Thom S. Rainer

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Thom S. Rainer
Born (1955-07-16) July 16, 1955 (age 65)
TitleFormer President and CEO, LifeWay Christian Resources
Spouse(s)Nellie Jo King
Academic background
EducationUniversity of Alabama
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
Academic work
InstitutionsSouthern Baptist Theological Seminary

Thom S. Rainer (born July 16, 1955) is an American writer, researcher, speaker, and former president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources, an entity of the Southern Baptist Convention[1] in Nashville, Tennessee. He is the author of several best selling books, including I Am a Church Member, named a CBA #1 Best Seller (2013–2014) and Monthly Best Seller (2013–2015).[2] It was also recognized as a Monthly Best Seller (2013–2015), a Gold Medallion Award winner (2015),[3] and a Platinum Book Award winner (2016)[4] by the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association, and recognized by Leadership Journal as Best of the Best in the Leaders Outer Life category (2013);[5] Autopsy of a Deceased Church, Christian Retailing's Best Book of the Year: Church and Culture (2015);[6] and Simple Church, the 2007 Christianity Today Book Award winner in the Church/Pastoral Leadership category.[7] After resigning as CEO, Rainer remained as the Chief Advisory Officer[8] On September 29, 2020 it was announced that Lifeway filed a lawsuit against Rainer after he allegedly violated a non-compete agreement by publishing a book with Tyndale Press,[9] but on September 30 it was announced they decided to seek a non-litigation resolution[10] and October 5 it was announced that Rainer agreed to end his relationship with Tyndale and avoid litigation[11]


Rainer was born in Union Springs, Alabama and is a 1977 graduate of the University of Alabama, majoring in corporate finance with minors in statistics and economics. He began his career as a cash management officer (1977–80) at Trust Company of Georgia, now SunTrust. By age 25, Rainer became a fifth-generation banker and the youngest vice president[12] for corporate lending of SouthTrust Bank in Anniston, Alabama (1980–83).

Rainer entered Christian vocational ministry in 1982 and earned his Master of Divinity and Doctor of Philosophy degrees from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Kentucky. He served as pastor of churches in Alabama, Florida, Kentucky and Indiana prior to joining the faculty of SBTS in 1994 as founding dean of the Billy Graham School of Missions, Evangelism and Church Growth.[13] Also while serving at SBTS, Rainer founded and served as president and CEO of the Rainer Group.

In September 2005, Rainer was unanimously elected by the trustees of LifeWay Christian Resources to succeed James T. Draper as the ninth president of LifeWay,[14] one of the world's largest Christian resource providers.[15] Shortly after assuming the presidency, Rainer established B&H Academic,[16] a branch of LifeWay's B&H Publishing Group, to provide pastors, seminary professors and students with theologically conservative commentaries, academic monographs and other biblically-based resources.

Blog and podcast[edit]

Rainer blogs at and hosts the highly rated Rainer on Leadership Podcast.[17] Rainer on Leadership, a twice weekly podcast which experienced 265 percent growth between 2014 and 2016, was started as a companion to Rainer's blog. It surpassed 100,000 monthly downloads in September 2016.[18] His blog is listed at #6 on Redeeming God's list of Christian blogs.[19]

LifeWay Research[edit]

Not long after becoming president of LifeWay, Rainer announced the formation of LifeWay Research for the purpose of assisting and equipping church leaders with insight and advice that will lead to greater levels of church health and effectiveness.[20]

LifeWay Research is frequently cited in religious and mainstream media, including The New York Times,[21] USA Today,[22] Washington Post,[23] Christianity Today,[24] The Christian Post,[25] and Baptist Press.[26]

Great Commission resurgence[edit]

In the 2005 Spring edition of the Southern Baptist Journal of Theology, Rainer published a tribute and a review of the Southern Baptist Convention conservative resurgence after 25 years. The article entitled "A Resurgence Not Yet Realized," noted that, though a theological turnaround had taken place in the Southern Baptist Convention, there was little indication that a resurgence of evangelism had taken place in the churches. In the article Rainer called for a "great commission resurgence", a phrase that would become the nomenclature for a renewed Great Commission emphasis in the SBC years later.[27]

Awards and recognition[edit]

In the spring of 2004, Rainer was invited to be a member of the Society of Fellows for the R. G. Lee Center for Christian Ministry at Union University.[28]

In 2008, Rainer received the M. E. Dodd Denominational Service Award from Union University.[29] The Dodd Award is the highest denominational service award Union gives. It is named for the man who was a Union alumnus, served as president of the Southern Baptist Convention and who was the father of today's Cooperative Program,[30] the method by which Southern Baptists pool their resources to fund their mission efforts. The award is given annually to a leader within the SBC who displays excellence and leadership in Southern Baptist life, as well as friendship and commitment to Union University. Past recipients include Jimmy Draper (2004), Adrian Rogers (2005), Morris Chapman (2006) and Frank Page (2007).

