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LifeWay cooperates to support Great Commission ministry

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–“LifeWay will always stand tallest when we stand with others, sometimes leading, sometimes supporting, but always cooperating for the sake of the Kingdom,” James T. Draper, Jr., president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, told the agency’s trustees during their semi-annual meeting, Sept. 11-12.

“If there is a distinctive of Southern Baptists that sets us apart from other Baptists and evangelical Christians, I believe it is cooperation,” Draper observed. “We do what we do together, by choice.

“One of the best-kept secrets in the Southern Baptist Convention is that LifeWay receives no Cooperative Program funds,” he continued. “Instead, we contribute to ministries at every level of the denomination. This is part of our stewardship of influence.”

Draper said the purpose for excellent management of resources “is not more money for LifeWay. The purpose is more money for Great Commission ministry.

“In our partnerships with state conventions, for 1999-2000, we are contributing $3.1 million to their ministries,” he said. “We provided $250,000 for student work in newer convention areas. We are investing $450,000 for Strategic Focus Cities. Over a three-year period, our contributions to Southern Baptist Convention support will approach $800,000 annually.

In what he called “a whirlwind tour,” Draper cited locations in the United States and abroad in which LifeWay partnerships are producing results for Great Commission ministry:

— He began with Phoenix, Ariz., where LifeWay has supported a metro association growth strategy, Vacation Bible School, with an investment of more than $37,000.

“We provided materials free of charge to churches that did not have VBS in 1999 and materials for anticipated enrollment growth to churches that had a VBS last year,” he said. “With only 81 percent of participating churches reporting, enrollment among these Phoenix churches already has increased by 1,454 or 26 percent, and the number of professions of faith has more than doubled, from 156 last year to 341.”

— In Venezuela, LifeWay was involved in August, for the second straight year, in the annual Evangelistic March sponsored by the Venezuela Baptist Convention.

“Two of our international field consultants and the author of the LifeWay resource ‘Share Jesus Without Fear,’ Bill Fay, participated this year in the training seminar,” Draper reported. Share Jesus Without Fear, available in Spanish and produced by the Multicultural Leadership Department, has been adopted as the official evangelistic method for the march.

— In Greensboro, N.C., a concert featuring two popular Christian music groups recently was scheduled for 9 p.m. to midnight on the parking lot of the LifeWay Christian Store. Due to rain, it was moved inside the store where it drew 200-300 young people.

“During the concert, the lead singer from one of the groups preached and gave an invitation,” he reported. “Seven people accepted Christ at the front of our store.”

— At Texas Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, Bobby Welch, the co-founder of the FAITH Sunday school evangelism strategy and pastor of First Baptist Church, Daytona Beach, Fla., led a tour guide named Marcella to accept Christ as her Savior on Aug. 22 during a FAITH clinic.

“Today, more than 5,000 churches and 120,000 members are involved in FAITH. Thousands have accepted Christ through this strategy,” Draper said. While LifeWay cannot claim credit for results in any of the examples, Draper said, “We had a part, an important part.

In other matters, Draper reported to trustees on a variety of ministry areas:

— Work is progressing on the Bible translation, The Holman Christian Standard Bible.

The New Testament will be published early in 2001.

“It is a precise, accurate translation that also is stylistically beautiful,” he said. “This translation will be one we can be proud of. I believe it will be widely used. Most important, we will own it and maintain control to see that it remains accurate and true to the original languages.”

With only the four Gospels released, the Holman Christian Standard Bible entered the top 10 “General Versions and Translations” sales chart, according to the April and May issues of CBA Marketplace magazine.

“With an increasingly secular culture and people coming to Christ with no religious background,” he observed, “it is critical that we be able to offer an accurate Bible translation in language that is easy to understand.”

— LifeWay Christian Stores now total 91. While the financial growth is important and necessary, he said, “we constantly hear stories of employees ministering and witnessing to customers. The stores themselves are becoming beacons of light in their communities across the United States.”

— The Church Resources Division is involved in a major change process. Instead of thinking about how we should serve and minister to best suit LifeWay, the goal is to focus on how LifeWay can best help churches achieve the vision God has given them, he said.

“Even as they are involved in this intensive process, they are continuing to operate their ongoing ministry and business at a high level,” Draper said.

— The response to LifeWay’s Sunday School for a New Century materials, especially the Family Bible Study concept of all age groups studying similar topics, has been outstanding, he said.

“Typical has been this message that came electronically: ‘This is just a praise for the great new books! I have been trying to find a way to get my family involved together in a Bible/worship time together. Being a relatively new Christian with a reluctant, slightly older family (12 and 14) and a reluctant husband, too, I was very frustrated. Until now, with the new book, it all became so clear. Why couldn’t I think of that! Bless you all for the wonderful support and resources you provide for the glory of God and the Lord Jesus Christ!'”

During the meeting a 1743 Germa Bible, published by Christopher Sauer and used by his daughter Alithabeth, was presented to Draper by Ken Stephens, vice president for LifeWay’s Broadman & Holman publishing division. Sauer, who published the first Bible in America, was the forerunner of Holman Bible Publishers, now a part of LifeWay.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at www.sbcbaptistpress.org. Photo title: GREAT COMMISSION MINISTRY.

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  • Charles Willis