Have you ever wondered what it’s like to run a Christian bookshop? The economy; the internet; dying town centres; poor reading habits. Like Jacob, some may feel like saying ‘All these things are against me’. Sit where we sit for a day or two and you may prefer to say, like Moses, ‘I will publish the name of the Lord: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. He is the Rock, His work is perfect’. Allow us to share with you a few details of the work in which it is our joy to be engaged every day.
Ards Evangelical Bookshop (A.E.B.) was opened in 1967 as a Christian witness in the bustling market town of Newtownards. It was taken over by the McCoubrey family in 1980, housed in a single unit in a small arcade in the town. As the town is overshadowed by Scrabo Tower, the text, ‘The Name of the Lord is a strong tower’ was quickly adopted as a motto for the shop. The Lord blessed, many contacts were made, the shop grew, and we moved to larger premises. The support, and indeed friendship, of believers locally proved to be the bedrock of our business. Very soon larger premises were needed and the ‘Bible shop’ became a landmark in the town.
Earlier this year, a gentleman returned to tell us that he came into our shop thirty years ago looking for a Bible for his wife who had just become a Christian. When asked if he was a Christian, he had replied, ‘No’, and was asked, ‘Why not?’ This challenged him so much that he trusted the Lord the following weekend. Thirty years later he is still rejoicing!
By the year 2000, we were bursting at the seams. The building could not accommodate further expansion and we had extra storehouses in various locations across the town. We looked for new premises and, again, the Lord provided and we moved into our current home, a 6,000 sq. ft. shop, still in the town centre.
By this time the internet and mail order side of the business was beginning to blossom and we were designing our own mail order catalogues in-house. The mail order business became a most fulfilling part of our operation. Every day we speak to people from remote areas of the British Isles with no immediate access to a Christian bookshop. Requests range from, for example, a baptism gift, stationery for Sunday school prizes, or advice on a book for a neighbour with a particular question. Only eternity will reveal the results of the many remarkable conversations we have had over the years. It is a special joy, particularly in the summer time, when some visitors arrive and introduce themselves as customers whom we’ve spoken to numerous times over the years.
In 2005, after much encouragement from friends, we entered the world of Christian publishing and reprinted an old classic novel, long out of print, called The Watchers on the Longships. It is the story of the effects of the Wesleyan revival in a small Cornish village. In 2008, we reprinted the treasured Two Version Bible, which has the Authorized Version with the Revised Version in the margin.Our latest effort is our Crimond Classics series, selected books which, by tapping the treasures of a previous era, we trust will be of real benefit to today’s readers. So far we have produced books by David Baron, G. Campbell Morgan, Henry Grattan Guinness, J. R. Caldwell, F. W. Grant, R. F. Kingscote and others.
Our vision for A.E.B. is for it to be a Christian bookshop with a warm, inviting atmosphere, and with resources on-hand to meet the spiritual needs of our customers every day, right in the heart of the community. We endeavour to keep a large range of Bibles in stock, as well as a fully-stocked reference section so believers can handle the resources and see for themselves how useful they will be. Helping someone to choose their first Bible, or introducing new believers to a Bible commentary or dictionary, is not only rewarding in itself, but plays a vital role in our ministry. We are also continually learning how to do this job better, and constantly remind ourselves that, every day, there are people who pass our door, too intimidated to come in. We strive to ensure that both our premises and attitudes are inviting and accessible, encouraging potential customers to get to know the Lord and His word. The Bible says, ‘He hath put eternity into man’s heart,’ Eccles. 3. 11 ESV. When we bring the message of the gospel to the people, in whatever form, we are not forcing some strange idea onto them. Rather, we are responding to a common need in every man’s heart, a need that many will not even acknowledge. With the Lord’s help, we will continue to represent the Name of all names, ‘the Name of the Lord’ in the town of Newtownards; a strong tower in which many have found refuge for their souls.
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