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Rainer, Stetzer discuss LifeWay Research

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–LifeWay President Thom S. Rainer, who launched LifeWay Research in September 2006, has described missiologist and researcher Ed Stetzer’s hiring as a key to the department’s future.

“If I had a timetable of how LifeWay Research would develop and how it would unfold, I would say that we are about two years ahead of time,” Rainer said during an interview for the Inside LifeWay podcast, according to a May 1 news release.

Joining Rainer as guests on that podcast were Stetzer and Brad Waggoner, former director of LifeWay Research and current vice president of the research and ministry development division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.

“With Dr. Stetzer coming, I only see greater things ahead,” Rainer added.

Stetzer currently serves as senior director of the North American Mission Board’s Center for Missional Research, but will assume his position as director of LifeWay Research on June 1.

LifeWay is an organization that loves the church, Stetzer said on the podcast, noting his hope that the work and research at LifeWay will continue to help pastors and leaders more effectively make the name of Christ known.

“With LifeWay really stepping out into some real leadership in the area of church and culture research, I just think it matters,” Stetzer said. “It’s no secret that the church is struggling, and we’ve got to think biblically and we’ve got to think in discerning ways of how we can engage our culture for the cause of the Gospel, and I can’t think any better place to do that than at LifeWay Research.”

Simultaneously with the announcement of Stetzer’s hiring, LifeWay announced a collaborative research effort between LifeWay, the International Mission Board and NAMB.

“Our ultimate desire is that we might be good stewards of the Lord’s resources and one of the ways we do that is by collaborating,” Stetzer said. “We’re not doing the same thing, but instead we’re complementing each other, we’re coordinating what we do because ultimately it’s Great Commission research.”

Rainer added that the joint agreement serves as a message to the Southern Baptist community and evangelical world that the three entities are working together and not just “going their separate ways.”

“We have a desire for this not to be an end in itself, but a beginning to greater collaboration and greater work together,” Rainer said.

Waggoner said LifeWay Research already has plans for projects on discipleship and spiritual maturation, teenage church dropouts and other research throughout the remainder of 2007. Under Stetzer’s leadership, LifeWay Research will begin to explore research projects for 2008 and beyond that are specifically focused on the collaboration.

“There’s a whole range of possibilities,” Waggoner said of the cooperative research effort. “Our problem is going to be limiting, because there are just so many things of interest and of relevance.

“Obviously, we want to study things that directly relate to evangelistic effectiveness and church health and the culture.”

Stetzer’s background researching culture is one of the reasons Rainer said he feels Stetzer is qualified to direct LifeWay Research.

“If you don’t know the culture you’re trying to reach, quite frankly you will not know how to reach them,” Rainer said.

Stetzer agreed, saying, “I think it’s essential for us to understand culture to the degree that we can claim Christ within it in a way that doesn’t confuse people or get them perhaps off track. I believe we [our churches] need to be biblically faithful, culturally relevant, counterculture communities.

“I think cultural relevance is a tool, it’s not the goal,” Stetzer said. “It’s a tool, so I think understanding culture really helps make the Gospel seeker-comprehensible.”
Inside LifeWay is the official news podcast of LifeWay Christian Resources. This podcast, as well as past editions of Inside LifeWay, is available at www.lifeway.com/insidelifeway.

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  • Brooklyn Noel