Cindy crosby, author of our lead essay on the parlous state of Christian bookstores, writes about 120 book reviews a year and has published in Christianity Today, Publishers Weekly, Mars Hill Review, Christian Retailing, Books & Culture, Today's Christian Woman, Life@Work, and Backpacker. She has also written for assorted websites (including Amazon.com) and published four books of her own. Right now, she's beginning a follow-on volume to the Ancient Christian Devotional that she and theologian Thomas Oden published in 2007.
Of writing about Christian books, Cindy says, "I just love it. That is where my heart is." But she has invested her life in more than books. She has also has devoted herself to bookstores. When Cindy and her husband, Jeff, were fresh out of college, they worked for small-town Indiana newspapers. Jeff was the sports editor ("He took a lot of pictures of big fish and big vegetables in his job," she says), and Cindy typeset the crop reports ("I knew everything going on in Indiana corn").
But just three months into their journalistic careers, something unexpected changed the course of their lives. Cindy's parents purchased a failing Christian bookstore near the campus of Indiana University, and asked Cindy and Jeff, both only 22 years old, to run it. Cindy had worked in another bookstore her parents had rescued and brought her experience to the challenge.
One thing Cindy learned while working at that bookstore was the kaleidoscopic richness of Christianity. "Christians from every possible denominational background were walking through those stores," she told me. "It showed us the variety and the diversity of the kingdom of God. We'd been pretty insulated growing up. And we thought, Wow! Christianity can look like this!"
After 10 years, that experience led to jobs at the Association of Logos Bookstores, where Jeff was executive director and Cindy edited newsletters and catalogs. Then came Jeff's job at Ingram, the biggest book wholesaler, and finally responsibilities at InterVarsity Press, where Jeff is now associate publisher.
Cindy talks fondly of how her parents viewed a bookstore as an opportunity for ministry. After his life was turned upside down by reading Francis Schaeffer, Cindy's father sold his pharmacy and went to seminary, only to discover that a Christian bookstore, rather than a congregation, provided the right kind of ministry for him. People Cindy met through Logos viewed their stores in a similar way. "They were a wide variety of Christians," she says, "but they came together because they wanted to get good books into the hands of Christian people and to reach the lost for Christ."
Jeff and Cindy's Bloomington store is no more. The other three Christian stores that were there have been shuttered. Those closings are also part of Cindy's story, and in her article, she explains what's going on in this fragile industry.
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