Here’s an incomplete and flawed analogy. Feel free to offer improvements, but it may make a helpful point.
There is a difference between running a book store and running a library.
When you run a book store your customers complete a mutual exchange. You provide the books they need. They provide the revenue you need. When it works well it is a wonderful thing, albeit only business.
When you run a library the people who come in tend to take without giving. You provide the books they need. They take those books and hopefully bring them back. It is a wonderful service for the community, but the community itself does not supply all that is needed (let’s ignore taxes at this point). When you run a library you need a source of funding behind the scenes.
Let’s put the tangible issue of revenue and funding to one side and think about a preaching ministry. When we fall into the trap of thinking it is like a book store we will find ourselves being drained and discouraged. Yes, some will be grateful and express that, some will thrive and seeing that makes it worth it, and there are many blessings involved in church ministry.
We need to think a little bit more like a library provider. That is, we give the best we have, but we know that our greatest source of support and resourcing will not come from the people walking in the door. We have the greatest source of life and energy and affirmation and encouragement, but it is behind the scenes. Better than the local government, we have relationship with God.
When our gaze shifts from God to those in the pew, our ministry tanks will drain very quickly.
Imperfect analogy on many levels, but an important point to ponder as we prepare for another year of ministry.
One thought on “Of Libraries and Book Stores”
Interesting analogy, Peter. Reminds me of 2 Corinthians 2.17 (RV) where St Paul writes, “We are not peddlers of God’s word like so many; but in Christ we speak as persons sent from God…” Without disparaging book sellers (how we need them!) but a good librarian will assist you in the selection of books according to your need. But the librarian is an ‘involved’ professional, often quite well qualified, which isn’t so needful for the bookseller (or peddler). (Not quite the case with the Christian bookseller stocking Christian books, who hopefully will know what he is selling!)