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LifeWay reconfirms commitment to churches

ST. LOUIS (BP)–LifeWay Christian Resources President James T. Draper Jr. reconfirmed LifeWay’s commitment to the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention in a June 11 report at the SBC annual meeting in St. Louis.

Introduced by LifeWay trustee chairman George Iwahiro of Honolulu, Draper quoted what LifeWay’s first president, J.M. Frost, said in 1892: “Brethren, this great enterprise which you have entrusted us is not a scrabble and squabble for literature, but something in every way high and noble.”

“Today, 110 years later,” Draper said, “I stand before you to say, LifeWay is not just about literature, books, Bibles, conference centers and Christian stores, but about the God-given mission of supporting churches in their efforts to reach people with the transforming message of Jesus Christ. LifeWay is committed to helping people grow in their faith by identifying needs and opportunities and providing biblical solutions that will lead them to transformation in their lives and ministries.”

Referencing the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Draper recounted that he was at Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico for a LifeWay trustees meeting.

“As the events of Sept. 11 unfolded, we attempted to keep at least a part of our focus on the meeting,” he said. “We learned in just a few days that we would be ministering in a new world. We also learned that when we need to, we can do things we never before considered possible.

“One of the most important lessons we learned as a result of the Sept. 11 crisis is the effectiveness and importance of Internet communications,” Draper said.

With more than 3 million U.S. adults daily going online to find religious information, 2 million Americans each month going online for the first time and with 45 percent of all Protestant churches now having websites, Draper cited a tremendous need to take advantage of Internet capabilities for use in ministry.

LifeWay has a team solely dedicated to Internet ministry that will “design and provide a free website for your church,” Draper reported, adding that more than 3,500 churches and associations already use LifeWayLINK for their websites.

Highlighting the FAITH Sunday School evangelism strategy, Draper said, “We are seeing people learning to share their faith in a simple yet, powerful way.”

FAITH is an ongoing evangelism outreach and assimilation strategy that functions through the Sunday School. More than 28,456 people from 6,591 different churches have been trained at FAITH clinics.

Citing a post-Sept. 11 Barna poll reporting that 22 percent of Americans believe in the existence of absolute moral truths, Draper said the same survey also revealed that only 32 percent of evangelical Christians in America believe in the existence of absolute moral truths.

He mentioned Centrifuge, M-Fuge, Centri-Kid and Crosspoint camps for children and youth that blend Bible study, recreation and worship, helping campers integrate Christian values, including an understanding of absolute truth, into their lives.

Draper welcomed a group of teens representing the 407 M-Fuge youth who are ministering in St. Louis during the week of the SBC. “Since 1995 the M-Fuge young people and adults from your churches have contributed more than 450,000 hours of community service all across our nation,” Draper noted.

Saying he is “thrilled how the door of international ministry has opened for us,” Draper told messengers about opportunities LifeWay has had to provide training for national church leaders in different parts of the world. “Last year [LifeWay’s] international department conducted 400 workshops and trained 3,500 pastors and leaders from 30 countries. Church leaders from at least 12 different denominational groups were involved.”

At LifeWay’s conference centers at Glorieta and Ridgecrest, N.C., Draper said, “More than a million people have attended our conferences and workshops the last 10 years, gaining new skills and ideas they take back to their congregations.”

The 300-seat Rutland Chapel at Ridgecrest was dedicated this spring. A new 120-room hotel with conference space for 240 people is now under construction and will be completed this fall.

Giving a “thumbs up” to Campers on Missions, Draper said, “They have helped renovate four hotels at Glorieta and have completed many other projects. Already this year 84 Campers on Mission have contributed more than 6,000 hours of labor, saving the conference center at least $80,000.”

Vacation Bible School encompassed more than 13,000 congregations last year, Draper noted. “There were more than 109,000 professions of faith,” he said. “Vacation Bible School enrollment was 435,000 higher than the year before.”

He predicted that based on the amount of VBS materials already sold for this year VBS 2002 should exceed last year’s record.

Of True Love Waits, Draper said, “There has never been a greater need to stress sexual purity to our young people than there is today.”

The True Love Waits event at Wedgwood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, Texas, in February drew more than 1,000 youth, Draper said. “Richard Ross, one of the founders of the movement, surprised the group by reading a letter from our president, George W. Bush, in which he congratulated the group on their decision to remain sexually pure until marriage. It’s great to have a president that will support a stand for sexual purity.”

Work on the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation continues to go well, Draper said. “The New Testament was released last year and we expect to have the entire Bible available early in 2004,” he said.

Regarding the controversial gender translation issue, he said LifeWay’s Broadman & Holman division has sought meticulously to follow the Colorado Springs Guidelines endorsed more than four years ago by B&H, Focus on the Family and other organizations and biblical scholars. “We are committed to the faithful translation of the original languages,” he said.

He also stated, “I assure you that our curriculum now using the King James translation will continue to use the King James Version translation. Beginning in 2004, we will begin to incorporate the Holman Christian Standard translation in curriculum that uses a contemporary translation.”

Draper concluded by saying, “We must be concerned about today and tomorrow. We must dream of what can be in this century and where God has placed us. Along with you, we strive to make a spiritual contribution to the lives of our family, our community as well as to the lives of those to whom we minister.”

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