By Aaron Wilson
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Lifeway trustees, employees and special guests gathered at the organization’s headquarters on Monday to celebrate the inauguration of Ben Mandrell as the 10th president of Lifeway Christian Resources.
On a day marked with heavy rain and overcast skies, Mandrell forecasted a bright future for the organization—not just in fiscal growth, but in the spiritual impact Lifeway will continue to make throughout the world.
“Without a doubt, the culture is moving swiftly away from the absolute truths—certainly away from a man who once said, ‘I am the way, the truth and the life,’” Mandrell said. “And this is why we were given our name—LifeWay—because we’ve been called to shine the light of His Word into the world.”
To symbolize this calling, Mandrell presented light bulbs to employees and guests and called on everyone to raise their lights high as an “army of creatives.”
“Jesus said His people have power to fight back the darkness of this world, to align forces in such a way that the gates of hell cannot hold us back,” Mandrell said. “It’s time for us to come together as one to change the landscape of this world.”
Mandrell stressed the need for unity and teamwork at Lifeway and used video and stage interviews to focus on life change happening through Lifeway’s varied ministries, beginning with summer camps.
“This summer, we saw more than 128,000 people involved in our summer events for kids and students,” said Ben Trueblood, director of student ministry at Lifeway. “Every summer, we hire between 800-900 college-aged students to lead these summer events. I like to think about this pool of people as a farm system of future ministers, missionaries and people who are going to go into whatever vocations they choose, living as missionaries for Jesus.”
Mandrell then introduced Mark Croston, national director of black church partnerships, by way of video. Croston spoke to the value of Lifeway’s annual Black Church Leadership and Family Conference, now in its 26th year at Ridgecrest Conference Center.
“As an African American Southern Baptist, sometimes it can feel a little lonely,” Croston said. “Each year, this conference has always provided a place where you know you’re going to be able to meet others and rub shoulders, gain insight, develop friendships and learn and grow with one another. There’s life transformation that happens on the mountain [at Ridgecrest].”
Mandrell transitioned from conferences held in North Carolina to Vacation Bible School happening on the other side of the world by introducing A. Thomas, general manager Lifeway India, who lives and works in Asia.
“India is the second most populous nation in the world, and VBS has been a church practice in India for hundreds of years,” said Thomas. “It’s been exciting for us to come in with new content that’s contextualized and translated for the church. We’ve worked very hard so that even the most rural churches [in India] can do the exact same VBS that’s going on in Hendersonville, Tennessee.
“Quite honestly, I do not know of another organization that can bring together content, methodology and experience—to help the church disciple its people,” Thomas continued. “That’s what excites me about being involved in the ministry of Lifeway.”
As Mandrell concluded his presentation, he highlighted four ways he feels called by God to serve Lifeway employees:
- To emphasize the power of teamwork
- To encourage them not to give up when the world seems to be winning
- To call their eyes to Lifeway’s vision on days they feel disillusioned
- And to remind them God has made them to be creative.
Mandrell also took a moment to thank friends and family, including his wife, Lynley, and their four children, for their encouragement, love and support as he steps into a new season of ministry.
Brad Waggoner, executive vice president of Lifeway, expressed gratitude to the presidential search committee.
“At the top of my list [for a new president] was character—primarily that meant humility and integrity,” Waggoner said. “And by God’s grace and through your efforts and prayers, you did it. Many great things will happen for years to come at Lifeway.”
Jimmy Scroggins, chairman of Lifeway’s board of trustees, closed out the presidential celebration by inviting Mandrell and his family back up to the stage so all of Lifeway could pray for them.
“I pray that the Mandrells’ leadership will reverberate around the world, not because of who they are, but because of who You are in them,” Scroggins said. “ I pray that Ben will have a great vision for the future of this organization and that light will emanate from Nashville and shine around the world through the ministry of Lifeway Christian Resources.”
Aaron Wilson is a writer for Lifeway Christian Resources.