Thom Rainer announces retirement from LifeWay

  |  Source: Baptist Press

Thom Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, presented the LifeWay report to the 2017 Southern Baptist Convention annual meeting in Phoenix, Ariz. Rainer has announced his plans to retire. (BP File Photo / Adam Covington)

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NASHVILLE (BP)—Thom S. Rainer announced Aug. 27 his plans to retire as president and chief executive officer of LifeWay Christian Resources 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.

Thom Rainer

Rainer told trustees during his report at their Aug. 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.”

‘Time to pass the baton’

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, 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.

“Dr. Rainer has strategically led through times of economic uncertainty, the digital revolution, changing church practices, and tumultuous shifts in culture. 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.”

Search committee named

Scroggins named a seven-member search committee to seek Rainer’s successor. Kent Dacus, vice president of student services at California Baptist University and member of The Grove Community Church in Riverside, Calif., will chair the committee.

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Other members are Bill Langley, pastor of Severns Valley Baptist Church, Elizabethtown, Ky.; Millie Burkett, member of Greater Gresham Baptist Church, Gresham, Ore.; Ken Bledsoe, senior pastor of Calvary Baptist Church, Aberdeen, N.J.; Madeline Harris, member of Ezekiel Baptist Church, Philadelphia, Penn.; Todd Fannin, member of Life Fellowship Church, Pryor, Okla.; and Luther McDaniel, member of First Baptist Church, Hendersonville, Tenn.

Brad McLean, pastor of First Baptist Church in New Braunfels, a congregation dually affiliated with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention, will serve as an alternate committee member. In addition to McLean, other alternate members are Mike Osborne, executive pastor of Colonial Heights Baptist Church, Colonial Heights, Va.; and J.D. Perry, member of Jefferson Baptist Church, Baton Rouge, La.

The search committee will receive questions and names for consideration at

Highlights of Rainer’s tenure noted

Rainer became the ninth president of the Southern Baptist entity in February 2006. Mileposts during his tenure include:

  • Five consecutive years of growth in ongoing curriculum after nearly 30 years of decline. Helping fuel the growth is The Gospel Project, a group Bible study focused on theology. Initially projected to draw 30,000 users, the curriculum now engages more than 1.5 million weekly users in Bible study.
  • The sale of LifeWay’s former campus and moving LifeWay’s headquarters to a new location in downtown Nashville.
  • Expanding LifeWay’s worldwide reach through LifeWay Global. Last year, LifeWay Global distributed resources to 164 of the world’s 195 countries, reaching more than 4 million people, and LifeWay resources are licensed in more than 60 languages.

During Rainer’s time as president, LifeWay also made several key acquisitions including Wordsearch Bible, Student Life and Auxano.

Rainer has written more than two dozen books, including Becoming a Welcoming Church, I Will: Nine Traits of an Outwardly Focused Christian, Autopsy of a Deceased Church and the award-winning and best-selling I Am a Church Member.

His website,, continues to reach more than 10 million viewers annually. His two podcasts “Rainer on Leadership” and “Revitalize & Replant with Thom Rainer” have a combined total of 1.5 million downloads.

Rainer points to plans for future

As for future plans, 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,” he said. “I want to give every minute God allows me to make a difference to see churches revitalized.”

Rainer said he plans 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.

LifeWay is one of the world’s largest providers of Christian products and services, including Bibles, books, Bible studies, music, church supplies and events. Established in Nashville, Tenn., in 1891, the company owns and operates more than 170 LifeWay Christian Stores throughout the United States, as well as Ridgecrest Christian Conference Center in North Carolina.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article, first posted Aug. 28, was revised Aug. 29 to include information about the search committee.

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