Getting Back to the Book
About the Guest
Never frown on small beginnings. Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, talks about his family's faith and the small arts and crafts business his father started in his garage that has turned into one of the largest retail chains of our time. Steve gives us a sneak peek at his new venture, the Museum of the Bible, opening in Washington, DC, in November of 2017.
Steve Green, president of Hobby Lobby, talks about his family’s faith and his new venture, the Museum of the Bible opening in Washington, DC, in November of 2017.
Getting Back to the Book
Bob: Before the end of 2017, there’s a museum that will be opening in Washington, DC, that’s all about the greatest story ever told. Here’s the President of Hobby Lobby, Steve Green.
Steve: We’re looking at having a museum that is, not just a Bible under a glass case, but we really want to share and tell that story in an engaging way because this is a book that has an incredible story to be told. We can only scratch the surface of telling that story, but we want this museum to be a way of telling that story.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Wednesday, March 23rd. Our host is the President of FamilyLife®, Dennis Rainey, and I’m Bob Lepine. Today, we’re going to hear all about the plans for the new Museum of the Bible opening in Washington, DC, in November of 2017. Stay tuned.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us. I think we’ve just got to be right up front with our listeners as we start today’s program. This is all came about because Barbara came to you and said, “Do you think, if we got Steve Green from Hobby Lobby® over here, I could get a discount coupon that I could use at the store?” [Laughter]
Dennis: She did not! [Laughter] I’m not sure Steve Green passes out discount coupons!
Bob: Well, we should ask him.
Dennis: Steve, welcome to the broadcast. [Laughter] That was not the truth. Bob will have to confess that later, but—
Dennis: —welcome to the broadcast. So, do you pass out discount coupons?
Steve: I don’t. I don’t have any discount coupons.
Dennis: See, I told you, Bob.
Steve: I’ll make one for you. [Laughter]
Dennis: I knew that! Well, if you don’t know that name, he is the President/CEO of Hobby Lobby—Chairman of the Board—and also the Chairman of the Board of the Museum of the Bible.
Steve and his wife have been married for 30 years. Jackie and he have six children / four grandchildren—and quite a spread—ages 29 to 9.
Steve: Yes—29 to 9—20-year spread there.
Dennis: Yes. One of them is adopted—they don’t know which one—
Bob: Yes. [Laughter]
Dennis: —so they’re kindred spirit in that.
Steve has written a book that you might expect that a man, who is on a mission around the Museum of the Bible, would write—it’s called The Bible in America. And I really appreciate Steve and the mission he is on. I think our country needs to get back to the Book.
Let’s just talk for a moment, Steve, about your faith and kind of how your journey started with Jesus Christ.
Steve: My parents were raised in Christian homes. We grew up going to church every time the doors were opened, as they say—at an early age—had accepted Christ, attending church, and developing a love for the Bible.
I never had this real rebellious time in school. I graduated high school and went to work in the business. I never did the college thing which is where, a lot of times, kids mess up and start being adventurous in their faith. I knew what I wanted to do—I went into the business and have done the best I could to follow God from my childhood.
Dennis: Steve, I’m just curious—how did you see a walk with Christ modeled by your mom and dad? I’ve met your dad and mom, and I am impressed with both of them. Your dad loves to share his faith, and I’m sure your mom does too. But how did you see a walk with Christ in your family demonstrated?
Steve: Well, I would say, basically, they just walked the talk / they lived the life. My dad was very focused on his relationship with my mother—that was most important. They talked about how it was a lot of work.
If there were disagreements—and you’re going to have to talk through it until one o’clock in the morning—then, that’s what you need to do and work through those issues. They taught us, and they loved us, and they disciplined us. I think raising kids is a lot of love and a lot of discipline because we need that—and faithfully attending church. My mother was a choir director for our church, and Dad would teach class. He just lived the life and continues to live that life.
