Tag Archives: Books

Story of Child Abuse from the Mothership of SGM-featured at Exchristian.net

3 May

exCLCer has posted her story of abuse at the hands of two pastors from CLC.   For those not familiar with Sovereign Grace Ministries, CLC (Covenant Life Church) was the founding church of the cult.  One of the founding pastors is CJ Mahaney, author and speaker in many of the new Reformed conferences.  CLC’s current  pastor is Josh Harris, author of I Kissed Dating Goodbye.

I attended SGM churches for almost a decade, including a brief period at CLC in Gaithersburg, MD.

I’ll let her story speak for itself:

http://new.exchristian.net/2012/05/losing-faith-gaining-facts-my-story-of.html

Christian Bookstores-Random Memories, part 3

2 May

Christian Bookstores are an interesting slice of life, for sure.  The following is less of a stereotyped discussion, and more of a random re-collection of some of my experiences at the store.

Study Bibles

Study Bibles are interesting creatures.  Not only do they have the Biblical text, but they usually include extensive study notes.  Some are just your basic Study Bible, meaning that they discuss different possible meanings of difficult passages,without too much of a slant.  Often times the study notes refer you to the original languages, or to the historical context, to help the reader fully understand a passage of scripture.

On the other hand, there are a plethora of Study Bibles that are pretty much nothing but slant.  By slant, I mean that the study notes will almost never stray from the systematic theology of its editors.  You have The Reformed Study Bible, The Baptist Study Bible, The Women’s Study Bible, The Men’s Study Bible, The Ryrie Study Bible, The Dake’s Annotated Version, The MacArthur Study Bible, The Jewish Study Bible,  ….. last I checked, there are over 100,000 listings for Study Bibles on amazon.com.

We often joked with customers, that the new Star Wars Study Bible was about to be released.  Of course, some of our customers would have gladly purchased a Study Bible mixed with quotes and pictures from George Lucas.

Occasionally, customers would come in and ask for the HIV Study Bible!  Not wanting to be rude, we’d lead them to the NIV Study Bible section and then quickly exit to the back room for a quick bellowing of laughter, before returning to assist our misspoken customer.

The Store’s on Fire (Can I Still Buy This?)

It was a Friday night, about 15 minutes before close, when we noticed an odd smell in the bookstore.  That smell was the smell of burning wires…an electrical fire had started and I wasn’t sure if we were about to go up in flames.  After a few minutes I saw smoke starting to come out of the ceiling, right over the CD section.  Then the fire alarm kicked on with flashing lights and a screeching sound blaring into the store.

I quickly ran over to a couple in the music section and told them that we had a fire in the store and we needed them to leave immediately.  They looked at me, paused, and then asked if they could finish shopping and check out first?  WHAT…There is a FIRE!  “Please,” I said, ” just take what you have in your hands and leave the store; do not worry about paying.”  They again shrugged and slowly made their way out, while smoke filled up the store.

I then ran up front to the registers where two employees were counting down the cash drawers and preparing the bank deposit.  “Please stop what you’re doing and leave the store!” I said.  “We have a fire!” I yelled, as I motioned them towards the door.

“But won’t our boss be mad if we don’t have the deposit ready?” said one of my employees.  What is wrong with you people, do you have a death wish?  “I don’t think he’s going to care about the deposit if this place bursts into flames and you’re still in here-GET OUT RIGHT NOW!”

“Good point!” one of them quipped.  They put down the cash drawers and exited the store.  Luckily, everybody was cleared from the building and the fire department came before it developed into a major fire.  There was only minor damage and the store was not even closed as they replaced the wiring in the ceiling.

I’m still shocked at how nonchalant everyone was in the face of a possible fire.  Did they not understand that fire can spread in seconds?  Did they think an angel would come to extinguish the flames because we were in a Christian bookstore?  I still scratch my head at this one.  I’m just glad nobody got hurt on my watch!

