October 4, 2007 Publishing Good News since 1884 Volume 124 Number 235

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Thom Rainer leading LifeWay to 'build bridges'


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SAN ANTONIO (BP)—Building bridges, staying focused and concentrating on what really matters are priorities LifeWay will emphasize as it seeks ways to provide Southern Baptists with meaningful and relevant resources, said Thom S. Rainer, LifeWay's president.

"It isn't always easy to build bridges," Rainer said during LifeWay Christian Resources' June 12 report at the annual meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention in San Antonio. "And bridges are only as strong as their effective means of support. In the same way, building effective ministry bridges requires the well-known and time-tested principles of our faith. For LifeWay, building on is where we begin."

Any effort to win the lost, disciple the saved and impact the culture will collapse among manmade efforts unless firmly built on the foundation of Christ, Rainer said.

Rainer gave an example of when his middle son, Art, was named homecoming king at the University of Kentucky. In the excitement, a co-ed came up and told Rainer she had been won to Christ through a Bible study Art taught. "Mr. Rainer, when many of us voted for Art as homecoming king," she said, "we were really making a statement that Jesus is King."

"And that is really what matters," Rainer told Southern Baptist messengers. "Every day I receive input from dozens of sources—some are encouragers; some are critics; some simply need help or resources; others have received that help and want to thank me.

"But the most important messages I receive each day are from those whose lives have been transformed, whose ministries have been recovered, whose marriages have been restored and whose eternities have been claimed by Christ."

Within the SBC in particular and in the evangelical world in general, Rainer said, there is a "multitude of voices and conversations" that can and do cause distractions. Keeping focused is significantly important, he said, but he also admitted that sometimes he becomes distracted and loses concentration. In those times, he said, God will remind him "of what really matters."

One of LifeWay's initiatives that has brought focus, Rainer said, is the "Invitation" CD, a compilation of inspirational music interspersed with a Gospel presentation. LifeWay has sold the CD at cost in order to make it widely available. Rainer said that since LifeWay does not receive Cooperative Program funding and depends solely on generated revenue, selling the CD so inexpensively is not the best business decision, but it has certainly been a great ministry decision.

"Our reward came as tens of thousands of the CDs began to get in the hands of lost people" Rainer said. "And our reward came when we heard countless testimonies of lives saved by the grace of our Lord, where the CD was used as His instrument."

Rainer said it is his prayer that he would lead LifeWay faithfully so that LifeWay's employees use their talents wisely to reach many for Christ.

"As LifeWay serves the Lord and continues to build bridges, we must not stop at the water's edge," Rainer said. "God's love compels us to go on.

"Through our desire to see people won to Christ, our passion for ministry to people and churches and our determination to be biblically sound and culturally relevant, LifeWay will continue to be a servant to the church, a co-laborer in the harvest and bridge builder to the lost. And our foundation is nothing less than the bedrock of Jesus Christ."