This is not ministry.

It’s story time, kids!

A poor man needed some help covering his bills, so he asked a friend for $50. The friend lent him the money and the man promised to pay him back.

On his way home, the poor man passed a homeless man and gave the man the$50 he had just received.The next day, the friend came by and asked for the money back.

“I don’t have your money,” said the poor man. “I gave it to a homeless man. Can you forget about the money I owe you? After all, it went toward a good cause, right?”

The End.

That’s the simplified version of what is going on now with Family Christian Stores, who recently filed for bankruptcy in order to cut their debts and reorganize as a tax-exempt ministry, giving their profits (after business expenses) to their ministry arm.

A Family Christian Store at 3150 Alpine Ave. N.W. is shown in this file photo. (File photo | Mlive Media Group)

A Family Christian Store at 3150 Alpine Ave. N.W. is shown in this file photo. (File photo | Mlive Media Group)

Family Christian Stores owes $75 million dollars to its creditors. You can read about recent courtroom proceedings here.

In a recent video about the bankruptcy, Family’s CEO promised that no stores would close and no employees would be laid off.

There are a number of things that I don’t understand about the case:

  • Why would any of the suppliers who are having their debt written off continue to do business with Family Christian?
  • How do they hope to do any better than their current situation without making any changes to their stores or staff?
  • And, perhaps most perplexing, how is it responsible to cheat creditors out of millions in the name of giving to the needy?

This whole case leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I really hope that non-Christians won’t judge the Christian bookstore industry by the actions of Family Christian Stores. This is not ministry. This is shady business trying to be covered by a church robe.

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11 responses to “This is not ministry.

  1. Do you suppose that this could have something to do with the fact that in many ways, Zondervan/Family Christian has left their first love and has torn out the roots of their beginnings by being sold to a secular publisher? I have noticed that in their brand (and other formally Christian publishing houses which have been bought out by the secular industry) that their products, while labeled Christian, are Christian in name only, and they fall more under the “inspirational” category. Some that I’ve read have even had their works filled with off-color language and sexual scenes, which if I wanted that, I could easily find in the regular fiction section of the library or other bookstores.

    • Given that the publishers aren’t going to be paid for the books that are being “warehoused” in Family’s stores, I imagine that a lot of authors are losing out on royalties they need in order to keep writing. You are right to be bothered. It is very disturbing. Now, non-Christians can look at Christianity as the religion of greedy televangelists AND slimy business practitioners. Hooray for Jesus!

  2. Pingback: When the Mighty Mountain Shakes, the Villagers Are the Ones With the Real Problem | Jessie Clemence·

  3. Pingback: This is not ministry. Part II | Josh Mosey | Writer·

  4. Josh – What a simplistic view. Those of us who work here perform ministry every day. Heartbroken and hurting folks enter our doors every day. We minister to them. Grassroots. Face to face.

    We had some poor leadership in our past (perhaps). (Almost the entire leadership team has changed in the past year). The new leaders saw the flaws in the way we were doing things. They are now attempting to restore the good that we do.

    But to the 3000 folks who minister everyday to our guests, and to those of us who support our families with our work here, your assertion is just insulting.

    This amazing place, and these amazing people do indeed minister. Every single day.

    • Paul, I’m glad to hear that ministry is not absent from Family Christian Stores. I know people who work there and have worked there in the past. They are good people who love Jesus. My beef is with the decisions that the leadership has made in recent history with regard to the bankruptcy debacle. I can’t even wrap my head around how they thought that a backroom deal that cheats publishers and authors out of millions of dollars was a God-honoring decision. Nor do I understand how charities can be on their list of creditors when the money that is given at the register for those charities should never have touched their hands in the first place.
      My views may be simplistic and they are entirely my own, based only on my experiences and the details that have emerged because of the lawsuit, but I am tired of Christians giving non-Christians reasons to look at us as hypocrites. Please don’t let my negative views of the leadership decisions of Family Christian Stores stop you from being part of the solution to the hypocrisy. Please continue your ministry. I’d love to eat my words when it means that God’s people are doing God’s work.

  5. Josh – Unfortunately they wouldnt have been paid regardless at this point. Which is sad. The plan that is now AGREED to by all publishers is the best option for both. Also it needs to be stated that we are under different leadership than the ones who created the mess. The new team is trying to fix it.

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