LifeWay Chooses Candidate for Presidency

Dr. Thom S. Rainer nominated to take the helm of one of the world's largest distributors of Christian products and services.

The 59-member board of trustees representing one of the world's largest distributors of Christian products and services today nominated a new president to take the helm.

Dr. Thom S. Rainer may become LifeWay Christian Resources's next president after James T. Draper Jr. retires next year due to his "love for LifeWay" and a "commitment to do what is best."

Rainer is dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky. He said he was "honored and excited to be the nominee of the search committee."

The recommendation for Rainer followed a six-month search that included a "significant" number of nominations. The search began with a pledge to pray every day for God’s guidance, said Rick Evans, LifeWay's presidential search committee chair.

Draper expressed his confidence in the search committee. "I have explicit confidence in the process the committee followed and the members’ sensitivity to the Lord," said Draper.

During the fourteen years that Draper led LifeWay, the relevant and biblical products he created helped the budget more than double to about $440 million, lending LifeWay greater financial stability, according to spokesperson, Chris Turner.

Though Draper may retire, he looks to the future and expresses hope in Rainer as the right person for the job.

"I am incredibly excited to have a man of Thom Rainer’s gifts and vision to work alongside in the months ahead. He is a proven leader, a brilliant statesman and a gifted visionary. That’s why I believe LifeWay’s best days are still ahead," said Draper.

Search committee chairman, Rick Evans also saw hope in the future of the non-profit company in Rainer's capable hands.

"Dr. Rainer has proven himself to be a successful leader. He is a gifted man of authority in the trends within the Christian church and in church growth. Dr. Rainer will provide the kind of leadership LifeWay needs for the years ahead."

The full board of trustees will vote on the recommendation at its Sept. 12-13 meeting in Nashville. If approved, Rainer would become president-elect and begin to work alongside Draper to ensure a smooth transition.

Rainer, 50, graduated from the University of Alabama, earned the Master of Divinity and Ph.D. at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

He is founder, president and CEO of the Rainer Group, one of the nation’s leading church and denominational consultant organizations, and is in much demand by Southern Baptist churches as a church growth conference speaker.

He is a member of both the Academy for Evangelism in Theological Education and the American Society for Church Growth, and served as pastor to churches in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky, and Indiana. He also authored 16 books, including "Surprising Insights from the Unchurched," "The Unchurched Next Door" and "Breakout Churches." He and his wife, Nellie Jo, have three sons: Sam, Art and Jess.

President of the Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, Daniel L. Akin said, "Thom is one of the most talented and gifted men I know. I think he will do a tremendous job in building on the excellent foundation laid by Dr. Draper. I also believe, given his experience and background, that he will bring to LifeWay a perspective and expertise that organization has never known."

Personal friend and his family's pastor, Pastor Kevin Ezell of Highview Baptist Church in Louisville, Ky. also testified his expertise: "He possesses innovative and visionary skills that set him in the upper level of leaders in the [Southern Baptist Convention]."

However, important to Ezell is Rainer's "passion for people."

"Thom has a passion for evangelism and seeing believers grow in their faith. He has a heart for God and a passion for people."