Rogue Employee of the Month

We didn’t really have an employee of the month, but if we did…here’s some of the folks that would definitely NOT have been nominated.  Instead, they might have won a rogue employee of the month award.  Considering most of them didn’t last much more than a month, I guess it would have been pointless.

I hired one guy, middle-aged, extremely polite and likeable.  And utterly unable to use a cash register or count out change correctly.  It was painful to have to hover and make sure he didn’t give back extra change.  He was always apologetic; he even fired himself when he realized that retail was just not his thing.  He would have received an honorable discharge as a rogue employee.

Then there was my “loafy” teenager that I hired to close the store.  I received a call from my boss, soon after I hired my teenage friend.  He showed me a tape from the in-store cameras of the night before.  It showed my teenage loafer sitting on the check out counter, facing away from customers in the store, occasionally picking his nose.  My boss actually made me show him the tape.  It was not a comfortable situation.

He did improve slightly (at least he stopped picking his nose), but he did get into a row with another teenage employee.  He called her fat.  Needless to say, his hours ended up being reduced. When he came back the next summer for a job, I politely informed him that I suddenly didn’t need any more employees.  He was rogue, but immature.

Another employee came to me after the store next door closed.  She was well liked, very friendly and older in a grandmotherly way.  I really thought she was going to help us out.  What I didn’t know was that she was almost legally blind and had a bad habit of just making things up for customers, instead of finding out whether something was available or not.  This was hurting business.  If that wasn’t enough, she also was in the advice business. As in, I corner you during your break and tell you what you need to do with your life sort of advice.  It had gotten so bad (unbeknownst to me) that my most trusted employee was in tears and about to quit.  I actually had to fire Grandma, because she wouldn’t stop cornering people even after being warned.

Last but not least, the roguest employee of them all was a seasonal hire from the local Christian college.  He was nice enough, still a little green, but trying his best.  He came in after about 2 weeks and was sick as a dog.  He sneezed and coughed on everyone before we sent him home, but within days, all of us were now fighting a cold.  He was due to cover me for the weekend so that I could take my wife out on a date.  He had been in earlier that day to cash his paycheck, so I was sure that I was good.  Just as we were dressed and heading out the door,  I received a call that he had not shown up for work and that the store was mobbed.  Ugh….I went into the store to help, and tried tracking down my rogue employee.  He never did answer his phone.  I had his folks number on his application, so I gave it a try. His mother, very apologetically, informed me that she had just received a call from him.  He was half way to Florida for spring break.  Yep…not much chance of that date happening now.

That’s what happens when you hire rogues…

Christian Bookstores-Part 2

29 Apr

I had promised to take you behind the shrouded mysteries of employers and employees of Christian Bookstores.  But the the comments after my last post,  made me realize that I had some more to say about it’s customers.

Biblereader is the one that asked about a very special breed of Christian Bookstore customer…..

The King James Only Customer

The KJV Customer usually will head straight to the Bible counter and begin to ask numerous questions about why you don’t carry a better selection of the King James Version.  When you inform Mr. or Mrs. KJV Customer that most people prefer to read an English translation that doesn’t require a Masters in Shakespearean English, they will launch into numerous  arguments to prove that the KJV is really the only Bible Translation that one should ever read.

One milder KJV Customer told me that  they had done a study (not sure who the they was she was referring to) and they found that the King James Version of the Bible was actually easier to read than any other Bibles.  Uhhhhh-no way Jose!  I grew up reading the King James and if there is one thing it is not, is an easy read.

Sometimes, I would cite some of the verses from the King James that I never understood, until I had read them in a modern translation.  Here’s a few of my favorites:

Psalm 23:1  “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want”

What the heck, why didn’t the Psalmist want the Lord as his Shepherd?  One customer accused me of being uneducated for not understanding what being “in want” meant.  I told this customer that a friend, who grew up in Great Britain , had told me that they had misunderstood the same verse in the same way.  Sheesh-if the English can’t understand proper English, than how can I?

