I don't read much Christian fiction. The last fiction title I read was years ago... Frank Peretti/Ted Decker's House (or en Espanol, Casa). Good book. Loved it until the last 30 pages, and it fell apart (for me anyway).
I don't read much Christian fiction. The last fiction title I read was years ago... Frank Peretti/Ted Decker's House (or en Espanol, Casa). Good book. Loved it until the last 30 pages, and it fell apart (for me anyway).
Temp (and soon to be fired) employee Michael Spears writes an excellent blog post on the pitfalls, stresses, and successes of working at The Living Word (my Christian Bookstore).... including a Top 5 List of Lessons Learned @ TLW... below are my faves.
4. Everyone thinks they're entitled to something free. Because after all Christianity is like some sort of club right?
3. If the Bible doesn't say 'Holy' on it, then it's "straight from the devil."
1. Joel Osteen needs you to buy his book, his study guide, his boardgame, and his other book to support his ministry. [all of these are also available in Spanish]
Thanks, Mike. Really. Just please tell me you didn't write this while on the clock.
Michael Hyatt is a man I have much respect for. He's the President & CEO of Thomas Nelson Publishers. His blog on business, retailing, family, management, and multitasking has given me a lot to chew on... his twitter is factual, and challenging...
Then I read this, and once the frustration subsided... Clarity.
Michael, sincerely, thank you.
Not sure what exactly is going on in Eastern Europe these days, but at the "Luxury Show 2008" held in Bucharest, Romania these glamorous, expensive Gas Masks debuted. Evidently a company called Diddo Velema released these gas masks allowing you to face the apocalypse in style. Or buy milk at the corner store in your war-torn province...
Moving away from political commentaries...
Does anyone else think it's weird that a cross would be found on a Gucci-esque gas mask? Nevermind the fact it's a diamond-studded cross on the gas mask...
In our spiritually saturated society, is it possible that the definition, the symbolism, the meaning behind the cross is lost? Is it bad that we have become comfortable with the symbol, therefore not giving it the dignity and respect due it?
Better yet, how do we go back?
Thanks to DVICE for the link.
Capt. Bart Mancuso: [Ramius comments in Russian to Borodin that Mancuso is a "buckaroo". Ryan laughs] What's so funny?
Jack Ryan: Ah, the Captain seems to think you're some kind of... cowboy.
Captain Ramius: [in Russian] You speak Russian.
Jack Ryan: [in Russian] A little. It is wise to study the ways of ones adversary. Don't you think?
Captain Ramius: [in English] It is.
Hunt for Red October, 1990
I've started reading The Cult of the Amateur: how today's internet is killing our culture by Andrew Keen.
I know, I don't think it sounds like something I would read, either.
Let's be honest...
I am the amateur.
I am the hack.
I am the guy, according to Keen, that's killing the Internet.
To the loved ones of the Internet, I truly am sorry. I send you my condolences.
In the past five years, the Internet has 2.0ed. It's social. It's open. You can say what you want to say, do what you want to do, be who you want to be. And people will listen. Millions will watch some stupid YouTube video, hundreds of thousands will see your photographs, tens of thousands will read your article thinking you are an expert.
The Internet normalizes the playing field. Experts or newbie. Pro or Amateur. Everyone is level. And, according to Keen, this is driving the Experts nuts. Gotta love it.
Looking at my own small piece of the Internet... Do you know what my most popular article ever written is? The article that I wrote on Paula and Randy White divorcing. Life changing stuff I know. (I'm embarrassed that this is the article that I am known for.) Since I wrote the article, Google has me as it's #1 webpage when someone searches for "Paula Randy White". Check the graphic on the left. I'm #1... their (old) own church's website, "Without Walls" is #5. Dude, I beat their own website by an article I wrote... that's pretty sad...
Thus the normalization factor. All of a sudden I'm the expert on the Whites. (To the Whites, I'm not a stalker, really. I'm just a guy that knows how to play a game.)
Keen's view of the Internet sounds a lot like the Music Industry ten years ago, or the Motion Picture Association in the past five... We can save the world, change our culture if we do this or if we change that...
BUT you can play their game.
You can learn their systems, what makes them think.
You can learn their laws, respect their authority.
You can learn their language, communicate on their level.
You can learn their culture, modify from within (instead of fighting windmills)
To think that you can impact, change the culture without obeying it's rules is just silly. Instead of lamenting loss, figure out how to play the game. Leverage culture against itself...
This really has to be a spoof. Really. There's no way this is real...
What the Prosperity Gospel did for individuals, Christvertising hopes to do for businesses. Is your business in "God's good books?" Does your brand need "brand-targeted-prayer"? Do your business need help targeting the ultimate end user, God?
For a chuckle, check out the Christvertising website.
Unbelievable. Sad thing is there's probably a pretty decent demand for this service...
I've asked Ryan Eloe to step in as a guest blogger. Ryan is the General Manager @ C28 in West Palm... an old college friend who I convinced to move to Florida and help me start C28's ministry in Florida. He's married to Kim, and they are expecting their first kid in June.
I asked Ryan to share his thoughts on C28's ministry...
- - - - - - - - - -
"Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart." 2 Corinthians 4:1
Because of the adventures, trials, and experiences at c28 this past year 2 Corinthians 4 speaks to me in amazing ways. One of the most important messages to me in this chapter is that it speaks on the topic of the ministry that we have through God's mercy.
The word 'ministry' in Greek is diakoniva (dee-ak-on-ee'-ah), which simply means service. It's a similar word to that which the word deacon comes from.
If we are truly interested in doing or taking part in ministry (diakoniva), we need to serve.
I believe, if we want to minister to the glory of God, then we should provide the most excellent service. Service that would represent that God who has saved us, loves us, and has mercy for us day in and day out.
Fortunately for us who minister at c28, we are in a unique place because we are expected as a mall-based retail store to provide customer service. Every store has customer service, some stores have horrible customer service, some stores elite customer service, some have good customer service.
But because we want to do ministry in the name of Christ we strive to provide ultimate customer service.
For us, this means a lot of things. It means that we'll try to do everything we can to help people find what the clothes/music they're looking for. Similarly we'll help people when they are searching for a certain size, the perfect gift, or the the latest CD.
But sometimes more than a nice button up shirt, or an amazing CD...people are looking for something different. In these cases we help people find the truth about Jesus Christ, the savior of the world. Or sometimes we help people when they are searching for faith, hope, truth, and grace in this world. We'll offer to pray with people, share with people, encourage people, because more than a new purse, belt, or rockin' t-shirt these needs are greater.
For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts...and it is our prayer that Jesus' ultimate service to us in his death, will allow us to serve our customers in a way that will help them see and experience the grace, truth and love of Christ.
"For God, who said, 'Let light shine out of darkness,' made his light shine in our hearts..." 2 Corinthians 4:6a
Okay, so I got Facebook'd by Caitlin Berndt today...
So, in order to keep an employee happy, including ones that live in other cities and come back to the bookstore to work for holidays and special occasions, I need to say thank you. To all of my emps I need to say thank you.
