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Stetzer to direct LifeWay Research

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Three Southern Baptist entities — LifeWay Christian Resources, the North American Mission Board and the International Mission Board –- have forged a collaborative research effort in which LifeWay Research will conduct special research projects on behalf of the two mission boards.

As part of the new initiative, Ed Stetzer, missiologist and senior director of the Center for Missional Research at NAMB, will become director of LifeWay Research, effective June 1. Stetzer also will serve as LifeWay’s missiologist in residence.

LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer launched LifeWay Research in February 2006 to equip church leaders with insight and advice that leads to greater levels of church health and effectiveness. Under Stetzer’s leadership, LifeWay Research will provide information that will support both NAMB’s and the IMB’s church-planting and evangelistic efforts worldwide.

“Ed’s experience as an evangelist, church planter, theologian, and researcher make him one of the most highly sought-after thinkers and speakers in evangelical Christianity today,” Rainer said. “He brings to LifeWay Research a proven track record for knowing the heartbeat of the church and for understanding what churches must do today to remain biblically sound and culturally relevant.”

Said NAMB President Geoff Hammond, “I am excited about the relationship NAMB and LifeWay will have in collaborative research. We will avoid duplication of effort and continue to have the keen missions-mind and superb research skills of Ed Stetzer. He has done some of the leading research on Southern Baptist church planting in recent years and we look forward to continuing to have these skills available to NAMB and our partners. I see this as increasing our ability to provide our partners with excellent research.”

Said IMB President Jerry Rankin, “Few leaders have a heart and commitment for missions at home and abroad that exceed the passion of Ed Stetzer. This position will enable all of us to understand and relate more effectively with our constituent churches in a synergy that should accelerate fulfilling our mission task at home and abroad.

“The partnership and support of LifeWay in our global mission task has been a blessing that has enhanced the effectiveness of the IMB,” he added. “Through materials that train and equip churches and the provision of resources for overseas work, LifeWay’s focus on missions reflects the cooperation and servant relationship among denominational entities that is the strength of Southern Baptists.”

Southern Baptist Convention President Frank Page expressed his support of the action.

“Philippians 1:5 speaks about a partnership in the Gospel,” Page said. “I cannot think of a better example of cooperation and coordination than this strategic move. Dr. Stetzer is one of the foremost missiologist researchers in our nation. I congratulate him and commend LifeWay, NAMB and the IMB for this joint endeavor.”

Stetzer, 40, has served at NAMB since 1998, planting churches, serving as a pastor and helping revitalize churches in four states. Most recently, he started a church in Georgia. Stetzer also has trained pastors across North America and on five continents.

He holds a doctor of philosophy degree from Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and a doctor of ministry degree from Beeson Divinity School, as well as two master’s degrees and a bachelor’s degree.

Stetzer served for three years as a professor at Southern Seminary and has taught at 15 other seminaries. He has authored or co-authored books for LifeWay’s B&H Publishing Group, including “Breaking the Missional Code,” “Planting Missional Churches,” and “Comeback Churches: How 300 Churches Turned Around and How Yours Can Too” (scheduled for release May 1).

Stetzer will report to Brad Waggoner, vice president of LifeWay Research and ministry development.

“Ed is one of the most informed and influential leaders in the Southern Baptist Convention and the broader evangelical world,” Waggoner said. “He possesses a unique blend of academic and research skills along with a solid practical understanding of the local church and the culture we seek to penetrate. I know of no one who is more gifted to lead LifeWay Research.”

At his February 2006 inauguration as LifeWay’s ninth president, Rainer revealed his intention for LifeWay Research to become the leading Christian research organization in the world.

“We will have a finger on the pulse of culture and the unchurched world. Our intention as Christians is not to mirror culture, or concede to culture, but to impact culture with the truth of Scripture,” Rainer said then.

As director of LifeWay Research, Stetzer will guide an organization that focuses on church leaders, the churched and the unchurched. LifeWay Research plans to release eight studies each year and already has published results of surveys on the prevalence of Calvinism in Southern Baptist churches, the willingness of the formerly churched to return and why young adults are falling away from the church.

“I am thrilled to work with Dr. Rainer and Dr. Waggoner as we seek to serve churches by making LifeWay Research the premier Christian research agency,” Stetzer said. “In addition, I look forward to working alongside NAMB and the IMB as partners in Great Commission research.”

NAMB’s Hammond said his organization is “grateful to Ed for the significant contribution he has made to our missions agency in recent years. He understands the church planning process and has helped us see that North America is a mission field and we need to act as missionaries, understanding the culture and sharing the Gospel with relevance and passion. NAMB will not be losing these assets, simply sharing them with IMB and LifeWay.”

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