How Bookstore Owners Byron and Beth Borger Spread the Gospel Through the Coalition for Christian Outreach
PITTSBURGH —As theCoalition for Christian Outreach (CCO) celebrates five decades of ministry to college students, it is hard to imagine the CCO without the contribution of Beth and Byron Borger and their Hearts & Minds Bookstore.
Beth and Byron Borger’s vocation tracks a winding path, but there is also a sense of providence and inevitability to their call. They met as college students over summer vacation. Beth was studying at Gettysburg College while Byron was at Indiana University of Pennsylvania, discovering a deeper, more relevant Christian life, largely due to the influence of the CCO. When Beth and Byron married and began working as CCO staff with college students at Penn State McKeesport, books were a critical ingredient in their ministry.
During those early years, a bookseller would come to CCO staff training events and student conferences, stand up on stage with a pile of books and talk about them, one by one. Beth and Byron were influenced by the breadth and depth of Christian literature available, the CCO’s commitment to being interdenominational, and the reality that Jesus is Lord over all creation, including our minds and vocations.
When they moved back to central Pennsylvania to be near family in 1982, the Hearts & Minds Bookstore was born. To their neighbors, Hearts & Minds is a brick-and-mortar bookstore, but the Borgers realized early that if they wanted to stock vocation-specific and other unusual Christian books, they would need to go to their customers. So they began to travel to denominational gatherings.
“Byron and I both have a love and a passing understanding of a whole lot of Christian traditions,” Beth Borger said. “I think that really helps us understand where somebody is coming from—the theological and cultural influences that have shaped them. That is such an important starting point to know how to recommend something to somebody. I can only thank God that so many streams have converged in our lives to have that happen.”
Hearts & Minds also became a regular feature at the CCO Jubilee conference, CCO staff training events, and the Ocean City Beach Project. And as the earliest days of the CCO influenced them, so then year by year, book by book, Beth and Byron Borger have helped to shape the practical outworking of the CCO’s all-of-life-redeemed worldview, spreading the word that God cares about every square inch of His good Creation.
“Books are tools to help us imagine and live into the future,” Byron Borger explained. “We are pulled toward the idea that God is restoring all areas of Creation. And books shape our Christian imagination and character so that we can live well—not just with more knowledge, but with the ability to think and live faithfully as salt and light in the world.”
Faithfulness in the present with imaginations shaped by hope. This is the restorative goal of each book the Borgers share with college students. This is the ethos of their business. And this has been—and is—their enduring, far-reaching contribution to the CCO.
For 50 years,CCO staff have reached out to college students by entering into their world. They are on the college campus daily – at athletic practices, in cafeterias, student centers, coffee shops, residence halls, and sometimes even classrooms. CCO staff meets students where they are.
The college and university campus are the most strategic mission fields in the world, with only 2% of students being reached with the Gospel. CCO partners with local church congregations to help students feel a sense of belonging. A community is formed between the CCO staff and students, who are invited into the lives of local congregations. Through this community of fellowship, CCO is able to minister to the students in a life-changing way.
To interview a representative from the Coalition for Christian Outreach or for more information, contact Media@HamiltonStrategies.com, Marjorie Pratt, 610.584.1096, ext. 107, or Deborah Hamilton, ext. 102.