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‘This a good time to be at LifeWay,’ president tells entity’s trustees

RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–God is at work in and through LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, President James T. Draper Jr. told trustees during their Sept. 9-11 semiannual meeting.

Draper, president of LifeWay since 1991, told trustees meeting at LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) Conference Center, “This is a good time to be at LifeWay,” during their first plenary session in the new Rutland Chapel.

“It’s a good time for those who are challenged by expanding opportunities that are coming our way for one good reason — God is at work in this organization,” Draper said.

Some of the opportunities for LifeWay include expanding a global focus, strengthening churches, sharing Jesus with those who have never heard of him and building relationships within the SBC.

“If you believe we need to do more than talk about cooperation, that we need to strengthen relationships at every level of our denomination for the cause of the kingdom, then this is a good time to be a LifeWay trustee,” Draper said.

For the past year, Draper said he has been sharing foundational messages he believes all Southern Baptists should hear. They include:

— People are more important than institutions.

— Churches are more important than the denomination and its entities.

— Families are more important than churches.

— Obedience is more important than global events.

— The kingdom of God is more important than anything else.

To give strength to these foundational messages, Draper said LifeWay will focus on six initiatives during the next several years.

The first, “Building and Strengthening Relationships,” requires “knowing one another, listening to one another, trusting each other and laying aside our vested interest for the greater good of God’s kingdom,” he said.

Like in the mid-1990s when he visited every state convention office and listened to their needs, Draper said he plans to re-visit some convention leaders to learn if LifeWay is making progress. “I hope to learn we are making progress in our relationships, but I am confident I will see we still have progress to make.”

He said he also will visit with associational leaders and sister SBC entities to broaden cooperation and form stronger partnerships.

Initiative two, “Helping the Churches,” requires listening to church leaders and meeting their needs, Draper said.

“During this calendar year, I have visited 35 churches, five associations, six seminaries and colleges and several state conventions to talk about their needs and about LifeWay,” Draper said. “Our 16 church consultants have visited 1,700 churches in the past year.”

LifeWay is focusing on championing the pastor, growing the church and growing its own ministry, Draper said. “As we do the first two well, the third will happen.”

The third initiative, “Strengthening the Family,” officially becomes a LifeWay ministry at the conclusion of the 2003 Kingdom Family Rally scheduled during next year’s SBC Pastors’ Conference in Phoenix prior to the SBC annual meeting there.

“The Council on Family Life created at the 2000 SBC will cease to exist and responsibility for leadership of strengthening families through the SBC will be ours,” Draper said. “This is a role — with all of our resources, events and partnerships — we are uniquely equipped to carry out. But we can’t stop with what we are doing; we must do more and do it better.”

For the fourth initiative, “Positioning LifeWay for an even more Effective Ministry,” Draper gave six examples. They included:

— The Holman Christian Standard Bible translation. “The New Testament has been published and the complete Bible will be available in 2004. We began this project because we felt we needed a translation we could control to be sure accuracy was maintained.”

— Conference centers revitalization, which includes a 10-year plan to shape up the facilities of the LifeWay Glorieta (N.M.) and LifeWay Ridgecrest (N.C.) centers. Some of the improvements so far include a new chapel and hotel at Ridgecrest and remodeling of hotel and conference space at Glorieta.

“I continue to believe that in our 21st-century world, the need is greater than ever to find a place for people to get away from their busy lives and schedule to grow closer to the Lord,” Draper said.

— Responding quickly. “Immediately after 9/11, we posted alternative Sunday School lessons on our website for use the next Sunday. Responding immediately is an absolute need for effective ministry in this century.”

— Facilities. LifeWay completed an 800-space parking garage, a new cafeteria and human resources department at its Nashville, Tenn., headquarters, Draper said, a move that “improved the morale of our employees considerably. And I am delighted to report that this project came in on time and under budget.”

— LifeWay identity. “We have seen the awareness of our name increase since the name change to LifeWay in 1998,” Draper said. “Our name has opened doors of opportunity for ministry.”

He said a recent brand audit of the new name found LifeWay should become more aggressive in communicating its name on products, publications and shipping containers.

“And they urged us to use our tagline, ‘Biblical Solutions for Life,’ wherever we use our name to more clearly communicate our vision and ministry.”

— LifeWay Christian Stores. “Virtually every phase of store operations has been improved, including relocating and building new stores,” Draper said. “While time does not allow me to mention everything, I am glad to report their ministry influence has increased exponentially. Our stores are not just a place where products are sold. It is a place where lives are touched every day.”

LifeWay’s fifth initiative, “Expanding our Global Focus,” includes training international volunteers and encouraging employees to go on foreign mission trips, Draper said.

Four LifeWay consultants who were working in Ecuador, Kenya, Germany and Singapore faced formidable language and cultural barriers, Draper said.

“So we brought them home. We found we can more effectively use our resources by training national leaders to work with churches. In four years, we have trained 167 international volunteer consultants from 31 countries. They, in turn, are conducting training events in their regions of the world.”

Today, LifeWay resources are available in 81 countries in local currency from regional distributors, he said.

Additionally, he said, LifeWay mission trips, which began in 1997, are continuing to impact the world. To date, 410 LifeWay employees, retirees, family members and others have made 27 trips in which more than 36,000 people have accepted Christ and 121 churches were started.

Draper’s sixth initiative, “Becoming a Kingdom Enterprise,” is an extension of work LifeWay has been doing for six years, Draper said.

Empowering Kingdom Growth, an initiative launched at the 2002 SBC meeting, “calls Southern Baptists to renew their passion for Jesus and the reign of his kingdom in their hearts, their families and their churches,” Draper said.

“I believe this initiative is critical to the future of Southern Baptists as we seek to carry out the Great Commission.”

Draper told trustees that LifeWay is uniquely positioned to support the initiative and to provide leadership for it in working with the churches, noting, “We have the resources and the networks to carry out this vitally important work.”

Draper noted that LifeWay’s 1998 vision statement focuses on the kingdom of God.

“We are on the right track. We are making progress. We have much more to accomplish, but we are focused on God’s kingdom. And this is a good time to be at LifeWay.”
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: DRAPER ADDRESSES TRUSTEES.

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  • Terri Lackey