NASHVILLE (BP) -- "I've never been more challenged, and I've never been more encouraged," LifeWay Christian Resources President Thom Rainer told the Southern Baptist entity's trustees during their semiannual meeting.
"God is working through us during what seems to be, by the world's standards, an impossible time," Rainer said in his report to the trustees during their Feb. 11-12 meeting at LifeWay's headquarters in Nashville.
Overall, Rainer described 2012 as a positive step forward for LifeWay.
He also spoke of the challenges facing LifeWay in 2013 including the struggling economy, transition to the digital world, changing church practices, increasing regulations and the power of social media.
Challenge and optimism worked simultaneously throughout Rainer's address as he reminded trustees Who is leading LifeWay. "Even in the toughest of times, God is in control of LifeWay," he said.
During his president's report, Rainer cited several areas of encouragement for LifeWay including the success of The Gospel Project; the positive trajectory of B&H Publishing Group; the turnaround that has begun in church resources; the relaunch of Bible Studies for Life, LifeWay's largest curriculum line; the energy of LifeWay Christian Stores; and Ministry Grid, a new approach to discipleship and training.
"That LifeWay not only survives but thrives is a testimony to God's power," Rainer said.
During the meeting, trustees unanimously elected Tim Vineyard as the new vice president of the LifeWay Christian Stores division.
"Tim Vineyard is one of the most creative, idea-producing men I've ever known," Rainer said. "It is a blessing of God to have someone who has a head and heart for retail already in our midst to take on this vital role."
His commitment to the organization and passion for creating a spiritual oasis for customers within LifeWay stores was evident in Vineyard's testimony to trustees.
"I believe the LifeWay stores division has built the best Christian retail chain in the nation," Vineyard said. "I'm truly honored to lead this area. I will bring every bit of energy and passion I have to give my all for LifeWay."
Trustees also re-elected the trustee board officers for another year including Adam Greenway, senior associate dean and assistant professor of evangelism at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, as chairman; Mark Dance, pastor of Second Baptist Church in Conway, Ark., as vice chairman; and Rick Geist, a financial advisor and member of First Baptist Church in Seminole, Okla., as recording secretary.
LifeWay's vice presidents gave reports regarding progress and plans for ministry advance.
-- Executive Vice President Brad Waggoner briefed the trustees on LifeWay's dynamic organizational culture. Waggoner noted cultural changes during his tenure that revolved around agility, teamwork, speed and collaboration. But, Waggoner said, "God is not only interested in the things we do but how we do them." Waggoner then discussed Jesus' example of humility and servant leadership from Philippians 2.
"Servant leadership fits into the biblical commands to live in unity, love, integrity and godliness. We are trying to model this here. It's one of our goals for the culture of LifeWay," he said.
-- Jerry Rhyne, LifeWay's CFO and vice president of the finance and business services division, was positive about LifeWay's position in light of the struggling economy. Consumers "are depressed and uncertain," Rhyne said. But "LifeWay has weathered the challenges very well. We have a lot to be thankful for."
Rhyne reported a solid 2012 performance, with LifeWay revenues up more than $20 million over the previous year. Revenue for the beginning of 2013 "is a little bit soft; 7 percent below our plan," he said. "But I expect that variance to improve through the year."
-- Jeff Rozell, acting vice president of LifeWay's technology division, reported ending 2012 under budget -- a savings passed on to other LifeWay divisions through reduced cost recovery. Rozell said the technology division has supported LifeWay's major initiatives such as the launch of The Gospel Project and the upcoming Bible Studies for Life relaunch, as well as the launch of LifeWay's ebook content platform in 2012.
-- Selma Wilson, vice president of B&H Publishing Group, told trustees the division's new branding line -- Every Word Matters -- is a reflection of their commitment to God's Word and makes the B&H brand even stronger in a diluted marketplace. Wilson announced the release of "The Love Dare for Parents" by Stephen and Alex Kendrick; the launch of B&H Kids; and a partnership with the North American Mission Board to distribute 2.2 million New Testaments to churches for evangelism. Wilson said B&H continues to grow and is now the No. 3 Christian publisher in the market and continues to be the top Spanish Bible publisher in the world. The Spanish "Fisher of Men" Bible was the largest first run (200,000) in B&H history.
-- Ed Stetzer, vice president of LifeWay Insights, broke from the normal report presentation and instead treated trustees to a live broadcast of The Exchange, a weekly webcast hosted by Stetzer. The webcast featured interviews with Ronnie Floyd, pastor of Cross Church in Springdale, Ark., and Pete Wilson, pastor of Cross Point Church in Nashville, Tenn. The two pastors talked about developing missional community through the small groups in their churches. They also talked about the Bible Studies for Life curriculum of which Floyd is the general editor and Wilson served on the advisory council.
-- Tim Vineyard, vice president of LifeWay Christian Stores, praised retail employees for their continued focus on high customer service standards, successful transition efforts and ministry perspective. He highlighted a few local outreach efforts, such as Bible collections for prison inmates, Plush Doll donations for children's hospitals and a store environment that allows employees to openly pray with customers. Vineyard reported several people accepted Christ last year while shopping in a LifeWay store.
-- Eric Geiger, vice president of church resources, spent time unpacking the challenges churches face in training their leaders and then unveiled a new tool called Ministry Grid designed to help churches with training. "Ministry Grid is a tool churches can use to equip an army of leaders to do ministry," he said. Geiger also told trustees about the overwhelming success of The Gospel Project with more than 40,000 small groups now using the curriculum. He also shared his excitement about the relaunch of Bible Studies for Life this fall.
"We are in 2013 attempting to do great things for God," Rainer said. "As we step back and look at this interesting time, with so much social, political and economic change, we'll say it's a miracle of God that He has worked through us."
In other business, LifeWay trustees:
-- Approved the governing documents for LifeWay Global, Inc., to be presented for approval by the Southern Baptist Convention Executive Committee at their February meeting and later to be filed with the state of Tennessee. In August 2012, LifeWay's board of trustees approved the formation of a for-profit company, LifeWay Global, Inc., to facilitate equipping efforts in China.
-- Recognized six trustees who are ending their board service in June. They include: Cliff Day, First Baptist Church in St. Clair, Mo.; Faye King, Dawson Street Baptist Church in Thomasville, Ga.; Cliff Knight, Lakeview Baptist Church in Auburn, Ala.; David Love, Cornerstone Baptist Church in Lone Tree, Colo.; Frank Reeder, Northwood Baptist Church in North Charleston, S.C.; and Howard Zach, University Baptist Church in Fairbanks, Alaska.
-- Approved a change in the bylaws reflecting the change in name from the Executive Communications and Relations Committee and Executive Communications and Relations Division to LifeWay Insights Committee and LifeWay Insights Division.
Carol Pipes is a writer for LifeWay Christian Resources. Russ Rankin and Jon D. Wilke contributed to this article. Get Baptist Press headlines and breaking news on Twitter (@BaptistPress), Facebook (Facebook.com/BaptistPress ) and in your email ( baptistpress.com/SubscribeBP.asp).
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