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Ministry: It's Not the Books

A friend told me recently that he was considering opening a Christian bookstore in order to be a ministry to the people in his town. Here is what I told him:

Bookstores are a very good place to do ministry, because all kinds of people come into bookstores. But the person in the store is what makes it a ministry, not the store itself. Whoever is in the store has to learn how to be an evangelist and a counselor, and it has to be someone who loves people.

I’ll give you an example. I had a bookstore at the University of Maryland. A hippie woman came in, and I watched her walking around the bookstore, getting more and more turned off by the Christian books she saw. I went up to her, smiled, and said, “The books aren’t that bad.”

She said, “Like what?!”

I started with Narnia, telling her about various books. She was just waiting for a chance to get past me and out the door, but I held onto her (not physically, but just keeping myself between her and the door).

I finally got around to saying that we had some great missionary biographies. She blew her stack. “What do you mean, going out there and putting clothes on all these innocent natives?!”

Right next to me was a book called The Savage, My Kinsman by Elisabeth Elliott. Toward the back of the book, there is a picture of little Valerie Elliott (about 2 years old) hand in hand with one of the Auca Indians, walking away across the stream together, neither of them with a stitch of clothing on. I took the book off the shelf and showed the picture to the woman. I said, “It looks like the Indians are taking the clothes off the missionaries.”

She took a look at the photo and said, “Give me that book!” She sat down and read it. When she was done, I gave her another book, and then another, and she read them. She stayed for four hours and received the Lord around 4:00 in the afternoon.

A bookstore is a great place for ministry, but remember it’s not the books that will be the ministry. It is the person in the store. You can be a real people person, and that helps, but if you want people to come to Christ, you will also need to learn evangelism.


Hannah said…
This is a delightful story! Thank you for sharing. It's beautiful to see the Lord using you now and throughout your life. I just read Principles of War and gleaned a bushel of wisdom from it. Thank you for following Christ.

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