By Lisa Cannon Green
RIDGECREST, N.C. — Lifeway Christian Resources is leading change to meet the needs of churches in a rapidly changing culture, President and CEO Thom S. Rainer told Lifeway trustees during their board meeting Aug. 28-29 at Ridgecrest Conference Center near Asheville, N.C.
By mid-November, Lifeway will move into a new corporate headquarters. New technology is rolling out for retail stores and Lifeway.com. And the organization continues to expand globally.
“There will never be a time we are not changing,” Rainer said as he outlined the steps Lifeway has taken to thrive in a tumultuous market. “We are choosing to move forward in an exciting and promising way.”
Both Rainer and Executive Vice President Brad Waggoner spoke of the challenges Lifeway has faced the past 12 years, including the Great Recession, changing church practices, the digital revolution, and an unstable marketplace.
“Changes we initiated in the last several years have put Lifeway in a much better position for the future,” Waggoner said.
In his report, Rainer described improvements made since 2010 throughout Lifeway, including a turnaround in ongoing curriculum sales, the addition of new authors, and the launch of the Christian Standard Bible.“Sometimes we just need to pause and see what God has done,” he said.
“God has worked through us to allow us to be where we are today. Now is the time to ask God, ‘What next?’”
Lifeway trustees approved a 2018 budget of $499 million, which reflects a 5 percent increase over 2017 projected revenue.
“As has been true in the past, in both good times and challenging times, God has sustained Lifeway financially and this is true today,” said acting Chief Financial Officer Joe Walker.
In other action, trustees approved W. Alan Phillips as secretary of the corporation. Phillips, a Lifeway employee since 2006, is acting general counsel for Lifeway.
Lifeway trustees also discussed and approved responses to two motions referred to Lifeway by the Southern Baptist Convention during the 2017 annual meeting. The responses, regarding trustee representation on entity boards and the publication of trustees’ contact information, will be reported to the 2018 SBC meeting June 12-13 in Dallas.
Trustees approved the nomination of Randy Smith to fill the vacancy of Wayne Morgan, a trustee from Georgia who resigned his position on the Lifeway Board of Trustees. Smith will serve as an interim trustee until the SBC elects a director to fill Morgan’s unexpired term. Smith is a member of Johnson Ferry Baptist Church in Marietta, Ga.
Trustees also welcomed new trustees who began their terms with the August meeting. New trustees include Jennifer Landrith, a member of First Baptist Church, Cleveland, Tenn.; Ron Edmondson, pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.; Greg Kannady, a member of First Baptist Church, Kingfisher, Okla.; and Michelle Branch, a member of Imago Dei in Raleigh, N.C.
Each of Lifeway’s divisional vice presidents reported updates of their priority projects and strategies.
The new CSB translation is one of several growing areas in Lifeway’s resources division, said Vice President Eric Geiger. Among the areas of growth are kids and student ministries, worship resources, Bibles, academic resources, ongoing curriculum, and global ministry. In 2018, Lifeway expects its sixth consecutive year of ongoing Bible study growth, Geiger said.
He detailed Lifeway’s growth in India, Mexico, and other global locations where Lifeway is building in-country staff teams, training pastors, distributing resources, investing in indigenous authors, and supporting Vacation Bible Schools. Lifeway resources were distributed in 60 languages and 164 countries last year, he said.
“Serving the globe is ultimately His story because His church is a global church,” Geiger said.
Customers will see changes both inside and outside Lifeway Stores in 2018, said Vice President Cossy Pachares. In stores, new technology will make it easier for Lifeway to serve customers, and new store designs will make it easier for people to interact. Online at Lifeway.com, customers will find an increasing number of products available.
Customers will also see more events and special programs in the stores, Pachares said.
“Our mission is to see lives transformed by the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” Pachares said.
The move to a new headquarters means major changes for technology at Lifeway, said Vice President and CIO Tim Hill. His division is equipping the new headquarters with video conferencing, live broadcast capability, and an internet-based telephone system.
Hill’s division is also revamping technology for Lifeway Stores and Lifeway.com. “Customers will see a big improvement in search capabilities,” he said, along with other features.
In addition to presenting the 2018 proposed budget, Walker updated trustees on the imminent move of the organization’s headquarters to a new location in downtown Nashville.
“God has shown us favor in every step of this process,” he said.
Vice President Selma Wilson said cultural changes have been made within the organization to prepare employees to lead change.
“During this time of great change, however, we can be thankful some things never change,” she said. “There’s nothing better than being an organization that serves the church, because we know the church will be here until the end.”
Wilson described recruitment efforts to hire the best and brightest talent, introducing Faith Works Here, a new employer brand designed to convey Lifeway’s culture to job seekers.
“We have an organization of people who are willing to be all in because of who we are and the vision and values we have, the mission of Lifeway, anchored in biblical truth,” Wilson said.
Rainer updated trustees on the new building. “We are moving in on time and on budget. This is a God thing,” he said as he showed images of the Capitol View neighborhood that will be home to the new Lifeway headquarters. “This is going to be an incredible community.”
He shared his appreciation for Lifeway employees. “We would not be where we are today without the commitment, passion and the love of Jesus that our employees demonstrate,” Rainer said. “They do what it takes to get the job done.”
Rainer pointed to God’s favor on Lifeway since its founding.
“God has chosen to use us since 1891 to provide biblical solutions for life,” Rainer said. “He is doing a great work here, and He is not done yet.”
Lisa Cannon Green is a writer for Lifeway Corporate Communications. Carol Pipes and Aaron Earls contributed to this story.