Archives For Thom Rainer

The Briefing

Imprisoned pastor freed
After two years of detention in Turkey, Andrew Brunson touched down on U.S. soil Oct. 13. Brunson was released after a 2- year incarceration stemming from disputed charges that could have led to life imprisonment. Although Turkey did not proclaim the North Carolina native innocent, a court in Aliaga released Brunson Oct. 12.

On his way home to North Carolina, Brunson stopped in Washington, D.C., where he met with President Donald Trump and prayed for him, The Christian Post reported.

Hurricane Michael hits churches ‘like a bomb’
Hurricane Michael damaged at least 50 Southern Baptist church buildings in Florida and Georgia, according to initial estimates. Despite the carnage, churches in Panama City and beyond held Sunday morning services just four days after Michael made landfall. In addition, Southern Baptist Disaster Relief (SBDR) teams from nearby states set up a kitchen and began serving meals to the community over the weekend in partnership with American Red Cross.

Message author enters hospice care
Eugene Peterson, the theologian and author best known for The Message translation of the Bible, is receiving hospice care, his family shared over the weekend. Many Christian leaders responded to the announcement by remembering Peterson’s influence and asking for prayer on his behalf. “Let’s everyone of us who have benefited much from this great man’s writing all stop and pray for him right now,” Ethics and Religious Liberty President Russell Moore said on Twitter. “And then let’s thank God for the model of a long obedience in the right direction.”

Canada considers euthanizing children
Doctors from a Toronto children’s hospital recently published policies on physician-assisted suicide for children. The policy, written at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children, outlines the hospital’s decisions on which children would be euthanized under Canada’s Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) law. The policy also reveals that in some cases, parents won’t be notified until after the child has died.

Seven traits of a healthy church leader
Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay, lists embracing change as one seven traits exhibited by healthy church leaders.

Sources: Baptist Press, Christian Post, Christianity Today


Thom_Rainer_blog_calloutCOMMENTARY | Thom Rainer

Editor’s note: Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. This article was originally published Feb. 12 at

Many churches are busy, probably too busy. Church calendars fill quickly with a myriad of programs and activities. While no individual activity may be problematic, the presence of so many options can be.

An activity-driven church is a congregation whose corporate view is that busier equals better. More activities, from this perspective, mean a healthier church. The reality is that churches who base their health on their busyness already have several problems. Allow
me to elaborate on seven of those challenges:

1. Activity is not biblical purpose. Certainly some activities can move a congregation toward fulfilling her biblical purposes. But busyness per se should not be a goal of a healthy congregation.

2. Busyness can take us away from connecting with other believers and non-believers. It is sadly ironic that local churches are often a primary reason we do not connect on a regular basis with people in our community and in the world. We are too busy “doing church.”

3. An activity-driven church often is not strategic in its ministries. Leaders do not think about what is best; they often just think about what is next on the activity list.

4. A congregation that is too busy can hurt families. Sadly, some church members are so busy with their churches that they neglect their families. Our churches should be about strengthening families, not pulling them apart.

5. An activity-driven church often has no presence in the community. Christians should be Christ’s presence in the communities their churches serve. Some Christians are just too busy doing church activities to have an incarnational presence in the community.

6. Activity-driven churches tend to have “siloed” ministries. So the student ministry plans activities that conflict with the children’s ministries that conflict with the senior adult ministries, and so on. Instead of all the ministries and activities working together for a strategic purpose, they tend to work only for their particular areas.

7. Churches that focus on activities tend to practice poor stewardship. Many of the activities are not necessary. Some are redundant. Others are sacred cows. Ministry effectiveness can often be enhanced with less instead of more.

Many of our churches have traded effectiveness for busyness. Good use of the resources God has given us demands that we rethink all we are asking our members to do in our churches. We really need more simple churches. Now that’s a novel concept.

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources

THE BRIEFING | Posted by Meredith Flynn

Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention, shared his “broken heart” over the denomination’s loss of passion for people who don’t know Christ.

In an open letter at, the leader of the convention’s publishing arm asked, “Where is the passion in most of our churches to reach the lost? Where is the passion among our leaders, both in our churches and in our denomination?

“Jesus told those at the church at Ephesus that they had sound doctrine, that they hated evil (Revelation 2:1-7). But He also told them they had lost their first love. When we truly love Jesus with all of our hearts, we can’t help but tell others about Him. We can’t help but share the good news.”

