deeper conversation: In the United States, going to church seems as American as apple pie and baseball, but many are hesitant to invite their friends, neighbors, coworkers or extended family. An article from Life Church offers a template on how to begin the conversation.

■ Hymns and Chorus explained. (And no it’s not the one about the cows in the cornfield.)

Many modern songs tell us what. They do this really well! We sing what God is, What He’s done, and what we do in response.
Hymns often tell us why. Why He is the way He is, why He’s done what He’s done, and why we should respond. If what brushes the skin, why penetrates the heart.

■ The response to James MacDonald’s justification of suing another believer (or several) which Christianity Today refused to print. (4½ .pdf pages plus footnotes.) (Admittedly the lawsuit was dropped, but by publishing only one side, doesn’t that leave CT complicit in the whole sordid affair?) …

■ …and according to this report from Julie Roys, documents she’s seen show “numerous incidents where MacDonald spent the church’s money to support his lavish lifestyle.” Included in her report is the time when he “went on a worldwide missions trip that was so stressful, he needed a safari in South Africa to help him recover from it.” Or the time he “Demanded that the church pay to repair his truck after he scraped and dented it on one of the columns in the Elgin church parking garage, blaming security for ‘setting the cones up wrong.’

■ When it comes to certain issues, people will draw the line for one subject but not another. The article, at Internet Monk introduces links to a series of sermons and podcasts from The Meeting House in Oakville, Ontario which is on the frontlines of the issue of women in ministry.

■ If the formula ain’t (yet) broke… “After the success of 2018’s I Can Only Imagine, the Erwin Brothers and their producing partner Kevin Downes are tackling I Still Believe, the story of Jeremy Camp. Through Lionsgate and their Kingdom banner, the producing partners have targeted March 20, 2020, for wide release.”

■ Believing the best or deceiving the donors? It’s amazing to read the spin John MacArthur’s Master’s University and Seminary puts on things despite being in default of academic institutional standards and also facing staff cutbacks.

■ Post-Hybels: Putting the situation at Willow Creek in perspective, a UK writer notes four things to remember about the Bill Hybels story, including that we should not be dismissive of all Bill believed and taught about evangelism and leadership.

■ Your new term for the week: Spiritually Vibrant, or if you prefer, Spiritual Vibrancy. Barna defined this and then surveyed what it calls Households of Faith on which practices bring a lively spiritual life to broader family routines and activities.

■ The humility of affliction. A short devotional on Psalm 10 comparing the English of one verse to how it’s rendered in the Italian Bible.

■ Lastly, on a more serious note, U.S. news media reported the eight Americans killed in the Ethiopian Air crash but not the 18 Canadians (the largest toll for any country other than Ethiopia itself.) I wanted to highlight just one, below. CNN reported on the larger number of people who were aboard the plane, “Gone is an entire corps of experts and workers focused on issues as diverse as championing the cause of Arctic marine life to maintaining security in Uganda to easing the suffering of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh.”

Categories: Uncategorized

Backlist, Not Frontlist, May Be Your Store’s Top Strength

Good advice appeared in a recent NBC News article on religious bookstores of all types by religion writer Alex Johnson. It starts out looking at “a small independent shop offering a wide variety of books about paganism and anything else religious ‘that isn’t Christianity, Judaism or Islam.’

Further in, the story looks at Christian bookstores including this data from Parable Christian Stores:

Last year, new religious books and goods — the so-called frontlist, as opposed to older books and merchandise on the “backlist” — made up only 15 percent of the top 20 products sold at Christian retail outlets in the United States, it found. By comparison, new books and goods made up 45 percent of the top 20 religious products sold in the general retail marketplace.

In other words, “it appears that frontlist products are moving faster outside of Christian retail,” said Parable, which put an optimistic spin on the numbers by counseling religious bookstores to capitalize on their “backlist breadth” of older materials.

The article also quotes Sarah Bolme of the Christian Indie Marketing Assocation (see the link here on the blog to Marketing Christian Books):

“Starbucks thrived because they marketed themselves as a ‘third place,’ a space where people can share and enjoy a cup of coffee with friends and colleagues away from work and home,” Bolme wrote last year in a marketing report on what she called the decline of independent Christian bookstores.

“Wouldn’t it be nice for Christian bookstores to be a ‘third place’ for Christians and seekers to gather and encounter God without the formality of a church building or service?” she asked. 

