In the spring of 1891, Southern Baptists meeting at the Alabama Opera House in Birmingham voted to create a Sunday School board to publish Bible studies and other resources for discipleship.
Today that board, now LifeWay Christian Resources, remains committed to the same core mission, Thom S. Rainer told messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) on Wednesday morning, July 15.
Photo by Bill Bangham
Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources in Nashville, gives his report during the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention at America’s Center in St. Louis on June 15.
“The struggle to create the board is an incredible story I commend to your study,” LifeWay’s president said. “But 125 years later, LifeWay is still serving Southern Baptists with trustworthy biblical solutions for life, when so many other denominational publishers have vanished. What a testament to God’s faithfulness to His people.”
Rainer told messengers that 2015 was a historic year for LifeWay, filled with thankfulness for the past and excitement for the future.
Among the highlights was the sale of LifeWay’s downtown Nashville property, a move that had been in the works for about five years, Rainer said.
“We have known for some time that we had too much space,” he said. “We prayed. We waited on God. And God blessed us in the midst of a commercial real estate boom in downtown Nashville.”
The sale of the property, which closed last fall, was the largest real estate transaction in the city’s history, according to the Nashville Business Journal.
Two months ago, LifeWay broke ground on a new building, which is one-fourth the size of the former campus. The building, also in the downtown area, is in a new community being built in a reclaimed industrial area. LifeWay employees will be praying regularly for workers involved in the building process, with some already asking questions about Christ.
A new building, while exciting, isn’t LifeWay’s main focus, Rainer told messengers. Serving the church remains the main mission.
“Our buildings – old and new – are just that, buildings,” Rainer said. “LifeWay is a family of talented, innovative, dedicated believers called to create resources useful to the bride of Christ.”
As part of his report, Rainer showed a video of Grammy-and Dove Award-winning hip-hop artist Lecrae Moore, whose autobiography Unashamed, published by LifeWay’s B&H trade books division, is a New York Times bestseller.
Lecrae, recently profiled by the Washington Post as an up-and-coming evangelical leader, is a world-class artist who models how to live faithfully in a secular age, Rainer said.
In the video, Lecrae spoke about the challenges of being faithful over the long haul and the temptations of fame – which he compared to climbing to the top of a “two-foot ladder.”
“I am going to tell that truth till it kills me and I’m chilling with my Creator – Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Jesus,” he said in the video. “To all my haters, for the ones who think I have forgotten and the ones who won’t let me say it: I ain’t scared no more. I’m unashamed.”
Among other highlights of Rainer’s report:
Every Sunday about 3 million people in tens of thousands of churches use LifeWay studies for small groups and Sunday School.
Russell Moore’s book Onward was named Christianity Today’s orthodoxy book of the year.
Priscilla Shirer’s book Fervent won the Evangelical Christian Publishing Association’s book of the year.
22 books published by B&H were nominated as finalists in Christian Retailing’s annual best book awards.
LifeWay’s weekly podcast “5 Leadership Questions” draws tens of thousands of listeners and is among the top podcasts in iTunes’ religion category.
Michael Kelley, director of groups ministry at LifeWay, reminded messengers of the importance of having an intentional process for making disciples, noting that it “does not happen by accident.”
To help churches in that process, LifeWay introduced two initiatives: “The Journey,” a year-long discipleship resource, and SmallGroup.com, which allows churches to use their own Bible study content to reinforce an intentional disciple-making process.
The goal, said Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project, is to help every Christian become a disciple-maker.
“Everyone in this room is here at least in part because someone else took up the charge of discipleship,” he said. “We are here today as a spiritual legacy of those who have gone before us.”
Wax then thanked faithful Christians who have dedicated their lives to helping others grow in their faith.
“To those everyday men and women who have taken up the charge of Jesus to make disciples,” he said, “we just want to say thank you, but also encourage the church to continue this sacred task, not only of making disciples but of making disciples who make disciples.”
In concluding the report, Rainer said he does not take LifeWay’s successful ministry for granted. Instead, LifeWay remains dedicated to the mission of creating resources to serve the church.
“We are privileged to build on a legacy of God’s faithfulness that began 125 years ago,” Rainer said. “Challenges are always before us, but we can say to God be the glory great things He has done. And great things He will do.”