Archives For LifeWay Christian Resources

By Meredith Flynn

The announcement that LifeWay Christian Resources will close its brick-and-mortar stores by the end of the year dismayed many Southern Baptists who have long shopped the shelves for books, music, and Lord’s Supper wafers. The reaction was predictable—it’s sad to lose a trusted source of information and resources. What some seem to be missing even more, though, is a unique service LifeWay offered customers: vetting.

“I think one of the greatest competitive advantages LifeWay could have had, and had in some ways, was being trustworthy, where pastors could tell their congregations, ‘You can go into the store, and anything you buy is trustworthy,’” Indiana pastor Tim Overton told Baptist Press.

LifeWay, he said, “was unique [among bookstores] in holding very high standards and not simply allowing a profit to motivate all choices.”

In the weeks since LifeWay announced the closures, that quality has been celebrated by pastors like Overton, and lamented by some authors whose books weren’t sold in LifeWay stores. Others, though, praised the organization’s principled stand, even while not agreeing with its actual principles.

“I genuinely respect them (or any company) that is driven by principles other than profit alone,” tweeted Tish Harrison Warren, an author and Anglican priest whose book LifeWay declined to sell. “My book has sold well. LifeWay likely lost $ by not selling my book. Props for being willing to.”

When LifeWay stores close their doors this year, books and Bible studies and curriculum resources will still be available online. In fact, LifeWay plans to invest more in digital strategies to meet the needs of online customers. One aspect of the shopping experience they should consider is how to communicate to the buyer that the resources they’re scrolling through are held to the same standard as what was previously on LifeWay shelves.

In a world full of online bookstores, it may be hard to distinguish a sell-anything-that-sells mentality from a thoughtfully curated collection. The end of LifeWay stores puts more responsibility on readers to judge carefully what books are worthy of a place on their own shelves.

LifeWay stores weren’t controlled by profit, but as a Baptist Press article pointed out, finances were ultimately what brought the publisher to the decision to close. The stores lost money while LifeWay’s digital channels grew.

Faced with the numbers, the publisher made what they deemed to be the wisest choice. Now, smart phone in hand, it’s up to readers to do the same.

– Meredith Flynn

A new Bible

ib2newseditor —  March 20, 2017

Like most Americans, I’ve always respected founding father Thomas Jefferson. But I was surprised, and frankly disappointed, to learn recently that in the latter years of his life, Jefferson actually constructed his own version of the Bible. He did so by literally cutting and pasting, with razor and glue, numerous sections of the New Testament, intentionally omitting the miracles and any mentions of the supernatural, including the resurrection of Jesus.

To be fair, Jefferson apparently didn’t refer to his reconstruction as a Bible, but rather titled it “The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth.” Yet over the years it has come to be commonly known as “The Jefferson Bible.”

In fact, from 1904 into the 1950’s, the Government Printing Office gave all new members of Congress a copy of the Jefferson Bible, and that practice was resumed by a private publisher in 1997. The American Humanist Association published its own edition of the Jefferson Bible in 2013, adding passages from the Quran, the Buddhist Sutras, the Book of Mormon, and other works, and distributing it to members of Congress as well as President Obama.

Bible readership

We as Southern Baptists should be truly grateful that, since 2004, our own LifeWay Christian Resources has stewarded its own original Bible translation from the original languages, the Holman Christian Standard Bible. And now, this month, LifeWay is introducing a revised and updated version, renamed simply the Christian Standard Bible (CSB).

Recently I was invited to LifeWay, along with other state executive directors, for an overview presentation of the new translation. In fact, it was there that the Jefferson Bible was used as an illustration of what can happen when God’s Word is not stewarded carefully, and faithfully. In the CSB, LifeWay has sought to balance the two most important aspects of Bible translation: accuracy and readability.

I came away from that presentation greatly encouraged, but also greatly challenged. You see, I also learned during this presentation that Bible ownership is not really the main problem today. 88% of American households own a Bible, and the average number of Bibles per household is 4.7. The real problem is that only 37% of Americans read the Bible once a week or more. With the CSB, LifeWay’s goal is not to sell more Bibles; it is to grow the number of people who read the Bible, and are spiritually transformed by it.

