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Build LifeWay identity, Draper urges trustees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is not just the former Sunday School Board with a new name, President James T. Draper Jr., told LifeWay trustees during their semi-annual meeting, Sept. 14-16 in Nashville.
And in a meeting filled with positive ministry and business reports, trustees approved a record $354 million budget for the 1998-99 fiscal year.
“One of our biggest immediate challenges, now that we have a new name, is to build its identity,” Draper continued. “Certainly we must transfer the meaning or equity of our old name to LifeWay. At the same time, we must communicate that it is more than a name change. LifeWay symbolizes what we are becoming as we follow God’s leadership into more effective ministry into the 21st century.
“We have the message the world desperately needs to hear, that of God’s eternal, unchanging truth,” he said. “And we are using methods that are constantly changing to meet the needs of people in today’s world.
“One benefit LifeWay provides us is an umbrella to help people better understand the broad scope of resources we provide,” he explained. “Research has shown consistently that many people who have bought literature from us and also have shopped in Baptist Book Stores did not know that both are part of the same organization.
He said now with LifeWay Christian Stores, LifeWay Church Resources and the use of LifeWay related to Glorieta (N.M.) and Ridgecrest (N.C.) conference centers, “that connection should be easily made.”
Among examples of LifeWay’s making a difference, he said, are international strategies, help for ministers, transformational discipleship, FAITH and providing a Christian voice on public issues:
— Draper cited the recent announcement of four employees who will be LifeWay’s international consultants in four regions of the world and the marketing of undated Spanish and English church resources, such as Experiencing God, Jesus on Leadership and The Mind of Christ.
“It is impossible for us to know enough about every part of the world to make wise decisions about international strategies,” he observed. “So we are following the model that works best anyway — the Experiencing God way. We’re looking to see where God already is at work and seeking to join him.”
— Draper said in the area of help for ministers, “There is good news on the issue of forced terminations of Southern Baptist ministers. The number is down.”
According to a recently completed study conducted by state convention church-minister relations directors and coordinated by LeaderCare at LifeWay, the average number of pastors and other church staff fired has declined from 125 monthly to 99 monthly.
“That is still too many,” he said, “but it represents progress worth celebrating.”
— In another area, he reported the Sunday school, church leadership, and discipleship and family divisions have worked together to develop a paper on spiritual transformation.
“We recognize it is not enough to produce resources that people say they are blessed by. They must contribute to the pilgrimage of growing in Christian character. Beginning next year, these principles will guide decisions about the resources we produce.”
— Progress reports continue to come from churches involved in the FAITH Sunday school evangelism strategy, he continued. Among the 28 originator churches that attended the clinic last January in Daytona Beach, 10,493 FAITH visits have been made, the FAITH presentation has been given 4,142 times, and 1,172 people have made professions of faith.
— “LifeWay resources increasingly are becoming vehicles for raising the Christian point of view on public issues,” Draper observed.
For example, the Broadman & Holman book by Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee, Character Is the Issue, was released last year and has become a platform for the governor to be a national spokesman on the importance of integrity in the political arena. His 1998 book, Kids Who Kill, addresses another critical issue.
Draper reported as of early September he had made one-day trips to visit 37 state convention offices in the last three years. He said he provided specific figures to each state demonstrating the percentage of funds from literature purchases in the state returned for that state’s work.
“Portions of every purchase made in LifeWay Christian Stores or made direct by phone, fax or Internet go to ministries through the Southern Baptist Convention and state conventions,” he said. “No other publisher or retailer does this.”
Also in the area of relationships, Draper told trustees he believes “we must give increased attention to our relationships with churches and individuals.
“People are telling us, by and large, that they trust our resources to be biblically based. Increasingly, they find our products and services to be relevant to the needs of their people. But we are continuing to frustrate some when they have problems with their literature order or billing, when they call us with a question and get transferred several places but can’t find an answer, when they feel deluged by mail from us,” he continued. “These examples are just illustrative of a major challenge that also represents an opportunity to reach out in a more personal and helpful way.”
In an operational overview, Ted Warren, executive vice-president and chief operating officer, said the 1997-98 budget year is projected to set a record for revenue and Funds Provided from Operations (FPO), revenue remaining after all product costs, operating expenses and contributions for convention support have been deducted. Final figures will not be known until after Sept. 30 when the fiscal year ends.
Though expectations are for revenues to fall short of the $326 million budget, revenues of $315 million are projected to exceed last year by 11 percent. The FPO total of $17.7 million is expected to surpass budget by $1.4 million or 8.6 percent, due in part to underspent strategic projects.
The proposed 1998-99 budget of $354 million, later approved by trustees, represents a 12.4 percent increase over projections for the current year. Warren said among factors leading to the increased budget are anticipated growth in dated materials and FAITH resources and events, new projects from LifeWay Christian Stores, and new products and lines from Broadman & Holman Publishers.
In referencing the LifeWay name, Warren said, “God has opened so many doors we never realized we’d have. Not only does the name lift up Jesus Christ, but it is a name through which we get to uplift our identity and our brand.”
He urged trustees to view the concept of the LifeWay brand as a means for persons to know “who we are, what we stand for, and the service we deliver.
“We’ve got an opportunity to be more than we’ve ever been to the Kingdom,” he concluded. “It is going to challenge us to see if we can think that big, seizing the opportunities God gives us.”

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  • Charles Willis