So yes, I'm thankful Caitlin is coming back... but I'm more appreciative, thankful for the rest of my employees.
If you knew me when I first bought the bookstore, you knew me as a CONTROL FREAK! In recent months, though, I've learned to trust my emps... and have seen how they all have gone above and beyond my expectations. And now as my attention is focused on CFDT, CFR, CFH, CFWK, CFPB (and NOT on The Living Word) it's great to know that there are dependable, stable people watching my best interests at the bookstore. And that while I'm not there, the store still functions.
Kyle, Bri, Scott, Kathleen, Marlene, Priscilla, Steve, Deanna, Caitlin (and maybe Michael)... thanks for continually meeting people's needs and serving the customers @ The Living Word.
As a side note, there has been a lot of research recently discussing the stability of Gen Y in the workplace. Check out some of these stats.
Thanks, guys and gals, for being trustworthy, driven individuals. Christmas is going to be crazy.
Another black eye for Christian Retailing this week. An Iowa Senator (Carles Grassley, R) is investigating six televangelists and their finances for possible fraud. The six include: Benny Hinn, Creflo Dollar, Joyce Meyer, Kenneth Copeland, Paula White, and Eddie Long. Check out the AP article for a more complete breakdown. I'll share a brief quote from Grassley:
"I'm following up on complaints from the public and news coverage regarding certain practices at six ministries," Grassley said in a statement Tuesday. "The allegations involve governing boards that aren't independent and allow generous salaries and housing allowances and amenities such as private jets and Rolls Royces."
It's been a rough year for Christians on the national scale. Paula & Randy White. Juanita Bynum & Thomas Weeks. Ted Haggard. Now possibly five more people's ministries could be taken from them. (It could be argued that Paula's testimony was already taken when she divorced her husband because "God told her to.")
At this time, note, there is no information to cast blame, to point a finger. People often say "where there's smoke, there's fire." I personally have been in multiple situations where that was not the case. And I hope that the Senatorial probe answers all questions clearly so, if not true, these people can continue to serve God.
Honestly, though, can the Christian Retailing Industry take another hit? Three of the six authors were in TLW's Top 10. Another is probably the most requested special order we have through the store.
Yesterday, I wrote an article about how Apple was able to reinvent themselves. It's time for Christian Retailing to reinvent themselves. Recently I would have told you that it was time for them to close their doors (as many are). However, there is a benefit, a ministry, a need that we provide.
Just this past week, a mother who just watched her son die came in the bookstore looking for help. We can do things, and go places, that a church might not be able to.
So we are needed. We're not going to throw the baby out with the bath water. But maybe it's time to get some new heroes, some new names, some new diehards. Maybe that's the problem. We're promoting the names instead of the message? Or maybe we just need to forgive these six (if there was misappropriation) and move on with our life?
Honestly, right now I've got more questions than answers. But I do know this: something has to change.
You know, if anyone would get excited about this, it should be me. Sadly, I'm not.
Chinavasion is debuting a new Cross-Shaped MP3 player hoping to tap into the high-tech religious market. (Yeah, does sound like an oxymoron... "high tech" "religious"... (Yes, I used moron in yet another post)...
Honestly, I'm not that impressed, or amused. I'm not a fan of baptizing established technology to target the pew. Now if we could only figure out a way to create a new idea, instead of converting already established ideas.
Oh, wait, we already have that device. It's wireless, too. We call it prayer.
So, I think I'll hold off on the Cross-shaped MP3 player. For future, please don't try to "baptize" technology. Most technology doesn't do well in water. Unless it could walk on water. Then that would just be weird.
Thanks to Engadget for the tip.
Ryan shares a story about being at C28 that I thought warranted sharing... below is a dialogue with him and a customer @ C28. note: PBA=Palm Beach Atlantic University
PBA Student: This isn't Eve on this shirt is it?
Ryan: Why, do you want it to be Eve?
PBA Student: No, I like the shirt but I really don't want Eve on a shirt.
Ryan: It's no one in particular just a graphic.
PBA Student: I wish it was someone so it had an explanation.
Ryan: You should make up an explanation, pretend it's Queen Esther.
PBA Student: I love Esther, we just talked about her in one of my Bible classes.
Ryan: Well, you see Biblical historians have long tried to speculate what Esther looked like, and this is what they agreed on.
PBA Student: I love this Esther shirt, I'm definatly going to get it.
The Christian "Industry" (I really hate to call it that) is taking a pounding. Megachurch pastors Randy and Paula White announced this past week they are filing for a divorce.
"It is the most difficult decision that I have had to make in my entire life," said the Rev. Randy White, 49. "I take full responsibility for a failed marriage - 100 percent. I don't blame Paula, and I don't blame other parties. But as the man of the house, I take full responsibility for that."
And now we're back here again. People who are supposed to be living the example of a Godly life, failing. Paula has a huge following nationally through her books, video and TV ministry, and is easily in the top five female authors coming out of The Living Word. Randy is well known as well (he's famous for doing the Pamela Anderson/Kid Rock wedding... and we all know how that ended...)
The real question I want to ask is: Why is this happening? Are people taking ministry positions they shouldn't have? Are they being thrust into the national limelight that they are not prepared for? Are they living their lives for ego, or for God? Or is Satan doing a very good job at dismantling powerful, God-fearing tools for the Kingdom?
When I bought The Living Word back in 2003, the best-selling book was Thomas Week's Teach Me How To Love You. Thomas is married to Juanita Bynum, a well known evangelist, recording artist, and author. Together, they were Pastors of a church they co-founded in Duluth, Georgia called Global Destiny Church. Teach Me How To Love You is a book about their relationship, how it started, and how to become a "Godly Mate" to your spouse. Sounds good, right?
Weeks and Bynum made the news earlier today. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Juanita was severly beat by her now estranged husband in a hotel parking lot. Another story gone bad. Feels like we were just having this conversation about Ted Haggard.
Rule of thumb, I guess, is if you're going to write a book about Christian Marriages, make sure you're marriage is strong enough to handle it.
God, help us to live a life worthy of Your sacrifice. Give us the patience to work through problems and the strength to deal with the consequences of our actions.
After seeing the success of NOTW in other Christian bookstores, and admiring the style @ the C28 location in West Palm Beach, we decided to bite the bullet and bring the line into the Living Word. For those of you guys who are dying to get a C28 into Miami... it's time to show the love and buy the stuff @ my bookstore. Create the demand, and I guarantee I'll get one down here.
Anyway, for those of you who have admired the NOTW designs from afar, but were too lazy to make the drive up to West Palm Beach to buy the shirts, "select designs" will be available at TLW. We brought in several of the wovens and polos. Definitely worth looking at... But the super-cool stuff is still up @ C28.
Oh, and whether you buy at TLW or at C28, remember that starting Saturday (8/4) we are going into our Tax-Free Holiday... which means that all clothing, books, apparel, and many other items are Tax-Free! Looking to buy some stuff? Save 7% on most of the inventory at TLW and at C28. Thank you very much State of Florida! Tax-Free Holiday ends Monday, August 13th.
