LifeWay President Encouraged While Facing Challenges

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Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources

RIDGECREST, N.C. — “We Christians are often too timid, lacking the boldness to move where God wants us,” LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer told the organization’s trustees during their semiannual meeting.

“I often see the challenges facing LifeWay, and wonder about our next step,” Rainer said in his report to the trustees gathered for two days at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center, Aug. 28-29, 2012. “But then I am reminded the God we serve is in charge, and I begin to see things from a different perspective. I have never been more challenged at LifeWay, and I’ve never been more optimistic.”

Rainer spoke openly about the challenges facing the publishing agency, including the sluggish economy, dramatic changes in how churches “do church,” and digital and technological demands.

“For most of our history, LifeWay has been a print organization,” he said. “Now we’re moving rapidly into a time where digital is not just a transitional stage. It is the new reality. Digital resources are where our churches and individuals are and will be.”

Rainer said he is “incredibly encouraged by the level of excellence in our technology division. It used to be that technology was a resource we needed, but now it is the main thing for much of what we do.”

He cited the “incredible success” of the launch of the new Gospel Project Bible study curriculum, the first quarter of which is in its third printing, as an example of meeting the needs of churches and individuals.

“We’re not going to stop with the Gospel Project,” he said. “We’re planning other curriculum launches and re-launches. We’re not going to be satisfied until we’ve brought curricula to the bride of Christ that is deeper and more relevant to churches and individuals.”

Rainer also said challenges remain at Glorieta Conference Center. “The decision last year to find another owner for Glorieta was very hard,” he said. “We thought we’d found a potential buyer (in Olivet University), but, there are some questions to be answered theologically. We’re having a third party do a theological review and that is exactly where we are right now.”

Later Rainer told Baptist Press he believes a final report on the theological compatibility of Olivet and its movement should be available “in weeks, not months.”

Rainer said he is encouraged with “the incredible turnaround of B&H Publishing Group, which was once an afterthought but is now a strategic part of our organization;” with LifeWay Research where “pastors can find out what is taking place in churches and the culture;” and, with acquisitions like WordSearch, Student Life and Auxano consulting.

“Our reward is not financial though,” Rainer said. “Our reward is seeing what God is doing in churches and individuals through our resources. It is exciting to wake up every morning and see how LifeWay resources are impacting the bride of Christ.”

Subsidiary for China

Trustees addressed a number of business issues during the meeting including approval of a for-profit subsidiary “to facilitate ministry operations in the country of China.”  The new company, to be called LifeWay Global, Inc., will help “make Bibles, Bible study materials, training and other expertise available to churches and Christians in China,” according to background information given to trustees.

LifeWay chief financial officer Jerry Rhyne explained that creation of a for-profit subsidiary is necessary because China is not granting registration for not-for-profit companies. However, Rhyne assured trustees “dividends from a for-profit company will not jeopardize LifeWay’s tax exempt status. In fact, it will help safeguard our nonprofit status.”

Creation of subsidiary companies of SBC entities requires approval of the Southern Baptist Convention or the SBC Executive Committee so the issue will be referred to the Executive Committee.

SBC motion on 2011 NIV

LifeWay trustees declined to reopen a study of whether to sell the 2011 NIV Bible translation in its stores.

The action was in response to a motion referred to LifeWay by the 2012 Southern Baptist Convention requesting the publisher reconsider its decision in February, following an exhaustive study, to continue selling the NIV translation.

Board chairman Adam Greenway, who chaired the study committee, assured trustees: “We did our due diligence. We heard from those who would be against the new translation, and those in favor of selling the NIV. There was no attempt to exclude or not consider any information that would help us decide what to carry.”

Greenway, senior associate dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions and Evangelism at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, repeated what he told the board in February: “Our decision to sell the 2011 NIV does not constitute an endorsement of it. We endorse what we publish, and we publish and endorse the HCSB.”

The motion passed on a vote of 51 yes, two no, and no abstentions.

In other business, LifeWay trustees:

  • approved a 2013 operating budget of $509.5 million, a 3.7 percent increase over the projected 2012 end of year revenue;
  • filled a vacancy on the board created by resignation of trustee Ronnie Smith from Mississippi. The new trustee, Weldon Aultman, is a banker and member of First Baptist, Indianola, Miss., will serve until the SBC fills the opening;
  • approved minor corrections and adjustments to some boundary lines at Glorieta following a new survey; and,
  • welcomed seven new trustees: Ken Bledsoe, pastor of Calvary Baptist, Aberdeen, N.J.; Millie Burkett, member of Greater Gresham Baptist, Gresham, Ore.; Kent Dacus, vice president of California Baptist University and member of Magnolia Ave. Baptist, Riverside, Calif.; John Hardin, program manager the Koch Foundation and member of Capitol Hill Baptist, Washington, D.C.; Mike Inouye, retired Navy chaplain and a member of Kaunakai Baptist, Hawaii; Mike Osborne, administrative pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist, Va.; Bob Simpson, associate executive director, Baptist Convention of Maryland/Delaware, and a member of The Church at Severn Run, Md.; and, Jay Swope, mechanical engineer and a member of First Baptist, Nixa, Mo.

by Marty King, Director, Communications Department  

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