Monday, January 14, 2008

Sometimes Catalogs Can Say A Lot

Although I don't think that I have ordered from them in years, Christian Book Distributors continues to fill my mailbox with their many seasonal, sale, and professional catalogs. It seems that I also receive the "Preferred Customer" one too, which is interesting since I am not a frequent purchaser, if I purchase anything at all.

But I do look at them from time to time. Perhaps I'm hoping that they might offer something "Lutheran" again, like they still did twenty-some odd years ago. That's how I purchased my set of Pieper's Dogmatic texts, and my Keil-Delitsch commentary set on the Old Testament. And I think that my wife may have ordered the volumes of Luther's sermons from them as well.

But all along I realized that they were Reformed at heart, although I noticed that on the back page of my "Pastor's Resources" catalog they still offer "The Complete Sermons of Martin Luther" in 7 volumes for the very low price of $34.99. Great deal, by the way.

Still, the times have changed. Joyce Meyer is among the bestsellers, along with Charles Stanley and (gasp!) Joel Osteen (Don't get me started!). There is an entire page devoted to "Rick Warren and Saddleback Resources" already on page 5. You can purchase a DVD curriculum and get all of your "Purpose Driven" books and resources in one place now. Page 6 is the "Andy Stanley and North Point Resources" page, followed by "Bill Hybels and Willow Creek Resources" on page 7. Luther is still on the last page, by the way......

Commentaries do not appear, then, until page 8, although there are several pages of resources to choose from, if you are Reformed, that is. Under DVD's & Videos the "Alpha Course" is listed with over a dozen entries. I have heard this is used by many denominations, including too many Lutherans, and that if you want to remain faithful to the truth of scripture you'd stay far away from it.

Naturally the catalog would not be complete without a full page devoted to "Women's Ministry" and "Men's Ministry" and "Youth Ministry" and "Children's Ministry." How did we end up with so many ministries? In the old days we spoke of only one....

Under Church Supplies you have the usual fare, including a "KJV Cambride Lectern Bible." Now this baffles me. With all the talk of being relevant and accessible and understandable, and you want to put a KJV on the lectern? Or is it only for show? Nice Bible, by the way, and it only costs "$444.99 in goatskin leather.

Under gifts you can find a variety of Jewish shofars. I've noticed a growing interest among evangelicals in Judaica items in recent years. The caption under this entry says: "Listen to the sacred sounds of the shofar and rejoice in the presence of the Holy One! Imported from Israel, these authentic horn worship trumpets connect you more deeply to the roots of our faith." Too bad they don't understand or practice the true Sacrament of the Altar. There they would find the real "presence of the Holy One." But when you don't have sacramental presence you have to import shofars....

On page 43 they feature items for worship. I was amazed to find a couple of hymnals there. Didn't the Evangelicals do away with hymnals? Still, the names tell it all: "Celebration Hymnal," "Christian Life Hymnal."

Page 44 is devoted to "The Emerging Church." I believe that I have featured an article on them here in the past. They have a book entitled "Everything Must Change: Jesus, Global Crisis, and a Revolution of Hope." From the description of the book it seems that this movement is a retake on the Social Gospel. New trends usually end up as recycled trends from earlier times. Solomon was right: there's nothing new under the sun.

The next page is entitled "Church Growth and Renewal." Interesting how this subject doesn't appear until page 45. Is the "movement" losing momentum behind the newer trends? The message is still all about filling pews and getting the "seekers" to come back: "Jim and Casper Go to Church," "Inside the Mind of Unchurched Harry and Mary," "The Prodigal-Friendly Church," "High Expectations: The Remarkable Secret for Keeping People in Your Church." Secret? They're only now telling us? And I thought it was about feeding them the Bread of Life.....

Missions and Evangelism, predictably, is not featured until page 53, behind the "Volume Discounts and "Budget-Beating Bargains" centerfold. Tells you a lot about the priorities of these new "emerging" churches. Preaching resources come along on pages 60 to 61. Now for a Pastor's Resource catalog, wouldn't you expect this sooner? There are three pages of books, but as well all know, preaching is not as popular as it once was. Still, even in these modern times you can buy a 7 volume set of John Wesley's sermons as well as those from the pen of Jonathan Edwards. Martin Luther is on the last page.....

In a time that values the present over the past, it is not surprising to see a page on "Leadership" ahead of "Church History" and "Theology." Theology books, by the way, are on pages 78 to 79. Not practical enough for many, I suppose. And of course, "Biblical Studies," usually a key area of study for any pastor in seminary and later, debuts all the way on page 80 and 81.

Well, there's more to report, but you get the idea. Catalogs can be an insight into what is important for many evangelicals today. And considering how a lot of Lutherans have jumped on the bandwagon of their cutting-edge movements, this may very well be a painful insight into where our own church is at as well.

1 comment:

The Heresy Hunter said...

I don't know how 1st century Christians or people like Luther ever got by without all these books on the Christian life to choose from!