The first item on our meeting agenda was to “Select distinctively Christian companies in our West MI community.” I hadn’t given the line item too much time, thinking that it wouldn’t be difficult given the number of local businesses that I could count on one hand.

Sue Smith, CBA Board Chairman

Yet as we moved through our brainstorming session, the time seemed to get away from all of us. It became obvious that my staff and I didn’t really know how to define “distinctively Christian.”

As a CBA retail store, we’re called to serve the church with good books that deepen our faith as God uses the written word to inspire and challenge us. We’re pointing people to Jesus in a thousand different ways.

In the 1960s, John Bass wrote, “Christian bookselling is one of the most enviable ministries and business opportunities that can be found anywhere. From the ministry viewpoint, who is in a better position to offer hope to a troubled world than Christian booksellers, who can offer the printed message of the Prince of Peace?”

Defining ‘Christian’

But is this really what makes us a “Christian” company today? One of my favorite local stores is an excellent grocery store with an incredible selection of food. The owners are Christians. You can see the difference in how they treat their customers. It’s also common knowledge that they treat their staff with great respect and care. But nothing about their product is distinctively Christian. Does that make a difference?

Is it the product that we sell, how we sell it, or the leadership’s influence that preserves this idea of a Christian label? It’s important to me because I use it a lot; I believe that we all use it. A lot.

Leaving room for God to work

And then some time last week, God got my attention. There were some big holes that needed to be filled in my plan for this store, and I really had no idea how to see that plan to completion. One morning in my inbox, in one small email, God offered me a solution to this giant-sized hole.

I was overwhelmed with His presence in the practicalities. His presence was incredibly impactful to how I view this business once again. God has been at work here for a very long time. For any of us who work diligently for success here, this business is ultimately under the care of Christ. For all of us, that makes our store “distinctively Christian.”

The heart of our industry is a collective desire for all of our businesses—retailers, publishers, authors, and artists—to be led and carried along by Him. With that label, we carry a great responsibility in reflecting the personality of Christ. What does that practically look like in 2016? Is it more than the product we sell?

I think that it is. But, the answer isn’t simple and will look as different as our personalities, passions, and assignments in this industry. For some, the reflection of Jesus may be a theological standing on a social issue, the books that we publish, our proactivity in system injustice, how green we may be, or how well we love our neighbor.

A distinctively Christian company belongs to a creatively diverse God. That’s enough as we join Him today, where He’s already at work, and has been for quite some time.