Oh, and one more thing. Since I'm advertising here... C28 is bringing in several lines of shoes designed by NOTW. Let me know what you think. I'm legitimately looking for feedback here. What do you think?
What you are seeing above is a series of iPod Shuffle FAKES that are being distributed. Fakes meaning they look like the real thing, but not distributed by Apple, Inc. These counterfeits are made by a company called MANNdigital. You need to notice that they are GOOD fakes. How good? You tell me.
Other than a missing Apple Logo on the packaging, and the reversing of the volume/track change on the FakeShuffle, there is no distinction between the two. I could even argue that once the fake shuffle is out of the packaging the average user would not be able to tell the difference between FakeShuffle and Apple's iPod Shuffle.
Come to find out that MANNdigital does more than just FakeShuffles. They also do FakeNanos.
Let me get to my point. I love the fact that someone has the guts to go toe to toe with the Apple Legal Department. Knowing their track record, Apple's lawyers will have these guys for breakfast. What angers me, though, is all the effort that with all the effort that goes into reverse engineering the Shuffle or Nano, couldn't MANNdigital have come out with something original on their own.
Original thought is so rare these days. We work so hard to make ourselves just like those we look up to (some would say envy) when in the end if we focused that energy into reinventing ourselves, how far could we have gotten?
Don't settle for a re-hash of someone else's idea. Don't think because it worked in another situation on the other side of the country it will work for you. See the big picture. Modify it. Make changes. Question it. And once you work out the kinks run full steam ahead.
MANNdigital, don't settle to continue to be in Apple's (Legal) shadow. Strive to be better, more creative. On a side note, Good Luck with those fake iPhones. Let me know how that works out for you.
I was doing some spring cleaning at the bookstore, returning older stock, and I ran across a copy of from this day forward: making your vows last a lifetime" by Ted & Gayle Haggard. You, of course, will remember Ted as the head of the Evangelical organization, pastor of a megachurch in Colorado Springs, CO who had a scandal several months ago surrounding methamphetamine usage and an ongoing homosexual relationship with male escort Mike Jones.
Does anyone else catch the irony of this situation? from this day forward was published in April 2006. November 2006, Haggard was a household name as the story broke surronding him and Mike Jones, and the advice that Haggard probably wrote in this book went out the window. (In fact, Jones said the relationship went for three years. So when this book was being written/published, Haggard was literally cheating on his wife with another man).
I don't want to delve into the story.
I do, however, have a dilemma.
What do I do with this book?
It's not a bad book. The truths in here are good. Here are some quotes.
* If we live according to God's plans, we receive blessings that benefit us and our family and extend to future generations.
* The goal is for a wedding to brim with significance for the bride, groom, weding party and guests so that everyone can understand the holy solemnity and joy God intended for marriage.
* Every couple must determine the mission and calling of the family, and commit to be joined together for that purpose.
* In marriage, the husband sacrifices his life, and the wife responds by laying her life down, too.
That's good, right? It may be that because Amy's in Ukraine I'm a little more sappy romantic, but if I was to give people advice, I would say something like that. This tells me that the truths in here are valid. Biblical grounded.
"But Haggard's a hypocrite." So because he's a hypocrite and didn't mean these words I should just throw the book away, right? It's trash and he's a sinner. Burn in Hell, Haggard!
Wait, I'm a hypocrite too! I'm a sinner, like him, forgiven by grace. Aren't we all sinners, really? Have we lived a perfect, sinless life? How can I advise someone on something when I, too, have made mistakes in the eyes of God. So I should sell it.
But by selling it I am endorsing a man who wrote a book making his vows last a lifetime, yet was cheating on his wife when he wrote it. Not exactly a good role model for my customers.
See my dilemma?
Haggard had another quote that I find valid:
* No matter what or who we are today, by the grace of God and the forgiveness of Christ, we can become something more, something better.
I hope in time Haggard's wife, children, church and the Christian community will forgive Haggard. Through Christ, we know God will...
If you were me, what would you do with this book?
Time Magazine and I, we're like on first name basis now. We're tight, yo.
Check it out. I wrote a rather lengthy article on the fact that the downfall on Christian Retailing is not a "downfall" but a thinning (survival of the fittest). It wasn't my best work, but I was vocal in my tirade.
Well, Time Magazine has an article on Christian Business (Praying for Profits) that references Christian Beauty Salons, Insurance Agents, Bookstores, and even Aurelio over at C28. It's a great article.
Then something cool happened:
What you're seeing is a list of Time.com's "Related Material" on the online article, and the #1 Referred Blog is my Christian Retailers going the way of the buffalo post. WooHoo!
So welcome Time.com, glad to have you on board. If you'd ever like me to co-write anything for you, I'd be glad to.
Be sure to check out the referred blogs (and the rest of the article) on page 4 of the Time.com article.
Below is an article from CROnline discussing the morbid state of Christian Retailing. Christian Bookstores are struggling. As far as I know, 10 stores in the state of Florida have gone out of biz in 2007. I'm not going to make excuses for it. Just as the church struggles to stay relevant to the culture, so does the Christian Bookstore. There are some things I love about the industry. There are some things I loathe (but that is a post for another day). Just as the church struggles to stay relevant into today's culture, I believe Christian bookstores are struggling to stay relevant. Unfortunately, for 10 stores in Florida, it was a losing battle.
Let me reassure you. The Living Word is not going out of biz. While the industry is struggling, God continues to provide. We are stable, healthy, and show no signs of letting up. Thank you to all of my customers and employees for helping TLW and C28 stay active in ministry.
God, help us to stay relevant in Miami, in West Palm Beach. May we stay focused and driven, not on Balance Sheets and P&L Statements, but on the ministry you have set out for us.
Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart.
II Corinthians 4:1
I'm going to add commentary in the article below. My words will be italicized and tabbed. Enjoy.
Thanks to CROnline for the report.
Small Christian retailers losing out to chains, the Internet
By Zachary Lewis
Religion News Service
CLEVELAND — David may have defeated Goliath, but in the battle between independent Christian bookstores and retail giants, it's the little guy who’s losing.
If what’s happening here in the Midwest is any indication, small, locally owned religious bookstores and church suppliers are going out of business, conceding defeat to the Internet and big-box retailers like Wal-Mart, Borders and Target.
One of the latest to fall: The Word Christian Resource Center in suburban Parma Heights, the third and final store in the small chain to close since 2005.
“People don't understand what’s going on,” said owner Rob Haskell, whose parents started The Word in 1976. “If people are willing to give up their local jewels, that’s one thing. ... But if they're not, they need to support the independent stores.”
Honestly, I never really understood this mindset. If another business has a better business model than me, (read: if they can sell items cheaper) then good for them. It frustrates me that some of my contemporaries think that the customers HAVE TO SHOP with them or they are being unfaithful, unspiritual. Guess what. I'd do the same too. In the day of $3.29/gal for gas, you can't blame people for being cheap with their funding.
