Why I Am Retiring from LifeWay

Tonight, during the regularly scheduled meeting of the LifeWay board, I announced my retirement as president and CEO. I will step down when the new CEO is named, or in one year, whichever comes first.

I made this decision with the firm conviction that it was time for my departure. But I also made the decision with a plethora of mixed emotions. In fact, when I told my executive leadership team about my decision, I cried. A wave of emotions hit me unexpectedly, and I surprised myself with my tears.

You see, I really love LifeWay and the people who serve here. They are absolutely incredible men and women who serve the Lord with joy and hard work. My thirteen years at LifeWay have been blessed for many reasons, not the least of which are the 5,000+ employees who work here.

But I want to share with candor and honesty why I made this decision. I value transparency. I have tried to live and lead with transparency myself.

  • LifeWay is poised for a great future with a new leader. The past thirteen years have been some of the most blessed years of my life. I am tempted to share many of the great works God and the employees have done in that time, but it would be an act of hubris on my part. To be certain, LifeWay will have its challenges. LifeWay is a ministry funded by a business model. It does not receive any outside funds. It has to compete with the behemoths like Amazon and Walmart. The next president will lead an organization poised for a great future, but it will be a future with challenges. Such is the nature of how this organization lives and works.
  • I have been tempted to hang on. I must avoid that temptation. I am 63 years old. That’s not young; nor is it that old by retirement standards. Frankly, I found myself rationalizing how I could stay for many more years. In fact, others have told me I am leading better than ever, that I should consider staying. I, however, can feel the temptations of hanging on for my own sake, for my own pleasure. LifeWay cannot and must not be my identity. I have always advocated for leaders to know when it’s time to depart, and to act upon it. I must practice what I preach. It is time to pass the baton of leadership to a new generation.
  • I want to maximize my time with family in this next phase of life. I love my family. I really love my family. I want to have more flexibility to spend time with my wife, my sons and their wives and, of course, my grandchildren. I have ten grandchildren who are ages eight and younger. I want to enjoy fully my years with them. God willing, I want to be a more involved mentor in their lives.
  • God willing, I strongly desire to dedicate this next phase of life to making a contribution to the revitalization of churches across the world. I love the local church, with all of its imperfections and idiosyncratic ways. I want to give every minute God allows me to make a difference to see churches revitalized. I will begin a nonprofit organization called Revitalize Network for this purpose. I have a vision to see tens of thousands of churches working together joyfully to grow in greater health and numbers. It is my passion. It is my dream. Above all, it is my prayer.

I was 49 years old when I began interviewing for the role of president and CEO of LifeWay. In the blink of an eye, I turned 63. I am so blessed to have led such a great organization. I am so blessed to have served alongside the incredible employees at this place.

But the time has passed so incredibly fast. Life is indeed a vapor. I pray for my remaining years to be used wisely and to be lived passionately.

I am a blessed man.

I deserve none of the blessings. I accept them all with gratitude and humility.

Thank you, LifeWay. Thank you for allowing me to serve you these past thirteen years. You have encouraged me. You have honored me. You have blessed me. My words to you are the same the Apostle Paul gave to a church he loved deeply:

I give thanks to my God for every remembrance of you, always praying with joy for all of you in my every prayer, because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now. I am sure of this, that he who started a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus (Philippians 1:3-6, Christian Standard Bible (of course)).

Posted on August 27, 2018

With nearly 40 years of ministry experience, Thom Rainer has spent a lifetime committed to the growth and health of local churches across North America.
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  • Pastor Lester R. Thurston says on

    Dr. Rainer:

    I have been blessed to have read many of your posting for the past three years and will continue to cherish them. The Lord bless and keep you as you began the next chapter in you life.

  • Thom, I appteciate your work and respect your decision. You are simply moving on to another phase of very important ministry. You’ve been a major source of information for me as a leader and I trust that will continue. I hope to be able to access your expertise more in our revitalization efforts in the Church of God.

  • Thom, you did an incredible job. Thank you for your leadership and for mentoring the next generation. We will miss you! Bless you!

  • While I, too, am saddened by your departure from Liveway, I am REALLY excited and expectant of your upcoming calling. There’s nothing greater on this earth than “The Church!” Can’t wait to see what you accomplish for the Lord! God bless you.

  • Dr Rainer, You are a tremendous blessing and your wisdom is very much valued. I am grateful for your articles and insights. May God richly bless you in your next big endeavor.

  • Thank you for your dedicated leadership with
    LifeWay. May the Lord continue to bless you abundantly

    Retired pastor / church of the Nazarene

  • I have found you to be a blessing in my life. I understand the desire to spend more time with your family. Not that you need it but you will going with the blessings of those you have served. You turned Lifeway around. Word search is better than ever. Enjoy this next phase.

  • Thank you Dr Rainer for all you’ve done to support pastors and churches. I know that we have much more to look forward to as you embark on your new calling. May you also be blessed abundantly as you dote in your family.

    You will be missed in your current role, but will be a blessing in your obedience.

  • Dr. Rainer,
    You will be so missed. So thankful to have learned from you in so many ways.
    Rejoicing with you over your finishing strong.
    Blessings on your next phase of ministry and life.
    Deb Mills

  • Joe Drago says on

    Well done good and faithful servant…
    I appreciate all the excellent work you have done (and surely will continue to do).
    Thank you.

  • Dr. Rainer, you have made a significant impact on many of us, and we gratefully have your example to follow. Blessings to you and yours, from the guy who drove to Dallas from Waco EARLY to hear you and meet you (and this surprised you, but it was worthwhile to me). Keep loving Christ’s body, and we will do the same!

  • The last two bullet points bring joy to a pastors heart!! Thank you…I look forward to joining that network.

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