"Seismic changes" in church practices and the culture at large continue to provide unique challenges to LifeWay's mission, Rainer said. "We cannot continue to just do business as usual if we expect to make a difference today."
Bringing LifeWay to the point needed for organizational success is like retrofitting a train while moving at high speeds, he noted. "We cannot simply abandon those things that have been foundational for LifeWay's ministry success. But we must build on those key elements, make important changes and add new measures for the future of LifeWay's impact.
"As this economic downturn challenges so much of our operation, the great news is that God continues to bless us and use us," Rainer said.
"It is incredible how God continues to work through LifeWay," he told trustees. "Although we face great challenges, we embrace a greater hope. We must be agents of hope and a light in the darkness as we provide biblical solutions for individuals and churches."
Among the many challenges facing LifeWay, Rainer emphasized:
-- The challenge of a diverse constituency with many different methodological and cultural expressions within the denominational family. "There was a day you could say 'Southern Baptist' and know what that meant. That day is no longer," Rainer said. "Our greatest strength is also our greatest challenge."
-- The current economic challenge. "Here we are in one of the toughest economies, but I've never been more excited about what God has done and how He has used LifeWay. This is a time of great hope."
Rainer's address focused not just on present challenges, but also on LifeWay's future.
"The greatest days of this organization are just around the corner," he said. "We are on the verge of doing some important things for the Kingdom that I believe are unprecedented."
In an effort to adapt to current issues, Rainer celebrated an increased focus on innovation at LifeWay and an increasingly streamlined approach to business operations.
"I am convinced that the best days of innovation, centered on biblical truth and anchored in God's Word, lay before us," he said.
Rainer also noted the cultural emphasis within LifeWay toward a greater customer focus.
"We are already focused on our customers," he said. "But taking our commitment to the core value of 'customer' means providing the right resources through the right medium at the right price. We are committed to this focus.
"We have had a tremendous history since 1891," Rainer said. "But we have a great future as one of the largest Christian content providers in the world. God still uses LifeWay to point thousands of people to Christ each year and to transform lives for His glory. In a very real sense, our 165 stores across the nation serve as ministry outposts for Kingdom work.
"Our hope and purpose is contained in a simple vision statement: 'As God works through us ... We will help individuals and churches by providing biblical solutions for life,'" Rainer told trustees. "May He continue to strengthen LifeWay with a great hope, for a great task, in times of great challenge."
Micah Carter is director of communications for LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
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