Bob: And the family business you went into is, now, 1,200-stores strong, all across the United States. Our listeners are probably familiar with Hobby Lobby. I should say our female listeners are probably familiar with Hobby Lobby because I’ve been in there a few times, and I noticed that there weren’t many like me in there.
You are a store providing—I mean, it’s just amazing the inventory you’ve got in the stores, providing materials for anybody who is artsy/craftsy—home-décor.
How do you describe what you find inside a Hobby Lobby?
Steve: We’re an arts and crafts store for the creative mind in whatever that palate is. It may be the home where an individual is decorating a home. We have home-décor items. Obviously, Christmas, and the fabrics, and the typical arts and crafts supply, and frames. We’re for the creative mind.
Today, we have 700 stores. We’re in the process of getting to 1,200 stores—which is about what we feel like would fit in the 48 contiguous states, which are the market we’re looking at. We’re not looking at crossing a body of water or a border at this point. We’re expanding and doing well.
Bob: When you stepped into the family business, how big was it?
Steve: When I graduated, I think we had about eight stores, at the time; and we were growing. We have always been growing. But when I graduated and went full-time into the business, we had eight stores.
Bob: And you shared with us earlier that there was a time, early on, when you and your dad wondered if Hobby Lobby was going to make it.
Steve: Yes, it was in 1986 because of 1985. Most of our stores were there in Oklahoma—in the oil patch—and the oil boom had busted. A lot of businesses were going out of business, and we were no different. We had a lot of product that quit selling, and we were having to get rid of—’85 was the only year that we have lost money—and ’86 became a very tough year.
Dad invited the family to the house and said he didn’t know how we would be able to survive. It was the year that—he shares in his book, More Than a Hobby—that he spent a lot of time away from the phone and in prayer, crying out to God—saying, “God, if You want this business to succeed, You’re going to have to intervene,” and God did. It was a real lesson for him that he continues to share with the family—that: “This is not our business. We’re just stewards of it, and we’re to do it according to His principles.” That’s what he learned then, continues to teach us, and we continue to strive to do today.
Bob: And our listeners, who live in a Hobby Lobby area, have seen their Christmas edition newspaper / their Easter Day Sunday newspaper, with full-page ads declaring your faith in Jesus as a core value of the company. This is something you’ve been known for—for decades.
Steve: It was—I believe it was Christmas 1995 when Dad was going through the Christmas newspaper and noticing that nobody was recognizing the holiday for what it was—the birth of Christ—and was kind of frustrated and was saying, “People aren’t even recognizing...” He just felt like God was tapping him on the shoulder and said, “Well, neither are you!” We’d put our newspaper ad, but we weren’t celebrating the season for what it was.
He just felt like, “We need to, at least—since we are selling a lot of Santa Clauses at Christmas and a lot of Easter bunnies at Easter—to, at least, make a statement about: ‘Here’s what we believe these holidays are all about—
—“‘about the birth of Christ / and His death, burial, and resurrection at Easter.’” That started the ad program—started a quarter-page ad the following Christmas season—I believe, in ’96. Then, at Easter, it went to half of a page; and the following Christmas, a full-page ad. They have been full-page ads since then.
Dennis: And your dad is known as one who loves to share his faith in Christ with other people. The first time I met him, he’d just come from a meeting of leaders. He was exciting that he had a chance to share his faith in Christ with 60 new managers of stores. I thought, “This is the kind of business leader we need today—the kind who take out full-page ads”—as you guys do—“around the major holidays that celebrate Christ—but also, celebrate Him in private.”
Steve: Yes. It’s when we bring the new management in every year. We want them to have: “Here’s a basic understanding of the company.” We go over a bunch of the:
“Here’s how we operate,” and all that; but one of the things that Dad always wants them to know is: “Here’s my heart. We’re doing this because we love God, and we want to follow biblical principles.” It’s plainly stated in our “Statement of Purpose.” So, we are excited about people—now, there is no criterion of anybody being—
Steve: —Christian to come here. We’re just looking for good employees / we’ve got them of all different stripes; but we want people to know—and it’s kind of obvious, now, with our newspaper ads / closing on Sundays—and letting people know: “Here’s our heart, and here’s why we do what we do.”
