Dr. Thom Rainer was elected the new president of Lifeway Christian Resources yesterday during a meeting of the board of trustees. I showed up because I was hoping to get a look at the inside of the machine and the family that is Lifeway. I also came to get some questions answered that have been on my mind, and see some friends. Some impressive things are happening at Lifeway. The trustees seem to know one another and have real friendships. Lifeway is giving $6 million to the disaster relief of Hurricane Katrina. The 6 month process of searching for a new president seemed to be prayerful and void of politicking, and Dr. Rainer looks to be a solid replacement for Dr. Draper. Dr. Rainer's background in research, church growth/health is valuable, and even more so are his commitments to the local church, engaging and understanding culture through relationships, and doing evangelism better. In fact this last point was made several times, indicating we must do better (not just more) outreach. He said if Lifeway is not at the forefront of the "evangelistic revolution" in 10 years he will be disappointed. I didn’t get a chance to ask him what that might look like, but I hope to soon.
One thing concerned me (Hey, that's not bad. One thing.). When summarizing his theology for the trustees, Dr. Rainer explained that he is Southern Baptist, believes in the inerrancy of Scripture, embraces the BFM 2000 with enthusiasm, and that he is not a five point Calvinist. I asked him at the press conference today why he felt the need to include this when summarizing what he believes. He explained that people want to know where you stand on issues like that, and he did not want to avoid the question.
After talking with others it was made clear that some of the trustees were concerned about the issue of Calvinism, and did not want that to become an issue at Lifeway. I can understand that, but it seems to me that simply saying, "I am not a five point Calvinist," not only leaves things unanswered (is he a 3 pointer, a 4, a 4.3675 Calvinist?) but can also fuel the current hostility toward Calvinism. With people like Steve Lemke, Johnny Hunt, Jack Graham, and SBC Prez Bobby Welch speaking out against a caricature of Calvinism, I would have appreciated a bit more exposition when answering such a concern.
It has been great visiting Nashville and Lifeway. Seeing friends was fun, we had good conversation about God, ministry, and the Convention, and I met two men whose families have adopted children from China (very encouraging for Jen and I since we are half way through the process ourselves).