By Carol Pipes
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.“It is time to pass the baton of leadership to a new generation.” — Thom Rainer“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.
During his tenure, LifeWay reversed a 30-year decline in ongoing curriculum sales and relocated into a new headquarters among other achievements.
Evangelical leaders praise Rainer’s leadership
“It’s hard to overstate the impact for good Thom Rainer has had on LifeWay and Southern Baptist publishing. He has the heart of a pastor, the mind of an entrepreneur, and the energy of a college student. We are sad to lose his leadership from Lifeway, but grateful for the legacy he leaves for the next leader to build upon. Because of his faith, faithfulness, and expertise, and God’s grace, the future looks very promising!” — JD Greear, SBC president and pastor of The Summit Church
No adequate words, my dear brother, friend and co-laborer in the glorious gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. Your fan forever.
— Beth Moore (@BethMooreLPM) August 28, 2018
“Thom is one of the best blue ocean thinkers I know. He is always stretching people to move beyond their abilities to reach goals thought unreachable.”— Kevin Ezell, president of the North American Mission Board
“To know Thom Rainer is to know his love for the local church and his powerful insights into church life. Thom has channeled all of that into LifeWay over the entire course of his leadership there. Thom’s love for the local church and for Christ animates him and animates those he draws around him.” — R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
@ThomRainer I, my family, and many of my closest friends are grateful for your season of leadership, Dr. Rainer.
— howertonjosh (@howertonjosh) August 28, 2018
“The publishing world has experienced nothing less than a revolution in the last decade. Some would call it a convulsion! I could not imagine anyone navigating these troubled waters more effectively than Dr. Rainer. LifeWay is well positioned to move forward in the 21st century. Thom Rainer’s superb leadership has put them there.” — Daniel L. Akin, president of Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
“Dr. Thom Rainer is one of the most innovative and strategic leaders I’ve ever known. During his tenure, he modernized Lifeway, bringing it fully into the 21st Century and positioning it to flourish well beyond the conclusion of his service. His keen business mind put Lifeway on a more solid financial footing; his servant mindedness enabled him to speak to Southern Baptists with credibility and influence. Yet, at his heart, he is an evangelist and a churchman.” — Jason Allen, president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary
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.
CAROL PIPES (@CarolPipes) is editor in chief of Facts & Trends.