But, since we don't sell Answer Me Jesus, I can mock this all day long. Then I realize I'm mocking the people who are mocking Christians, who will undoubtedly mock us that we are mocking them.
I'll let you come to your own conclusions on the conversions of the Magic 8 Ball that prides itself in literally telling you WWJD - What Would Jesus Do?
What scares me is that if I did sell these at my Christian Bookstore, I'm sure I would sell them in the hundreds.
Thanks to The Friendly Athiest for the heads up
The average American motorist is driving substantially fewer miles for the first time in 26 years because of high gas prices and demographic shifts, according to a USA TODAY analysis of federal highway data.
The growth in miles driven has leveled off dramatically in the past 18 months after 25 years of steady climbs despite the addition of more than 1 million drivers to the nation's streets and highways since 2005. Miles driven in February declined 1.9% from February 2006 before rebounding slightly for a 0.3% year-over-year gain in March, data from the Federal Highway Administration show. That's in sharp contrast to the average annual growth rate of 2.7% recorded from 1980 through 2005.
Factors contributing to the slowdown:
•Soaring gas prices. Seven of 10 Americans are combining trips and taking other steps to reduce driving, according to a USA TODAY/Gallup Poll May 4-6. Don Harrison, 32, of Indianapolis, no longer visits his relatives across town on the weekend; he saves gas by simply calling them.
•Expanded public transportation. More people took public transit last year than at any time in 49 years. "We're seeing suburban locations create new transit systems," says William Millar, president of the American Public Transportation Association. "They're expanding into areas that never thought they needed transit because they could do everything by car."
•Demographic shifts that de-emphasize the need to drive. Many Americans, particularly young, upwardly mobile singles, are moving downtown and revitalizing cities. "(They) don't have to live the way of the Ozzie and Harriet model — two parents, suburban, who drive to the city," McMahon says.
Jeff's Take: As a retailer, I'm screwed. This is a big reason why the economy is diving. People are not interested in driving (to spend up to $3.50/gal at the pump.) Our sales, especially at the bookstore, are directly releated to the price at the pump. Stupid oil shortage.
Now, more importantly, what does the church do to continue to reach out? Church Relevance gave us three options that I thought were cool:
1) make your services worth the trip
2) multi-site campuses
3) Internet Campus
At CF, we have nailed #1. We're still working on #2 (Homestead is going strong... wonder where the next campus will be). #3 is interesting to me. I've heard about Internet Campuses. I know LifeChurch.tv does it. I've heard that Seacoast does it (haven't seen it yet.)
This makes me curious. I love the Internet. I love church. But what does the two together really look like? If you've worked at/attended an Internet campus, e-mail me. I'd love to hear your success stories.
First off, kudos on getting the stock (AAPL)
up to over $100. What you've done with Apple Computers, Inc. truly is a thing of beauty. As an Apple Business Consultant, as well as a MacGeek, I love seeing you do what you do. There really is no better phrase in Macdom than Keynote Speech by Steve Jobs. Thank you for continuing to stretch the boundaries of usable technology, and I hope to have an iPhone in my hand very, very soon.
I wanted to write you, though, while I wear one of my other hats. Steve, I run several Brick and Mortar retail businesses. Yeah, I know. It was just a rumor that we are extinct. It gets worse Steve. Both my locations sell music. At least they used to sell music. We're down as much as 33%. That's a lot of $$$. And honestly, I feel that your iTunes Music Store is completely to blame.
I'm not bitter though. As an Apple fan, I know when I'm beat. Your biz model works. You've sold over a billion $0.99 songs.
How can we, as struggling Brick and Mortar stores, compete with the ability to download CD Quality sound straight to your computer? I know I can't compete with a better product...
Wait, it is a better product, right Steve?
One thing always bothered me about your 99cent tracks. 128kbps AAC file, the format that you use to record the tracks you sell. You see, I've bought your tracks and listened to them. It's nice. Then I've listened to tracks I've burned into my computer at 256kbps AAC file. What I found was that my 256kbps files actually sounded better in my truck sound system, in my home theater system, even in my iPod earbuds. But even worse than that was that both of these files didn't sound as good as the CD being played off the disc. I struggled with this, because these "CD Quality AAC files" you're selling, weren't CD Quality.
Nevertheless, these pseudo-quality CD Quality Tracks have done a number on estabilshing you in the music industry. 100,000,000 iPods don't hurt, either.
Then Steve, you did something I, and many brick and mortar shops, appreciate. You announced a partnership with EMI Music to sell "DRM Free Tracks" for $1.29. Steve, you understand DRM Free better than I will, so I won't revisit it here. But what slipped through many people's view is that you announced at the same time... these more expensive tracks are 256kbps AAC files.
Why I love this, Steve, is that you are acknowledging that your billion+ AAC files at 99cent are not comparable to the CDs we sell in brick and mortar shops. Quite literally, you were never really comparing Apples to Apples (pun intended) were you. Higher priced 256kbps tracks tell me that they are a better audio quality track than 128kbps.
Whether 256kbps AAC files are closer to TRUE CD QUALITY remains to be seen. However, to get closer to CD QUALITY SOUND a user has to spend $12.97 to get the highest quality audio possible for iTunes standards (but it's still NOT uncompressed CD QUALITY). And what makes me smile, is that your acknowledgement is letting brick and mortar shops back in the game.
When you announced the iTunes Music Store the cost of a CD in brick and mortar shops were $17.98. Today the average CD is $13.97. When we were battling your 99cent tracks it was ugly. We were losing our shirts. Music sales are dropping significantly. We can't compete with the $9.99 Album. We were chopping our profits in an attempt to match that $9.99 album. However, if we compare Apples to Apples (once again, pun intended) brick and mortar shops do sell a superior product.. But if the public recognizes that the album you're selling isn't CD Quality, and we're selling CDs at practically the same price point as your "DRM Free" tracks... all of a sudden I think we have a chance to survive.
So Steve, thank you for breathing life into a struggling retail industry. Keep pushing $1.29 256kbps AAC files. May we both find profit for a long time to come.
It's ironic how God can give you a taste of humility every once in a while. I've been known to gripe about Cost of Goods Sold, Freight Charges, Bad Economy, Criminal Masterminds, and weak frontlists... but I don't have to deal with this...
GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip (AP) - Three explosions hit Gaza City early Sunday, damaging two Internet cafes and a Christian bookstore.
No one was hurt and no group claimed responsibility for the blasts, which took place around 3 a.m. local time, Palestinian security officials said. Several similar attacks on Internet cafes and music stores in recent months have been claimed by a little-known extremist Islamic organization calling itself the "Swords of Truth."
The officials would not speculate on the identity of those behind the Sunday attacks, saying only that the incidents were under investigation. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the press.
Heavy external damage was visible at the three stores. At the bookstore, which is funded by American Protestants and known as the Bible Society, a number of books were also burned in the explosion.
