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TRUSTEES: Rainer initiates new LifeWay leadership roles, signals opportunities

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)–LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom S. Rainer introduced several recommendations and initiatives in his “state of LifeWay” report to trustees to position the Southern Baptist entity to better accomplish its mission.

Executive leadership changes and reorganization were a key part of Rainer’s recommendations, which received trustee approval during their Sept. 13-15 semiannual meeting at LifeWay Glorieta Conference Center in New Mexico.

Rainer recommended that Brad Waggoner, vice president for B&H Publishing Group since 2008, be elected as executive vice president to assume daily operational responsibilities of LifeWay and work directly with Rainer in the development of strategic leadership and ministry initiatives.

Rainer also recommended Selma Wilson as vice president for B&H Publishing Group and Ed Stetzer as vice president for research and ministry development.

Significant challenges stand before LifeWay, Rainer said, but the organization is well-positioned to meet those challenges as it seeks to be the world’s top provider of Christian resources.

Wilson has served LifeWay in the church resources division since 1989, most recently as associate to the vice president since 2004. Upon election, Wilson will lead B&H’s overall trade publishing and digital strategies.

Stetzer will continue to lead LifeWay Research and also serve as chief strategic executive leader to discover new ministry opportunities and as liaison for key church and leadership relationships within the SBC and beyond.

Rainer, in his report, acknowledged that “the challenges facing LifeWay appear daunting, [yet] they are really incredible opportunities,” or “divine appointments” for moving into more effective and fruitful ministry. Rainer said LifeWay “must never lose sight of the reality that God is our strength and power. He will lead us to many victories in the days ahead.”

According to Rainer, the challenges include:

— Whether churches return to purchasing patterns before the economic downturn in an economy that, as Rainer put it, is “the new normal.”

— “Red ocean” industries (defined as areas that are highly competitive and populated), testing LifeWay’s mettle in markets where it is difficult to grow, compete and even survive.

— Accelerating digitization, entailing an added delivery of resources beyond traditional options.

— Fragmentation within denominational life, including the Southern Baptist Convention, where disparate voices and groups demand a diversity of ministry resources.

— More rapid changes in church practices.

— Small and nimble competitors ready to seize market share and capitalize on blindspots.

“Facing these challenges requires brave and courageous leadership. It requires creativity and innovation. And it requires a fresh look at the present and future of LifeWay,” Rainer said.

The LifeWay president/CEO offered trustees several responses to the challenges that involve a strategic attempt to better position LifeWay for its future opportunities, including:

— Developing an organization-wide digital strategy.

— Accelerating the pace for “blue ocean” (defined as untapped and innovative areas for expansion and creativity) creativity that brings relevant, helpful resources to individuals and churches that do not currently exist today.

— Focusing on pastors as gatekeepers to church ministries.

— Expanding the ministry direction and potential of LifeWay’s “Transformational Church” initiative (TransformationalChurch.com) — a comprehensive research project involving 7,000 American churches, 250 pastor and staff interviews and 20,000 church member surveys to assist churches in greater growth and impact for the Kingdom of Christ.

“These are exciting days for LifeWay,” Rainer said. “These changes will allow LifeWay to meet the challenges ahead and continue to be at the forefront of providing cutting-edge resources to the world.”


“These recommendations are not just about personnel moves,” Rainer said of his three executive-level staff recommendations. “This is about a direction, a future, a strategic opportunity for LifeWay for generations to come.”

Waggoner, as LifeWay’s executive vice president, will continue to serve as publisher of B&H.

Rainer said Waggoner has been “a tremendous asset to LifeWay since joining the executive team in 2007 and during his tenure has led B&H to incredible new heights.”

“As a great deal of my time and focus will be given to our Transformational Church initiative, pastoral development and other ministry endeavors, Dr. Waggoner will assume greater responsibility in giving operational oversight and leadership to the executive leadership team and the greater LifeWay family.”

Rainer pointed out that the position of executive vice president is not new to LifeWay and is being revived “to continue the momentum of ministry we have experienced in the last few years.”

Waggoner joined LifeWay in 2007 as the founding director of LifeWay Research. He is a graduate of Kansas State University who earned an M.A. degree from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School and M.A. and a Ph.D. degrees from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas.

Waggoner has served on the staffs of four Southern Baptist churches and is the author of “The Shape of Faith to Come.” He and his wife Patti have two sons.

In selecting Selma Wilson as vice president of B&H Publishing Group, Rainer noted that she is “one of the most highly respected leaders at LifeWay,” having served in the church resources division since 1989, most recently as associate vice president under the leadership of John Kramp, vice president of church resources.

In her new role, Wilson will provide leadership to B&H’s publishing strategy, which includes trade books, CrossBooks, B&H’s digital initiatives and the development of clearly defined imprints to serve the Southern Baptist Convention market and broader evangelical market.

During her tenure at LifeWay, Wilson has provided extensive leadership to a variety of ministries within the church resources division, including serving as director of organizational performance and director of the discipleship and family magazine department.

Wilson and her husband Rodney served a number of years as executive editors of LifeWay’s “HomeLife” magazine. Wilson is a regular speaker and conference leader in the area of women and family ministry. The Wilsons have two adult daughters.

Wilson earned a bachelor of science degree from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, with additional education from the University of Southern California and Columbia University in the area of organizational development and human resource management.

LifeWay Research, one of Rainer’s first initiatives after becoming president of LifeWay, “has become one of the most respected Christian research organizations in the world,” Rainer noted, adding that Stetzer, who became director of LifeWay Research in 2007, “is regarded as one of the leading missiological voices and has continued to add to the reputation of LifeWay Research and LifeWay as a whole.”

In promoting LifeWay Research to divisional status, with emphasis on the ministry development aspect, Rainer said Stetzer will be better positioned to speak to across-the-board ministry initiatives developed at LifeWay. As vice president, Stetzer will continue to serve as the primary communicator on behalf of LifeWay Research and will serve as the chief strategic executive leader to discover new ministry opportunities for LifeWay.

Stetzer is the author or co-author of 12 books and holds two master’s degrees and two doctoral degrees. He has served as pastor, interim pastor and church planter in numerous churches and has taught courses at 14 seminaries. Prior to joining LifeWay, Stetzer served as missiologist and senior director of the Center for Missional Research at the North American Mission Board.


Rainer gave a portion of his report to the introduction of the new HCSB Study Bible.

“I believe that this study Bible is unparalleled in both scholarship and accessibility,” Rainer told trustees. “It is a joy to see this project come to completion after years of careful, deliberate work by so many on our team.”

The HCSB Study Bible contains more than 15,000 study notes, 24 essays on topics ranging from theology to missions to civil rights, maps and charts and several additional feature-length articles. In addition, an online resource is available at mystudybible.com.
Micah Carter is director of communications and associate to the vice president of the executive communications and relations division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Russ Rankin is editor-in-chief of LifeWay’s communications department.

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