J.M. Frost started small and dreamed big. In 1891, the forty-three-year-old pastor had a desk in a corner of a newspaper office and a little money that he borrowed from his wife. With the Southern Baptist Convention's blessing, he launched what is today one of the world's largest providers of Christian resources — Bibles, church literature, books, music, audio and video recordings, church supplies, and Internet services.
LifeWay Christian Resources, originally the Sunday School Board, began in Nashville publishing Sunday School literature. Today, LifeWay ministries touch lives throughout the United States and around the world.
LifeWay operates as a 501(c)(3) religious nonprofit organization and is the only SBC entity that has never received Cooperative Program dollars or other financial support from the denomination. What's more, LifeWay reinvests income above operating expenses in mission work and other ministries around the world.
In 2007, LifeWay contributed $790,000 to the SBC operating budget. In addition, LifeWay gave $3.1 million to Baptist state conventions, providing work through Sunday school development, discipleship training, worship and music, pastor and staff leadership support, as well as scholarships for church members for training in ministry areas assigned to LifeWay. In all, financial and in-kind contributions by LifeWay to the SBC totaled nearly $12 million last year.
LifeWay people are committed to the company's vision: "As God works through us … we will help people and churches know Jesus Christ and seek His Kingdom by providing biblical solutions that spiritually transform people and cultures."
LifeWay's workforce includes more than two thousand full-time and regular part-time employees, nearly 1,500 of whom work in the home office in Nashville. In addition, LifeWay operates two of the largest Christian conference centers in the country (Ridgecrest, North Carolina, and Glorieta, New Mexico), a warehouse in Lebanon, Tennessee, and nearly one hundred and fifty LifeWay Christian Stores across the country.
LifeWay directs its ministries through six divisions:
Church Resources works closely with churches to provide a wide range of ministries and age-group resources encompassing Sunday school, Vacation Bible School, leadership development, evangelism, discipleship, music, worship, marriage, and parenting. Biblical solutions include training and enrichment events, and resources in print, on CD, DVD and the Web. New resources include a young-adult ministry called Threads; Worship KidStyle; a new Baptist hymnal soon to be available in print and digitally (The Worship Project); expanded resources for African-American and Hispanic churches; and an initiative to provide key evangelism and discipleship resources in more than fifty languages via free downloads.
LifeWay Christian Stores operates nearly one hundred and fifty outlets in two dozen states, serving Southern Baptists and the wider evangelical market. The division also serves customers online through Lifewaystores.com, and through LifeWay Special Services that include everything from offering envelopes to church buses. In addition, the stores offer a minister's discount and a money-saving LifeWay Rewards program for all customers.
B&H Publishing Group produces Bibles, books, audio and video products, and church supplies, selling to bookstores and other retailers. The Holman Christian Standard Bible, introduced in 2004, quickly became one of the best-selling Bibles in the country for its accuracy and readability. New study Bibles using the Holman CSB, such as The Apologetics Study Bible, have proven highly popular among ministers and laypeople who want to go deeper in their understanding of God's Word. A new emphasis on resources for pastors, seminary professors and students, and scholars has been launched with the B&H Academic line of resources.
The Technology division provides five key technology services in support of LifeWay ministries: strategic; retail; business; enterprise; and Internet technologies. The division oversees the content and functionality of LifeWay.com and its affiliated pages. In all, LifeWay.com houses more than twelve thousand articles in addition to countless other resources and products.
Finance and Business Services, responsible for LifeWay's financial policies and general accounting, directs many key LifeWay business services including logistics, legal, investments, purchasing, real estate, strategic planning, corporate services, and human resources. In addition, the division operates conference centers at Ridgecrest, North Carolina, and Glorieta, New Mexico, which minister to more than one hundred thousand visitors each year.
The Executive Communications and Relations division produces LifeWay's news and information services, directs corporate events, builds corporate relations, and supports the office of the president in maintaining good relationships with other SBC entities, state conventions, and other evangelical organizations. The division also coordinates the LifeWay Community Fund, which supports ten like-minded charities in Middle Tennessee; and directs LifeWay sponsored, employee-led mission trips, which over the last eleven years have included seventy-four trips involving 1,029 volunteers and resulting in 97,328 professions of faith.
In addition to these six divisions, LifeWay Research was launched early in 2006 with the goal of becoming the premier Christian research organization in the world. Already, the new organization is helping churches become "breakout churches," understanding and impacting the culture for Christ. To date, LifeWay Research has released the results of more than a dozen key surveys addressing the views of the churched and unchurched on issues such as why young adults drop out of church, how the unchurched view Christians, why so many people switch churches, and other topics including climate change, stem-cell research, homosexuality, and the impact of the economy on churches. LifeWay Research also conducts independent surveys on behalf of clients.
Leading LifeWay Christian Resources is President Thom Rainer, the company's ninth chief executive. "From humble beginnings, LifeWay has grown into an international ministry by staying true to our vision of helping people and churches know Jesus Christ," says Rainer. "Nashville is our home — and a wonderful home it is. But the world is our field of labor, and we are passionate about sharing the Gospel and providing biblically sound resources that exalt our Savior and encourage His followers."
LifeWay's SBC Ministry Assignments
LifeWay's first task was the publication of Sunday school literature. More than a century later, LifeWay continues to provide this service, along with ten other SBC ministry assignments, including:
1. The development of church ministries
2. Ministries to college and university students
3. Christian schools and home school ministries
4. Ministries to men and women
5. The operation of conference centers and camps
6. The publication of books and Bibles
7. The operation of LifeWay Christian Stores
8. Church architecture consultation and services
9. Capital fund raising
10. Conducting research and compiling statistics
Rob Phillips is a member of Brentwood Baptist Church in Brentwood, Tennessee, and is director of the Communications Department for LifeWay Christian Resources.