1 Corinthians 5:7 “Purge out the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump”

I wonder why that wasn’t on any t-shirts or bumper stickers in the store?  Maybe we could have named our store New Lump Christian Books.  What is a new lump anyway?  On second thought…..

Some of the verses just cracked me up, because of ye old English phrasing.  Who can forget this one?

John 11:39 “Jesus said, Take ye away the stone. Martha, the sister of him that was dead, saith unto him, Lord, by this time he stinketh: for he hath been dead four days.”

Ah yes….he stinketh Lord.  As did the King James Version, as far as I was concerned.  It’s just a translation people! Sorry, but once I got my High School fingers on the newly completed NIV, there was no going back.

“Creepy Guy Who Hits on You” Customer

Ok…so being a guy myself, I actually didn’t have any guys hitting on me ( at least, none that I know of).  But I had many younger female employees, ages 16-25, that would often have Creepy Guy linger around the store, and vie for their attention.  Creepy Guy would ask one too many questions, or start asking a female employee whether they were married or not.  Some of the girls would get invites to Creepy Guy’s church volleyball game or he’d ask them if they were going to the next big Christian concert.  There was something a little awkward and well, creepy, in the way they would always seem to be avoiding the male employees and be sharking the younger females.

My wife even got hit on by one of our regulars when she was 6 months pregnant and showing.  When she got over the shock and pointed to her belly, the guy laughed nervously and then asked out the girl standing next to my wife…..I think she chased him out of the store with a King James Bible or threatened to tie him up and play Carmen’s “The Champion” if he didn’t exit the store.   Anyway, I think many times, Creepy Guy, was just a lonely guy who was socially awkward and had run out of options at their church singles group.

Last but not least, was the shoplifter.

Shoplifter

This had to be the worst part of my job.  Dealing with a shoplifter always left me with a pit in my stomach and the shakes.  It got so bad, that we had to install a whole anti-theft machine at the entrance to the store.

One time, I caught an elderly woman trying to leave the store with a couple Amy Grant CD’s and the novel Joshua-by Girzone.  She started yelling at me and telling me that she was in a Bible study with my boss.  I called the police and she was arrested (never fun).  It turns out she had warrants out in multiple States for shoplifting.

Then there was my Vineyard thief.  Back in the day, when Vineyard music was pumping out the best-selling worship CD’s.  Our little Vineyard thief would come into the store on release day, and we’d be missing a copy within an hour of the CD hitting the shelf.  We never did catch our Vineyard worship thief, and the irony of someone stealing a worship CD always miffed me.

Lastly, there was the shoplifter who stole us blind, but their conscience had caught up with them.  One time, it was a couple in marriage counseling .  They confessed to their pastor, that they had stolen over $10,000 worth of merchandise from our store.  He made them call the owner and work out a payment plan.  That ended up being one expensive counseling session!

Many time we’d get an anonymous letter, confessing their crimes and promising to send money for all the items they stole.  And if you want to know one of the most popular items stolen from our store….the Bible.  And it was almost always an expensive leather-bound Bible that would be swindled.

Nothing like feeding your faith, with a copy of God’s Word that you obtained while breaking the commandments.

Christian Bookstores-part 1

25 Apr

I worked in the Christian bookstore industry from 1988 until late 2010.  22 years of my life spent selling, promoting, and consuming the latest in Christian books, music, and movies.  If there’s one thing I know to be true, Christian bookstores are an incredibly unique part of the Christian experience.  You have everything from $250 leather bound Bibles, talking vegetable videos, and plastic wind up trucks with a decal that says “Jesus Loves You”.

But the most interesting part of the Christian Bookstore Industry are the people. The people that work at these stores and the customers who haunt their aisles are some the most colorful characters I’ve ever encountered.  So sit back, relax, and I’ll introduce you to some them.

The Customers

Most of your Christian Bookstore customers, are just your average church goers who stopped in to grab a greeting card or the newest book for their Bible study on Wednesday morning.  Very nice folks that strike you as the average family man/woman.

Then there’s prophecy man.

