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Archive for March, 2017

Case for Christ Movie is a Must See

This is a film Christian retailers need to urge their customers to attend and one you shouldn’t miss yourselves. In a world where a proliferation of Christian movies has meant some of us spend as much time at the local theater as we do at church, this one is a cut above.

After getting to see a preview, I took a first-time step of watching it all over again the very next night, finding the second view equally satisfying and engaging as the first. I think the reason was that for me the various elements of the movie worked; that is to say all the pieces of what makes up cinematography that we might not even notice played together here to create a movie that was simply believable. There were few of those caricature or stereotype moments that sometimes mar faith-focused films.

It’s no spoiler to say that this is the real-life story of Lee Strobel, a top investigative reporter with the Chicago Tribune, who also happens to hold a law degree, and has a history of taking on some big challenges, including the Ford Pinto scandal. (You can read a 1980 sample in the Trib’s archives.) He’s just been promoted out of street-beat reporting but is about to be called upon to cover a cop shooting, a story that he feels is really beneath him. That story has some interesting parallels to another, second investigation he’s about to launch on his own time.

That side project begins when his wife converts to Christianity through the ministry of an early incarnation — still meeting in a theater at that point — of Willow Creek Community Church. He feels he’s losing her but is confident he can win her back by simply bringing all his investigative skills to bear on proving Christianity in general, and the resurrection of Jesus in particular, to be a complete and utter hoax. While philosophy and theology isn’t his normal beat, he is relentless in his pursuit of credible experts who can handle his checklist of factors in the Christ story that need to be negated. The rest is the apologetics substance of the film.

It was the unexpected relational substance of the film that caught me off-guard. What happens in a marriage when one spouse is a believer and one is not? (It’s around this point that I remembered reading that Zondervan was re-releasing one of Strobel’s few non-apologetic titles, Surviving a Spiritual Mismatch in Marriage coauthored with wife Leslie.) The portrayal of Leslie Strobel — by an actress whose appearance and mannerisms reminded me so much of Bill Hybels’ daughter Shauna Niequist — is what caused one reviewer to comment as to the authenticity of the portrayal of this neophyte Christ follower; the believability I mentioned earlier.

The rest you need to see. Strobel does not lay down his guns halfway through and commence the ministry with which many of us are familiar. We know him today as the author of other titles in the Case for… series such as The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus and the recent The Case for Grace; but throughout most of the film his life is not headed on that trajectory at all. Disproving Christianity is a fight he truly believes he can win.

This isn’t really a film for the whole family, though teens who face challenges to their faith from fellow students could benefit significantly. Taking a friend, relative, neighbor or coworker who hasn’t yet crossed the line of faith is highly recommended, because when it comes to what Christians believe, at the end of the day, the buck stops with the resurrection.


An opportunity to the preview the movie has been provided courtesy of Pure Flix Entertainment and Graf-Martin Communications, Inc.

Stills above were posted on Twitter by people associated with the production.

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Lewis Title Would be a Great Last-Minute Seasonal Addition

Lent was nearly half over when this title arrived for review at Thinking Out Loud. Even though it’s a consumer review, I expressed the opinion that the contents are really non-seasonal; a different approach could have made this a valued year-round resource, which I still think it is.


C. S. Lewis’s Greatest Hits

C. S. Lewis certainly belongs in any list of the Top 10 Christian writers of the 20th Century, but for many his thoughts are more easily digested in sound bites rather than the reading of complete works. I was a little surprised when, with 2017’s season of Lent well underway I was offered an opportunity to review Preparing For Easter: Fifty Devotional Readings from C. S. Lewis, but I wasn’t about to turn down a chance to reconsider Lewis’ brilliance in a different format.

Really, the seasonal title of the book is unfortunate, a better one might be C. S. Lewis’s Greatest Hits, though the book is not limited to his apologetics but introduction makes clear that, “being a leading Christian defender of the faith would not be the only reason to explain Lewis’s posthumous popularity… [He] was also a pioneering explainer of the Christian life itself… Lewis’s apologetics are so powerful precisely because many find his vision of the Christian life so compelling and inspiring. It is this later role of Lewis’s, as a visionary prophet for how to follow Christ today, that this collection is concerned with.”

It’s also helpful to take the more more familiar passages; the Lewis-isms which have become soundbites, such as,

  • Aim at Heaven you will get earth ‘thrown in’: am at earth and you will get neither
  • If I find in my self a desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.
  • The dullest and most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship…There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal.
  • I believe in Christianity as I believe that the Sun has risen, not only because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.

and read these, at least partially, in their fuller original context.

But there is also the more obscure, the sections in the various Letters… collections which I have never perused. I would have liked more of these, such as his take on pacifism — a view he describes as “recent and local” — as well as his picture of heaven:

The symbols under which heaven is presented to us are (a) a dinner party, (b) a wedding, (c) a city, and (d) a concert.

Equally helpful to me were the sections in books I had read previously but had somehow simply missed, which in these shorter, daily readings — most run four pages in a digest-sized volume — are brought into clearer focus, such as the excerpt I ran on Friday.

Not every word that Lewis wrote is gospel. Some of his ideas were his own opinions and perhaps a few were somewhat fanciful. But such is the nature of his writing. I don’t always get Song of Solomon, either, but it’s in the same volume that offers me the gospel of Luke or the epistle to the Romans.  Many passages are highly personal to Lewis, or perhaps the reader.

Some people feel guilty about their anxieties and regard them as a defect of faith. I don’t agree at all. They afflictions, not sins. Like all afflictions, they are, if we can so take them, our share in the Passion of Christ. (194)

Included with each of the 50 readings are references to selected scripture passages which enhance the devotional experience. The volume ends with a reading for Easter Sunday. Again, to repeat what I said earlier, this really ought to be a non-seasonal product. In the meantime however, it will well serve people charged with preparing material for the central season of the Christian year, or latecomers like myself who were able to binge-read it in several sittings.


HarperOne; 2017 hardcover; 214 pages; 17.99 US; 9780062641649. Material is suitable and helpful for all Christian traditions. Compiled by Zachry Kincaid. Thanks to Nadea Mina for a review copy.

More info at CSLewis.com

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Canada 150 Offers an Opportunity to Promote Canadian Authors

Canada’s 150th birthday offers store owners and managers an opportunity to bring Canadian authors front and center. Or perhaps that should be centre, since we’re talking Canadian! Using the official Canada 150 logo, you could:

  • Make a large version of the logo and feature all your Canadian authors in a single section.
  • Make many small versions of the logo and place these as shelf-talkers everywhere you have a Canadian author.
  • You could also offer these at a discount for select periods, such as the week before and after July 1st.

A few years ago, I was asked to walk around my Non-Fiction shelves and see how many Canadian authors I could spot. At the time, I came up with these:

  • Ann Voskamp
  • Drew Dyck
  • Bruxy Cavey
  • Joe Amaral
  • Emily Wierenga
  • Ken Sigamatsu
  • Joe Boot
  • Lisa Elliott
  • Eric Wright
  • Roseanne Kydd
  • Sarah Tun
  • Tim Day
  • Rick Apperson
  • Sarah Bessey
  • Lee Beach
  • Judi Peers
  • Diane Lindstrom
  • Greg Paul
  • Alan Roxburgh
  • Tim Huff
  • Mark Buchanan
  • Brian Stiller
  • James Beverley
  • Sheila Wray Gregoire
  • Colin McCartney
  • Marv Penner
  • Henri Nouwen
  • Phil Callaway
  • Clarke Pinnock
  • Grant Jeffrey
  • John Bowen
  • Charles Price
  • James MacDonald
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Bookaholics Wanted

I just found out that a longtime customer and one-time employee is moving out of the province. She’s also one who recommends authors and books to others, so it’s a double loss. We’ve lost a lot of customers lately due to moving. I hope we can replace them with new customers. In the meantime, I’d like to get to know the woman in this cartoon by Sarah Anderson:

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Word Alive / Anchor Distribution System Lacks Christian Integrity

It always amazes me when dealers here simply laugh or change the subject when the subject of Anchor/Word Alive is mentioned. Everyone is beyond frustration, but most are unwilling to go on the record because we’re Christian stores and we’re Canadian and so we have two reasons to be extra polite. But let’s face it: Their system is set up so completely contrary to Standard Account Principles (SAP) and (today’s topic) standard methods of order processing that really, they are undermining the success of Christian bookstores.

One of the many, many problems — and we won’t even get into the joke that is their new website — is that you can’t build an order cart you don’t plan to clear through within 24-48 hours. Let me say that again in case I’m not clear: You can’t add to cart in the way you do with your other vendors. In their system, add to cart works as though it physically removes the product. No one else can touch it at that point, unless you default on your order. On the plus side, if you do complete the order, no one can shop product ‘out’ of your cart. (The best example of that, with which many of you are familiar, would be Book Depot.)

However — and this is a big however — it also means that when your backorders come up, they can also be shopped out. Do they remain on backorder when this happens? Who is prepared to answer that question? Not anyone who you try to get to address this, that’s for sure. And their left hand (Manitoba) clearly doesn’t know what their right hand (Pennsylvania) is doing. And vice versa.

Small, small case in point. We ordered the movie I’m Not Ashamed by PureFlix Entertainment. (We’ll leave aside here the whole other discussion about what PureFlix has cooked up with 100 Huntley Street to further undermine our DVD sales.) We actually placed two small order, one on January 11th and one on February 6th. We can’t buy these from their regular stock because of pricing issues, so we’re purchasing from the stock marked Canadian Sales Only. (We’ve asked if they can simply move a few copies from the regular shelf to the Canadian-designated shelf to get us off their backs. No response. Correspondence ignored.)

On Thursday at 5:40 PM — we had already closed — we were notified they were ready to ship. We couldn’t do the order on Friday so today, before noon we placed our order. Guess what? The product has vanished! Once again. Let me be totally honest here, I have reached the point of giving up trying to be polite. My customers are waiting. I am trying to be their advocate to watch this movie. (I don’t even want to watch it myself anymore, nor do I wish to cooperate with any future PureFlix releases.)

What this also means is this: Some store(s) which purchased this product spontaneously on Friday were able to get copies which were supposedly on hold for me without having to having to wait. Sorry, but if that’s your store, you jumped the line. You’re the person at the grocery store who simply walks to the front of the line and cuts in ahead of everyone else. But it’s not your fault. It’s Word Alive’s fault. It’s Anchor’s fault. And for the customers we may have notified on the weekend that their product was on the way, who we now have to tell that it’s not on the way, it just sucks.

This is a deplorable way to run a company. There ought to be laws. Perhaps there are, actually if you can make the case that this constitutes unfair trade practices. You might have to prove it was done to give preferential treatment to other dealers. But you might not. It might be sufficient to argue in court that Anchor simply acted unfairly in their dealings with their accounts. 

Furthermore, as Christians should not be aiming for excellence? Should we not wish to attain the highest standards?

I am filing a formal complaint with PureFlix on behalf of dealers here. We’re just in the process of framing who will formally receive that letter.

Publishers and media companies: We have two other independent distributors in Canada who are worthy of distributing your fine products: Parasource and Foundation. On their very worst days they will do a better job for you than Anchor/Word Alive.

We’re a Small Part of a Much Greater Picture

Bonjour! Whenever I receive print catalogues or emails from Christian French language suppliers such as Librairie crétienne du Québec, I am at the most basic level reminded of products which, although I may not carry them in stock, are available to my customers should a need arise.

But at a higher level, I’m reminded that we are part of something much greater in terms of (a) the book industry as a whole and (b) more importantly, what God is doing around the world. These books by popular Nick Vujicic are an example of a message that is being translated en français including: Commentaries, Christian Living titles, Fiction, Children’s titles and of course, Bibles. Then, think of all the other languages in which many of our bestsellers are offered.

We could all use that type of encouragement, right?

Also, this weekend, I watched the baptism portion of all three services at Willow Creek Church in Chicago. (It took 52 minutes to watch all 3 video clips.) Teaching pastor Steve Carter said that at the 11:15 Sunday service alone, over 100 were baptized. To see each and every one of these people going public with their faith, and to see the pure joy on the faces of those in the tank doing the baptizing was a great reminder that while Christian bookstores are hurting right now, the capital “C” Church continues to forge ahead.

We need that type of encouragement, too!

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What Do You Want Them To See?

In the winter season we have a green carpet on the floor when you first walk in the store. If you push it with your foot, it’s secure enough — store owners and managers must constantly be thinking in terms of insurance issues — but it does shift a bit from left to right.

I’ve noticed when it shifts right, customers go right. I start to wonder why so many people are heading down that narrower aisle, and then I’ll notice the carpet. When it angles to the left, people go left, which is the section of the store I want them to see.

I never thought much about this until I read the introduction to this article on worship music in church, which used as an example the design of a new airport in Atlanta.

While the author’s intention is different from ours, take 2 minutes to read this and think how it might apply to your store. What do you want customers to see when they first walk in?

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Bible Edition Contradicts What We’re Trying to Teach Our Kids

If I could spend five minutes in the board rooms of some of the publishers in our industry, my message would be, “Anticipate your critics.”  Why release products that simply feed those who think our agenda is to actually undermine the Christian faith?

I recently had a visit from someone far more trained in apologetics than I. We have a great apologetics section (5 four-foot shelves) but he asked to see kids books about Noah’s Ark, and pointed out that many of them, either in terms of the text or the illustrations, would not be considered theologically accurate.

He also said that we have to really avoid the temptation to talk about Bible stories. In a child’s mind, a story may or may not be real. Ditto the word tale. While it’s a bit above some kids’ pay grade, the term he liked is narrative. In other words, ‘Here’s how it happened…’

Any English speaker knows that “Once Upon a Time…” is simply code for “It didn’t really happen; but let’s pretend.” If you’re talking about the parables, then by all means. Jesus begins his parables with “A certain man…” which amounts to the same thing. But the parables are only a small percentage of the whole of scripture. “Once upon a time…” consigns the whole Bible to realm of fiction. It puts it on a par with fairy tales.

So that’s why this particular NIrV Bible, releasing this month from Zonderkidz, has me very, very concerned.  Did they anticipate the critics? I don’t think so.

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Even Discounted; This Would Be a Nice Sale

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Our Visit to Christian Salvage Mission

Because I’ve already run our post about Christian Salvage Mission three times here, I won’t repeat it. However, this week we finally got to see their office and warehouse in person. Located in a modest industrial unit in southeast Hamilton it’s hard to believe that from this small space, material goes out to various countries with life-changing potential.

You can click the above link to see what we wrote before, or check out their website at csmcanada.org. This is a great opportunity for retirees who want to lighten their library before downsizing.

Volunteers sort materials daily. These people have a unique window on the world of Christian literature printed both now and in years past.

Murray answered our questions in the warehouse and described their work in detail.

I wanted to take an exterior picture but forgot. We had this one on file from when the trees were greener, though Ontario did have a mild winter!

CSM takes a wide variety of materials and has volunteer coordinators and drop off centres in almost every province.

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Local Charts Help Customers See What’s Popular at Your Store

This is what’s selling at my store currently. We have a formula to adjust — but not exclude — special order titles as well as some adjustments for children’s titles and some compensation for projecting future sales on newer releases. Our chart is probably different from yours — we’re missing the #1 title on the current CBA list — but that’s what makes each of our local stores different. Our customers look forward to these when we publish them. If you have one from your store, we’d love to share it here.

searchlight-chart-spring-2017

Courier Companies Already Stop By — Offer Parcel Pickup to Your Customers

pick-up-service

Six weeks ago we drafted an idea for offering a free pickup service to our regular customers. Then, earlier this week when we saw the rise of Penguin Pickup at 60 big box centres across Canada, we knew we had to go public with this. This is a sensitive area for many of us, since online shopping is what’s killing many of our stores. But we felt it was worth a try in our community. We’ll let you know how it turns out.

Have you ever sat at work wondering if a small parcel delivering to your home is safe from theft? Or if it’s been left outside the door and blown away? We want to offer something to our regular customers as a free service on a trial basis. Have your order shipped to our store instead and pick it up on your lunch hour or on your way home from work. The rules are simple:

  1. Small parcels only.
  2. Make sure when you place your order online to include your name, our business name and our full address
  3. Phone or email us so we’ve got your name, phone contact info, and who the parcel is coming from.
  4. No CODs. 
  5. No U.S. orders with customs duties and taxes owing
  6. Note: we do not provide a signature to Canpar and Purolator.
  7. Pick it up as soon as possible.
  8. Nothing liquid, chemical, corrosive, explosive, illegal, etc.
  9. Out of respect to the store, nothing from Amazon, Abe Books, CBD, etc. unless it’s something we can’t get.
  10. No charge for this service to regular customers.

Wondering if this would work for you? Feel free to steal our graphic!

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