Kay and I have just returned from a short trip to the Fourth Annual Gathering Of Church Bookstores, held at Lakewood Church in Houston. It was an eye-opening experience for both of us.
I don't think I've ever been an active member of a church that was large enough to have its own bookstore. Library, yes. But these are full-fledged bookstores, and they're getting to be more prevalent. The host church, Lakewood, has a bookstore that occupies over 9000 square feet. Another large church in Houston has just opened a 10,000 square foot facility. These are stores that don't have to work to get people to come in their doors--they're already coming.
About 300 attendees heard talks on the industry, went through exhibits from over forty vendors, heard authors and singers who led them in worship and challenged them, and networked like crazy. The banquet on Thursday evening gave the attendees a chance to sit down with authors and discuss their work. There was some neat give-and-take at our table, and I learned from it.
I was invited by my publisher, Kregel Publications, to sit at their booth after the Thursday night banquet and sign complimentary copies of my book as the attendees wandered through the exhibit area. There were forty authors present, and the signing went on for about an hour and a half. During that time, the attendees also visited the chocolate fountain for dessert, a treat that was denied me (although Kay did bring me a few nibbles). But I was glad to sign a couple of hundred copies while hearing person after person tell me how there was a need in their church for my book. So many of them said, "I'm taking this back to our staff...or our grief counselor," or "I know several people who need this book." I met some neat people, both attendees and fellow authors, and there was a chance for me to do a bit of networking as well.
I left there inspired by the potential for ministry in my writing, not just the ministry of The Tender Scar: Life After The Death Of A Spouse, but all types of books. As authors, we can't lose sight of why we write. Not to get published, although that's nice. Not to make money--you'd have a better chance as a greeter at Wal-Mart. No, we write to get the message out that God has given us. Sometimes it's nice to be reminded of this fact.