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‘Our ministry is helping people,’ Draper tells LifeWay trustees

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Any solutions to life’s problems offered by LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention “must be rooted in the Savior and based upon his Word,” President James T. Draper Jr. told the agency’s trustees Feb. 7

“At LifeWay, our ministry is helping people in a real and legitimate way,” he continued.

In reporting to trustees during their semiannual meeting, Draper offered 10 examples of biblical solutions LifeWay is providing today:

— Electronic resources — He cited the LifeWayonline filtered Internet service that “provides access to the many good things on the Internet while filtering out pornography, violence, sexual exploitation and other areas that should never be brought into our homes.”

— Conference centers — “With the pace of change continuing to increase, the need has never been greater for places where people can get away from their busy lives to grow closer to God,” Draper said. “It’s a ministry we have to have.”

He said trustees would be asked to support a plan for revitalization of the Ridgecrest (N.C.) and Glorieta (N.M.) centers for continued ministry in the 21st century.

“What we are proposing is an investment in the future of Southern Baptists, other Christians and persons who need to know the Lord,” he said.

— Sunday School for a New Century — Draper said Southern Baptist churches have received preview packs about the new Bible study materials, and sample lessons are available on an Internet site, lifewaysundayschool.com.

“We believe these resources can make a profound spiritual impact in people’s lives,” he said.

A Sunday school teacher from California, responding to information about the new Family Bible Study curriculum to be available in the fall of 2000, wrote, “I’ve been teaching Sunday School for many years, and it has been a desire of my heart to see the families studying the same material. Thank you for seeing this need and acting upon it.”

— FAITH — The number of churches involved in the FAITH Sunday school evangelism strategy has topped 3,600, Draper reported. A recent testimony sent from First Baptist Church, Spartanburg, S.C., reported on Andy Lanford, an eighth-grader who is in his fourth semester of FAITH. In January, his team went to see a student at his home. The father told the group his son wasn’t home. Andy then asked the father the key question in FAITH, “In your personal opinion, what do you understand it takes for a person to go to heaven?” He then went on to lead the man to accept Christ.

— How Now Shall We Live? — LifeWay’s discipleship and family group will release on March 1 an eight-session, interactive course by Charles Colson. “How Now Shall We Live?” will be available for adults, college students, youth and older children.

In the introduction to the adult course book, Colson maintains that “the church’s singular failure in recent decades has been the failure to see Christianity as a life system, or worldview, that governs every area of existence and speaks to both the moral and the physical order of the universe.”

Draper told trustees, “If this study has the impact we believe it can, we will see that God has used us in a mighty way as his instrument for spiritual transformation.”

— Bible translation — Progress continues on the Holman Christian Standard Bible translation, with the gospels already published under the title, “Experiencing the Word Through the Gospels.” In March, Holman will publish “The Christ We Knew,” chronologically arranged selections from the Gospels that tell the life of Christ and provide 31 daily devotions by Calvin Miller, writer and professor at Samford University’s Beeson Divinity School, Birmingham, Ala.

— LifeWay Christian Stores — More people than ever before are being reached through the stores, approximately 70,000 new customers each month, Draper reported.

“Behind all the numbers,” he observed, “are transformed lives — employees who are being transformed through the vision of God working through us and becoming a channel of blessing and witness to others.”

— YouthLink 2000 — Draper recapped statistics from YouthLink 2000, including the 5,000-plus commitments to full-time vocational ministry and more than 1,200 professions of faith.

“Our goal was to see the next generation of leaders called out,” he said. “We believe that goal was achieved.”

— International ministries — LifeWay resources are being received positively by evangelical Christians in other countries, Draper reported.

Luis Aranguren, director of LifeWay’s international department, reported to trustees that since the department’s beginning in October 1998 the department has conducted 24 international training events, and more than 6,000 pastors and church leaders have been trained to use LifeWay resources.

International distribution of LifeWay resources has expanded to include 222 distributors of Church Resources and Broadman & Holman Spanish products in North America. Distributors number 21 in Central America, 46 in the Caribbean, 37 in South America, 52 in Europe and 38 throughout Oceania, Asia, Africa and the rest of the world.

“For the first time,” Aranguren said, “local churches in 58 countries have a place to buy LifeWay Church Resources and Broadman & Holman products in their own currency.”

— LifeWay missions — Of LifeWay-sponsored employee mission trips to Kenya, Draper told trustees, “We continue to rejoice in the spiritual transformation that has taken place — not only in the lives of Kenyans who accepted Christ — but also in our employees who went to Kenya and others who have heard about it. He reported 10 opportunities are being offered this year for employees to experience missions firsthand, in the United States and seven other countries.

Draper said response to the LifeWay name has continued to be positive though confusion still exists about why the name was changed. The two primary reasons, he said, were to better describe what LifeWay does and to lift up Christ, even through the name which is based on John 14:6.

While not a purpose of the change, a benefit of the new name has been to open doors of opportunity “among individuals and groups outside the Southern Baptist Convention,” Draper said. “But they are using the same resources designed and provided for Southern Baptists. They are based in Southern Baptist theology, doctrine and heritage.

“We are proud of our relationship to the Southern Baptist Convention,” Draper said. “That will not change. But we are also grateful for opportunities to offer biblical solutions that impact lives on an even broader scale.”

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  • Charles Willis