Church Bookstores

The church bookstore is a long-standing fundamentalist tradition. Where else can you conveniently purchase eight books and assorted pamphlets written by the pastor himself, a delightful assortment of Footprints bookmarks, fish-shaped breath mints, and a smorgasbord of those little rubber coin purses with KJV bible verses stamped on the front? (Wait, do they even make those little coin purses anymore? Hey, it looks like they do!)

The church bookstore is also sanctified from the law of the Sabbath which states that “no good Christian may do business on the Sabbath day unless that business is frequenting an all-you-can-eat buffet.” This special dispensation for restaurants is widely recognized as the exception of the “ox in the ditch” — only the ox in this case is smothered in onions and served with a baked potato. It only stands to reason that you’d have to make an exception to the no-business-on-Sunday rule for the church store; it’s when most of the customers show up.

Whether it’s an entire room or just one table in the back of the auditorium, the bookstore is one-stop shopping for all your fundy merchandising needs.  Be sure to check out the new selection of Wordless Book pencils and preaching cassette tapes.

22 thoughts on “Church Bookstores”

  1. It’s worth mentioning that only the particularly affluent among IFB churches can afford the Church Bookstore. The less blessed are forced to settle for the Church Library. (Have you done a post on those yet?)

    It’s also worth mentioning that *some* churches have gone above and beyond the call in this regard. They’ve acquired Church Cafes. The fundamentalist blessed enough to attend such an institution can enjoy the further blessing of sanctified coffee.

  2. The Reformed church where I grew up swung so far in the other direction that we weren’t even allowed to use the building for garage sales. Everything got set up in the parking lot and on the lawn; nothing could be for sale inside the building. Why? Because Jesus kicked the salesmen and money-changers out of the temple. Selling used clothes in the foyer would be making God’s house into “a den of robbers.”

  3. I remember when one IFB evangelist came to our church for “a week of meetings” and set up the usual table in the back with all his wares (the proceeds of which would “go back into the ministry”), our pastor made a rule where we couldn’t buy anything after the services, but instead had to write down what we wanted and then pick it up and pay for it at some other time at the church office/bookstore. This would avoid the appearance of the church being a house of merchandise. Apparently the church office was less sanctified than the lobby outside the auditorium.

  4. Stan. Thats funny!!!

    Fundies are good when it comes to not sinning by technicality.

    None of the fundy churches I attended had a bookstore. it was only the pentecostal ones that I attended that did.

    At my Lutheran church, we are always told about books that we could buy at the Lutheran bookstore down the street, but they havent brought those books into the church itself.

  5. I was always bothered by an establishment in my home town that advertised itself as a “Metaphysical Bookshop.” It was really a fundie bookstore with a couple new-agey Kabbalah books in the front window. It’s was basically a recruiting tool for local kids they thought might dabble in witchcraft.

  6. I wouldn’t say it’s truly a fundy sign…just out of my own experience. Although it is true to a large degree!
    One case of fundy bookstore would be the last IFB church I attended for a short time. They have quite a large number of random books (fundy or not?), and a grand ol’ selection of the 1611! KJV upon KJV, anyone could get whatever type of KJV he or she wanted! Although, they did have some music cd. What’s mind-boggling is that they have the screamo/hardcore band, Emery’s, cd…Yeah. They’re not quite typical…
    Where I go now, non-denom Calv, they have a nice bookstore that they recently opened actually. They do have a nice selection of commentaries, theological books, some Bibles, and whatnot. But apparently they don’t have fiction because it’s “too hard to discern.” And yet they have Pilgrim’s Progress…Good times.

  7. You all remember Bob Harrison’s movies? It was sometime between 1992-1996 in Greenville, SC. You could rent recently released videos with the “bad stuff” taken out. EASY BREEZY MORALITY!!

    Everyone was talking about it, so we rented _Schindler’s List_ to watch with our BOJO friends. We had already seen it on the big screen. Shhh! Don’t tell. 😉

    But so . . . we watch. I don’t think I’ve ever laughed harder — at Schindler’s List!! All the skin above the knee and below the shoulders was blocked out completely. But all the murder and death and shooting was shown unedited. What? Sex is evil, but cold-blooded maniacal and senseless murder is not gratuitous?

    And the bad words were only blocked on the front speakers. My geek hubby’s surround sound system completely picked up the bad words on the back speakers, so it just highlighted the thing we weren’t supposed to hear.

    Like those TV Guardians. Remember those?

    So much stuff fundies like . . . .

  8. The fundy church I grew up in had a small bookstore in the basement (that my mother ran). The pastor had a sly way of making sure that the church was not becoming a “den of thieves” or a store by saying that if you could not afford any of the materials, but felt that you needed it for your spiritual growth, you could take what you wanted and the church would cover it; the same rule went for the merchandise sold by traveling evangelists and musical groups.
    In spite of that rule, the church did not have to compensate for much- the majority of the materials for sale were outdated SOTL books about the evils of alcohol and women working outside of the home (not sure if there is a different category of SOTL materials).

  9. @Camille, there are also dangers to watching those “edited” films, such as later forgetting that what you’d seen was the edited version and recommending it to someone with “high standards.” Oops.

  10. @Amanda: Such is the death sentence associated with watching movies on TV and attending an IFB christian school. I can remember the sketchy looks I received from my best friend’s parents after watching the movies I’d recommended…

  11. Nowadays, as mentioned, church bookstores aren’t just a fundy thing. However, I find them irrelevent in our current culture. If I really wanted something, I could order it online (and at a less-expensive price).

    I did have a laugh a couple of years ago when I visited my uncle’s super-fundy church and they mentioned the “tape ministry”. TAPE ministry?? Who even owns cassettes these days . . .or cassette players for that matter.

  12. How’s the sales tax issue treated? Because it’s in a tax-exempt building, sales tax need not apply? If you go to your average “christian” bookstore, you’ll pay sales tax. I bring this up because many fundies hide behind the cross to avoid paying taxes on their “ministries”. Hmmm… I remember a story in the NT about a fish, a coin, and taxes.

  13. Oh, right, I forgot about the bookstores! The church I grew up in had a bookstore in it’s own little nook right next to the secretary’s office. I do remember an assortment of KJV bibles, covers, CD’s, bookmarks, etc. It was run by whichever ladies volunteered that week. And the tape ministry, LOL! I forgot about that, but my church did it too. I honestly can’t recall anybody buying those, but they were offered.

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