Draper: Seeking God's guidance is our top responsibility

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--LifeWay's ministry strategy should come from a higher power, not from worldly opportunities and needs, President James T. Draper Jr. told trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources during their Feb. 9-10 meeting in Nashville, Tenn.

The spiritual needs of the world today are constant, Draper said. "Pick up tomorrow's paper and you'll see five needs we could address by developing a biblical resource, but those may not be resources God wants us to develop right now."

Asking God for His plan for LifeWay must be the default setting of employees and trustees, Draper said. "Following that plan is our responsibility and for what we will be held accountable. The lost in this country don't have the luxury of us dabbling in the irrelevant."

Ted Warren, executive vice president and chief operating officer, brought trustees up to date on the company's financial performance. In 2003, LifeWay reported revenues of $414.3 million, down 0.7 percent from the previous year. First-quarter 2004 revenues were $104.4 million, up 2.9 percent from the same quarter last year but 2.1 percent below budget. Warren projected 2004 year-end revenues to be $440.3 million, 6 percent ahead of last year but 1.8 percent below budget.

Warren provided trustees with a list of important events at LifeWay over the past 10 years, including revenue numbers. "Our revenues went from $241 million in 1994 to $414 million in 2003," he said. "That's up almost 80 percent, an increase of $173 million."

Assets for the corporation have almost doubled since 1994, Warren said, increasing from $147 million to $349 million. "That's a pretty good run. God has gone exceedingly above and beyond all we could ask for."

CHURCH RESOURCES

Gene Mims, vice president of the church resources division, reported a 10 percent growth in women's events in 2003, with 22,000 women attending a single Beth Moore "Living Proof Live" event in Atlanta, and a 5.3 percent growth in LifeWay-sponsored student events, with more than 80,000 students attending and 8,000 registering spiritual decisions.

The FAITH/Sunday School evangelism strategy continues to grow, Mims said. In the five years LifeWay has sponsored FAITH, 7,000 churches have trained 200,000 people to share their faith.

Mims mentioned three current or upcoming 40-day Bible studies produced in "direct response to churches' requests." These included "Extreme Love" by Gene Wilkes, "Know Fear" by Ed Young Jr., and "EKG: The Heartbeat of God" by Ken Hemphill.

"We got the 'Know Fear' project turned around in 90 days," Mims said. "That is unheard of in this industry."

LIFEWAY CHRISTIAN STORES

Mark Scott, vice president of the LifeWay Christian Stores division, reported that the first quarter of 2004 showed a "solid start in an unsteady industry." He also recounted several examples of ways sales associates have ministered to customers throughout the 118-store chain.

Christian stores highlights included:

-- Sales growth in books, gifts, Bibles and music for the first quarter of 2004. California pastor Rick Warren's "The Purpose-Driven Life" remained a best-seller.

-- Relocation of the Montgomery, Ala., store to a new 8,000-square-foot store is being finalized.

BROADMAN & HOLMAN

Ken Stephens, vice president of Broadman & Holman, told trustees several Holman Christian Standard Bible products will be released in the spring. Holman CSB products releasing in April and May include a red-letter edition, an illustrated study Bible for children, pew and drill Bibles, and several pocket-sized Bibles. B&H also is releasing specialty Bibles for sportsmen, firemen, policemen, brides and the military. More information about the Bible is available at www.broadmanholman.com.

B&H's best-sellers in 2003 included Oliver North's second novel, "The Jericho Sanction," which made The New York Times best-sellers list, and Beth Moore's children's book, "A Parable about the King," and trade book, "The Beloved Disciple."

New releases for 2004 include "Against All Odds" by actor Chuck Norris; "Twice Adopted" by Michael Reagan; "Believing God" by Beth Moore and based on the LifeWay Bible study; and "The Ever-Loving Truth" by Voddie Baucham Jr., a message for Christians in today's postmodern culture. Also being released are "A Greater Freedom," by Oliver North and Sara Horn, a photo and story illustration describing the lives of Christians serving in Iraq, and "Conversation Peace" by Mary Kassian about the power of effective communication.