In recent months, about three dozen Internet cafes and shops selling pop music have been attacked in the Gaza Strip, with assailants detonating small bombs outside businesses at night, causing damage but no injuries. Palestinian security officials have said they suspect a secret "vice squad" of Muslim militants.
God, protect our brothers overseas as they share Your message. Give them the strength to rebuild, the patience to see Your path, and the faith to know that You are still in control.
Thanks to Joel Rosenberg for the heads up.
Anyone looking for an editor? I think I know one looking for a job... Article taken from Monday Morning Insight.
Worst Mistake in a Christian Press Release Award: “Woman, Thou Art Loose”
This story is true... it comes courtesy of The Dallas News Religion Blog. They write, "We ink-stained wretches have all made our share of mistakes, but the one in the press release below is a holy doozy. The proper title of the book by Dallas' own Bishop T.D. Jakes is "Woman, Thou Art Loosed!" not "Woman thou art loose."
Has Former NFL Running Back Written the Next ‘Woman Thou Art Loose’?
SAN FRANCISCO, Apr. 2 /Christian Newswire/—What has ignited such a fiery passion in the heart of former Oakland Raider Jerone Davison Pastor/Author of the phenomenal book “The Spiritual Fragrance of a Woman”? What has motivated a world class athlete to write a book to women? It’s only been two months since the book has been on the market and already women across the country are finding its aroma to be a refreshing motivator. Many are comparing the books popularity to Bishop T.D. Jake’s “Woman thou art loose”. Calls and emails are fling in from everywhere ordering books for their youth, singles and women’s groups. “My heart is blessed that so many are finding the book unique and powerful. I simply desire to see the Daughters of God fulfilled and Loved as does God.”—Jerone Davis
Osteen podcasts hit No. 9 on iTunes. Best-selling FaithWords author Joel Osteen’s audio podcast hit No. 9 of all podcasts on iTunes for the week of March 11. The audio podcast has been in or near the top 10 since January. More than 1 million downloads were recorded in February. The audio and video podcasts have grown in popularity since their 2006 launch, and have been in or near the No. 1 inspirational category spot at iTunes for six months. The audio podcast has consistently ranked in the top 20 overall and video in the top 40. The free, 30-minute podcasts of Osteen’s weekly TV message are downloadable to iPods, PCs, or MP3 players.I love Joel. Believe me, he's helped me pay the bills on more than one occasion... Your Best Life Now has been one of my bestselling books. Although I hope my customers will grow into a deeper theology, I know that Joel serves a purpose for the Kingdom. More importantly, though, it's interesting to see that the nation is somewhat interested in getting religious content through the podcasting method. UPDATE: 48 hours after this was originally posted, Joel had dropped out of the Top 10 to the 12th position.
Monday Morning Insight posted a great blog last week comparing the environment/ambiance/staffing of Starbucks to that of the church.
To quote MMI:
Where Starbucks has made the biggest impact, I think, is in three areas:
1) They have consistently superior service.
2) They create excellent environments.
3) They have the stated goal of being the third place [behind] work and home.
JEFF'S TAKE: There's much in there, relating to the church, and also into retailing. It goes into detail on how we need to improve our service within the church, we need to create environments for worship and fellowship, and how/why we need to be the "third place". Enjoy the article!
Yet another blog lamenting the demise of the Christian Music Industry, and by proxy, the Christian Retail Industry as we know it. This, however, is someone with a little more insight... David Bach, former bassist for Guardian and exec for EMI and BMG Music Distributors...
Ultimately, Christian Retail is doomed. Just like the Home Depot’s of the world drove out the smaller hardware stores—these so-called secular “Big-Box” retail outlets will eventually crush the smaller Christian retail outlets. Please don’t try and spiritualize this and say it’s a victory for the supposed “godless world” at large. Christians haven’t stopped consuming Christian products—it's just that the bigger retail market was willing to sell it to them —and with more competitive pricing. Remember…secular retail wants to sell what people will buy.
It is a wake up call, to be sure. I agree that the industry is in trouble. I agree that music sales will EVENTUALLY disappear. (I do not agree that it will be 18-24 months). Within the industry we can either evolve our stores, find something else to stand on and make our stores, our businesses relevant to the culture around us... or we might as well give up now because the end is coming soon.
If you're involved in the industry, check out Bach's Godsmack series. If nothing else, it should serve as a wake up call...although the hour is much too late for wake up calls. Lamenting the loss will not allow the industry to survive. We must find another revenue channel to tap, or expand our other channels.
The following is a list 10 Deadly Sins of Preaching as compiled by John Ortberg when speaking at the National Pastors Convention in San Diego this week. Thanks to Out of Ur for taking notes and sharing them!
1. The temptation to be inauthentic
We want to present an image to others that makes us appear more holy, intelligent, or godly than we actually are. In the end this is a foolish pursuit because the truth of who we are will always leak out.
2. The temptation to live for recognition
After finishing a sermon the question that runs through most of our minds is, did they like it? But we need to learn to root our identity in something other than applause. Ortberg cited Dallas Willard’s ability to present his material and give no thought to people’s reactions. He’s like a child who releases a helium balloon. He says what God’s given him to say, and simply lets it go.
3. The temptation to live in fear
What if I fail? That question plagues many pastors. But there is a difference between failing at something and being a failure. You are not a failure. Again, our identity must been hidden in Christ and not our accomplishments.
4. The temptation to compare
With the radio, television, and the internet our generation faces this temptation more than any previous generation. Our culture of celebrity pastors causes us to compare ourselves to others. This does nothing good for the soul.
5. The temptation to exaggerate
This seems closely linked to temptation number one. Overstating facts is how we often try to manage our image and appear better than we are. John also linked this to plagiarism—passing someone else’s story, sermon, or idea off as our own to win approval.
6. The temptation to feel chronically inadequate
(I couldn’t write fast enough to take notes on this point. Does that make me an inadequate blogger?)
7. The temptation of pride
Having people listen to you give a monologue every week can make you prideful. The antidote? A wife. (Ortberg’s joke, not mine.)
8. The temptation to manipulate
Having a pulpit and speaking the words of God might give some a power rush. We mustn’t use our position to manipulate people into doing what we want them to do.
9. The temptation of envy
This seems related to number four, the temptation to compare. But envy carries the nuance of desire and ambition. We not only compare ourselves to another preacher, but we seek to achieve what they have. Such selfish motivations will undermine our spiritual health.
10. The temptation of anger
John read this quote from Henri Nouwen that says it all:
Anger in particular seems close to a professional vice in the contemporary ministry. Pastors are angry at their leaders for not leading and at their followers for not following. They are angry at those who do not come to church for not coming and angry at those who do come for coming without enthusiasm. They are angry at their families, who make them feel guilty, and angry at themselves for not being who they want to be. This is not an open, blatant, roaring anger, but an anger hidden behind the smooth word, the smiling face, and the polite handshake. It is a frozen anger, an anger which settles into a biting resentment and slowly paralyzes a generous heart. If there is anything that makes the ministry look grim and dull, it is this dark, insidious anger in the servants of Christ.
