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Employees celebrate, dedicate new name, LifeWay Christian Resources of the SBC

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“We must, today, reaffirm our commitment to be people of the way” of Christ, James T. Draper Jr. told employees of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in a June 19 service to celebrate and dedicate the institution’s new name.
Messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention voted June 9 to approve the proposed change for the Sunday School Board of the SBC.
“Our new name represents, I pray, a new commitment to the task that is before us,” Draper, president of LifeWay, said.
“For 107 years, our message has been that Jesus Christ offers eternal salvation to every person. In two years, we will enter the third century in which we have ministered and the third millennium. We will remain faithful to the unchanging message. Our methods will be constantly changing to take the gospel to the ends of the earth,” he said.
Draper noted that the name LifeWay is rooted in Christ’s words in John 14:6, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but by me.”
“Our name tells us who we are, people of the way,” he said. “It tells us what we do. We are people who point the way to hope, joy, salvation, service, meaning, purpose, comfort and forgiveness. We point people to Jesus who is the way. We magnify the way of life that is in Christ.”
During the service which included the unfurling of two 30-foot name banners as six herald trumpeters played a fanfare, several speakers paid tribute to the institution’s long heritage of service and commitment to the future. Due to rain Friday morning, the unfurling of 11 outdoor banners near the entity’s main entrance was held in the afternoon.
Chris Ferrell, a councilman at large with Metro Nashville government and a Southern Baptist layman, presented a certificate on behalf of Nashville Mayor Phil Bredesen and cited LifeWay’s “years of contribution to Nashville, the U.S. and the world.”
On a personal level, Ferrell said his life was enriched by Sunday School Board literature as he grew up in a Southern Baptist church in Jacksonville, Fla. As a college student serving as a summer missionary in Belize, he saw some of the same resources making a difference on the mission field.
“The material you produce leads many thousands of people to be eternally grateful,” Ferrell said.
James L. Sullivan, president of the Sunday School Board from 1953-75, noted he gained trustee approval in 1966 to change the name to Board of Christian Education and Publication but withdrew the proposal.
“LifeWay has more sparkle in it,” Sullivan said. “It has heartbeat — ‘I am the way, the truth and the life.'”
He said Sunday School Board was the appropriate name when the institution was established in 1891 with one assignment, publishing Sunday school literature for Southern Baptist churches. He added that the name has been outdated since 1898 when the assignment for Baptist Young People’s Union was added and SSB responsibilities broadened beyond Sunday school.
Sullivan noted the name LifeWay was used more than 30 years by the SSB for the names of selected retail stores and as a press name.
“The sentiment I have for the Sunday school and its impact on my life is beyond measure,” he said. “The Sunday school should have its greatest growth period in the years ahead, under the name LifeWay.”
Bill Merrell, vice president for public relations for the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee, cited the importance of names in the Bible as linked to character, personality and reputation.
In LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, “there is prophecy and there is hope,” Merrell said. “There is prediction and intentional determination that this grand agency, with its storied past, will point the way to Christ who is the way to life, that it will be thoroughly and radically and redemptively Christian and that it will be a seedbed and a sower of good seeds to resource churches and Christians who are themselves pointing the way to life.”

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  • Linda Lawson