KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–LifeWay Christian Stores personnel, customers and Southern Baptist leaders celebrated the milestone of 100 LifeWay stores Aug. 16 at the grand opening of the Knoxville (Tenn.) west store.
“We’re here for one reason and one reason alone and that is to do the work of ministry,” said Mark Scott, president of the national chain owned and operated by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“When you come into one of our stores, we believe every one of our products offers a biblical solution” to life’s challenges, Scott said. He noted that the new store is the second in Knoxville and the 10th in Tennessee.
Scott said the idea for a chain of bookstores originated with J.M. Frost, the first corresponding secretary of what was then called the Sunday School Board. Frost served 1891-93, 1896-1916, though stores did not materialize during his administration. In 1925, the board purchased the Baptist Book Concern of Louisville, Ky., as its first store. Later, the name was changed to Baptist Book Store and, in 1998, the chain became LifeWay Christian Stores following the SBC-approved name change for the Sunday School Board to LifeWay.
James T. Draper, Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources, observed that with the growth of LifeWay Christian Stores, “we’re living out someone else’s dreams.”
In 1973, the Sunday School Board opened two retail stores named LifeWay. “They didn’t thrive. It was a dream before its time,” he said, noting that the stores were later closed but the name was retained for possible future use.
“It’s not unusual in one of our stores to see someone pray to receive Christ,” Draper said. “The vision to share Christ is the vision we have for our stores.”
Ted Warren, executive vice president and chief operating officer of LifeWay Christian Resources, said, “We’re not just about doing budgets, selling books and Bibles. We’re about meeting the needs of people.”
When a person comes through the door of a LifeWay store, Warren said employees never know the potential, life-changing spiritual impact that could be made from the visit.
“Affecting lives for eternity is the reason we’re here,” he said.
Bruce Robinson, chairman of LifeWay trustees and pastor of West Lonsdale Baptist Church, Knoxville, said, “I believe with all my heart that this store is uniquely designed and strategically located to do ministry for many years to come.”
Store manager Bill Barenkamp, a four-year LifeWay Stores employee, joined the Knoxville West store after managing the store in Kennesaw, Ga.
Earlier, Barenkamp worked in health care management for five years but said he had always wanted to manage a Christian bookstore. He developed a business plan for a store and sent it to LifeWay.
“I found out about the stores and they sent me employment information,” he said. “This is the best thing I’ve ever done.”
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: BOOKSTORE MINISTRY, 100 & COUNTING, SIERRA JOINS IN, CELEBRATING 100TH and SIERRA IN SONG