LifeWay has carefully studied the activities linked to true spiritual growth. And the number one activity contributing to spiritual growth is Bible reading (91%), followed by church attendance (87%), personal prayer life (85%), and being mentored by another mature believer (81%).

By providing a freshly updated translation, LifeWay is seeking to grow the number of people engaged in the activity that most often leads to spiritual growth—reading the Bible. In doing so, they have relentlessly preserved accuracy, calling on some of the world’s finest Bible scholars to serve on the translation committee. Yet they haven’t sacrificed readability. Rather, they have sought to carefully balance the two.

So I came home from LifeWay with a new Bible. I don’t really need one. I’m the son of a pastor and a school librarian, and I worked in Christian publishing for almost 20 years. I already have way more Bibles than the 4.7 average per household.

But this new Bible gives me a fresh incentive to delve more deeply and more frequently into God’s Word. It gives me a renewed appreciation for our friends at LifeWay who faithfully steward this translation. And it gives me a reason to give others a new copy of the Bible, and to pray that our reading of it will bring the true spiritual growth that God desires.

Nate Adams is executive director of the Illinois Baptist State Association. Respond at IllinoisBaptist@IBSA.org.

Meet_us_in_St._Louis

Online registration by messengers urged; big prayer meeting Tuesday night

Southern Baptist Convention President Ronnie Floyd has clear objectives in mind for Baptists meeting June 14-15 in the Gateway City. When they depart from St. Louis, he told Baptist Press, he’s praying they will do so with a “deep burden for our nation, a new commitment to racial unity and an extraordinary commitment to evangelize America.”

Floyd, completing his second one-year term as SBC President, is planning the second-annual Convention-wide prayer meeting for the Tuesday evening session in St. Louis. “A National Call to Prayer for Spiritual Leadership, Revived Churches, Nationwide and Global Awakening” will feature SBC leaders and pastors, with music by Keith and Kristyn Getty, the composers of modern hymns including “In Christ Alone.”

“Here is what I know: If we do not plan to pray, we will not pray!” Floyd blogged in April.

“It is past time for us to prioritize prayer, both personally and in the church, as well as in our Southern Baptist Convention. For far too long, we have seen what we can do; it is time for us to see what God can do. This can only happen when we pray.”

The 2015 prayer meeting highlighted the need for racial unity and diversity in the SBC. In St. Louis, African American pastor Jerry Young, president of the National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc., will participate in the prayer meeting and also in a Tuesday morning session titled “A National Conversation on Racial Unity in America.” Marshall Blalock, pastor of First Baptist Church in Charleston, S.C., also will join the conversation.

“With the racial unrest in St. Louis due to what happened in Ferguson in August of 2014, Southern Baptists will have a strong opportunity to represent Christ through Crossover ministry in the city,” Floyd said, noting the evangelistic effort prior to the Convention.

“I believe we will leave St. Louis with a powerful, strong, clear and encouraging testimony of the need for loving one another, regardless of the color of one’s skin.”

In addition to racial unity, the convention will include a panel discussion on pastors, churches and politics, and a Q&A session with SBC entity leaders, who will answer questions from messengers.

Meeting highlights

The North American and International Mission Boards will host a Sending Celebration to conclude the Convention Wednesday afternoon. NAMB also will launch “Send Relief,” an initiative to train church members to engage their communities with gospel-centered compassion ministries.

Prior to the convention, NAMB will host several ministry opportunities in the St. Louis area, including a partnership with First Baptist Church, Ferguson, Mo., to give away Backpacks of Hope and host a carnival for Ferguson children. Southern Baptist volunteers, in partnership with the Red Cross, will also go door-to-door to install free smoke detectors for Ferguson residents.

“We hope Southern Baptists can walk away from the convention this year knowing that there is a very attainable ministry that they can be involved with that will help them engage with and reach their community,” said David Melber, NAMB’s vice president for Send Relief.

The mission board also will operate mobile dental and medical clinics in St. Louis, and plans to make the units available to churches desiring to do similar ministry in their communities.

LifeWay Christian Resources will screen two movies during the Convention, including “The Insanity of God,” a documentary featuring real-life stories of persecuted Christians around the world. The film, produced by the International Mission Board, is based on the book of the same name by Nik Ripken.

