“LifeWay is the largest provider of Christian content in the world,” Craig Featherstone says. “Yet the majority of everything we produce stays in the United States.”
That’s something Featherstone is working to change as director of LifeWay Global Resources.
With the church’s growth in places like India, China and Brazil, Featherstone believes evangelicals worldwide could benefit from resources that LifeWay can provide.
LifeWay has had an overseas presence for decades, but that work has increased in recent years. Currently LifeWay resources are available in 76 countries and more than 40 languages.
That will jump to 155 countries in the next few months through expanded digital content, with churches and customers able to buy LifeWay resources at a local price, using local currency.
In India via digital format, customers will be able to buy any product of B&H Publishers, LifeWay’s trade books division, from online retailer Flipkart.com. Churches in South Africa, meanwhile, can utilize Amazon to order products.
Other growth will take place the old-fashioned way – by building close ties to local churches and Christian leaders.
In China, for example, LifeWay works with a Christian company called ZDL to distribute Christian resources. Some of the content has been translated from English and some was originally written in Chinese.
LifeWay also has started a new company to work in China known as Zhen Dao – “the true way” – to distribute materials such as a book on marriage that a Chinese pastor could write.
Finding a sustainable ministry and financial model remains is one of the key challenges in working globally.
People, no matter where they live, need biblical solutions, said Brad Waggoner, executive vice president of the parent company LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. The key is making sure those resources fit the local context and the local churches’ needs and that they are sustainable.
Still, Waggoner said, LifeWay is committed to finding models that work.
Globalization and the digital revolution make it easier for LifeWay to carry out its mission. It’s an opportunity to live out the Great Commission, he said.
“You can’t say you’re a good steward of the opportunity – and only be concerned about North America,” Waggoner said. “Working overseas to strengthen churches is part of LifeWay’s mission.”
Developing close ties with local churches and in-country distributors is one way to build a sustainable model. LifeWay staff members have led training events for overseas distributors on how to develop ties with pastors and church leaders, and they’ve gone to pastors’ conferences overseas to help put those lessons into practice.
And there are plans to move some production overseas, closer to the markets where international customers live.
“A major part of our strategy will be working with in-country providers in places where the Gospel is exploding,” Featherstone said. “We want to help churches in those countries get the content and resources they need. We can’t just export an American model.”
LifeWay Global Resources also will develop new content from international authors.
“We have acquired authors from Latin America, and we are starting to acquire authors in India – we think God is raising up voices around the world,” Featherstone said.
Luis Lopez, director of LifeWay Espanol church resources, noted that LifeWay Global Resources is a channel by which “God is doing something very special around the world, raising disciples in all nations. It is exciting to join Him in serving His church globally.”
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bob Smietana, a former writer with LifeWay Christian Resources, is now senior news editor for Christianity Today. Carol Pipes is LifeWay Communications’ manager of editorial services at LifeWay Christian Resources. This article first appeared in LifeWay’s employee magazine LifeLines.)