Dennis: I love your values—I really do. Where did your love for the Scriptures come from? You mentioned it, just then, that your company is built around biblical principles. You believe the Bible / you love it as God’s Word—was it from your mom and dad or—
Steve: If you asked my parents, they’d say it was from their parents. My dad would point to his mother. It was his mother that led his dad to Christ.
He really looks up to my grandmother as a rock in the faith and has been a model for the family.
If you go into the corporate office—in the entry way, what you will see is a painting of my grandmother there because, while she never had much in this life / she never did anything that anybody would stand up and take notice of—never wrote a book, never had a large amounts of money, never spoke to a large crowd—she lived her life faithfully.
On her dying bed,—my aunt was there—my grandmother looked up to her and said, “Do you see them?” And she—my aunt said, “Do I see who, Mom?” And she said, “The angels are coming to get me.” And so, while this world would never have noticed her, heaven rolled out the red carpet and welcomed my grandmother home because she lived her life faithfully.
So, when she had nothing, she would count the value of the pounding that was given as pastors—they would give canned foods and that. She would count the value of that and she would tithe on that.
She had a heart faithful to God. Dad has said he has never out-given Grandma and he never will because—as Jesus was in the temple, and he saw the widow give of what little she had, He made an interesting comment—He said, “She gave more.” So, God has a different measuring rod than we do. It’s not—He’s not impressed with big numbers—He saw her heart. She gave all that she had, and Dad has never—and would say—he will never be able to out-give my grandmother because she gave her life and gave when she had nothing to give. We’ve given out of our abundance—she gave when she had nothing to give.
Dennis: So, your love for the Scriptures is really a legacy that’s been passed down.
Steve: It is.
Dennis: Now, you’re the third generation. You’re passing it down to your six kids.
Dennis: And you’re inviting the nation—
Bob: Yes, I was going to say: “It’s not just your six kids you’re passing it down to. It is the United States of America, and ultimately, the world.”
This is kind of a new project in the last five years. God kind of snuck this one in on you; didn’t He?
Steve: He did. We were really not looking at doing this. There were some—
Dennis: Well, let’s explain what this is.
Steve: Okay; This being the Museum of the Bible—the centerpiece being a museum in Washington, DC—430 square-foot museum with a lot of extra-curricular activities that come outside that box. But that being the this that we’re talking about.
Dennis: Opening in November of 2017.
Steve: Yes; November 2017 is the target date and is going to be an exciting day for us. It really was somebody else’s idea—that as our collection grew, the family just felt the sense of responsibility—we needed to make sure that it happened.
Bob: Your collection of historic artifacts. This is somebody that came to you and said, “I got a chance to get some artifacts related to the Bible,” and you said, “We’ll help you out with that.”
All of a sudden, you were a collector.
Steve: That’s right.
Dennis: Steve’s smiling right now because this is how God snuck it in on him. [Laughter]
Steve: We were just going to help some guys that had an artifact they said we could acquire at a good price. We said, “We’ll help you out.” As we started acquiring, more opportunities presented themselves. The economy was in our favor. There was a downturn in the economy, and there were those who were interested in turning their collections into cash—from a college at Cambridge to an individual that had collected for 30 years. A lot of opportunities presented themselves. As they presented themselves, we just kept buying. Now, we have about 40,000 items in the collection.
Bob: When did this collection of artifacts blossom into the idea, not just of a museum, but a world-class, Smithsonian-caliber museum in the heart of Washington, DC? I mean, this is no small dream.
Steve: Yes; and that really has been a growth process over the last five years. Obviously, it started with a museum—we wanted a good museum. As we took it on and as the collection grew, we just felt this sense of responsibility: “If we’re going to do something, we want to do it right.”
