NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Thom S. Rainer culminated his first anniversary as president of LifeWay Christian Resources by saying alarms are sounding from every quarter of society and that LifeWay must respond.
“I was recently in a hotel room and the steam from the shower set the alarm off,” Rainer told LifeWay trustees during the opening night of their Feb. 12-13 meeting in Nashville, Tenn. “It created a real sense of urgency. But tonight there are alarms going off in our world, our denomination and in our churches and we have to respond. I believe that God is leading us to engage some major issues.”
Rainer listed three issues he said were significant for LifeWay in order to be even more supportive of churches: integrity and openness; becoming a bridge builder; and advancing in research and ministry development.
INTEGRITY & OPENNESS
“I want LifeWay to be totally open in everything we do,” Rainer said. “I can say beyond a shadow of a doubt that anyone could come into our building and examine any area of LifeWay and find a deep level of openness and integrity in everything we do. We certainly go far beyond what we are legally required to do.”
Rainer said accountability begins with him. He told trustees he has implemented a number of “checks” that keep him accountable for his actions. Among them are accountability to employees, trustees, the SBC Executive Committee, his wife and God. He acknowledged accountability to the Southern Baptist Convention even though LifeWay receives no Cooperative Program money.
“We are called LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention,” he said. “We are owned by the convention and I can assure you we will not compromise biblical integrity or theological positions.”
The second issue, becoming a bridge builder, is one in which LifeWay can unite people for evangelism and discipleship by developing resources that help people and churches grow in Christ, Rainer said. One way in which LifeWay can move in that direction, he said, is to sometimes “simply say we don’t know the answer.”
“We are going to be a learning organization, which means we are going to listen to people,” Rainer said. “I believe we are doing that but we want to do more of it. I believe LifeWay Research will be a key to helping us do that better.”
CULTURAL UNDERSTANDING & INNOVATION
Rainer then addressed the third issue, which is advancing in research and ministry development. During their Feb. 12 sessions, trustees approved the establishment of a new division within LifeWay named research and ministry development. Trustees on Feb. 13 elected Brad Waggoner, formerly director of LifeWay Research, to lead that division.
“LifeWay Research was one of the first initiatives I introduced last year and since its official launch in October it has far exceeded my expectations,” Rainer said. “I believe it is positioned to help us listen, staying thoroughly biblical while being innovative and connected with people.”
He added, “When the search committee interviewed me, I revealed a part of the vision I had and now you are beginning to see more of it. I don’t believe you called me here primarily because of my business background but because you wanted a man who doesn’t just talk about evangelism but actually evangelizes; doesn’t just talk about prayer but spends time in prayer; doesn’t just study the Bible but spends time in devotion to God. It is by His grace I am here and I will do everything in my power to be the best steward of this opportunity that I can be.”
Additional commentary by Rainer on his trustee remarks and vision for LifeWay are available in a special edition of the Inside LifeWay news podcast at www.lifeway.com/insidelifeway.