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LifeWay is transformation agent, Draper tells agency trustees

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–In the midst of rapid change in churches and ministry, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is working to be an agent of transformation, the agency’s trustees were told in their semi-annual meeting, Sept. 13-14.
“I believe the message of spiritual transformation has been given to us by God for such a time as this,” President James T. Draper Jr. said at Ridgecrest, a LifeWay Conference Center.
In a related personal note, Draper told trustees he will celebrate his 65th birthday in October 2000.
“My health is good. I continue to be challenged by the opportunities we have at LifeWay to be used by God as agents of spiritual transformation. Therefore, I am not giving any notice of retirement at this time.”
Citing societal trends, including increased interest in spiritual matters that does not necessarily translate into interest in Christianity, Draper said several major initiatives represent LifeWay’s efforts to effect positive change in the world.
First, he said, “We recognize that we cannot be used by God to spiritually transform individuals and cultures until we are transformed ourselves. We must ask the question of everything we do, ‘How will this help people and churches know Jesus Christ and seek his Kingdom?’“
Sunday School For a New Century — a major revamping of Sunday school curriculum to be introduced in Fall 2000 — is about choices to meet the needs of people and churches, he said.
“There will be more, not fewer, choices for churches in selecting Bible study materials that fit their goals and budgets,” Draper continued.
Among methods to help churches make decisions about curriculum are a new Web site, www.lifewaysundayschool.com, which will be online later this Fall. In January every Southern Baptist church will receive a preview pack, including catalogs and sample lessons. Also, events will be conducted nationwide to interpret the new curriculum.
“Sunday School for a New Century also is about families studying the Bible together and about Bible study that makes a difference in people’s lives seven days a week,” he added.
The FAITH evangelism strategy in Sunday school has resulted in 13,241 people being trained in 3,123 churches through clinics sponsored by LifeWay since 1998. They, in turn, have trained as many as 50,000 more people.
From reporting churches, “the gospel has been presented 28,385 times, 7,641 persons have accepted Christ as their savior and 10,139 persons have been enrolled in Sunday school,” he observed.
In another area, Draper said work is progressing on a new Bible translation under development by Broadman & Holman Publishers. He said the four gospels will be released in January in a volume titled “Experiencing the Word Through the Gospels.” The New Testament will be released in 2001 and the Old Testament in 2004.
“Our goal is to combine the highest standard of biblical accuracy with a high level of readability,” he said. “By owning our own translation, we will be able to control the standards of accuracy and not be at the mercy of any actions taken by those who control other translations.”
YouthLink 2000, a cooperative effort with other SBC agencies, will be a once-in-a-millennium event at seven locations, Dec. 29-31, Draper said. More than 38,000 youth have registered for the event which leaders pray will result in more than 1,000 people called to career missions and 1,500 will be called as pastors and church leaders. Also, leaders are praying that more teen-agers will accept Christ as their savior than at any single event in Christian history.
“This event can shape the future of America and the world,” he said. Other sponsoring agencies are the International Mission Board, North American Mission Board and Woman’s Missionary Union.
Under the auspices of LifeWay’s international department, local churches in 58 countries can buy LifeWay resources in their own currency through local distributors, Draper noted. Four LifeWay missionaries based in Ecuador, Kenya, Germany and Singapore are spreading the agency’s resources and expertise into new areas.
Citing John 7:37-38, Draper concluded by telling trustees that individuals and churches may feel that by themselves they “aren’t much, but when all of us come together to form that church of God, we ought to flow with such force that we bring living water.
“I believe we are living in a time of life-and-death moments. Our lives will never be the same if we do or don’t do what God placed us here to be.”

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  • Charles Willis