CORPORATE AFFAIRS

Mike Arrington, vice president of the corporate affairs division, reported spiritual and operational successes in 2003.

Arrington said LifeWay's conference centers at Ridgecrest, N.C., and Glorieta, N.M., recorded 3,471 spiritual decisions from their guests in 2003. Those included 609 decisions to receive Christ and 2,179 rededications.

He also reported that the renovation of the Royal Gorge Apartments at Ridgecrest is completed and construction of the new T.W. Wilson Prayer Garden is underway.

Arrington said at Glorieta, Steve Grassfield was named new general manager and that renovation of Holcomb Auditorium and Oklahoma Hall is complete.

A branding survey conducted by the corporate affairs division found that LifeWay leads other Christian resource providers in recognition among the SBC market, that LifeWay has a positive image with people familiar with the brand and that the image of LifeWay conference centers has increased among its guests.

TECHNOLOGY

Tim Vineyard, vice president of LifeWay's technology division, reported a strong first quarter for 2004 with new electronic services and products to help LifeWay customers. Significant growth occurred between 2003 and 2004 for unique user visits to lifeway.com and page views, he said.

Highlights included:

-- Revisions and enhancements to lifeway.com.

-- Excellent feedback received for Bible Navigator, a new Bible software program launched last fall.

-- The popularity of the online Bible library and Beth Moore's online Bible study, "Living Beyond Yourself."

-- New features like audio and video streaming being offered through LifeWayLINK, an online service that helps churches create websites.

FINANCE & BUSINESS SERVICES

Jim Carter, vice president of the finance and business services division, reported that 95 people participated in seven LifeWay-sponsored evangelistic mission trips in 2003. Seven states were represented, nine churches were started and 5,814 professions of faith were recorded.

Carter said LifeWay is continuing to alert churches and Southern Baptist organizations about the significant savings available through the Southern Baptist Purchasing Alliance (SBPA).

The SBPA uses SBC entities' relationships with several large companies, including Microsoft, Dell, MCI and Toshiba, to provide high-quality software, hardware, equipment, furniture and supplies to Southern Baptist churches and members at discounted rates. Since its inception in 1998, the SBPA has saved Southern Baptists more than $17.6 million, Carter said. For more information, go to lifeway.com under the shopping tab.

LIFEWAY INTERNATIONAL

Luis Aranguren, director of LifeWay's international department, said in 2003 LifeWay sponsored 621 leadership workshops that trained 47,206 pastors and leaders from 4,284 churches in 31 countries.

"During the last five years we have invested 5,487 hours to conduct 1,798 workshops to train 150,987 pastors and leaders from 18,466 churches in 52 different countries," he said.

Trustee actions included:

-- approval of a recommendation that LifeWay draft a resolution designating 2005 as "The Year of the Bible." The resolution asking Southern Baptists to read the Holman Christian Standard Bible through in 2005 would come before the 2004 Southern Baptist Convention in Indianapolis June 15-16.

-- approval of an increase of up to 3.5 percent for all dated and undated Sunday School curriculum. The actual price and percentage increase, if any, will be determined in the summer of 2004 for the spring of 2005. Trustees also approved recommendations to redesign, rename and reclassify the children's music series, changing the format from quarterly to once per semester, and to launch a new Family Bible Study (FBS) adult DVD-driven resource. These changes will become effective in 2005.

-- approval of a response to a request at the 2003 Southern Baptist Convention asking entities to accept all financial gifts and contributions from Baptist individuals, churches, associations, groups, organizations and conventions.

In the response adopted by trustees, LifeWay reserved the right to "evaluate each gift from any church, association, state convention or other organization to determine the appropriateness of the gift, the relationship of the donor to LifeWay and the impact of the gift on LifeWay as an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention."

-- approval of the sale of three tracts of land near the LifeWay's Ridgecrest conference center.

-- election of board officers, including Wayne Hamrick, pastor of Atco Baptist Church in Cartersville, Ga., chairman; Roger Willmore, pastor of First Baptist Church in Boaz, Ala., vice chairman; and Tom Woodson, senior pastor of Sheridan Road Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., recording secretary.


(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: TRUSTEE OFFICERS.

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