Rainer’s letter echoed the theme of a resolution passed by messengers to the November 2013 annual meeting of the Illinois Baptist State Association. The resolution on repentance and evangelism encouraged Illinois Baptists to repent of failure to share the Gospel regularly and faithfully, and to commit to do so.

As for Rainer’s letter, “I have no proposal. I have no new programs for now. I simply have a burden,” he wrote. And, he added, renewal must start with him. And with pastors.

“Evangelism must be as natural to me as breathing,” Rainer blogged.

“Pastors, will you join me in this plea? Will you be an evangelistic example for the churches God has called you to serve? Laypersons, will you pray for evangelistic hearts in your own lives? I must make that prayer a part of my life every day.

“Have we lost our first love? Is that love reflected in how we share the gospel of Christ every day?

“May God break me until I am all His, telling others about His Son every day.”

Read the full text of Rainer’s letter at

New podcast answers ethical questions
The Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission launched a new podcast series this week to address ethical and cultural questions submitted by listeners. Russell Moore, president of the ERLC, hosted the first episode January 13. The inaugural “Questions and Ethics” podcast focused on the question: When should you ask your potential spouse about their sexual history and how much should you know?

“‘Questions & Ethics’ allows us to answer the more difficult moral and ethical questions of our day in a short, accessible format,” said Dan Darling, ERLC’s vice president for communications, in a written release. “This podcast allows Dr. Moore to answer a variety of questions people are asking or should be asking.'” Read more at and listen to the first episode of “Questions and Ethics” at

Hobby Lobby gets its day in court
The U.S. Supreme Court has set a date for oral arguments in a case pitting craft retailer Hobby Lobby against the Department of Health and Human Services. The Christian Post reports the high court will hear from Hobby Lobby on March 25, as the craft retailer argues business owners should be able to exercise religious freedom by objecting to the abortion/contraceptive mandate in President Obama’s healthcare reform package. Hobby Lobby has been one of the businesses at the center of the dispute over the mandate, which requires employers to cover abortion-inducing drugs in their employee health care plans.

“This legal challenge has always remained about one thing and one thing only: the right of our family businesses to live out our sincere and deeply held religious convictions as guaranteed by the law and the Constitution,” Hobby Lobby founder David Green said in a written release in November. “Business owners should not have to choose between violating their faith and violating the law.”


Pastors praying today for spiritual awakening

A group of Baptist pastors and leaders are meeting this week in Atlanta to pray together for revival and spiritual awakening. This is the second prayer meeting called by Arkansas pastor Ronnie Floyd. The gathering “is time for us to pray in an extraordinary way, to seek the God of heaven to revive His church and awaken our nation,” Floyd, senior pastor of Cross Church in northwest Arkansas, told Baptist Press.

The meeting raises a question, says Illinois Baptist editor Eric Reed: What can believers do to bring spiritual awakening to a nation lulled to disinterest by its tolerance of sin? Read his feature story on the next great awakening in the current issue of the IB, and read more about the prayer meeting at

Tuesday_BriefingTHE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

“The reason I am here is because I don’t want to have to rescue you.” 

Tajuan McCarty stood in front of more than 100 teenage girls and their leaders in November, pulling no punches as she told her story. Speaking in short, unflinching sentences, she explained how she was pushed into prostitution at age 15, and trafficked into every state except Hawaii and Alaska over the next 11 years.

“I am a survivor of trafficking.”

McCarty is founder and director of The Wellhouse, a ministry that rescues women trapped in the same kind of life that once enslaved her. Headquartered in Birmingham, The Wellhouse is in a prime location to fight trafficking along I-20, known as the sex trafficking superhighway. She also helps raise awareness about the global problem that is deeply entrenched in the United States.

McCarty has been a Christian for four years, so her message begins with this: All women are beautiful, because they’re made in God’s image.

“If you walk away from here thinking prostitution is a choice and/or she’s doing it because she’s on drugs, I have not done my job,” McCarty told a captivated audience at AWSOM, an annual missions event for young women in Illinois. Drugs are only a symptom of the problem, she added.

“At The Wellhouse, what we try to do is reach the core of the problem. And yes, we introduce them to Jesus because that is the only way to heal people.”

