Chuck Wallington is the co-founder of the Covenant Group and owner of Christian Supply in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Chuck tells the story of what led him to work in the world of Christian products and shares his thoughts on the new book from Sarah Young, Jesus Always.
Chuck: A lot of times when you’re going through something hard or difficult, you tend to get the idea that you’re out there all by yourself. And nobody else has ever been through this or done this exactly the way you have, and it’s never hurt as much as it hurts you, and I think what both Jesus Calling and I really think Jesus Always will as well, have done, is they’ve said to people, there is someone who knows and understands, because He’s been there, He was there before you got there and He’s ready to walk through it with you. And that person is Jesus.
Narrator: Welcome to the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. Chuck Wallington is the co-founder of the Covenant Group and owner of Christian Supply in Spartanburg, South Carolina. Chuck tells the story of what led him to work in the world of Christian products and shares his thoughts on the new book from Sarah Young, Jesus Always.
Chuck: My name is Chuck Wallington. I currently serve as President of Christian Supply Incorporated, which is a large, family-owned Christian retail store in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Small Town Roots
Chuck: I literally grew up in a Christian bookstore. My parents opened it about two years before I was born, so a little over sixty years ago, and, literally, my crib was in the back of the store. My playpen was in the back of the store. When I turned about thirteen or fourteen, I started working at the store in the afternoons, sweeping the floors and doing things, and just kind of grew up in the industry, and have never done anything else; don’t want to do anything else. Even through college, worked here, probably close to full time, even in college years, and have been full time ever since.
|Chuck: I was captured early on by just the thought that I could serve in a business that also had spiritual impact on people through the products that we sold. I’m not sure I would have gone into retail if it was just “retail,” but Christian retail had a ministry aspect. It really appealed to that side of me, and that privilege of being able to put a different Bible in people’s hands, or sell them a book that met a need that they were going through, or even recommend a gift product, or something that was just ideal, or a song off a CD that I could introduce them to, just really lit my fire from almost the day I walked in here.
Chuck: We have been privileged to have a major impact in our community over the years. As I mentioned, we’ve been here sixty-three years. We’re in a relatively small town. Most of the people in the town know about Christian Supply, because we’ve been here so long, and we’re pretty involved in the community on a lot of levels. We’ll have six or seven hundred young people in our parking lot for a back to school prayer rally. We just do a lot of stuff like that in the community. We kind of view ourselves as a crossroads for all denominations in the community to come together in one place. That’s really a high privilege.
Chuck: When we’ve done polls in the store, surveys in the store with people in checkout lines and all, we found that about 70% of the purchases people make in our store that are not church related, in other words, they’re not buying something for their church, music, or offering envelopes, or whatever, about 70% of the non-church purchases made in our store are made by someone buying a gift for someone. It can be a birthday. It can be an anniversary, some other happy occasion. A lot of times, it’s because that person is going through some issue. Their kids are giving them fits. They just got bad news from the doctor. They’re going through a divorce, you name it. That’s when a lot of people come into this store.
Narrator: Chuck calls it a privilege to be able to impact his community with products that bring hope and inspiration. Many years ago, when he first heard about Jesus Calling, he knew this book would have lasting impact, not only on his life, but on the lives of those he works with and serves every day in his store.
Discovering “Jesus Calling”
Chuck: It’s actually a pretty interesting story, how we got involved with “Jesus Calling.” We’ve sold just over 24,000 units of Jesus Calling in the last however many years it’s been out, so, we’ve obviously had a lot of people introduced to that book in our store. The way I got introduced to it was we have a second business where we generate catalogs, and promotional items for other Christian retailers. We do it for our own store, and then we put other stores’ names on them, and let them utilize them as well.
Chuck: We were producing a catalog for our stores, and we had an empty spot on a page, and it was a page of gifts for women, and we thought, “We just need to put a devotional in there.” I actually called my wife, and I said, “What’s the best devotional you’ve ever used as a woman?” She didn’t even hesitate. She said, “The one I’m using now. A book I just picked up off the shelf a few weeks ago. It’s called, “Jesus Calling.” I had no idea what book that was.
