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.
More from Thom

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  • Thom,

    Thank you for your service; past, present, and future. I am six years older than you and have been in my current position for 14 1/2 years. I, too, am on a cusp. I understand your restlessness and your eagerness. What has become so good is difficult to let go. I have a sense of “ceasing to be” and have been asking others to pray that I will have a sense of “becoming.” 1 John 3:2 has a broader meaning for me than just the end of days.

    I will keep you in my prayers. Please keep me in yours.

    May God continue to bless you and guide you.


  • Dr. Rainer,

    Thank you so much for your dedication to the local church and for allowing yourself to be used by our Savior for Kingdom ministry. Like many, I truly believe that whatever the Father leads you to do, He will continue to bless you and your family as you continue to invest your life in others.

    I have been personally blessed by your ministry and expertise both as a pastor and a denominational worker.


  • Thankful for your faithful leadership! I had the privilege of being inspired by your preaching way back in 1996 at a Georgia Baptist Convention Sunday School conference at Norman Park Conference Center in Moultrie, GA. I had just entered my first full-time ministry position in S. GA, and you preached about “Getting Out Of The Boat.” I was so impressed with the truths you shared I went home and wrote a song about it! God bless you in this next phase of ministry through church revitalization. I may be calling on you!

  • Hey Thom, Will you still be posting information about church revitalization. I sure hope so. Really enjoyed your work and insight.

  • Your work and words are life giving Dr Rainer. I look forward to the same steady stream of wisdom and practical help from the Revitalize Network. You have so much to offer! Count me in!

  • Wow, Thom, how exciting! I know there where and will be moments of misgiving, lean into the Holy Spirit as you have always done, you have been so blessed. I look forward to how God grows you and your team as they transition with you. I think it is all a part of the great adventure that Paul alludes to in his letters! Soak it in, fill up and when it’s time…let us have it! 8)

  • Shocking for a 63-year-old to be afforded the opportunity to retire from LifeWay on his own terms!

  • Kiely Young says on

    Dr. Rainer,
    You have been and will remain an incredible instrument for God’s use in His Kingdom. He has gifted you with keen insights that have led and kept LifeWay on the cutting edge of service to His churches over these years. You have also given us better understanding with regard to the challenges we face as we seek to impact this world for Christ. We have to keep our Commission from God in focus, and you have faithfully led us to do that. While many focus on just numbers, you have led us to a renewed commitment to grow multiplying disciples and God will take care of the numbers.
    As for your commitment to your family, I applaud you. The next time you turn around those grandchildren will be graduating from college and getting married. Then the fun really begins, you will be a GREATgrandfather. Enjoy every minute…but keep writing and challenging us with your blogs, posts, and challenging words.
    May God Bless your retirement.

  • bob goodwin says on

    Dr. Rainer,
    First of all want to tell you how much I have enjoyed reading your articles on the church, Pastors and workers. I know that you sincerely love it, and it shows through your words. I also have really enjoyed the pray for a church articles. I believe in my heart that the church as a whole as gotten away from earnestly, seeking God, and I would hope that we get back to that , and soon. With that being said, I will be praying for your next season in life, especially you having tie with your family. God bless…

  • Roy Polmanteer says on


    You have been a blessing to so many, not only inside of Lifeway but Outside.
    You have provided strength and encouragement to so many that you have never met, those you may never know outside of social media.

    Thank You for your leadership, and your continued leadership.
    My prayer is that the Lord will continue to use you in mighty ways for years to come.

    Revitalization is something that so many churches need and you have been chosen to lead that effort for God’s Glory.


  • You have been such a blessing! I hope we can continue to hear your voice of wisdom from one outlet or another.

  • Thom,
    You have taken Lifeway to a new level and prepared the path for your successor. However, the greatest accomplishment you may have made has been your connection to pastors and your desire to provide leadership, insight and support. You truly understand the daily walk that each pastor travels. I know God has great things for the coming years for you. Your obedience to Him and service to others is an example for all to follow. Thank you and God bless you my brother.

1 5 6 7 8 9 10