Jeff's Take: Although it's for a Pastor's conference, these are excellent for any leadership position, within the church or within the corporate sector. (As a matter of fact, I found a new blog (Business as Mission) when researching this one that focuses on forming "GREAT COMMISSION COMPANIES".) So these principles can work! The bad news is that I'm guilty of 9 of the 10 temptations. Please don't e-mail me guessing which one I actually don't deal with. That will make me angry and I'll be guilty of all 10!
Regardless of church or biz, we are imperfect people failing to live a perfect life to honor a perfect God. Did we have a chance to succeed? Not really. Thank God He uses us despite our character flaws, blemishes, and imperfections and allows us to be part of His plan to change the world.
God, help me to work on my weaknesses. Turn them into Your strengths.
Perry Noble, Pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, SC posted some controversial thoughts on Blue Laws, which in South Carolina restrict businesses from opening on Sundays. He is very passionate on the topic; Below are some exerpts on the subject:
I know I will take heat for this…but frankly I do not care. If you are a Christian then please hear me–it is ridiculous to think that sealing off options for people on Sunday’s will drive them to church! I say open the mall–open Wal-Mart…businesses do not scare me at all–BRING THEM ON! If NewSpring cannot provide more excitement than Wal Mart then we need to shut our doors! It’s up to the church to provide something worth coming to.
To be honest…this blue laws debate proves the hypocrisy of some Christians in our county. I mean, the same people that are yelling about stores being open on Sunday have NO problem when the county “temporarily” lifts the ban on blue laws during the Christmas season. Uh…WHAT THE HECK? If there is EVER a time to fight for the blue laws…shouldn’t it be Christmas? Uh…Jesus’ birthday!!! BUT…because it is convenient for many Christians to shop on Sunday during that time they say nothing
This whole thing is just stupid. Then there are the Christians who yell, “You should not work on Sunday!” I have two problems with that…I WORK ON SUNDAY…so does our entire staff. Like it or not–it takes WORK to make things happen around here.
And then (this BURNS ME UP) the same Christians that YELL about people NOT working on Sundays…what do they do when church is over? Answer: THEY GO OUT TO EAT!!! Uh…isn’t that forcing people to work on Sunday’s? HYPOCRITE…don’t you dare scream about people not working on Sunday’s and then go to a business that is open on Sunday and support it with your money!
NOW…I am ALL for a day of rest. God COMMANDS it in Scripture…if you will look at Exodus 20 the LONGEST of the ten commandments is the one about rest. BUT somehow I do not think that by this command that God meant that Christians are supposed to legislate morality and pass laws that force people to follow Him!
Jeff's Take: to be honest this is one of my biggest struggles in Christian retailing, not being able to be open on Sunday. Our Christian Bookstore is closed on Sundays. I have several customers (and some friends) that are adamant that we remain closed on Sundays. And I know the spiel, "Remember the Sabbath Day to keep it Holy". I hear you, I understand.
Jump to 2007. Here I am, as a Christian business, unable to open. Unlike South Carolina, Florida does not have "Blue laws", but I know if I open my business on Sunday it will receive persecution from Christians in the area. I've already seen it, as many Christians "boycott" the local Family Christian chain since they are open on Sunday. And I know the arguements...keep the Sabbath holy.
What I don't understand is isn't the Sabbath really Saturday? I'm no Biblical Scholar mind you. But isn't the seventh day really Saturday? Where does Sunday come in? Beyond that, though, a large (and growing) number of churches are offering a Saturday service. Many of my employees go to church on Saturday. If I was not on a church staff, Amy and I would attend our Saturday night church service. Does that make us any less "godly" or invalidate our spiritual experience because the service is not on the "cultural" definition of the Sabbath?
However, in Mark 3 Jesus healed on the Sabbath. He didn't "work" on a Sabbath, but he did minister. I believe the intent was not to prevent ministry, but to maintain a time to focus on God. "Which is lawful on the Sabbath? To do good and evil, or to save life or to kill?" Jesus ministered on the Sabbath. He basically slapped the religious leaders in the face. The intent is not to prevent ministry.
The thing that frustrates me the most is when I think of how much ministry we lose by not being open on Sundays. How many lives are out there that we lose impact? Who approaches our doorway, sees our "Closed" sign, and never comes back? If God gave us this ministry, are we being good stewards of it by closing our doors 14% of the time?
Understand me, though, I will never have the bookstore open on Sunday. It cannot happen. There are many Christians who would applaud our direction and support us. And there are some Christians who would make sure that the world knew were were sinning against God. For the reasons I shared, I don't believe it's a sin. I just hope that the ministry we "lose" are ones that God can afford. And I hope God forgives me for not using the gift He's given to it's fullest extent.
The Living Word has had some issues recently with theft. Within a month or so we've had a person literally stealing TVs out of the bookstore. The guy came back in the store to steal the other TV, and we caught him in the act (and scared him out of the store). Keep an eye on the guy in the blue shirt.
What you are seeing is a man walking in the store, going back to the video section and try to unplug the TV from the electrical outlet on top of the bookshelf. At one point he physically has the black plug in his hand. Jake goes back to check on him (having seen him act suspicious on the internal video system), and starts to call the police. The culprit gets spooked and runs out the store. If only Marlene had tackled him before he made it out the door! (Just kidding, Marlene doesn't tackle people anymore.)
My employees did an excellent job handling the situation. As we've said, customer service is the best way to prevent theft! Great job to Marlene and Jake!
Jeff's Take: I've learned that sometimes it's better to hesitate than to jump quickly. In this age of growth, move, run, sprint, grow... sometime it really is better to wait for God to strengthen you before you jump. More than anything, though, I think Tony serves a great reminder to the fact that with change comes struggles, questions, and even controversies... Plan accordingly, and be ready to take a stand when necessary. It has been in my experience in Ministry in Miami that the churches do not work well together. Actually, they just don't work together. Maybe if we stopped looking at numbers and figured out how to work together to save Miami-Dade County for Christ...
Wanted to update on the criminal activity and The Living Word over the weekend. The police were called onto our property once again because of theft. We acutally caught the guy this time, though, redhanded. Evidently one of my customers (an honest one) saw this guy stuff some little gift items in his pants and walk out the door. Rather than report the theft to an employee, the customer walked out and called the police for us, and the cops nailed the guy before he left the shopping center. This is the second time cops have been called out in 3 weeks. I'm hoping this is not a start to a trend. The person had $50 retail of plaques, and he said he was giving them to a friend of his who had a terminal disease.
Text taken from The Church Report.
Hidden Cameras Catches Collection Plate Thief
By CR Staff
(CR) – A 75-year-old church usher was caught pocketing money during the New Year’s Eve service at St. Michael the Archangel Catholic Church in Cary, N.C. Police were brought in to help nab the collection plate thief when a member of the church reported that it appeared the usher took money and the pastor witnessed suspicious activity as the collection plate was passed.
Using hidden cameras and marked money the police were able to catch the thief in the act. Police found a mark $20 bill in the pocket of James MacCaline. According to police captain Dave Wulff, MacCaline was arrested at the back of the church without incident and charged him with misdemeanor larceny.