“The Insanity of God” will be shown free of charge in Ferrara Theatre at America’s Center Monday, June 13, at 9 p.m. Tickets are not required, but seating will be limited. LifeWay Films will screen an additional movie following the Tuesday evening session.

The Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission will release the first three books in its “Gospel for Life” series in St. Louis. The 9-book series “aims to help the church in navigating through ethical and cultural issues,” said ERLC President Russell Moore. The first three books in the series focus on religious liberty, racial reconciliation, and same-sex marriage.

The SBC Exhibit Hall will once again include a Wellness Center hosted by GuideStone Financial Resources. The center will offer cholesterol and glucose screenings, as well as data to determine body mass index. Participants will receive a personalized report that is suitable to take to their family doctors, and on-site medical professionals will be available to discuss results.

GuideStone also will offer three seminars aimed at various audiences: “Retirement Income Solutions,” “Health Care Reform Impacts Your Church, Too,” and “The Struggle is Real: The Solution is Simple,” a seminar for younger investors. All seminars are free, space is limited. Visit GuideStone.org/SBC16 to register.

Business notes

In addition to the three candidates for SBC President (see page B-3), Illinois pastor Doug Munton has announced he will be nominated for the office of First Vice President. John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention, will be nominated for a 20th term as SBC Recording Secretary.

John Avant, pastor of First Baptist Concord in Knoxville, Tenn., will be nominated for president of the Southern Baptist Convention Pastors’ Conference.

Several Baptists from Illinois have been selected for committees meeting during the Convention: Munton and Michael Allen, pastor of Uptown Baptist Church in Chicago, will serve on the Committee on Committees, which nominates members of the Committee on Nominations who, in turn, nominate trustees for the boards of SBC entities.

Dan Eddington, director of missions for Three Rivers Baptist Association, and Ric Worshill, a member of Crossroads Community Church in Port Barrington, will serve on the SBC Credentials Committee.

Online registration tools

Convention messengers can register online at sbcannualmeeting.net under the Messengers/Guests tab. To help ensure the orderly flow of attendees and enhance security of the convention hall, this year each messenger, exhibitor, and guest must be registered and properly badged for entrance into the general sessions June 14-15.

After completing online registration, each individual will receive an eight-digit registration code to present at the express registration lane. There, the code can be entered into a computer and a nametag will be printed.

Registration is also open for preschool child care, Giant Cow Children’s Ministries, Children in Action Missions Camp, and Youth on Mission in conjunction with annual meeting. All activities for children and youth will be housed at America’s Center. Youth who have completed grades 7-12 will begin their days at the convention center with worship before going into the community for hands-on mission projects.

Pre-registration is required and is available online at sbcannualmeeting.net under the Children/Youth tab.

The SBC Annual Meetings app is again available to Convention-goers, including a listing of speakers for the SBC Pastors’ Conference and SBC annual meeting, as well as the daily program schedule, daily events, exhibitor listing, convention center maps, 2016 Book of Reports and more.

For more information on the 2016 Southern Baptist Convention and the SBC Pastors’ Conference in St. Louis, as well as other meetings and events, go to sbcannualmeeting.net.

– From Baptist Press reports

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

The_Briefing

A bill to remove federal funding from Planned Parenthood failed to get the 60 votes it needed in the U.S. Senate Monday, but the issue likely to be back in the fall, USA Today reports.

The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission announced last week its endorsement the bill, which was introduced following the release of several videos showing Planned Parenthood employees discussing the sale of body parts from aborted babies.

And in this interview, Christianity Today senior news editor Bob Smietana talks to David Daleiden, the executive director of the pro-life organization behind the recent Planned Parenthood videos.


IRS address tax-exempt status in light of marriage ruling
The Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service testified last week that Christian schools will not lose their tax-exempt status if they opposed same-sex marriages. But at least one U.S. Senator is skeptical of Commissioner John Koskinen’s use of the phrase “at this time.” Read the full story at ChristianPost.com.


Kasich’s faith rooted in tragedy
As the field for U.S. President grows more and more crowded, Americans are getting a look at the candidates’ personal faiths. Cathy Lynn Grossman of Religion News Service has compiled “5 Faith Facts” about several of those in the running, including Ohio Governor John Kasich, who told religious conservatives meeting in June that his faith was a “rabbit’s foot,” until his parents were killed by a drunk driver in 1987.