Every Christian Bookstore has one.  Prophecy man buys lots of books, well, on prophecy.  And not just any old prophecy…END TIMES PROPHECY (cue Vincent Price’s evil laugh).  Yes, the End Times and it’s nearing fulfillment is all this guy (and yes-it’s always a guy) can think and speak of, nothing else can hold his attention.  Often times, Prophecy man will greet you with a question.  Not the “How are you doing?” type of question, no…it’s usually a question like “Did you see what they are doing in China and this whole trade deal?” or “Did you know that the master decoder number for all Social Security Numbers is 666?”…and if warfare is breaking out, you can be sure he’ll detail every last word of Ezekiel 38 to prove to you that this event was foretold and that Jesus would be returning any day.

Yep, prophecy man will spend a lot of time and money in your store.  Which is a mixed blessing for your store.  Nice that he’s a regular customer that will spend most of his money on the books you sell on the topic.  But a mixed blessing, because he will often linger and corner an unsuspecting customer or employee into a drawn out discussion on prophecy.  This poor person is usually too polite to interrupt and will endure Prophecy Man’s latest take on the co-conspirators of the Anti Christ, who is about to emerge.  And the list of co-conspirators is always impressive.  The President, The CIA, Trilateral Commission, and the favorite of all-the United Nations.  According to prophecy man, they are all working for the Beast and are about to unleash the End Times on us all.  The most redeeming quality of Prophecy Man is that he’s willing to pay top dollar for any book on the subject.  Which is unlike one of my other favorite Christian Bookstore standouts….the Missionary customer.

Missionary Customer, unlike Prophecy Man is NOT willing to pay top dollar for anything.  In fact, they barely hide their disdain for moneymaking enterprises and are quick to tell you so.  After insulting you and your means of livelihood, they will spend an hour in your store picking out books, music, and toys they can not purchase on the mission field.  Once they’ve finished, they will march up to the counter, remind you again that they are a missionary.  And proceed to demand for a discount for their newly chosen worldly goods.

The irony in all this, is that Christian bookstores are not highly profitable and that most of your employees at an average store make about half of what an average missionary makes.  But that detail is lost on Missionary Customer.  Probably because they’ve been on the mission field, supported by other working peoples money.  To them money is something that other people have, and we should give it to them.  At least that’s the impression I always got from these arrogant representatives of the Gospel.  Unfortunately for me, the store I worked at did NOT give these very special people discounts.  At this point, Missionary Customer gets pissed and throws the equivalent of a preschool temper tantrum.  Speaking loudly so that everyone can in the store can hear how they are “shocked” or “dismayed” that a “Christian bookstore does not offer a discount to those on the front lines of ministry”.  Whatever…no wonder most missions are not very successful.  It seems most churches have paid good money to send people out as missionaries, so that they only have to deal with this person once every two years.

Last but not least, are your Pastors.  Pastors hate Christian bookstores.  They hate them for a variety of reasons.  Some hate them because it competes with their congregations attention to their golden tongued sermons.  Others hate them because they have other authors and church perspectives that they believe to be false.  And most Pastors hate them because they compete with their church’s book table or in some cases, their own bookstore on the church campus.  But make no mistake, most Pastors hate your store.  As one of my other managers would say after dealing with a pastor (usually her own)  “There goes another arrogant Man of God!”.  She would then turn away and go for the back room so should could decompress with having to deal with one of God’s prim a donas.

The only reason Pastors come to your store, is because you were their last resort.  Which is fine, because the amount of work and insults you endure from Pastor Customer is almost to the point of telling them to shove it-which of course, would mean an extra helping of Pastoral disdain and a pink slip from the owner.  The best you can do with Pastor customer, is smile, and keep telling yourself how glad you are that you will never, ever go to their church.

Anyway, I see that I have much more to say about Christian Bookstores than one post can hold.  I’ll be sure to re-visit the topic and introduce you to the owners and employees of your local Christian Bookstore on our next field trip!