Read more in the new Illinois Baptist, online at

Other news:

New missions housing opens in Chicagoland
The new home of the Chicago Metro Baptist Association also has room for volunteers serving in the city. The Rockwell Street building’s 9,000 square feet on three floors have been remodeled into several large spaces for mission teams to stay, plus a chapel/meeting space, and in the basement a large dining hall and full commercial kitchen. And nine showers. At $15 per mission tripper per night, “it’s a clean, affordable, functional place,” said Jay Noh, “and I am prayerfully optimistic that many more churches will be able to bring groups to minister in the city.” Read more here, and check out page 6 of the newest Illinois Baptist for information about another mission housing opportunity in the Chicago suburb of Plainfield.

Rainer blogs 14 trends for 2014
LifeWay President Thom Rainer’s predictions for 2014 include more megachurches, downsized denominations, smaller worship centers and a stronger focus on small groups. Read more of his 14 predictions for churches at (Note: Predictions are split into two posts.)

Creation Museum president vs. Science Guy in evolution debate
The president of a museum dedicated to creationism will soon debate Bill “the Science Guy” Nye on evolution. Ken Ham, president of the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Ky., and Nye will engage in a sold-out public debate at the museum on Feb. 4. “It is an important debate to have as we deal with the question, ‘Is creation a viable model of origins in today’s modern scientific era?'” Ham posted on his blog.

Nye, host of TV’s “Bill Nye the Science Guy” in the mid-1990s, made headlines last year with a YouTube video calling creationism inappropriate for kids. A recent study by Pew Research found 60% of Americans believe in evolution. Read more about the survey here, and go to for more about the debate, which also will be live streamed.

Most popular Scripture passages of 2013
According to analysis shared on, Philippians 4:13 was the most popular verse on the YouVersion Bible app last year, followed by Isaiah 40:31, Matthew 6:13, Joshua 1:9, and Philippians 4:6. Read YouVersion’s top 10 shared verses of 2013 at

THE BRIEFING | Meredith Flynn

Joining Filipino Baptists at work, IMB representative Mark Moses handed out packs of rice, noodles, canned sardines and water to Typhoon Haiyan victims on Panay island Monday, Nov. 11. “We listened to their horrifying stories of pounding winds and walls of sea water sweeping away their earthly belongings,” Moses said. “We prayed and grieved with the people. We made assessments of priority needs.” (IMB Photo by Mark Moses)

Joining Filipino Baptists at work, IMB representative Mark Moses handed out food and water to Typhoon Haiyan victims on Panay island Monday, Nov. 11. “We prayed and grieved with the people,” Moses said. “We made assessments of priority needs.” IMB photo by Mark Moses; from

As officials assess the damage from Typhoon Haiyan, Southern Baptist workers in the Philippines are distributing food and evaluating how best to meet immediate and long-term needs. Officials estimate 10,000 people could have died in the storm. International Mission Board representative Dottie Smith said, “Pray for strength for those who are still stranded, low on food and water and are feeling helpless.” Read more at

LifeWay apologizes for stereotypes in ‘Rickshaw Rally’

The Southern Baptist Convention’s publishing arm, LifeWay Christian Resources, apologized last week for the use of racial stereotypes in “Rickshaw Rally,” its 10-year-old Vacation Bible School curriculum.

“I agree with those who have helped us understand the offensive nature of that material,” LifeWay President Thom Rainer said in the video apology presented at the Mosaix conference in California. “And I agree evangelical church and ministry leaders — particularly those of us who are white — need to commit to assuring, as best we can, these offenses stop.”

Rainer became LifeWay’s president in 2006.

Coming soon to a theater near you
The producers behind History Channel’s “The Bible” miniseries are repackaging the parts of the story that focus on Jesus for a new feature film. “Son of God” will be released February 28, 2014 by 20th Century Fox. “This is a big story. It deserves a big presentation,” Roma Downey told The Christian Post. The star of “Touched by an Angel” produced “The BIble” with her husband, Mark Burnett, and also starred as Mary, the mother of Jesus. “The stand-alone opportunity of two hours and 15 minutes to follow the birth, the life, the mission, the miracles, the death, the resurrection, the ascension, the Great Commission, the entire Jesus narrative.” Read more at

IBSA Annual Meeting starts Nov. 13
Follow along here and at or The IBSA Pastors’ Conference starts today, with panel discussions and messages by Bobby Boyles, Jerry Cain, Micah Fries, Chuck Kelley, Eric Mason and Jason Strother. For more information, go to

Writer lists five phrases that are too ‘churchy’ for Millenials
Blogger and author Addie Zierman once left the church, and now she’s back. She shares on The Washington Post’s On Faith blog five church cliches that are “maddening and alienating” to Millenials like her. Read the list here and then tell us how you agree or disagree.