LifeWay Christian Stores: 75 years of growth & service

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--LifeWay Christian Stores is celebrating 75 years of service and ministry.

LifeWay Christian Stores President Mark Scott listed various highlights of the stores' 75-year history during an April 27 chapel service at LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention in Nashville, Tenn.:

1925 -- The then-named Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention purchased the Baptist Book Concern in Louisville, Ky.

1930s -- Difficult situations with the United States economy made some people question the wisdom of keeping the stores, but wiser heads prevailed and the bookstores survived.

1940s -- The stores continued to grow and added film rentals to their product mix in what would be a forerunner of the stores' video sales.

1952 -- The chain had grown to 44 stores.

1972 -- In a novel experiment, the Sunday School Board opened two new concept stores called Lifeway Stores, at that time spelled with a small w. While the stores closed a few years later, the Sunday School Board had ownership of and later registered the LifeWay name.

"Even then, before anyone had thought about changing the name of the Sunday School Board, God was working through the event that, at the time, seemed to be a failure. But, through that apparent failure, we owned the Lifeway name," Scott recounted. "If we look at Romans 8:28, we can't look at anything as a failure, because any apparent failure can be used by God to become a tremendous success."

1992 -- The chain had grown to 63 stores.

1999 -- The stores changed names from Baptist Book Stores to LifeWay Christian Stores, conducting business through retail stores, online, catalog and direct sales.

2001 -- LifeWay Christian Stores will open its 100th store this summer.

Scott said that in looking toward the future of LifeWay Christian Stores, "Our dreams must be greater than our memories."

He said, "We want God to work through our LifeWay Christian Store employees, allowing us to be a catalytic change agent in our country. We want to have an impact on people's lives."

Praising LifeWay Stores employees for their attitudes of ministry, as well as their commitment to customer service, Scott said, "We never want to be so busy that we don't have time to minister to our customers.

"If God doesn't work through us, we will fail, but we have faith that he is using us and will be with us in the future," Scott said.

Linda Jackson, a LifeWay Christian Store regional director, whose 35-year career began in the Birmingham, Ala., store, spoke about her experiences.

"My mother began working at the Birmingham Baptist Book Store in 1954. I began working there when I was 22," she said.

For every Christian, she observed, there are "defining moments when you see God working and you recognize his work with such clarity."

She said one of those moments occurred for her several years ago. "I was driving in to work and asked God, 'Is this what I'm supposed to be doing?'

"I realized as I was standing in the bookstore in that early morning time before anyone else was there that in this place I felt safe and comforted. God gave me calmness and a peace and I just knew this was where I belonged. This was my place of service. I realized this was God's calling for me just as much as he calls anyone else to his or her place of service."

Jackson said she believed she spoke for other LifeWay Christian Store employees when she said, "While we are serving our customers, God is blessing our lives."


(BP) photos posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo titles: CELEBRATING 75 YEARS and 100 STORES AHEAD.

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