All 170 LifeWay Christian Stores Are Closing
If you haven’t heard the news, LifeWay Christian Resources will close all of its retail stores by the end of 2019. For Christian retailers this is a huge loss, after the closing of Family Christian Stores last year. Lifeway currently operates 170 book, resource and gift retail stores around the country.
LifeWay Christian Resources is making a strategic shift of resources to a dynamic digital strategy. As part of the transition, LifeWay will close its 170 brick-and-mortar stores in 2019.
In an official statement, acting president and CEO Brad Waggoner shared,
The decision to close our local stores is a difficult one. LifeWay has developed close connections with the communities where our stores are located, and we have been honored to serve those communities. We will continue serving local congregations as they meet the spiritual needs of their neighbors.
LifeWay will now only offer products online. At the beginning of the quarter, LifeWay announced plans to close some of its stores, but it appeared some would remain open. In his January statement, then President Thom Rainer told employees, “We prayed and hoped that our investments in and commitments to the LifeWay stores would prove fruitful. That just has not been the case.”
At the closing of Family in 2017, Christian literary Agent Steve Laube told Christianity Today a statement, that rings even truer, now that one less major Christian retailer exists: “What this means for the industry is [there is] one less major distributor to feed the Christian store market,” Laube told CT at the time. “If their demise had been six months ago, I would have made the correlation [to the bankruptcy]. But today it is merely a reflection of the shift in retail buying patterns.”
Responding to news of the liquidation, Laube told CT today that closings “will have a deleterious effect on many communities which have relied on their local store for their Christian products, whether it be a greeting card, book, or Bible.
“While hard news for the publishing industry to absorb, I suspect most companies have limited their financial exposure,” he said. “Any loss is regrettable.” It is no doubt the closings will have an effect on major Christian distributors and publishers as well.
As believers, how do we respond to this loss? God is in control. He is not surprised by the closing, nor will it stop the power of the Gospel. In a post-Christian society, the demand for Christian resources is down, even among church attenders.
So how do we respond? We begin to understand that Christianity is not another consumer product. As resources dwindle, may we hold on more dearly to our Bibles than take them for granted. May we be thankful for Christian books, then stroll by thousands without taking a look. May we thirst even more for the truth, not because it is popular but because it life saving.
“That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.”