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Going global: LifeWay gains momentum overseas

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EDITOR’S NOTE: See additional story below about a native of India, Ashish Thomas, who is a strategist for LifeWay Christian Resources in his homeland and in other parts of Asia.

NASHVILLE (BP) — “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.

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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 distributers 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.”

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India native is LifeWay
strategist for Asia
By Carol Pipes

NASHVILLE, TENN. (BP) — Ashish Thomas beams when talking about the potential in India for LifeWay Christian Resources to serve churches in the burgeoning nation.

A native of India, Thomas is chief strategist in India and Asia for B&H Publishers, the trade books division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

[[email protected]@50%}Growing up the son of missionaries from southern India — his father is a doctor, pastor and church planter — Thomas has seen “the impact of the Gospel on people’s lives and how it can change an entire village, an entire society.”

Thomas grew up in the small town of Mussoorie nestled in the Himalayan Mountains. At age 12, he began attending an American boarding school there, which explains how he easily transitions from an Indian to American accent. After college, Thomas worked in the United States and then moved back to India to start his own consulting firm.

Five years ago, Thomas and his wife Kristin, a Nashville native, moved to Tennessee to spend time with her family and help take care of her father who was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Thomas landed a job in B&H Publishing’s mass market department. At the time, the international market was only a small part of its work but now has become an area of great potential, prompting the formation of a LifeWay Global Resources team to serve churches and individuals around the world.

Thomas and his wife decided a couple of years ago it was time to move back to India with their children Isabella and Zander. He took some time off from LifeWay to get the family settled back in India. Several months ago, he took on the role of strategist.

“My work so far has been discovering the needs of the church in India, how LifeWay can connect with those needs, and what types of market channels exist,” Thomas said. Ahead: “executing the strategy we’ve set in place.

“It’s an exciting time to be doing ministry in India,” Thomas said. “The church is exploding. It’s growing like never before.”

With that growth comes a need to develop leaders and mechanisms for discipleship, Thomas said.

“One of the biggest opportunities for LifeWay is to put tools in the hands of pastors to help them develop the next generation of leaders and teach them how to do small groups,” Thomas said. “We’re able to do that through books, curriculum, video, software, even worship music.”

LifeWay already is raising up indigenous voices within the Indian culture — respected authors who can speak to different people groups.

Trust has already been built around the LifeWay brand, Thomas added. “They recognize we are serious about the Word of God and serious about discipleship.”