Dad has made the comment—when we had looked at the facility we have today / we’re actually under construction—he made the comment—he said: “I want two things. I want people to walk in and say, ‘Wow!’ We want to make it where it’s impressive when they first walk in the building, and we want it to be the best museum that we can make.”
So, we want it to be top-notch. We’ve engaged some of the leading design firms, construction firms, architect-design firms. We are looking at having a museum that is, not just a Bible under a glass case, but we really want to share and tell that story in an engaging way because this is a book that has an incredible story to be told.
We can only scratch the surface of telling that story, but we want this museum to be a way of telling that story.
Bob: What does it cost to build a museum in Washington, DC?
Steve: This museum, all together, is about a half a billion dollar cost. The acquisition of the building, the construction, putting all the materials in—the cost is about 500 million.
Bob: That’s a pretty big number.
Steve: That’s a pretty big number.
Bob: Now, full disclosure—Dennis and I are both investors in the museum, and—
Dennis: —as is our Board of Directors——FamilyLife’s Board of Directors—
Dennis: —FamilyLife’s Board of Directors.
Bob: The management team, here at FamilyLife—we are all investors.
Dennis: We all decided to do this. Explain to our listeners what we decided to do because this was at your invitation. It’s reachable—I think, for almost every listener—in fact, several boys and girls who are listening. We have a lot of boys and girls, who listen to our broadcast—not necessarily, Steve, because they want to—but their parents turned it on and they have to; okay? [Laughter]
Dennis: But they may find a way for them to give and to be a part of something really special.
Steve: What is unique about this is—this is a celebration of a book. It’s not about a faith tradition, or a church, or a denomination—this is about a book. There are people, all over this world—while we have differences—we can agree upon one thing, and that is the significance of this book in our world.
So, what we feel like there is—is, at least, a million people out there that would be interested in supporting this effort. So, we have a “Million Name Campaign,” where for a donation—suggested for $20—we will put your name on a wall / a wall that will have a million names. That, in itself—when people come in and they see there are a million people that have come together because of a book—that, in itself, is a story to be told. We’re inviting people to be a part of that “Million Name Wall” and our “Million Name Campaign.”
We’re excited about the story that that will tell when people come in and realize, “I thought this was an old, dusty book that’s had its day; but there are people today that are still interested in this book.”
Dennis: And our broadcast is heard in somewhere around three dozen countries around the world. If you’re listening to this broadcast—maybe, it’s a podcast of this—we’d invite people from other countries to absolutely join with us in celebrating the greatest book that has ever been written—the best-selling book in the history of the world.
Bob: If you go to FamilyLifeToday.com, there is information available there on how you can become an investor—how you can have your name as one of the million names on the wall at the Museum of the Bible. I don’t know how close your name will be to mine and Mary Ann’s, but we’re putting—I’m up for two names there. I’m going to cover both of—
Dennis: Oh, you’re doubling down!
Dennis: Well, Barbara and I will too. [Laughter]
Bob: You can get more information about how you can have your name added to the wall.
I agree with you—I think that walking in and seeing a million names on a wall—I mean, we’ve all been to the Vietnam Memorial and seen the names of those who have given their lives—the ultimate sacrifice—and that is moving.
To see a million people, who say, “The Bible really is significant in our world.” People are going to know you have an allegiance / you have a faith tradition you come from—you have a personal conviction here—but you’re trying to make sure that your museum is not just a tribute to your personal conviction. It’s broader than that; isn’t it?
Steve: It is. It is one of those that we have to—to some degree—step back and just say, “This book is going to have to stand on its own.” We, at the bottom line, are saying, “We are inviting all people to engage with this book.”
We have differences. I grew up in a church, and I have differences with the church that I grew up in—I attend another church.
I have differences with the church I attend today. [Laughter] You don’t have to go too far back, and I disagree with myself from not too long ago. [Laughter] We have differences.
Steve: Okay? We will never completely have this book figured out. We’re just trying to say: “Let’s take a look at this book. Let’s take it off the shelf, read it, and see what it has to say.”
