As I travel and visit with ministry leaders I am regularly asked...."How's LifeWay doing?" So, here is the latest report on things at LifeWay...
Rainer: LifeWay making significant progress
By Marty King
Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources trustees approved a request for information about mental health resources and received a state of the ministry report from President Thom S. Rainer during their Feb. 3-4 meeting in Nashville.
"My consistent prayer since coming to LifeWay eight years ago is that I would lead LifeWay with wisdom," Rainer said. "I don't want to lead out of my own strength or ability, but with God's wisdom. And I believe He has shown us His favor in so many ways."
Rainer said his executive leadership team is "constantly asking honest questions about everything we do at LifeWay. 'Is LifeWay doing what we should be doing -- what God wants us to do?' We want to be a leader instead of a follower -- an influencer instead of simply a reactor."
Rainer cautioned that LifeWay is not a panacea for all the problems churches and church staff members face, but he said the ministry is making significant progress.
"So much has changed in the last eight years. B&H Publishing is an incredible story of growth. B&H is now a powerful force in Christian publishing," Rainer noted.
"Our church resources division has turned around a nearly 30-year decline in use of our ongoing Bible study resources in order to get more resources into more churches and the Bible into the hands of more people," Rainer continued. "And Ministry Grid, launched last fall, is the most massive resource we've ever produced with thousands of training videos for the local church available anytime, anywhere."
Rainer also cited last year's growth of LifeWay Christian Stores, which acquired the 17-store Berean chain while opening an additional nine LifeWay stores.
"The Berean acquisition was an incredible endeavor that required cooperation by all of LifeWay -- from everyone in the stores division to IT [information technology] and human resources and from finance to legal services." There are now 186 LifeWay Christian Stores in 29 states.
Rainer also announced a new LifeWay partnership with Big Oak Ranch, a national ministry to abandoned and neglected children in Alabama. The ministry has cared for 2,000 children since its founding in 1974 and now consists of a Boys' Ranch in Gadsden, a Girls' Ranch in Springvale and Westbrook Christian School in Rainbow City.
"Big Oak Ranch saves children's lives, and all of LifeWay can be involved in that ministry as we come alongside them and adopt Big Oak," Rainer said. Employees are being given opportunities to donate to Big Oak as well as provide support in other ways that will "help save lives spiritually, physically and emotionally," he noted.
Trustees approved a response to a motion at last summer's Southern Baptist Convention meeting that SBC entities report how they are assisting churches in "the challenge of ministry to those suffering from mental health issues."
LifeWay's response, to be published in the 2014 SBC Book of Reports, says the ministry "takes seriously the opportunity to provide a variety of resources to assist individuals and churches in ministering to persons in our churches and communities who suffer with mental health challenges."
The response includes a partial list of resources LifeWay provides to help address issues including depression, suicide, grief, self-worth, dysfunctional families and the appropriate use of the Bible and prayer in counseling. The response also includes a link to a LifeWay Research study about the role of prayer and Bible study in overcoming mental illness. And it notes that a special lesson in the Bible Studies for Life curriculum on "Ministry in the Face of Mental Illness" is slated for Sept. 7 of this year.
Trustees elected new officers including Gary Richardson, pastor of North Oxford Baptist Church in Oxford, Miss., as chairman; Paul Baxter, senior pastor of First Baptist Church on the Square, LaGrange, Ga., vice chairman; and Steve McNeil, recording secretary. McNeil is team leader for mobilization, equipping and communications for the State Convention of Baptists in Indiana. The new officers will begin their terms following the June 2014 Southern Baptist Convention.
LifeWay's board also heard reports from each member of the ministry's executive leadership team, including a report that the entity had a strong financial start to fiscal year 2013-14.
Marty King is LifeWay's director of corporate communications. Carol Pipes and Jon Wilke contributed to this story. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress) and in your email (baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).