“I tore it all apart,” he said, according to the Columbus Dispatch, and re-built his faith. Kasich belongs to a congregation affiliated with the Anglican Church in North America.


Missionary doc details Ebola fight in book
Kent Brantly
, the doctor who contracted the Ebola virus last year while working as a missionary in Liberia, said he and his wife “didn’t have regrets” about serving overseas. “That’s what God called us to,” Brantly told The Christian Post. He and his wife, Amber, tell their story in the new book “Called for Life: How Loving Our Neighbor Led Us Into the Heart of the Ebola Epidemic.”


LifeWay relocation moves forward
While finalizing the sale of its facility, LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention is purchasing land to build a smaller building in downtown Nashville, Tenn. The organization’s offer to buy 1.5 acres one mile from its current location was accepted last month, Baptist Press reported. President Thom Rainer said the organization hopes to close on the new property early this fall, and complete the new building by late 2017.

When the organization began mulling the sale last year, spokesman Marty King said nearly one-third of the current facility was vacant or leased.


Christian critic picks 2015’s worthiest films (so far)
While there hasn’t yet been much to celebrate, movie-wise, says critic Phil Boatwright, he picks four relative bright spots (including recent Pixar blockbuster “Inside Out”).

Image from a May 2012 YouTube video Saeed Abedini made before his imprisonment.

Image from a May 2012 YouTube video Saeed Abedini made before his imprisonment.

THE BRIEFING | At a meeting last week with the wife and children of imprisoned pastor Saeed Abedini, President Barack Obama said securing his release is a top priority, according to a release from the American Center for Law and Justice.

“The President was focused and gracious – showing concern to me and my children,” said Naghmeh Abedini. “I know that this meeting could not have occurred without prayer and I am grateful to the many people around the country and world who continue to pray for Saeed’s release.”

Obama reportedly told the Abedinis’ young son that he would try to have his father home by the boy’s birthday in March. The pastor, an American citizen, was arrested in Iran in 2012 and charged with “undermining national security,” Christianity Today reports. Last June, he was awarded a religious liberty award by the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, which his wife accepted on his behalf.


Jury selection started yesterday in the trial over Houston’s Equal Rights Ordinance, spearheaded by a coalition of ministers who collected petitions to repeal the ordinance passed by the City Council last May. (The city disqualified many of the 50,000 signatures collected.) The complicated case also included an effort to subpoena communications and sermons by five Houston ministers; the subpoenas were eventually dropped.

Opponents of the Houston ordinance recently aided Plano residents in collecting signatures to stop a similar ordinance in their city, Baptist Press reported.


A rumored protest by Westboro Baptist Church didn’t come to fruition at a Quad Cities-area Illinois Baptist church, but representatives of the infamous Kansas congregation (which is not affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention) did visit some churches in the area, and were met with counter-protestors. Prior to Sunday, January 25, Westboro protestors were scheduled to be at Northcrest Calvary, an Illinois Baptist State Association church in Rock Island.


Alabama is the most recent state to face a challenge to its ban on same-sex marriage, Baptist Press reports. Judge Callie V.S. Granade ruled the ban unconstitutional Jan. 23, in a case involving a lesbian couple who married in California but were denied adoption rights in Alabama. The state’s association of probate judges–who are responsible for issuing marriage licenses–said Granade’s ruling doesn’t impact anyone not named in the case.


The struggle continues between New York City public schools and churches that want to rent their space for Sunday worship, Christianity Today reports. The most recent development is an apparent change of heart by Mayor Bill de Blasio.


George Perdikis, who co-founded The Newsboys in the 1980s, has officially renounced his Christian faith, The Christian Post reports. The musician wrote in a recent post on Patheos.com: “I always felt uncomfortable with the strict rules imposed by Christianity. All I wanted to do was play rock and roll.”


Where does your city rank when it comes to “Bible-mindedness?” Barna and the American Bible Society released their annual list of the most Bible-minded cities in the U.S. Four Illinois cities landed in the top 50; see which ones at Barna.com.