By Carol Pipes
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — LifeWay Christian Resources’ commitment to the mission given to the entity by Southern Baptists in 1891 has never been stronger, acting CEO Brad Waggoner said in his report to messengers of the Southern Baptist Convention in Birmingham.
Despite the challenges LifeWay has faced the past year, the entity’s core ministry channels are strong and growing, reported Waggoner. In the first seven months of 2019, LifeWay’s publishing and events ministries have grown by $6.7 million over the prior year, while LifeWay.com has seen 14 consecutive months of growth, with revenue up nearly 24%.
Waggoner also reported on LifeWay’s partnership with the SBC’s Sexual Abuse Advisory Group to produce “Becoming a Church that Cares Well for the Abused,” a free multimedia resource geared toward church staff members, lay leaders and volunteers.
“Ministry Grid, the digital platform where LifeWay is hosting the free ‘Church Cares’ training materials, has already seen 7,500 site visits, and more than 1,000 churches have registered to begin the certification process,” Waggoner said.
Waggoner also addressed issues related to the closing of LifeWay’s brick-and-mortar stores and how LifeWay will continue to assist churches in their mission of making disciples.
The report included a video of Waggoner detailing the organization’s financial realities and the difficult decision to close the LifeWay Christian Stores retail chain.
In 2014, LifeWay Stores began to see significant losses despite growing demand for LifeWay’s resources through other channels.
“At the close of 2018, LifeWay Stores had more than $19 million in losses for the year,” Waggoner reported. “Over the past five years, the total retail losses we’ve covered from revenue-generating ministry channels reached nearly $50 million.”
Those losses led to what Waggoner called one of the most difficult decisions in LifeWay’s 128-year history.
Waggoner reported that by the end of 2019, LifeWay will have shifted its retail strategy to meet customers’ needs and buying patterns. “We will enhance our online experience and explore new partnerships to provide LifeWay’s resources at affordable prices,” Waggoner said. “And we will stay the course.
“Southern Baptists, know this, LifeWay is more committed than ever to our mission,” Waggoner said.
“In many ways, LifeWay’s ministry is summed up in Colossians 1:28-29: ‘We proclaim him, warning and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone mature in Christ. We labor in this, striving with His strength that works powerfully in us.’”
Balanced, relatable, age-appropriate discipleship
For more than 60 years, LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life has helped churches engage people in the Word of God. Today, more than a million adults, students and children use Bible Studies for Life on a weekly basis.
During LifeWay’s presentation to messengers, Michael Kelley, director of discipleship, described how LifeWay’s Bible Studies for Life ongoing curriculum helps churches shepherd and guide believers into maturity.
“Bible Studies for Life is a balanced, relatable and age-appropriate discipleship plan that church leaders can center their ministry on,” Kelley said. “Through Bible Studies for Life, a church or group can trust that their discipleship strategy is not haphazard but based on biblical principles validated by research balanced between key attributes of a growing disciple.”
Kelley recognized a subtle, yet present, danger when it comes to discipleship. “We have become very good at helping people answer a few questions about God and the world, and yet we have not built the underlying infrastructure of discipleship to create sustainable, long-term disciples of Jesus,” Kelley said.
“Discipleship must run more deeply than being able to answer a few questions,” he said. “Instead, we are transformed; and that transformation happens through the renewing of our minds. We don’t want surface level improvements; we want an entirely renewed mind.”
Bible Studies for Life focuses on real-life issues, helping believers—from kids to adults—not only know the truth but apply it in obedience, according to Kelley.
Through Bible Studies for Life, a church or group can trust their discipleship strategy will train children, students and adults in how to believe, think and then react to challenging life situations they face on a daily basis, he said.
“We want to see an entire church on an intentional discipleship pathway,” Kelley said, “one that moves people of every age further on their walk with Christ.”
For more information about Bible Studies for Life, visit BibleStudiesforLife.com.
For more information about the LifeWay Stores closing, read LifeWay Store Closures Frequently Asked Questions.
Carol Pipes is LifeWay’s director of corporate communications.