Thom Rainer gets unanimous vote as LifeWay president-elect

Communications Staff — September 12, 2005

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources unanimously approved the election of Thom S. Rainer to become the ninth president of the Southern Baptist entity Sept. 12.

As president-elect, Rainer will begin working alongside LifeWay President James T. Draper Jr. Oct. 17 until Draper’s retirement Feb. 1, 2006.

“This is a great day for all Southern Baptists and for LifeWay Christian Resources,” said Rick Evans, pastor of Dalraida Baptist Church in Montgomery, Ala., and chairman of the LifeWay presidential search committee. “Dr. Rainer will provide the kind of leadership that will enable us to be the leading producer of Christian materials for years to come. His theological and doctrinal positions are synonymous with who we are as Southern Baptists. He is a visionary who possesses the skills to both communicate and administer the goals of LifeWay.”

Rainer, 50, is dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. A 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama, he earned a master of divinity and Ph.D. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He served as pastor of churches in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Indiana prior to joining Southern in 1994 as founding dean of the Billy Graham School.

Rainer has served as a church consultant and church growth conference speaker for several years and is in frequent demand as a speaker in Southern Baptist churches. He is the author of 16 books, including “Surprising Insights from the Unchurched,” “The Unchurched Next Door” and “Breakout Churches.” He is a member of both the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education and the American Society for Church Growth.

Rainer also is founder, president and CEO of The Rainer Group, one of the nation’s leading church and denominational consultant organizations.

He and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three sons: Sam, Art and Jess.

Draper said he is “incredibly excited to have a man of Thom Rainer’s gifts and vision to work alongside in the months ahead. He is a proven leader, a brilliant statesman and a gifted visionary. That’s why I believe LifeWay’s best days are still ahead.”

Responding to the trustees, Rainer spoke of the passions that will drive his leadership at LifeWay:

— Evangelism. “The Southern Baptist Convention is a denomination of fierce love for missions and evangelism,” Rainer said. “As we work with other agencies, churches and Christians across the globe, LifeWay must be at the forefront of a great renewal for evangelism in our denomination and beyond.”

— Denominational memory, or “that which defines who we are as a people called Southern Baptists…. Doctrine is not a word from which we should hide,” he said.

— Relevancy. LifeWay must understand the culture and help the church connect in a relevant way for the purpose of evangelism.

Rainer also expressed admiration for Draper’s leadership. In assuming the presidency of LifeWay, Rainer said he stands “on the shoulders of giants” who made LifeWay what it is today.

LifeWay is one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, including Bibles, church literature, books, music, audio and video recordings, church supplies and Internet services through LifeWay.com. Established in Nashville, Tenn., in 1891, the company owns and operates 124 LifeWay Christian Stores throughout the United States as well as two of the largest Christian conference centers in the country.

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