By Carol Pipes
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — LifeWay Christian Resources President and CEO Thom S. Rainer announced today (Aug. 27) his plans to retire in the coming year.
To provide adequate time for the search process for the next president and CEO and for a smooth transition, Rainer said he will serve until a new president is named or through the end of August 2019, whichever comes first.
Rainer told trustees during his report at their August 27-28 meeting in Nashville he is confident in the future of LifeWay, to a large degree because of the focus, talent and ministry conviction of its employees.
“The past 13 years have been some of the most blessed years of my life,” Rainer said. “I love LifeWay and the incredible men and women who serve the Lord with joy and hard work, while equipping the Church for her mission of making disciples.”
Rainer, who turned 63 in July, told trustees he made the decision to retire with the firm conviction it was time for his departure.
“It is time to pass the baton of leadership to a new generation,” Rainer said. “The next president will lead an organization poised for a great future. Though it will come with challenges, I have never been more excited about the future of LifeWay.”
Speaking on behalf of LifeWay’s board of trustees, board chair Jimmy Scroggins said: “We are deeply grateful for the work Dr. Rainer and his staff have accomplished the past 13 years to support churches in their mission of making disciples and providing biblical solutions for life.
“Dr. Rainer has strategically led through times of economic uncertainty, the digital revolution, changing church practices, and tumultuous shifts in culture,” Scroggins said. “His foresight and ability to lead change has well prepared LifeWay for the future as the organization continues to impact and influence the world with the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
Rainer became the ninth president of the Southern Baptist entity in Feb. 2006. Significant advancements during his tenure include:
• Five consecutive years of growth in ongoing curriculum after nearly 30 years of decline. Helping fuel the growth is The Gospel Project, a group Bible study focused on theology. Initially projected to draw 30,000 users, the curriculum now engages more than 1.5 million weekly users in the study of God’s Word.
• The strategic sale of LifeWay’s former campus and moving LifeWay’s headquarters to a new location in downtown Nashville.
• Expanding LifeWay’s worldwide reach through LifeWay Global. Last year LifeWay Global distributed resources to 164 of the world’s 195 countries, reaching more than 4 million people, and LifeWay resources are licensed in more than 60 languages.
During Rainer’s time as president, LifeWay has also made several key acquisitions including: Wordsearch Bible, Student Life and Auxano.
Rainer has authored more than two dozen books, including his most recent books “Becoming a Welcoming Church,” “I Will: Nine Traits of an Outwardly Focused Christian,” “Autopsy of a Deceased Church,” and the award-winning and best-selling “I Am a Church Member.”
His website, ThomRainer.com, continues to reach more than 10 million viewers annually. His two podcasts “Rainer on Leadership” and “Revitalize & Replant with Thom Rainer” have a combined total of 1.5 million downloads.
As for future plans, Rainer said he strongly desires to dedicate the next phase of his life to making a contribution to the revitalization of churches.
“I love the local church,” Rainer said. “I want to give every minute God allows me to make a difference to see churches revitalized.” Rainer said he is planning to begin a nonprofit organization called Revitalize Network to help churches grow healthier.
He also plans to maximize his time with family in retirement. “I love my family and am looking forward to having more flexibility to spend time with them,” he said. Rainer and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three sons and daughters-in-law and 10 grandchildren.
LifeWay is one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, including Bibles, books, Bible studies, music, church supplies, events. Established in Nashville, Tenn., in 1891, the company owns and operates more than 170 LifeWay Christian Stores throughout the United States as well as Ridgecrest Christian Conference Center in North Carolina.
Carol Pipes is director of communications for LifeWay.