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Jamie Hill: Observations of a newbie!

Jamie Hill: Observations of a newbie!

I grew up in a small town called Edenbridge on the Kent and Surrey border. Many Saturdays were spent at one of the next big towns which was Tonbridge. From the age of fifteen there were two shops that I would frequent and essentially spend huge amounts of time in. One was the Beat ’n’ Track music shop and the other was the Tonbridge Christian bookshop. The wonderful Norman and Mavis Nibloe were instrumental in helping me spend my money! Most importantly they grew to know me and would encourage me with books and CDs that I would like. They were at the heart of the church community in the area. They knew everyone and everyone knew them. If mission or meetings were happening, they knew about it and would seek to serve it either directly or by encouraging people to it. They modelled to me the power of the Christian bookshop ministry and it made a huge difference to me.

25 years later and I start my new role as part of the leadership of CLC, a missional ministry that serves the church and the trade to meet their visions and to see people transformed by literature and resources that reveal Jesus and help them learn to walk with Him. What was one of my first projects in the new role? Closing down the bookshop in Tonbridge. 

This hit me pretty hard. I remembered how the shop had been and I saw what it was now after decades of hard work, but after so much cultural and commercial change. I saw people with the same hearts, but smaller networks. I saw Davids but seemingly overwhelming Goliaths. This was my introduction to the role and to the trade that I had been loosely involved with for years but I now saw up close.

I know I still have a lot to learn and I’m thankful to so many people who have helped me. Below I offer some general observations of things that I hope we can press on for, and I will set out some of where I feel we are moving as CLC UK.

Our trade

  • We are supposed to look different. The way we do business is supposed to look different. It’s supposed to be unified and partnered for a greater end than just purely margin. It’s supposed to support the least in the chain. It’s supposed to be full of integrity and pursuing the goal of the Kingdom of God. I must admit that I have found this difficult to see at times. From suppliers, partners and customers, I have heard stories in my brief time that make us seem far from different. I want to keep being the different Jesus called us to be, not stupid or blind but different. I want to ensure that mission isn’t just the basis of the products that I sell or a marketing punchline, but is the very  reason I am and I do.
  • Jesus isn’t returning for a bookshop, a publisher, a wholesaler or a website. He is returning for the church. We must love the church because the church is us. We must be in the church, we must stay connected to what matters. How can we serve a client base we don’t engage with or understand?
  • We need some more joy! God is still with us. The models may need to change to make the message thrive in our current context, but God is for us. Not for a model, for a people. Yes it’s hard but as J.John encouraged us at CRT, let’s lift our heads up and take every opportunity to be bringers of joy and to pray as Jabez did in confidence for change.
  • I’m convinced that the future for our trade will be secured in one way and one way only. Partnership. Not individual behemoths rising. We’ve all seen that and today we live with the legacy of their fall. The future is in us realising the part God has given us and doing all we can to serve each other and pursue meaningful, Gospel-purposed partnerships to see His kingdom grow. If any of you reading this want to talk about partnership then please get in touch. We all serve at the pleasure of the King and ‘He is the Way Maker, the Miracle Worker, the Promise Keeper, the Light in the Darkness’. He has a way for us together.

CLC in the UK

One of my prayers since I began at CLC has been – ‘Lord what is the season?’ It’s important in challenging times to define clearly what God has called you to and remember His promptings and callings. I’ve since been reevaluating where we are as an organisation, in line with our original vision. The question for me is not, “Lord is the mission over?” It’s, “Lord what is the vehicle needed for our mission in this season?” The challenge comes as we realise that the vehicle is not what it has been before. It’s changed and is different. People cannot be reached in the way they once were.

The one thing I know remains the same is Jesus, His Gospel and His love for His Church. With that in mind and after much prayer, we at CLC find ourselves in a time of pruning. Pruning is hard and takes a lot of focus and difficult decisions. But it is essential. I don’t believe that I am ‘closing things down’ but that I am pruning. Pruning doesn’t lead to death (unless you do it wrong), it leads to growth. That’s where I believe we are. Continuing to review all elements of who we are but seeking the new vehicles needed to facilitate our vision today.

CLC Wholesale

I was thrilled this year to accept the CRT award for distributor of the year. As I’ve met with suppliers and customers all over the country, the thing I keep hearing is that CLC faithfully and quietly serve the trade and the church well. That’s an amazing reputation and one that I fully intend on continuing. Our New Titles, Take Note and Kids Corner promotions continue to stimulate sales and interest across the trade and I hope we will make these even more effective in the coming months. We also continue to work hard on what our customers expect today and offer same day dispatch, click and collect and a signed picture of myself if they spend enough! (CLC does not endorse the last part of that sentence!)

CLC Retail

We continue to develop our online store at and are working on some functionality and marketing over the next few months that will make it better than ever. Our physical stores are certainly going through a strong time of pruning and experimenting. We will continue to cut back and get to a sustainable level whilst trying hard to build stronger connections to the church and get out of the bookshops to where people are. We have stalls in shopping centres and many national and local events where God’s people gather. These continue to be amazing opportunities for mission and getting our products into the hands of people. More experimentation and change will be coming to get us ready and fit for this next season. Expect to see a return to mobile ministry – if it’s good enough for Natwest, it’s good enough for us –allowing us to connect with more people, and a return to the Mavis and Norman model of being hubs for promoting and serving a city’s mission. 

CLC Virtual

We are launching two new initiatives under the CLC Virtual banner. These are a Christian eBooks app and store and a global Print on Demand system for Christian mission across the world. We’re excited by these opportunities and key partnerships that ensure we look to the future as well as deal with where we are today. 

CLC Mission

CLC continues to be a choice for mission. Every year we fund mission initiatives around the world. This is our distinctive. Every pound spent with CLC goes to sustainable growth and service but also to funding global mission opportunities. We hope to make more noise about these in the coming months as we have countless stories of lives being changed through these projects and we are even starting to look for UK missions to accompany our global outreach. The fields are ripe!

CLC Church

Lastly but most important to me is that we will be investing more money, time and energy in connecting with the church, figuring out how to help churches meet their vision with literature support and offering the best deals possible for those in ministry. A good leader is a good reader and a healthy ministry will want to continue to learn and grow. Thank you Jesus for the wisdom of so many people that speak into the church today. Our hope is more than ever that we will serve the church well.

I look forward to meeting many more of you over the years ahead and I also look forward to partnering with you to see this amazing, incredible gospel in the hands and hearts of as many people as possible.

There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.’ Ecclesiastes 3:1
Together Magazine

Together is the window to the UK Christian retail and trade. Providing the very best in product information, trade news, publisher and retail store profiles and much more

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