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Southern Seminary dean tapped to lead LifeWay Research
June 05, 2006
By Russ Rankin

Thom S. Rainer, president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, announced May 12 that Brad J. Waggoner, dean of the School of Leadership and Church Ministry at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., will lead LifeWay Research, an initiative Rainer unveiled when he took office earlier this year.

Waggoner will join LifeWay July 1 as director of LifeWay Research, a department reporting to the president.

Waggoner joined the teaching faculty of Southern Seminary in 1999 and has served as dean of the School of Leadership and Church Ministry since 2001, during which time he developed and taught several classes on leadership and discipleship.

In addition to his role as academic administrator and teacher, he served as one of the lead consultants for the Rainer Group, a research organization Rainer once headed that assists churches in assessing and promoting church health and effectiveness.

"Few people are as connected with the local church as Brad Waggoner," Rainer said. "LifeWay is blessed with the leadership he brings to this new role. He brings not only a knowledge of the local church, but a passion and heart for the church as well. His leadership of LifeWay Research will provide the energy to make this new entity a world-class organization."

At his February inauguration as LifeWay's ninth president, Rainer revealed his intention for LifeWay to become a more relevant organization through the launch of new initiatives such as LifeWay Research.

"LifeWay Research [will be] an entity that listens to churches, that listens to Christians and that listens to the spiritually lost," Rainer announced. "We will be an authority on what's going on in the world of churches, beliefs and the world of the unchurched."

The goal, Rainer said, is to make LifeWay Research the premiere Christian research organization in the world.

"We will have a finger on the pulse of culture and the unchurched world," he said. "Our intention as Christians is not to mirror culture or concede to culture but to impact culture with the truth of Scripture. LifeWay Research will explore culture and the unchurched world with this impact in mind."

LifeWay Research also will seek to understand better specific areas of ministry, such as students, women, Sunday school, small groups, leadership and music. LifeWay's goal is not to help churches do more, Rainer said; it is to help churches identify strategic opportunities that can be maximized for the greatest Kingdom impact.

"Over the last seven years, Thom Rainer and I have shared similar passions," Waggoner said. "We are passionate about the local church and we are similarly focused on helping pastors and church staffs become more effective.

"LifeWay Research is not going to be about research in and of itself," he added. "It will be driven by evangelical fervor which leads to evangelical effectiveness that strengthens churches."

Waggoner, a native of Wyoming, received a master of religious education degree from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, a master of arts from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago and a Ph.D. from Southwestern Seminary.

The research for his doctoral dissertation, conducted in conjunction with the research department of the International Mission Board, involved the development of The Discipleship Inventory designed to measure the degree to which churches are developing biblical disciples. This instrument was used in several research projects overseas where the IMB was seeking to determine the quality of church work. This inventory is also included in LifeWay's MasterLife discipleship training curriculum.

Waggoner and his wife, Patti, have two sons, Brandt and Blake.

LifeWay is one of the world's largest providers of Christian resources, including Bibles, church literature, books, music, audio and video recordings, church supplies and Internet services through LifeWay.com.

Established in Nashville, Tenn., in 1891, the company owns and operates 126 LifeWay Christian Stores throughout the United States, as well as two of the largest Christian conference centers in the country. (BP)

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