GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–In a historic vote, trustees of the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention have approved recommending LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention to the denomination as the new name for the 106-year-old agency.
By a unanimous voice vote Sept. 15, trustees approved the administration recommendation during their semiannual meeting at Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.
Two more steps remain in the approval process — consideration in February 1998 by the SBC Executive Committee to putting the request on the agenda for the 1998 Southern Baptist Convention and consideration by messengers attending the June 9-11 meeting in Salt Lake City. If approved by SBC messengers, the new name would become effective immediately.
“As our executive management group has lived with the proposed name, we feel it best represents who we are and what we do,” President James T. Draper Jr. told Baptist Press. “We came to this name after looking at over 400 possibilities. This is not a trendy name; it will stand the test of time. It also incorporates an established name that represents quality resources in the view of churches and individuals.”
LifeWay already is the name of one of the board’s publishing imprints and the name of two of its retail stores in Albuquerque, N.M., and Denver.
After the vote, trustee chairman Nick Garland, pastor of First Baptist Church, Broken Arrow, Okla., said “history has been made. If Jesus tarries, years from now, people will say LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention was born in 1997 at Glorieta.”
Draper said the name is rooted in the Bible verse, John 14:6: “Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
“We already seek to lift up Christ as the only way to truth, salvation and eternal life through everything we do,” Draper said. “I believe we can point people to The Way even through our name.”
The three words in the Bible verse — way, truth, and life — illustrate the many dimensions of the saving work of Christ, Draper said.
“‘Way’ speaks of the link between God and mankind. ‘Truth’ reminds us of the complete reliability of Jesus in all that he is and does. And ‘Life’ stresses far more than mere physical existence. The only life worthy of the name is that which Jesus brings, for he is life itself,” Draper continued.
“LifeWay points to the essence of our Christian faith — The Way to a full and meaningful life. ‘Christian’ delineates our faith and complements ‘Southern Baptist’ in the latter part of the name. ‘Resources’ encompasses both products and services and relates them to life needs. ‘Of the Southern Baptist Convention’ clearly states our relationship to our denomination and the churches we serve,” Draper said.
In the past five years, Draper told trustees, a new vision has been cast for the Sunday School Board. It states: “We will assist local churches and believers to evangelize the world to Christ, develop believers, and grow churches by being the best worldwide provider of relevant, high-quality, high-value Christian products and services.”
To carry out the vision, new values, operating principles and business and financial objectives have been developed. “We felt it was also appropriate to consider whether the name, The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, best reflects the mission of the institution and the expanding ministries we are providing as the 21st century approaches,” Draper said.
From one assignment in 1891, publishing Sunday school literature, the board today provides resources and services for discipleship, music, family life, multicultural ministries, pastors and church staff members and many others. The agency operates a nationwide chain of Baptist Book Stores and Glorieta and Ridgecrest Baptist Conference centers. Through Broadman & Holman Publishers, the board provides books, Bibles, church supplies and gifts.
In their February 1997 meeting, BSSB trustees agreed with management that the agency needs a new name. Draper announced to messengers attending the June 1997 Southern Baptist Convention in Dallas the board’s intention to change the name.
James L. Sullivan, who retired in 1975 after 22 years as president of the Sunday School Board, told trustees Sept. 15 in a videotaped message that as long as 40 years ago a new name was investigated for the agency.
“In 1957 the leadership of the Sunday School Board became aware of the inadequacy of the name of the institution,” he said, adding “we never could find a name that suited everyone.”
“I want to express my joy that a study has been made again, and apparently a name has been found that should be satisfactory to everyone,” Sullivan said. “It has my ardent support and approval, and I hope the convention gets a recommendation from the trustees to that effect.”
Mike Arrington, executive director for corporate affairs of the board and chairman of the 19-member employee naming committee, said interviews were conducted with leaders throughout the Southern Baptist Convention as part of the exploration of a new name.
“Our Sunday School Board executive management group, our trustees and employees have been involved. We determined that a new name should reflect six key attributes of the Sunday School Board to communicate that we are Christian, approachable, multifaceted, ministry- and customer-focused, dynamic and high quality,” Arrington said.
David Pope, trustee and pastor of One Heart Church, Holland Patent, N.Y., said, “I’ve served for eight years on the mission field in New York, non-Baptist territory. This name will help in our area” to build identity for the board and for Baptists.
Draper said a logo, developed under the leadership of Paula Savage, a creative art director for the board, includes a key element from the present logo and the strongest symbol of Christian faith, the cross.
“Shaded curves on each side of the cross symbolize the Holy Spirit at work in the world. They also illustrate the energy of our commitment to meeting the needs of people in a world that is constantly changing.
“We live in a unique moment,” Draper concluded. “We approach a new millennium. We must use every method at our disposal to point people to the timeless, eternal truth in Christ. He is the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father but through him.”