This was the third attempted by the police to catch the theft. The Christmas Eve operation failed and the usher didn’t come to church Christmas day.
“Our options are limited in a case like this,” Wulff said. “We can walk up to the guy and ask him about it and have him say 'I don't know what you're talking about' or we can do what we did.”
MacCaline has no criminal record and has admitted to taking the money according to the police.
When Rick speaks, I listen. He's doing a survey on Christian blogging. I just filled it out, and if you blog YOU SHOULD TOO!
Check out the link. Enjoy!
Okay, call this a little bit of the pot calling the kettle black....
Community Christian Church in Naperville, IN started a "Christian No More" sermon series, featuring a series of video parodies of the "Mac vs PC" commercials. I'm a Mac guy and a Christian, so it should be a slam dunk. After watching the first video repeatedly, I've realized I sell just about every item the "Christian" is carrying. Therefore, according to the "Christ Follower" I am the source, the supplier, the dealer that is deceiving Christians away from being the "Christ Follower". All so that I can be filthy rich! MUA HA HA HA!
Sorry, do you think sarcasm carries on a blog? Probably not. Watch the vids. They are very telling of the mindset of the Emergent Culture (which I consider myself) and are a rude awakening towards mistaken priorities.
After watching the first one, you may be asking how I really feel? Several weeks ago I posted on my fear of tables, and I think you'll enjoy reading it again. Otherwise, watch the rest of the vids.
Christmas retail sales were ugly in 2006. Yahoo reports that the season was not quite as cheery as expected:
It was clear that shoppers, worried about the housing market and energy prices, were waiting to get the lowest possible prices — a cautious stance that's expected to continue this year...The tone was more pessimistic than optimistic... Although retailers had a good start during the Thanksgiving weekend, many stores struggled in December and a shopping surge just before and after Christmas wasn't enough to make up for lost sales.
This was echoed by CNN.com who predicted that some 33mil people hadn't started shopping before December 21st.
The bookstore had a slight growth over Christmas 2005. We were sluggish from Thanksgiving through December 20th, and then literally I think everyone remembered they had to buy gifts in that last couple days. We broke the highest-sales day on Friday, December 22nd, and then shattered the record again on Saturday the 23rd. Even with those two booms, our sales barely matched last year.
C28 is continuing to define who it is. West Palm Beach got something like 20" of rain in the 2 weeks before Christmas, so mall traffic never boomed for us. My employees did a great job of handling the customers that come in, but we need to get more customers. The good thing is there are now thousands of people walking around with c28 billboards on their chests, and we are continuing to see a grassroots movement rise.
Continue to pray. We need all the help we can get!
Christianity Today posted an article on the rise of secular companies trying to market straight to the church. Trying to replicate the grassroots boom of "Passion of the Christ" as well as "Purpose Driven Life", secular companies want to reach middle conservative America, and what better way to do it than through the pews.
Part 2 of the CT article is posting soon, and I'll reserve comment until then. For now, enjoy the Wharton (University of Pennsylvania) scholarly article, and let me know your thoughts.
Okay, first off I'm the first to admit that I'm biased here...I've been a Mac guy before I could spell "PC". I'm a biz consultant for Apple, and I'm glad to say I've been a stockholder before anyone knew what an iPod was... So when Apple speaks, I listen.
Red Herring posted an article recently on how successful Apple's Retail portion has been. And if you've been in an Apple Store lately, you know how busy they are. Here's a quote from the article:
Apple’s stores have hauled in annual sales per square foot of $4,032, compared with Best Buy’s $930, Neiman Marcus’ $611, and luxury store Tiffany & Co.’s $2,666, according to Bernstein.
Apple’s recipe works like crack. Apple gives customers instant gratification by keeping inventory in stores, unlike its rivals. Apple has opened its stores slowly, building up anticipation for its stores. Finally, those stores are some of the toniest in retail—encouraging customers to drop far more money than they might in a dusty computer shop or utilitarian web site.
What lessons can be learned here in the Christian Retailing area? Best Buy tries to be everything to everyone...from plasmas to kitchen appliances. And while there may be a need for that, does Best Buy have to fill that need? What if Best Buy slimmed down and focused on a niche, a market... and let someone else worry about some of the less-popular departments. At The Living Word we've looked at a lot of our sales, trying to figure out what we need to be. And honestly, a lot of the things that people would expect a Christian Bookstore to be, we're not going to be. Some people may be upset by that, but honestly it doesn't make sense (or cents) to do some of these things.
At the bookstore we could get bigger. We could expand our inventories. We could be everything to everyone. And we could get so big we couldn't pay the rent. Our employees could be clueless on what they were selling. Customers could get lost between the aisles. The store could feel like an empty warehouse. Instead, what if we did a smaller space, employed it with people passionate about God and product, and turned inventory like crazy.
What does a "Christian Bookstore" look like on crack? It's called C28. That's actually one of the things I love about C28. They know who they are targeting. They know their audience. Their goal is only their audience. If a product doesn't reach the audience, then don't carry the product.
Enjoy the article, and dream with me about what a "christian bookstore on crack" would look like. (Feel free to e-mail me on the whole "crack" reference too!)
Let me say first off that today is typically the second busiest day in the retail year, and both of my stores did very well. TLW continues to raise the bar of expectations, and C28 WPB is paving the road in the middle of spiritual unrest. God is good, and even though there are times when I question His timing, it's good to lean back on memories of successful days and know that He is in control.
It was really good to see all the customers come in today. This week in SoFL we've had nothing but rain, rain, rain, rain. It was like a cold front was coming in, but we never really got the cold front. Instead we had rain almost solid for a week. ARGH! Nothing kills biz like the rain. What was great about today is that it still rained, and the customers came out anyway.
I worked at the bookstore this morning. I thought they would need some help and they did. I worked the floor for the most part, answering questions for the customers while the emps ran the registers. We were clicking and the registers were ringing. Running a retail store in December makes up for the lousy 11 months leading up to it.
It's funny how God finds ways to humble you right before the whole pride thing kicks in. There was this woman I was helping in the Bible section. She was trying to find Bibles for her 2 twenty-something kids. They don't really go to church, and she was hoping to find something that was easy for them to understand. I was showing her some of the NIV Study Bibles, and explaining how study bibles work.
Lesson #1 in selling a Bible: Crack it open. Find a scripture and read it to the customer. Let them hear the language, see the text, see the helps. It's like sitting in a car you want to buy. You got to "feel" it before you can own it. So I opened up the Bible and flipped to a "random" verse. Usually I am quite specific on what verses I read to customers. Go with something simple, John 3, Luke 2, ets... In this Bible, the pages got stuck and I ended up in Matthew 21 and read the verse found in the upper right hand corner of the page... verse 12.
What's the big deal? This verse is my nightmare.
Jesus entered the temple area and drove out all who were buying and selling there. He overturned the tables of the money changers and the benches of those selling doves. "It is written," he said to them, " 'My house will be called a house of prayer,' but you are making it a 'den of robbers.'"