The advice from both parties is worth considering. In terms of backlist, there are also frontlist titles that the mass retailers and online marketers simply don’t know about… but you do. A focus on those titles can bear fruit, especially if someone on staff has actually read the book or is passionate about the subject or the author. 

The idea of having the bookstore as ‘third space’ isn’t new. Most of us dream of having a coffee shop or a concert space, but are prevented by practicalities and logistics. Still, even in a small store where there’s not even a place to sit, some incredibly impactful conversations can happen standing in a back corner or over the counter.

Categories: Uncategorized

Cross-Platforming Your Store Marketing

When I first starting using MailChimp for our store newsletter, it took me several hours to put our first bi-weekly newsletter together after years of doing it as a simple email. As time went on, I got faster, but only because I adopted a different philosophy. I decided the newsletter would be a ‘catch-up’ on everything we had run in the previous two weeks on Facebook.

We have three main avenues at our disposal:

  • The newsletter
  • Facebook
  • Our website

and to a lesser extent (because we didn’t gain the followers we had hoped for)

  • Twitter

and I know some of you would add

  • Instagram.

Here’s what we decided:

  • The people who get the newsletter don’t necessarily do Facebook or visit the website.
  • The people who do Facebook don’t necessarily get the newsletter or visit the website.
  • The people who visit the website probably don’t get our newsletter or have liked our Facebook page.


  • Repetition doesn’t hurt.

Even if they’re signed up for Facebook, it doesn’t mean that they caught a particular day’s item. (Facebook probably didn’t put us into their feed that day.) And even if they did see it before and are seeing it our newsletter, every good marketing textbook clearly teaches that advertising succeeds with repetition.

So we stopped trying to produce material for three different platforms separately.

We size our graphics for Facebook, because they are the pickiest. So 500px wide and ideally, no more than 500px long. (For Twitter, I’ll reduce it so there is no need for a second click to see the entire image. That may mean reducing the width to as low as 375px, as long as the details are readable.)

Everything appears on every platform, provided we remember.

Our store website is not a BookManager site. It currently rolls over to a WordPress blog — sadly, complete with occasional WordPress advertising, including for CBD! — which means we have total control and can make several changes in a single day if necessary.

Producing a new graphic image and a new title or service to promote on a daily basis would be tiresome if it weren’t for the fact that we know we’re going to get more mileage out of that post when we move it over to the website and include it in a newsletter.

Each item is posted independently. Our Facebook does not track directly with the newsletter or the website. Our Twitter posts are often reworded and go out more sporadically, given the small number of followers. (Hats off to those of you who have a healthy following on Twitter, we just couldn’t make it work.)

That’s our story.

  • What return do you get on your social media marketing? Is one more effective than the others?
  • Do you find it tiresome or do you have your own way of streamlining the process?
  • Do you have one person who handles this, or can several staffers post items to different media?



Categories: Uncategorized

Burlington’s Family Christian Bookstore: Over 6,000 Bibles Sold Last Year Alone

MacDonald’s has their “Billions and Billions Sold” when it comes to hamburgers, but Family Christian’s Bible stats for 2018 ain’t too shabby either. Plus, they turned it into a contest:

In February, we had a guessing contest where the person who guessed closest to the correct number of Bibles we sold in 2018 would win a $50 gift card from the store. We are happy to let you know that Tina B. won the gift card with a guess of 6282. Well done Tina!

She was only out by 39 Bibles. How did she do it? Better yet, how did they do it. That’s 20 Bibles per day in a self-serve Bible display environment. (Backed up by friendly staff who are always nearby.) It also represents a huge potential for spiritual growth on the part of those who will find a new Bible brings the truths of scripture to new life.

Categories: Uncategorized

Google Telemarketing is an Assault on Businesses

“Please do not hang up…”

So begins another attempt by Google to get us to buy something. It’s really too bad there isn’t a “Do Not Call” list for businesses in Canada. I’ve got work to do.

Lately, we’ve taken to simply answering the call for 0.5 seconds, and then hanging up again.  They try about four to five times daily and we keep answering and then disconnecting the call.

The key to this is having a Call Display feature. The calls all originate with a 561 number; the number pictured at right. (Sometimes the field above the number shows the V-code above and sometimes it’s blank.) If you’re not interested in having your daily work productivity eroded by Google, you’ll do the same as us: Just disconnect the call.

If Google is as smart as they claim, they will eventually — it might take a year — get the message. Either that, or a new Canadian government will bring in a business phone number “Do Not Call” list so that we can all get on with our work.


