RIDGECREST, N.C. (BP)–Thom S. Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, brought a message of gratitude and hope to the trustee board during its first plenary session Sept. 14 at LifeWay’s Ridgecrest Conference Center.
Rainer opened his report by recalling a phrase his father’s best friend would say during difficult and discouraging times: “Ain’t no such thing as no hope when your hope is in God.”
The Israelites also needed a message of hope in difficult times, Rainer said, referencing Jeremiah 29. In that passage, Jeremiah wrote an inspiring message of encouragement and hope to the Babylonian exiles. “Although there are certainly differences between our situation and theirs,” Rainer said, “there is always hope for those who hope in God, even when things are at their worst.”
Tough circumstances do not stop the work of God but actually provide opportunities to see the Lord work in significant ways, Rainer said.
“Our best ministry is where we are now,” he said. “We must do what we can do right now and not wait for things to get better. After all, God’s promises are always with us — promises to give us hope and a future, just as Jeremiah declared to God’s people long ago.”
Rainer then recapped various challenges and victories LifeWay has encountered in 2009.
— The economy. “We have not been exempt from the economic realities of our day,” Rainer said. “The fact is, LifeWay has experienced significant challenges as the result of the economic effects experienced in the churches across our convention.”
— Segmentation in the Southern Baptist Convention. Church life has changed in the SBC, and a great deal of diversity exists in how church life is practiced today. Rainer said LifeWay is faced with the challenge — and opportunity — to provide biblical and practical solutions to an increasingly diverse SBC family.
— Many unhealthy churches, often reflected in their evangelistic efforts. “In 1950, it took 20 Southern Baptists to reach one person for Christ,” Rainer said. “Today, it takes 47 of us to reach just one. We are reaching no more people today as 16 million Southern Baptists than we did as 6 million Southern Baptists years ago.”
— Successful year of ministry and business. “It is important for people to know that we are a ministry supported by a business model,” Rainer said. “We receive no Cooperative Program dollars or outside funds for our operations, but I’m pleased to report, despite all the challenges, we had a very good year.”
Rainer cited “tremendous expense control” as a key reason. Additionally, the blessing of unexpected success from “The Love Dare,” a book central to the movie “Fireproof,” also contributed to a successful 2009.
The Love Dare is now the best all-time seller for the B&H Publishing Group, surpassing the late golfer Payne Stewart’s biography.
“The business side of this success excites me, but the ministry side does even more,” Rainer said. “It is phenomenal to see marriages healed, strengthened and renewed through The Love Dare. The Lord is using it in a mighty way.”
— LifeWay support to SBC mission entities. Even in a poor economic climate, offerings collected during student camps totaled about $700,000. That amount was divided between the International Mission Board (70 percent) and the North American Mission Board (30 percent).
— Positive response from constituency. Over the last year, LifeWay processed millions of transactions with consistently positive feedback, Rainer said.
— Lives changed through LifeWay ministries. “God is blessing us, so we are trying to be a blessing to others, and lives are being changed,” Rainer told the trustees. “From our conference center events to church resources, God is using LifeWay to impact people’s lives with the gospel.”
Rainer said he expects 2010 to be another challenging year, but God’s grace remains evident.
“It doesn’t matter how bad the economy is, God is on His throne,” Rainer said. “Circumstances do not stop His work and He will never leave us or forsake us. Every promise in His inerrant, infallible Word will come to pass, and we can be confident that ‘ain’t no such thing as no hope when your hope is in God.'”
Micah Carter is associate to the vice president of the executive communications and relations division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.