NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Thom S. Rainer began his tenure as LifeWay Christian Resources’ ninth president by stating that the 115-year-old organization stands at a crossroads.
“We can choose to ignore the realities of the changing culture around us, of the post-Christian era we are entering, and of the profound challenge of being the world’s largest Christian resource provider,” Rainer said in his Feb. 6 inaugural address to an overflow crowd at LifeWay’s home office in Nashville.
“Or we can enter this new era with boldness and courage, knowing that our strength is not our own, and that a future in the hands of and total dependence on Jesus Christ will be a success by any definition.”
Rainer told a story about when he was 4 years old and sitting in “big church.” After responding several times to his older brother’s teasing, Rainer was removed from church by his father “to a punishment that awaited me outside.” On the way out, Rainer screamed to the entire congregation witnessing the scene: “Oh, dear people, please pray for me!”
“In some ways, I am that 4-year-old today, asking God’s people to pray for me,” Rainer said. “The task ahead is huge. But the God we serve is a much bigger God than my human limitation can comprehend. We are given but a precious few years in this adventure called life. Will we live that life with boldness, trusting a God who is sovereign and omnipotent? Such is the choice I have made as the ninth president of LifeWay. I will lead with boldness in the brevity of life.”
Rainer introduced three ways in which he intends to lead LifeWay into the future. The first is reaffirming an unwavering and uncompromising faithfulness to the inerrancy of the Bible and to serving the churches of the Southern Baptist Convention.
“We are first a ministry that is supported by business practices,” he said. “The bottom line is not our goal; serving Christians and churches, providing biblical solutions for life is why we exist. And if we ever forget that, we need to close the doors and let God use some other organization.”
Rainer said those who remain faithful to Christ will face challenges from an increasingly hostile culture. LifeWay “must not merely abide within the boundaries of biblical fidelity but be a leader toward greater faithfulness in our denomination and indeed the larger evangelical world,” he said.
The second way Rainer committed to lead LifeWay is to make sure it is bold in its work with the local church. Reiterating that LifeWay is a ministry that provides biblical solutions for life, he said one of LifeWay’s primary arenas for providing solutions is the local church.
“At LifeWay, in God’s power, we will strive to help the local church focus on the great, and not to be content with the good,” Rainer said. “We will not be satisfied with mediocrity, but understand that we must take these brief moments to do all that God has called us to do.”
Rainer said that the ministries and resources of LifeWay will be marked with a greater boldness and urgency in evangelism. He said LifeWay will share the Good News with a realization that decisions for Christ in this life result in eternal destinies, and that LifeWay will “strive to let the lost and unchurched world know what we are for, when many of them only know what we [as Christians] are against.”
Finally, Rainer outlined his commitment to helping LifeWay become a more relevant organization through the launch of LifeWay Research in order to “share with the world the realities of the effectiveness of the church, of mindsets of non-Christians and Christians alike, and of the culture where we minister and evangelize.”
“LifeWay will become the cutting-edge purveyor of information for the Christian world,” Rainer said. “And our products and our ministries will be first biblically based and then intensely culturally relevant.”
Rainer closed his comments by saying that by God’s power he will lead LifeWay with boldness.
“In His strength, I will lead with an urgency that cannot compromise,” he said. “And I know that if I depend on Him and Him alone, neither I nor LifeWay will fail. For great is the God we serve. Great is His love. Great is His strength. Great is His faithfulness. To God alone be the glory.”