Categories: Uncategorized

Christianity Today Gives Example of Plagiarism by Rachel Hollis

We had a few stories at Wednesday Connect we thought would be of interest to readers here as well.

Maybe she needs to apologize: The first item here concerns Rachel Hollis’ new book. Christianity Today, in a story titled, “Girl, Get Some Footnotes” makes the case for attribution as well as linking to two sources (among many) which are also linked below.

■ Plagiarism in Rachel Hollis’ followup to her blockbuster Girl, Wash Your Face. Christianity Today documented examples from Girl, Stop Apologizing where she took principles and pithy sayings from the writings of others. [Already seen this CT piece? Check out this Rachel Hollis plagiarism forum.][Or more examples on BuzzFeed.]

Then, both last week and this week, we had stories related to the newest (of six, I believe) in an IVP series by Wheaton College’s John Walton.

■ If you’ve tracked with John Walton’s “Lost World” series — such as The Lost World of Genesis One — Scot McKnight believes the newest, The Lost World of the Torah, is the best of the set.

■ Using the Old Testament as a moral authority: John Walton’s new book in the “Lost World of…” series finds him in company with Andy Stanley on the present interpretations of the first testament on various social issues. However, a Get Religion story necessitated a response when it touched on an issue that Walton said the book did not.

I would call this one, “How not to make a video to promote your book.”

■ OOPS! The video is supposed to be promoting a book about “Humble Calvinism.” The first panellist begins, “If you know Calvinism, which is really nothing more than Biblical theology…” WAIT, STOP! There’s that arrogance right there. Exhibit “A”. Check out this 7-minute cure for low blood pressure.

This was an interesting article on what is termed “Bible engagement,” and links to a key resource page at familiar webiste.

■ Reading, copying, studying, praying, singing… This item at the Bible Gateway blog leads you to another page promoting 14 different ways we can interact with scripture texts.

And of course we had music links.

New Music: An acapella adaptation of an arrangement of Trust and Obey originally recorded by Big Daddy Weave. (In his home market, we’ve sold about 30 of David Wesley’s CDs. They’re available on order direct from the artist; we can set you up.)

Just in time for Easter: From Living Hope – The House Sessions, Phil Wickham’s Christ is Risen. (Not sure if this will be a physical CD.)

Categories: Uncategorized

The Hope Chest in Welland Moving to a Freestanding Location

After sharing space with Welland, Ontario’s Redeemed Goods Thrift Shop, The Hope Chest is renovating a house on Main Street East for the purpose of relocating to its own, freestanding Welland location. There’s also a location in Stevensville, located between Niagara Falls and (closer to) Fort Erie. The two stores will provide a strong presence in the Niagara region (with both having a “Main Street” address.)

The store began as The Master’s Book Shop and was an extension of the literature ministry of Operation Mobilization. It was sold and renamed in 1990.

The Hope Chest’s Welland location currently occupies this space in the town’s top thrift store.

Categories: Uncategorized

Meeting House Promoting 2011 Title from Toronto’s Danielle Strickland

54 minute podcast recording with Bruxy Cavey released on the weekend.
Click here to watch on YouTube.

Toronto-based author Danielle Strickland who has had the opportunity to preach in some of the largest and best-known churches in North America is currently promoting a July, 2011 title she did with Kregel Publications: The Liberating Truth: How Jesus Empowers Women in conjunction with the “Her Story” series at The Meeting House, a Canadian megachurch with 20 satellite locations.

The publisher marketing states:

In short chapters full of memorable personal stories Danielle Strickland challenges us to take seriously our reading of the Gospels and the consequences of that reading. Strickland exposes the lie that debates regarding women’s positions in the church and in life are academic exercises conducted by theologians with no impact on the day-to-day lives of women and the lie that the debate is even about gender.

Strickland starts with stories of women in subjugation–women who are considered property, or have been told to remain in abusive relationships, or face extensive cultural restrictions.These are women she has met as she serves around the world for the Salvation Amy. She calls us to know each woman as she meets Jesus and by her spiritual gifts–not by a culturally defined category.

After tackling overt cases of oppression of women, Strickland confronts the subtleties of gender inequality in the Western world. Laying open the Bible and inviting all to come, she thoughtfully outlines the positions regarding gender equality and reviews related passages of Scripture. Using her gift as an evangelist along with the guiding of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience, she makes her case that the more women are empowered to be true equals to men, the closer we bring the Kingdom of God.

The book is available to retailers through Parasource Marketing using ISBN 9780857210197. Other books include: