The analogy between bookstores and the church

David Lose, whom I respect immensely, wrote recently on the parallel decline of bookstores and institutional Christianity:

This means things may – actually, strike that, things will  – look different. But it may also lead to a renewed sense of the nature and purpose of our congregations.  After all, there are a lot fewer book publishers and bookstores than there were a decade ago. At the same time, more people are reading – print books, ebooks, blogs, webzines, etc. – than ever before. The question isn’t whether people will keep reading, but who will help them do it.

The same is true, I think, of congregations. This present generation reports a greater interest in mystery, the divine, and spirituality than has any generation in a century. So the question isn’t whether people will seek God, but rather who will help them find God

Then I came across this. In 1931,

“In the entire country, there were only some four thousand places where a book could be purchased, and most of these were gift shops and stationary stores that carried only a few popular novels,” Davis writes. “In reality, there were but five hundred or so legitimate bookstores that warranted regular visits from publishers’ salesmen (and in 1931 they were all men). Of these five hundred, most were refined, old-fashioned ‘carriage trade’ stores catering to an elite clientele in the nation’s twelve largest cities.”

Read the whole article.

The rise of book publishing, “the paperback generation,” perfectly mirrors the growth in institutional Christianity in the twentieth century. The decline in “bricks and mortar” retailing, perfectly mirrors the decline in institutional Christianity.

What should we conclude? Lose is right: “The question isn’t whether people will seek God, but rather who will help them find God.”

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One thought on “The analogy between bookstores and the church

  1. I love a good book. I love a quiet place to sit and talk with God. I had three conversations about one or both of those today. This is my fourth. Am I getting old, because there is still room to sit quietly, reflect, and be at peace? Plus I love a good book store. Visiting Portland, Oregon gives me a chance to go to Powell’s. It is a great opportunity.

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