By Carol Pipes
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Messengers to the 2021 SBC Annual Meeting in Nashville will vote on recommended changes to Lifeway Christian Resources’ mission and ministry assignments.
“Lifeway is in a season of emphasizing who we are, why God allowed this organization to be created, and where we’re going in the future,” said Ben Mandrell, president and CEO of Lifeway. “Looking back at our creation story, Lifeway’s first president, Dr. James M. Frost, cast a vision for an organization that would fuel the ministry of local churches by creating doctrinally sound, easy-to-use materials.
“He saw enormous potential in designing tools that make church ministry more effective by equipping church leaders. It’s our desire to continue that vision and commitment as we come alongside local churches to support the Great Commission.”
In the proposed revision, the phrase “designing trustworthy experiences that fuel ministry” would be added to Lifeway’s mission statement.
“This phrase boils down Lifeway’s purpose into six words,” said Mandrell. “We want to be known as a ministry that will go the extra mile to thoughtfully design tools that help people meet God and grow closer to Him. Whether it’s Bible study curriculum, short-term studies, ministry training, a new Bible, camps or events, a resource must be well-designed and provide a trustworthy experience for us to produce it.”
As approved, the Lifeway mission statement would read: “Lifeway Christian Resources exists to assist churches and believers to evangelize the world to Christ, develop believers, and grow churches by designing trustworthy experiences that fuel ministry and by being the best provider of relevant high quality, high value Christian products and services.”
Mandrell said the Great Commission was not given to Lifeway, but to the local church. “Our job is to come alongside churches and individuals and fuel their ministries as they fulfill the Great Commission. That is our most important task.”
In January, Lifeway trustees unanimously voted to forward to the SBC Executive Committee recommended revisions to Lifeway’s mission and ministry statement. At the February 2021 meeting, the SBC Executive Committee trustees voted to forward the proposed changes for approval by the messengers to the annual meeting in June. The stated mission and all 10 current ministry assignments would be amended.
Most of Lifeway’s current ministry assignments were assigned to the organization in 1995. Mandrell noted that churches and church leaders have experienced a tremendous amount of change over the past two decades. “We’re now closer to the ministry realities of 2045 than we are to those of 1995,” Mandrell said.
“Changes in church practice, the advance of digital tools and e-commerce, and how people consume media and connect with the local church have all impacted the way Lifeway serves our customers—both churches and individuals,” Mandrell said. “These changes have reinforced the need to update our ministry assignments as Lifeway adapts to meet the needs of churches today and tomorrow.”
“We believe that by serving the local church with even more focus, we will continue the reputation of being a trustworthy source for life-changing resources to assist churches and believers as they take the gospel to all people and make disciples.”
The revisions include adding the resourcing of Vacation Bible School as a ministry assignment and removing or amending assignments related to church architecture, capital fundraising, direct support of campus-based ministry to college and university students, faculty, and administration, and the operation of conference centers, camp facilities and brick-and-mortar stores.
Emphasizing the need to assist churches in ministries to the next generation is a key priority for Lifeway.
“One of the many ways Lifeway looks to the future is by staying connected to the rising generation,” said Mandrell. “Today’s students will become our missionaries, Bible study teachers, seminary professors and pastors of tomorrow. One of our main priorities is to help churches, student pastors and parents disciple students so they develop a heart for Jesus and build a firm foundation for their faith.”
Lifeway will continue to serve churches in ministering to college and university students as a part of its next generation ministry by providing resources that help disciple young adults and deepen their walk with Jesus Christ.
“We recognize the important work of reaching nearly 21 million college students with the gospel,” Mandrell said. “We asked the SBC Executive Committee to determine which entity is best equipped to carry on the ministry assignment of supporting collegiate campus ministry. I’m thankful to see the North American Mission Board take on the responsibility of evangelizing and mobilizing college students if approved by the messengers in June. We look forward to working alongside NAMB and collegiate ministry leaders across the nation to support the discipleship of students.”
Another change to Lifeway’s ministry assignments includes folding ministries to home schools and Christian schools into the next generation ministry assignment.
“Lifeway will continue to provide a home-based version of our curriculum to support parents who are educating their children through home schools,” Mandrell said. “We’ll provide materials for all parents who continue to disciple their children every day at home through regular family devotions and Bible study. In addition, we have resources that will continue to be a benefit to Christian schools.”
Supporting the local church in raising up the next generation of spiritual leaders requires a concentrated focus on discipleship for kids and teens. Mandrell said equipping churches and parents to disciple kids and students into spiritually healthy adults has been at the heart of Lifeway’s mission since its founding in 1891. “Assisting churches in ministries to the next generation will produce a harvest that lasts into eternity.”
Carol Pipes is Lifeway’s director of Corporate Communications.
About Lifeway Christian Resources
In operation since 1891, Lifeway Christian Resources is one of the leading providers of Christian resources, including Bibles, books, Bible studies, worship music, VBS, and church supplies, as well as camps and events for all ages. Lifeway is the world’s largest provider of Spanish Bibles. Headquartered in Nashville, Tennessee, Lifeway receives no denominational funding and operates as a self-supporting nonprofit.