So we put it in there, and all of our stores brought in probably six or ten copies each, and put them on the shelf, and promoted them during that month. What happened was the book just took off. All of the sudden, we realized we just had something that we didn’t even know what it was, originally.
Chuck: This was right at the very beginning, we just found that every time somebody bought one, within three or four days, they’d be back in the store saying, “I need three or four more copies of that book. I’ve got friends I need to give it to. It just spread virally, although it wasn’t viral as in digital, it was viral as in people coming in and buying copies, and handing them to friends, or gifting them to friends. Within just a short period of time, it became our number one bestselling book. It stayed at or near the top ever since then. Every Christmas now, still, it’s our number one selling devotional every year.
Sharing the Message with Others
Chuck: I think the reason the book resonates so strongly with people, I come from a Southern Baptist background, so I don’t use this word lightly, but I think the book has an anointing on it. I wouldn’t say that about many books we sell. There are some others I would say it about, but not many. It really is a peculiar book in that every person that I ever have given it to, or sold it to, that’s gotten back to me; We hear this over and over in our store, is, “Every day, when I open that book, it seems like that day’s writing was written just for me.” That’s not just great writing by Sarah Young. That’s the Lord has taken that book, and He’s used it in a special way. I think he gifted her uniquely to write the book, and to connect to the heart of our readers in a way that just is very deep and very personal, and it feels as though she wrote the book just for you, when you read every day’s devotional. I hear that comment; I’ve probably heard it a thousand times about that book.
Chuck: When I first heard that Sarah was doing another 365-day devotional, everybody’s been waiting for one. When I first heard she was doing a new one that was going to be a full year devotional, I was excited and I was a bit anxious. As I mentioned earlier, the “Jesus Calling” book is a very unique book. I would put it in a class of probably the top four or five books in our store over the forty-five years I worked here. It holds a special place, so whenever you hear there’s another one like it coming, you always have some of this fear and trepidation of, “Is it going to be the same, is it going to be as good,” and it just seems to me like Sarah has captured that same voice, that same ability to write into people’s lives just what they need to hear once again. I’m very excited about the release of “Jesus Always,” and I think it’s going to impact people that have experienced “Jesus Calling,” and some people have read through it eight or ten times now, and I think they’re going to have a whole fresh set of devotionals, all based around the theme of joy that will speak to them in a fresh way.
Chuck: Just a couple of weeks ago we had a major event here in our company that we do every year, we have 700 or 800 ministers of music come in for a 4-day worship conference and I just flipped back to read what it said on the opening day of that conference just to see what word there was from Jesus Always for that day, and I was struck once again because I read it that day, and it was on stress and how Jesus is there to walk us through our points of stress and just when we think there’s nowhere else to turn, that we can turn to him and it was just a good reminder of the fact that He’s in charge, He’s in control, He has authority, and when you’re going through something as stressful as that first day of our conference was, the opening day of our conference was, that’s just a good word.
Chuck: I think the topic of both books, peace in the case of “Jesus Calling,” and joy in the presence of Jesus …
A lot of the people that come into our store just need encouragement, is probably the word I would use overall. They’re going through something. When you’re going through things, you feel like, you’re the only one this has ever happened to, and nobody else understands. I think the thing that “Jesus Calling” has done so well, and it seems to me that “Jesus Always” is headed in the same direction, is to say, “Well there is somebody who understands, and his name is Jesus. And, he not only understands, he’s been there before you ever got there, and he’ll walk through it with you.
Narrator: Next time on the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast, we bring you stories of courageous women who are a part of The Next Door, a non-profit organization that helps women who have been incarcerated or who are dealing with substance abuse issues, find hope and strength for a new season of life.
Linda Leathers: My name is Linda Leathers, and I serve as the CEO of The Next Door.
Narrator: Our featured passage for today’s show comes from the August 9th entry of the Jesus Calling Audiobook:
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.
Jesus Always, Sarah Young’s first 365-day devotional since Jesus Calling came out 10 years ago, will be available on October 4, 2016. Click here to find out more!