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Proud to be Southern Baptist: LifeWay’s trustee chairman

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Bruce Robinson once asked his preacher father what he would be if he were not a Southern Baptist.

“I’d be ashamed,” his father replied with a stern look.

That was advice the son took to heart and has practiced throughout his ministry. He is completing 38 years as a pastor, the last 21 at West Lonsdale Baptist Church, Knoxville, Tenn. He also serves as chairman of trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

After growing up in a pastor’s home, Robinson joined the Air Force even though “I knew that being a pastor was the calling of God on my life. I was pulling away from it, but I ran into God everywhere I went in the Air Force.”

He stopped running while serving on the island of Guam and committed his life to preaching the good news of the gospel of Christ.

When Robinson became a trustee of LifeWay (then called the Sunday School Board) in 1992, his knowledge of the agency was limited to what he knew about the literature used in his church and the Knoxville Baptist Book Store (now LifeWay Christian Store).

Filling two years of an unexpired term and then serving two four-year terms, Robinson will complete a decade of trustee service in 2002.

“I believe a trustee is responsible to the SBC for working with the leaders of a particular entity,” he said. “A trustee also has a spiritual obligation to work with, pray for and minister to the people of that entity.”

As he has listened and sought to learn more about LifeWay, Robinson said he has “realized this is something bigger than I am.”

And one of the things he said he has learned is that “LifeWay is not just about money. It’s about ministry.”

Robinson takes satisfaction in being a part of the 1998-name change from The Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention to LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

Robinson believes the new name “identifies the mission better. The name and the Scripture are fantastic and minister to Southern Baptists and Christian groups all across the nation.”

Being elected chairman in 2000 came as a shock and surprise to Robinson. Presiding at his first meeting was preceded by outright fear.

“I had more stage fright than when I was in the second-grade play,” he said. But eight years of watching others lead the trustee meetings and decades of presiding at church business meetings helped him as he saw that sessions were conducted with order and trustees were allowed to express their views.

Robinson praised what he termed the “flexibility of the present leadership” of LifeWay. “They are willing to change if they believe this is the way God is leading. This flexibility is reflected in the worldwide vision LifeWay has developed.”

When his time as a trustee ends next year, he said he will miss the relationships and the meetings. But he noted he has learned many things that he has incorporated into the ministry of his church.

Located in the inner city on the northwest side of Knoxville, West Lonsdale ministers in a variety of ways to its community. The church, which has acquired neighboring property over a 20-year period, recently bought its ninth neighborhood house to provide for expansion. A new family life center has just been completed.

“Building on the Cornerstone” was the theme for the capital campaign based on 1 Peter 2:6. A boulder has been placed outside the church to remind members “we’re building our church on Christ,” Robinson said.

On the August afternoon that the 80 children in West Lonsdale’s daycare ministry played in the new gymnasium for the first time, Robinson stood on the sidelines. He encouraged the children. Amid the bouncing balls and the screams of the children as they played, Robinson grinned from ear to ear.

“This is the sound I’ve dreamed of hearing in here,” he said.

Robinson, who describes his wife Jeanette as “God’s gift to me,” expressed pride in his two sons and three grandchildren. His older son, Lance, has followed his father and grandfather into the pastorate of a Southern Baptist church. He is pastor of Providence Church in Knoxville. Younger son, Blake, is a carpenter’s apprentice with Johnson and Gaylon Construction Co. in Knoxville.

Robinson expressed optimism about the future of his church and of LifeWay.

“I want to believe the future of LifeWay is beyond anything we can imagine and there is no limit to the outreach LifeWay Christian Resources can have,” he said.
(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at https://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: FATHER AND SON PASTORS, A DREAM FULFILLED, DECADES OF SERVICE and BRUCE ROBINSON.

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  • Linda Lawson