Christian Retailing

Josh McDowell offers charge to church bookstores Print Email
Written by Ginny McCabe   
Thursday, 02 July 2015 01:59 PM America/New_York

JoshMcDowell-DottieChurch bookstore managers and staff and those considering entering the church store market gathered Tuesday afternoon for a Church Bookstore Connection Center Reception. The RSVP-only event at the 2015 International Christian Retail Show featured Josh McDowell, internationally renowned author and speaker. In addition to the message, meal and mingling, church store retailers also were gifted with a number of books from publishers, including McDowell's latest, God-Breathed (Barbour Publishing).

“Josh McDowell is an industry veteran, who has absolutely been at the forefront of cultural trends and groundbreaking ministry for over five decades,” said Geni Hulsey as she introduced the guest speaker.

At the start of his address, McDowell asked how many in the group were pastors.

“My whole life has been devoted to pastors," he said. "The only job tougher than being a pastor is being a pastor’s wife."

He spoke mainly on relationships and technology.

“Engagement in a community is no different than engagement in what I do around the world,” McDowell said. “If I were a bookstore in an area, I would do everything I could to build relationships. One thing I’ve done over the years is I’ve probably sent over 30,000 personal notes to people. I’m known for it. People say, ‘Oh, Josh, I get so many email notes from people, I just love it when you send me a physical note.’ Isn’t that something? It used to be taken for granted. Now it’s coming back in and it’s popular because it’s different. I have probably sent out 7,000 to 8,000 baggage tags. I collect them. I have a whole sack of them right now, and I just write a note on it, ‘Bob, Prayed for you today. Love, Josh,’ or I say, ‘Bob, and put a special verse there, because they will read it, and just sign it ‘Love, Josh.’ ” 

He said he has also used other unusual items, boarding passes, for example, to rise above the noise. He suggests stores make note of people's birthdays and other special occasions.

“It takes a lot of time and a lot of effort, but, you know, with every one, I pray for them,” McDowell said. “I would recommend that bookstores do that. It’s a way to connect.”

He also advised for church stores to look for places where parents, couples or pastors are gathered to hold events or other things to improve their marriage, parenting, communication or faith walk, and incorporate a focus on technology.

“There are all kinds of people in the community that will come in for a special night, a luncheon or a breakfast on technology," he said. "Bring someone in that will help parents and help pastors to help parents to protect your children through technology. You’ve got to do that today.”

“It’s possible that wearables are going to be the way of the future,” he said.

Another creative ministry idea given was to help young people get into college and find out if there is scholarship money available, meeting that need in people’s lives.

Then his talk took a turn toward a very serious matter.

“[It's] the greatest threat to the cause of Christ in the history of the world," he said. "There’s nothing out there that right this moment has already destroyed more Christian families than anything else ever has. It’s destroyed more pastors, youth pastors and youth groups, and homes. It’s pervasive, Internet pornography. It’s killing us. The church has never faced anything like it. Bookstores, you better be in the forefront of it, or you’re going to be looking from behind.”

McDowell then shared about a research study he just commissioned with the Barna Group on “pornography in the church.” His ministry has spent more than $250,000 to conduct the study. He said that even in Christian colleges and seminaries, probably 80 to 90 percent of students watch pornography.

Susan Chipman, director of retail services at Granger Community Church in Granger, Indiana, found McDowell's message "very challenging."

“I had no idea about the stats on the porn issue within the church staff," she said. "I was shocked. I need to do research on it myself to know how we can better help people.”

Martha Brangenberg, manager of Charis Christian Books & Gifts at First Baptist Church of Indian Rocks in Largo, Florida, echoed that sentiment.

“I love how he doesn’t hold anything back," Brangenberg said. "He says here’s what you need to do, and you need to go boldly. At the same time, he’s encouraging, saying, ‘With God, we can do this. I love that about him, and I appreciate his enthusiasm. Even though he was speaking to a big crowd, it felt like he was intimately speaking to us, and that meant a lot.”

GeniHulsey-CBADedicatedServiceAward-McCabeAlso during the Tuesday reception, CBA honored the retiring Geni Hulsey with the "Dedicated Service Award” in appreciation for her dedication to the church store mission. Hulsey has served the church bookstore community for more than 20 years.

“This is such a surprise,” Hulsey said with tears in her eyes upon acceptance of the award. “It simply means the last 20 years that God has blessed me to be part of something bigger than I am. If my willingness to serve bookstores, and the passion that He gave me for that has made a difference for CBA, it has added something to them, to the organization, and I can walk away knowing that church bookstores are in the hands of some wonderful young folks that are going to continue working with CBA and church bookstores.”

A team of church bookstore managers—Brangenberg, Chipman, Rachel Savage and Trevor Olesiak—will continue to work with CBA and church store leadership, ensuring that church bookstore personnel can continue to network and fellowship at future ICRS events. During ICRS, church bookstore leaders annually gather at the Church Store Connection Center for a time of education, networking and fellowship.