Bob: Everybody who has given $20 is, at some level, saying, “This book matters,”—and that’s what the museum is all about—.
Dennis: —and it matters to our country. I had—I almost burst out laughing, Steve, when you said, “We have to let this book stand on its own.” I almost burst out laughing because it’s like: “Now, who wrote this book?”
Bob: “Who’s letting who do what?” [Laughter]
Dennis: I’m sorry, Steve! I totally respect you and what you’re doing—
Dennis: —but it is like, “Hey, I think God can cover His back.”
Dennis: You know? He’s written this book—He has met people who have read this book. When they read it, He shows up and people have transformed lives.
It doesn’t mean they become perfect and have a halo. They still have struggles / I still have struggles. They’re still in process of determining what they believe about major issues in life, but the Bible explains God / it explains life—it explains who we are, and who we ought to be, and the mission we ought to be on.
Steve: This book makes some pretty bold claims. It claims it’s going to last forever. Now, if you write a book and you say, “It’s going to last forever,” you might get laughed at. It claims to be God’s Word.
Steve: You make that claim in your books. I mean—but that is some of the bold claims it makes. It makes the claim that it’s alive. Now, it’s a book; but it claims to be alive. Now, if this book is what it claims to be—if it is God’s Word—when I go and I read it, that living God shows up and He can speak to me. For us to just invite people to read it—that’s kind of our limits / we can’t go past that.
We just have to let God take it from there, and He does.
Bob: Well—and in this week, where all of our attention is around that moment in the biblical record that is the central theme of the New Testament / the death, and burial, and resurrection of Jesus—I think it’s good for us to stop and thank God for His revelation—that He has not been silent. And thank Him for the work that you guys are doing—that we have an opportunity to share with the world, in Washington, DC, starting next year, just what a remarkable book this is—it is the very word of God.
Again, let me encourage our listeners—go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and click the link you find there to the Museum of the Bible website. Join Dennis and Barbara, and Mary Ann and me, and plan to have your name added to the wall at the Museum of the Bible by giving $20 to help support this effort.
Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com and look for the link for the Museum of the Bible.
We need to wish some friends of ours a “Happy anniversary!” today. Today is the 25th wedding anniversary / the silver anniversary for Paul and Maryanne Pitre, who live in Tampa, Florida—married on this day in 1991. They’ve been to a Weekend to Remember®. They help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today as donors. We appreciate you guys partnering with us, here in this ministry; and “Congratulations!” on your 25th anniversary.
I think a lot of our listeners know by now this is our 40th anniversary as a ministry—FamilyLife began in 1976. As we celebrate our 40th anniversary this year, we want our focus to be on all the anniversaries that have happened because of how God has used the ministry of FamilyLife in people’s lives over the years.
With that in mind, we’d love to share with you some anniversary ideas on how you could make this your best anniversary year ever. Go to our website, FamilyLifeToday.com, and leave us your anniversary date. About a month before your anniversary rolls around, we’ll start sharing with you some hints / some suggestions on how you can make this a special celebration for the two of you, as a couple, this year. Again, go to FamilyLifeToday.com; or you can call to give us your anniversary at 1-800-FL-TODAY.
And if you’re able to help with a donation today to support the ministry of FamilyLife, we’d like to say, “Thank you,” by sending you a book called Becoming a Spiritually Healthy Family: Avoiding the 6 Dysfunctional Parenting Styles. The book is our gift to you when you go to FamilyLifeToday.com to make a donation; or you call 1-800-FL-TODAY—make a donation over the phone and request your copy of the book—or you can mail your request for the book, along with your donation, to FamilyLife Today at PO Box 7111, Little Rock, AR; our zip code is 72223.
Now, tomorrow, we’re going to continue to find out more about the Museum of the Bible—hear about the plans that the designers have in mind for this museum. Hope you can tune in for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, along with our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I’m Bob Lepine. We will see you back next time for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas. Help for today. Hope for tomorrow.
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