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Retail exec asks LifeWay managers, ‘What products would Jesus choose?’

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–If Jesus were to shop the aisles of an annual Christian Booksellers Association (CBA) exhibit of Christian products, which ones would he choose?

Bill Anderson, president of CBA, told managers of LifeWay Christian Stores he believes Jesus would reject some products because, “Not everything labeled ‘Christian’ is Christian.”

CBA has 2,300 member retail stores in the United States, another 1,500 stores around the world and 625 supplier members — publishers, music companies and giftware manufacturers.

Anderson, speaking during the LifeWay chain’s May 6-10 annual sales conference, said, “I am specifically praying that God will increase the sales of those products that honor his name and that he will actually deter the sales of products that detract [from God’s name].

“I don’t like to be misquoted in the press,” Anderson continued. “I can’t imagine how the Father feels sometimes when he is misquoted in books or in CDs or in products that claim to help people understand him.”

Anderson characterized LifeWay Christian Stores, celebrating the completion of 75 years, as “selecting the kinds of products that are Christ-honoring.”

But he said he would like to challenge publishers to consider if Jesus “would write the foreword to that book you are so excited about.”

He continued, asking if Jesus would recommend that his disciples skip a specific song on a CD or if he would go into the home of Mary and Martha and ask them to take a decorative Christian gift product off of their wall.

“Throughout Scripture, whatever God put his name on he declared holy,” Anderson observed. “It was to be a reflection of him.”

The test of excellent Christian products, he said, is that they be biblically accurate and culturally relevant.

“The real issue is, are we helping people understand the Word of God or simply replacing it with something more palatable?”

Anderson said Christian stores employees “are involved in a ministry just as much as a pastor, a Christian broadcaster or a missionary.”

“Our arena is Main Street and the malls — the marketplace of our nation,” he said. “We have an opportunity to take God’s truth to the people right there where they live and where they shop. Our ministry is to people, one-on-one. It takes place through relationships and through resources that go into homes.”

Anderson said LifeWay Christian Stores, formerly Baptist Book Stores, have contributed to the progress and change in Christian retailing during the chain’s 75-year history.

“Some of it is because of the longevity of just keeping on doing what is right for so long,” he said, “and some of it is because you have been very strategic in setting a direction and the way you have gone about excellence in retailing.” LifeWay Stores are owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“Can you imagine the impact that you and your colleagues — some of whom have gone before you and retired, some of whom have laid a foundation upon which you are building — have had on people, on homes, on the church, on communities in which your stores are located and on a nation?

“God has always placed an emphasis on doing his work through people … and when he calls us into that, he expects us to be clean vessels. That is not something the organization can give us with a logo. It comes right back to being an issue of the heart.”

Telling the 100-plus managers and managers-in-training that “we need a head for business and a heart for ministry,” he reminded them, “… you are the face of LifeWay in your community.” He urged them to “see sales as souls — as lives you are touching.”

    About the Author

  • Charles Willis