As a Christian retailer, my greatest fear is standing before my God and having him say "You made a mockery of me by selling _____________ in My Name." Really, I do fear that. I think sometimes as Christian retailers we try to justify what we're doing. So did the moneychangers. "Selling doves? We're providing a service? Well, the churches can't handle selling the doves to everyone! If we don't give them doves, then who else will? We have to pay the rent somehow? God made the doves, we're just the middleman for the people!" All of these may be valid arguments, but it evidently was bad enough to cause Jesus, a man who is known to literally turn the other cheek, to go medieval on some tables.
And I don't know about you, but I don't want to be on the wrong end of Jesus' temper. Would you? So yes, on the eve of this holiday season when we will do 3 months worth of sales in one month, I encourage you to join me in remembering the reason we celebrate.
Thank you, Jesus, for the opportunity we have to celebrate Your arrival, your name, your renown. May my actions, my intent, my life be perceived not as a moneychanger selling doves, but a person intent on impacting lives for your kingdom.
Okay, now I'm all about the independent retailers (I am one, twice) but even I think this is too far. If you don't agree with a company's business model, policies, or philosophy say so. You have that right. (And I hope you win, and take out all the other big-box stores out there). But leave your and my God out of it!
For those of you wanting more information, visit WakeUpWalMart.com
Thanks to CRonline.com for the heads up.
Wanted to update you on the criminal mastermind that has been terrorizing The Living Word. Yesterday one of our many criminal clients moved beyond stealing product, and we actually had a small TV stolen from our video section. Yes, a TV. How a TV disappears from a crowded store in the middle of Christmas sales is a little beyond me, but we're working through this issues.
On a more serious note, The Honey Baked Ham a couple doors down from me was robbed at gunpoint yesterday afternoon too. The thefts probably were not related. It's funny, once you start talking "gun" losign a tv here or there isn't that serious.
Please do me a favor. If you actually decide to shop this Christmas, please pay for your merchandise. Your retailers thank you.
Okay, I hear you. I've been so obsessed about the East Coast launch of the coolest Christian clothing store in the country, as well as the new Church Campus I am helping launch, that I have neglected to talk much about my first love, the Living Word Christian Bookstore. I do apologize for that. Many of my employees have said they feel like the Red Headed Stepchild sometimes, and we're doing everything we can to prevent that.
So how's the bookstore doing? Very well. The community continues to support us, and in an industry where Christian bookstores are dropping like flies we are continually trying to stay relevant to culture, and have seen growth and stability because of that. We are a healthy business and show no sign of decrease in sales, praise God.
However, if we do go out of business, I can tell you why it would happen... theft. I am continually shocked at how much stuff gets stolen from this bookstore. Just today, one of my employees brought in four jewelry bags from four Bob Siemon "True Love Waits" Rings. For those of you that do not know, a "True Love Waits" ring symbolizes the promise of sexual purity between a person and God/their future spouse. So basically I had someone steal four symbols of sexual purity. Makes you glad you're in the biz, don't it? We're staying sexually pure, but evidently the other nine commandments don't mean much! It's not just rings, either. Over the past 3 months I've had Gospel CDs valuing over $4,000 (retail) get stolen from the store as well.
All this begs another question: who wakes up in the morning and thinks, "Hey, I'm going to go rob that Christian store..." And once again, for the record...when we go out of business it will be because we've literally been robbed out of business. Honestly, I'm afraid to look at how much stuff is getting stolen because I'm too afraid of what I'll find.
Have a Merry Christmas! Show some love to your local retailers. It's not just the Christian Stores getting ripped off either. And if you see some guy peddling "True Love Waits" rings on the street, tell him Jeff at the Living Word says hello.
Ran across an article at ChurchMarketingSucks.com. (Please don't e-mail me about Sucks).
Church transfers ISPs, and in the process the ISP decides to sell the website domain name to a PORN WEBSITE! And oh, you just handed out thousands of flyers to kids announcing your Fall Festival, and it now has a website address with Porn on it!
It is times like this that I'm glad I no longer work with eBeliever. To this day, my ears are still burning from being yelled at by pastors or youth guys because of website problems. This must have been chaotic. Thankfully, the problem seems to be resolved, and there are currently no topless dancers available on the church's cyberspace.
It's a shame, though, the church probably had a huge increase in traffic those couple days before the DNS servers repropigated out. Hope they were able to build off of it.
We have a similar problem over at The Living Word. No, our website doesn't link to porn. The Christian Bookstore Association is an organization that supports Christian bookstores around the country. They have a 800 number that a person can call, and an automated phone system routs the call to the closest Christian bookstore to that person. So if Suzie in Topekia, KS is looking for a store, she'll call the 800 number, find a store in Topekia, and get connected to that store immediately. Sounds great in theory.
Evidently if you invert two of the digits, you get a "singles party line" and we have had several instances where guys have called in, and thinking they were looking for available singles in their zip code instead find a Christian bookstore on the other end of the phone. It's funny how quickly heavy breathing stops when they hear the word Christian.
Well, to my knowledge this has happened 4 times in 3 years. I've answered the phone on the first three, but the fourth one - the one that happened within the past week - was a little more awkward. One of my more innocent, quiet employees answered the phone. The guy, looking for love in all the wrong places, started into an inapropriate diatribe. She flips out, and tells the guy that this is a Christian bookstore. Ultimately, though, he does not care and keeps going... at which point she freaks out and hangs up the phone.
Not exactly porn, but I thought it was funny in a sad, demented way. The employee eventually healed, although she doesn't answer the phone anymore.
Anyone who is familiar with Macintosh Computers has probably heard of Guy Kawasaki. He has written a ton on the subject of technology as well as business, and is one of Apple's biggest fans! What I've found interesting was his recent blog "The Art of Projections in a Dotcom 2.0 World".
While the blog posting deals specifically with dotcoms, the business logic I believe works beyond the virtual world. I consider myself an unconventional businessman, especially in the Christian retailing world. Guy's blog, especially in dealing with 12 month forecasting instead of 60 month, is groundbreaking. The CBA Industry is in turmoil, yet it feels like people are not wanting to move or change because the forecast they did 4 years ago is still strong...the mere idea that we should reforcast every 3 months is unheard of... I recently asked someone in the industry how they were able to accurately compute Cost of Goods Sold since oftentimes our CGS differs from day to day. This person's response was: "We don't do it accurately. We've found that the stores that try to spend too much money caring about details that don't matter." What kind of utopian/dreamworld society do we live in where CGS doesn't matter? What's next, money growing on trees?
The CBA industry may be small, especially when compared to the "Big Box" stores we compete with. It's my forecast that unless our industry starts thinking beyond the survival mode they have suffered through in recent years and figure out how to adapt to the current world, we will lose what little relevance we have now.
I understand the need for Pastors in the industry, and I'm glad they are there. We need the spiritual leadership. However, if we don't get more grounded, business people in our industry, we have no hope of relevancy.