On November 11, 2010, Rainer received the Donald A. McGavran award for outstanding leadership in church growth from the Great Commission Research Network.[31] According to the GCRN president Bob Whitesel, Rainer's "research and writings have been and continue to be key resources to those who care about church health and growth."[32]

In 2010, Rainer was inducted into the Carl F. H. Henry Society of Fellows at Union University and provided Union's graduation keynote address.[29] Rainer was also appointed to serve as a trustee board member for Union by action of the Tennessee Baptist Convention.[33]

The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary awarded Rainer its Alumnus of the Year award in 2013[34] and the E.Y. Mullins Distinguished Denominational Service Award in 2014. In presenting the award, Southern's president, Albert Mohler, recognized Rainer "for his 'remarkable legacy of leadership' as pastor, scholar, teacher, and founding dean of the Billy Graham School, as well as for his role as author, speaker, and president of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention."[35]

Speaking and teaching[edit]

Examples of his speaking and teaching engagements include:

  • "Evangelism and Church Growth in the Southern Baptist Convention," Baptist Identity II Conference[36]
  • "The Church and Contemporary Culture," University of the Cumberlands.[37]
  • Christian Executive Officers (CEO) Fellowship[38]
  • The Commission on Evangelism[39]

Rainer holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Evangelism and Church Growth (2006) at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, and also lectures at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.


Rainer has written or co-written 27 books and more than 200 articles. His books and a selection of his articles include:


Articles and contributions[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "LifeWay Christian Resources". Southern Baptist Convention. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  2. ^ "'I Am a Church Member' becomes No. 1 CBA best-seller". Christian Retailing. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  3. ^ "ECPA Presents Diamond Awards to three Non-Fiction titles for over 10 million in sales; 17 other titles". ECPA. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  4. ^ "Gold / Platinum / Diamond Book Awards Winners". Christian Book Expo. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  6. ^ "Winners announced in 2015 Christian Retailing's Best awards". Front Gate Media. 2015-07-06. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  7. ^ "2007 Christianity Today Book Awards". Christianity Today. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  8. ^ "Southern Baptist publishing arm, LifeWay, sues former president Thom Rainer". Religion News Service. 2020-09-29. Retrieved 2020-09-29.
  9. ^ Downen, Robert (2020-09-29). "Prominent Christian publisher sues its former CEO". Retrieved 2020-09-29.
  10. ^ Press, Baptist. "LifeWay reverses course in dispute, pursues resolution with Rainer - Baptist Press". Retrieved 2020-09-30.
  11. ^ Press, Baptist. "LifeWay, Rainer settle contract dispute - Baptist Press". Retrieved 2020-10-07.
  12. ^ "Learn the Secret of Loving Your Work". 2010-10-17. Archived from the original on 2010-10-28. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  13. ^ [1] Archived May 27, 2010, at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Baptist Press -Thom Rainer gets unanimous vote as LifeWay president-elect - News with a Christian Perspective". Archived from the original on 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  15. ^ Pope, Alice (2010). 2010 Novel & Short Story Writer's Market. ISBN 9781599635675. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  16. ^ "KNOW YOUR SOUTHERN BAPTISTS: THOM RAINER". Kingdom People. 2013-12-13. Archived from the original on 2017-02-02. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  17. ^ Rainer on Leadership
  18. ^ "SBC DIGEST: Surgeon Rebekah Naylor honored; Rainer podcast surpasses 1M; Digby to lead MBC ethics arm; New FCA leader named". 2016-10-18. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  19. ^ The 100 Top Christian Blogs
  20. ^ [2] Archived July 23, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  21. ^ "Donald Trump Reveals Evangelical Rifts That Could Shape Politics for Years". New York Times. 2016-10-17. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  22. ^ "LifeWay Research Topics Page -". Archived from the original on 2011-09-15. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  23. ^ "Donald Trump's pastor problem: 40 percent of Protestant ministers are still undecided". Washington Post. 2016-10-07. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  24. ^ "LifeWay Research: Friends and Family Matter More Than Money When It Comes to Giving Thanks". Christianity Today. 2016-11-24. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  25. ^ "Survey: Pastors Say Identifying With Denomination Will Become Less Vital". Retrieved 25 February 2015.
  26. ^ "Baptist Press -BP 2010: YEAR IN REVIEW - LifeWay Research: Recession catches up to U.S. churches - News with a Christian Perspective". Archived from the original on 2012-04-03. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  27. ^ Archived from the original on July 15, 2011. Retrieved February 2, 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)
  28. ^ "Society of Fellows". Union University. Retrieved 2017-01-23.
  29. ^ a b "Union presents Dodd Award to Rainer - News Release | Union University". 2008-06-13. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  30. ^ "Cooperative Program (CP) Missions". Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  31. ^ "SBC DIGEST: Rainer receives McGavran church growth award; Wright speaks at Southwestern; ... - Baptist Press - Breaking News – Latest World, US, Science, Entertainment, Election, Technology News and Current Events". 2010-11-17. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  32. ^ "Thom Rainer named 2010 Donald A. McGavran award recipient". 2010-11-16. Archived from the original on 2013-01-28. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  33. ^ "Tennessee Baptist Convention". Archived from the original on 2013-10-05. Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  34. ^ "At 2013 alumni luncheon, Southern Seminary names Thom Rainer alumnus of the year". Southern News. 2013-06-13. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  35. ^ "Southern Seminary trustees celebrate 20th anniversary of Billy Graham School". Southern News. 2014-10-15. Retrieved 2017-01-20.
  36. ^ "Baptist Identity II: Convention, Cooperation and Controversy - Feb. 15-17, 2007". Retrieved 2013-09-06.
  37. ^ [3] Archived July 20, 2011, at the Wayback Machine
  38. ^ [4][dead link]
  39. ^ Archived from the original on October 23, 2010. Retrieved February 2, 2011. Missing or empty |title= (help)

External links[edit]