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LifeWay’s ‘A Defining Moment’ rooted to biblical stewardship

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–During his last year as president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, James T. Draper Jr. launched a philanthropic initiative in 2005 named “A Defining Moment.” By funding specific creative ministry projects propelled by LifeWay’s infrastructure, the $29 million campaign will address spiritual needs around the world.

“Ministry is at the heart of LifeWay and has been at the heart of what LifeWay has always been about,” said Draper, LifeWay’s president emeritus and chair of the campaign.

Draper described A Defining Moment as greater than the stewardship of finances. “The greatest stewardship referenced in Scripture is the stewardship of the preaching of the Gospel,” he said. “Through A Defining Moment, we have the opportunity to give of our physical resources, but also of the greater stewardship -– the Gospel itself.”

Unlike an organization that would have to start from square one to create an infrastructure for such an undertaking, Draper said LifeWay is blessed to have the needed human resources and organizational infrastructure largely in place.

On Nov. 1 at LifeWay, Draper hosted the first meeting of A Defining Moment, which included the President’s Cabinet -– a select group of individuals committed to assisting in the strategic planning and funding of the campaign.

“A Defining Moment is an extension of what we can do as an organization,” said Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay’s president and CEO in his welcoming remarks to the group. Through the campaign, “LifeWay Christian Resources is a brilliant conduit to touch the nations for ministry. A Defining Moment is in the framework of LifeWay.”

During the meeting, participants heard details from four main areas of ministry that the campaign will affect.


John Broman, founder of GrapeCity -– a multifaceted ministry in Asia -– described how no translation of the Bible has found broad acceptance within the Christian community in China. The most common version used is nearly 90 years old, he said, and was written in classical Chinese, which is more difficult than King James English. As a result, many are confused by what the Bible says and distrust the message of God’s Word.

A Defining Moment will support efforts by Holman Bible Outreach International, collaborating with The Asian Bible Society and GrapeCity, to produce an accurate and readable translation of the Bible in Mandarin Chinese. Portions of Scripture, including the Gospel of John, already have been completed.


Of the 4,000 churches in the Kenyan Baptist Convention, only about 100 have a discipleship process implemented in their churches. “One of the most consistent requests from Kenya is assistance with biblical discipleship,” said Ernie McAninch of LifeWay’s international department. “Pastors and leaders understand the need to develop true followers who reflect the person and characteristics of Christ.”

Investments in the 2 Timothy Discipleship Project -– which also includes projects in India and Cuba -– will build on these foundations to facilitate a biblical process of making disciples through local churches by training hundreds of church and lay leaders in discipleship, open Bible study methods and curriculum development.

“Kenya is in a strategic position to reach the entirety of East Africa,” McAninch said, describing how the project will be reproducible, spiritually transferable and will fit a Kenyan context. “We are convinced that this will easily be replicated in places we can’t go, but the Africans can.”


Gene Wilkes, author of “Jesus on Leadership,” shared the vision for the LifeWay Leadership Institute, designed to provide Christian leaders with the finest training in biblically based leadership and management available.

With LifeWay becoming a global ministry, Wilkes underscored the unprecedented opportunity -– and need -– for relevant, Christ-centered training to prepare leaders around the world.

“There is a seduction [in ministry] to adopt the business model for leadership,” Wilkes said. “We must remember that this is a spiritual endeavor and that changed lives are the goal. The servant-leader must be a model [of] Christ with a biblical worldview.

“The servant leadership of Jesus is a universal model for those who lead in ministry and the marketplace -– and it is the most effective model,” he said. The LifeWay Leadership Institute will consist of The Center for Church Ministry Leadership and The Center for Business and Organizational Leadership and will empower leaders to transform their lives, families and professions by providing biblically based conferencing and training.


Andrew Mwenge, who serves as pastor of Kampala Baptist Church and also directs the True Love Waits movement in Uganda, and Sharon Pumpelly, a former International Mission Board missionary in Uganda, talked about the sweeping changes that have taken place in that AIDS-ravaged country since True Love Waits was introduced there in 1994, and about LifeWay’s plans for expanding the Uganda model to other parts of Africa.

True Love Waits became a catalyst for bringing people together to address the AIDS problem and spread the message of biblical purity to schools, youth groups, communities and other places, Mwenge said. In the 12 years that followed, Uganda’s HIV/AIDS infection rate dropped from 30 percent to about 6 percent.

“God began to move in hearts,” Mwenge stated. “The government was open and people were open. God’s standards for sex began to catch fire in Uganda.”

Other African countries have since sent representatives to Uganda to learn how that country has done such a remarkable job of reversing this deadly trend.

Mike Arrington, vice president for LifeWay’s corporate affairs division, along with LifeWay’s divisional leadership team, works to coordinate the operational aspects of A Defining Moment campaign.

“This campaign is a God-sized vision for LifeWay and we are excited to have the opportunity to minister to millions of people through these projects,” Arrington said.

Draper, who will lead the A Defining Moment campaign for three years, receives no compensation for his participation. “This is what LifeWay is about,” he said. “It will take the combined efforts of all of us to change the world.”

LifeWay, a not-for-profit entity of the Southern Baptist Convention, is one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, including Bibles, church literature, books, music, audio and video recordings, church supplies and Internet services through LifeWay.com. Established in Nashville, Tenn., in 1891, the company owns and operates 134 LifeWay Christian Stores throughout the United States, as well as two of the largest Christian conference centers in the country.
Don Beehler contributed to this story. For up-to-date news and information regarding LifeWay Christian Resources, visit www.lifeway.com/news.

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  • Russ Rankin