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|Religious Non-profit organization|
Incorporated on October 5, 1983 as the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.
|Founder||James Marion Frost|
|Headquarters||1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, Tennessee, U.S.|
Number of locations
|186 stores (2010)|
|Thom S. Rainer, Chairman and CEO|
Number of employees
|Parent||Southern Baptist Convention|
|Divisions||Church Resources, LifeWay Christian Stores, B&H Publishing Group, Technology, Finance and Business Services, LifeWay Research and Insights|
In 1891, James Marion Frost, a 43-year-old pastor, started the company that is now known as LifeWay Christian Resources. The business began, after receiving approval from the Southern Baptist Convention, in a small office funded in part by money borrowed from his wife. Later that year, it became the Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention, with Frost as its first executive secretary (now called president). The Baptist Sunday School Board was founded in the Pastor’s Study of the 1884 Sanctuary of First Baptist Church, Nashville located at the corner of 7th Avenue and Broadway.
Over the next century, the board expanded its activities well beyond Sunday School material. To reflect its broadening focus, the board changed its name to LifeWay Christian Resources in 1998. The LifeWay name had been used in one form or another as a brand name since 1971.
LifeWay's ministries include the production of Bibles, church literature, audio and video recordings, church supplies, and Internet services. The company operates over 186 LifeWay Christian Stores through the United States, as well as one of the largest Christian conference centers in the country.
LifeWay is a 501(c)(3) religious nonprofit organization that receives no funding from the denomination and reinvests income above operating expenses in mission work and other ministries around the world.
It acquired Berean Christian Stores in September 2013, which at the time had 17 locations in the United States, primarily in California.
LifeWay directs its ministries through six divisions:
Church Resources consults with churches and delivers Biblical solutions through many ministries, resources, enrichment and training events, and age-group products, including 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; expanded resources for African-American and Hispanic churches; and an initiative to provide key evangelism and discipleship resources in more than 50 languages via free download. The division oversees the content and functionality of LifeWay.com and its affiliated pages. In all, LifeWay.com houses more 12,000 articles in addition to countless other resources and products.
LifeWay Christian Stores operates over 186 outlets in two dozen states, serving Southern Baptists and the wider evangelical community. The division also serves customers online and through LifeWay Special Services.
B&H Publishing Group produces Bibles, books, audio and video productions, and church supplies, selling to bookstores and other retailers. A new emphasis on resources for pastors, seminary professors and students, and scholars has been launched with the B&H Academic line of resources. CrossBooks Publishing is the self publishing division started in 2009 and caters primarily to new authors, but holds the manuscripts submitted to the same theological standard as books produced by B&H Publishing Group.
The Technology division provides five key services for LifeWay: strategic, retail, business, enterprise, and Internet technologies.
Finance and Business Services is responsible for LifeWay's financial policies and general accounting and directs many key LifeWay business services. The division also operates a conference center at Ridgecrest, NC, which ministers to more than 100,000 guests each year. LifeWay also owns and operates two historical camps: a boys camp founded in 1929, Camp Ridgecrest, and a girls camp founded in 1955, Crestridge. Both are near the Ridgecrest Conference Center in the Black Mountains of North Carolina near Asheville.
LifeWay Insights houses LifeWay Research, which helps churches impact the culture for Christ[clarification needed]; LifeWay's corporate communications department including news media relations and social media coordination, employee communication and production of Facts and Trends corporate magazine; and directs ministry development and strategic projects. LifeWay Research studies have been cited in at least one national news source.
Although LifeWay sells material which is exclusive to its stores (such as the Gospel for Life series published by the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, another SBC arm), it also sells materials written by authors who are not Southern Baptist, such as TD Jakes and John Hagee.
LifeWay's ministry on the subject of sexuality and gender expression categorizes non-normative identities as sinful lifestyles, the threat of which requires church members be "ready when homosexuality devastates." This is generally consistent with Article XVIII of the Baptist Faith & Message (the doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention, LifeWay's parent), though the Article does not specifically address such gender expression issues as transgender or gender reassignment.
In February 2006, Dr. Thom Rainer became the president and CEO of LifeWay. Rainer left his post as Dean of the Billy Graham School of Evangelism of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary to assume the presidency of LifeWay. He succeeded James T. Draper, Jr., of the Fort Worth metro area, who had headed LifeWay from 1991 to 2006.
On August 29, 2018, Dr. Thom Rainer announced his retirement from LifeWay which becomes effective within one year or once his replacement has been identified—whichever occurs first.
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