News Articles

‘Embrace the cross,’ Draper says in final trustee address

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–James T. Draper Jr. reflected on his 14 years as president of LifeWay Christian Resources but closed the semiannual trustee meeting with a challenge to those leading LifeWay’s future, including president-elect Thom Rainer.

“Trustees, vice presidents, managers, employees, Thom … whatever you endeavor to do from this point forward as individuals and as an organization, embrace the cross,” he said, quoting Christian recording artist Steve Green’s song, “Embrace the Cross.” “LifeWay’s impact in the future is limitless if you will daily embrace the cross.”

The trustee meeting was Draper’s 30th since becoming the president of LifeWay 14 years ago, and it was his last. Draper will retire Feb. 1, 2006. Rainer, unanimously approved Sept. 12 by trustees, will move from president-elect status and working side-by-side with Draper to officially becoming LifeWay’s ninth president in its 114-year history.

Draper said it was “personally satisfying” that the trustee board “selected a man the quality of Thom Rainer to succeed me.” He expressed his appreciation for the “great job” the presidential search committee did in methodically selecting Rainer.

“I said in my address to you last February that LifeWay needed a younger man with great vision, one who would not rest upon the great resources of this organization and maintain the status quo,” he said. “Under God’s leadership you’ve found exactly that man in Thom Rainer.”

Draper briefly reflected on some of the “highlights God has blessed us with in these 14 years.” Some of those included the completion of the Holman Christian Standard Bible, the growth in overall corporate revenue, the doubling of the number of LifeWay Christian Stores, revamping of Vacation Bible School material, the expansion of LifeWay’s presence on the World Wide Web, renovations at LifeWay Ridgecrest and LifeWay Glorieta Conference Centers and the growth of LifeWay volunteer mission trips.

“LifeWay mission volunteers have had a part in over 70,000 professions of faith through one-on-one witnessing and seen approximately 170 churches started,” Draper said. “More than 400 of our employees, 110 spouses, 15 children, 24 retirees and 11 of their spouses, and five trustees and one trustee spouse have gone on mission trips. It has been a transforming ingredient in the DNA of LifeWay. It has put feet to our vision statement and one of the things I’m most proud of.”

But in the wake of such accomplishment, Draper said it is humbling “to see God at work in our midst. Let us touch not the glory due Him, collectively acknowledging we are simply instruments in the Master’s hand.”

Draper challenged “the stewards of LifeWay” to “take this organization to new heights” and issued 15 challenges that LifeWay will need to master in the coming years to realize maximum Kingdom impact. Draper said LifeWay must:

— be a catalyst for spiritual revival in America and especially among Southern Baptists, determining leaders through God’s leadership.

— make prayer an even greater priority as the foundation for strategic planning if LifeWay is to provide culturally relevant resources.

— be more aggressive in presenting its resources to churches, knowing they have options.

— create resources that help churches confidently engage the culture.

— become much more flexible, especially in positions of leadership, in releasing employees to pursue unconventional ideas to reward their creativity.

— continue hiring the best and brightest to maintain a world-class staff, recognizing there are incredibly gifted and committed people in every vocational field ready to give their lives to the cause of Christ.

— transfer the SBC’s and the organization’s vision and values to the next generation.

— buttress the local church in even more supportive ways while building relationships with individuals.

— strengthen its relationships with state conventions and associations.

— have a role in strengthening those non-geographic networks, especially over the Internet.

— be prudent in its alliances and not yield to those whose positions on issues would paralyze LifeWay, compromising its biblical heritage in a compromising world.

— engage in a serious capital fund raising effort in order to fund ministry opportunities that lie beyond the operating budget.

— avoid every appearance of impropriety.

— respect employees by remembering that employees have lives apart from LifeWay.

— have employees who deepen their commitments to personal holiness.

“LifeWay is an incredible organization,” Draper said, “but it has room to grow to accomplish even greater things for God’s glory. With all the fervency and passion I can muster, my prayer for the future of LifeWay is that it will be the choice servant in the field, hand to the plow laboring when the King returns.”

Draper expressed appreciation to trustees, LifeWay’s employees and executive management group and especially to his wife, Carol Ann.

“God in His wisdom led me to meet a fantastic woman over 50 years ago,” Draper said. “I cannot even imagine what these years would have been without her. Carol Ann, I want to publicly thank you for the support, the friendship and encouragement you’ve been to me during our time here [at LifeWay].”

Draper reserved his greatest appreciation for Jesus Christ.

“[Jesus] took a once skinny kid from a country church in Texas around the world and gave that kid a firsthand look at His activity in the world,” he said. “I could never have scripted this life as He has given me.”