FIRST-PERSON: They imploded my building!

EDITOR'S NOTE: Jimmy Draper was president of LifeWay Christian Resources from 1991 until his retirement in 2006. The 12-story building, constructed in the lead up to LifeWay's centennial in 1991 and later named for Draper, was imploded on Saturday (Jan. 6). LifeWay sold its Nashville property last year and has relocated to a new facility also in the downtown area.

NASHVILLE (BP) -- It is rare for any of us to have buildings named after us. It is even more rare for us to observe the destruction of those buildings. But it happens -- in fact it just did in Nashville where the Draper Tower was reduced to rubble in a few seconds on Saturday (Jan. 6).

Ever since receiving a call a couple months ago that the building would be imploded, I've long thought about the event. God reminded me that Jesus is the great cornerstone of our faith and of LifeWay. Biblically, the cornerstone was selected with care, laid with great ceremony and the stone itself determined the lines of the architecture of the building.

The apostle Peter reminds us that believers have come to Christ, who is "a living stone" and that we have become "living stones" in a great spiritual sanctuary (1 Peter 2:4-10). The apostle Paul reminds us that "In him the whole building, being put together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord" (Ephesians 2:19-22).

"Living stone" is a magnificent figure of speech (1 Peter 2:4). It appears to be a contradiction of language, as if we said "cool fire, hot ice, bright darkness, dry water." We normally speak of someone as "stone dead." Yet the Bible calls Christ both our Stone or Rock and our Life.

He has the nature of a Great Stone: fixed foundation, fortress, solid, steadfast, strong, massive and immovable. But He is the living stone. In Him is vitality, life, energy, growth and movement.

It has never been God's intention just to have a temple for His people but to have a people for His temple. Every believer is a temple, but every Christian temple becomes a living stone in that vast, eternal temple that God is building.

The living stones in the walls of the temple become the believer-priests offering sacrifices within the temple. We are not only the stones in the wall, we are the priests in the temple (1 Peter 2:5).

This concept dignifies every life and every aspect of each life. There is no job so low or position so prestigious that it is not dignified by this high calling. All can declare, "I am a living stone in the everlasting sanctuary that the Lord Jesus Christ is building."

Now, what does all this mean for those who have served in Draper Tower? That building was not LifeWay. It was simply one of the buildings on our campus where LifeWay served and ministered. I have walked those halls when they were empty and in the loneliness of those moments I often thought deeply about what LifeWay is. When the buildings were empty, LifeWay was not there. The employees are LifeWay. Their passion, devotion, abilities, heart, expertise, service and love for Him expressed through their service and love for others -- that is LifeWay.

Have I been diminished by the removal of this building? Absolutely not! That building is not my legacy. The exceptional ministers employed by LifeWay are my legacy. Without them I have no legacy.

Some wonderful things occurred within those walls. However, that building never helped a church in its ministry, nor any person in their devotion to the Lord. It never designed a budget or a building for a church, nor provided a single piece of Bible study curriculum or a single piece of discipleship material. It never provided retreats or conferences to strengthen church leaders, nor provided guidance for any young person in their walk with Christ. It never printed any books to promote maturity among believers, nor provided materials scrutinized for the inventory for LifeWay Christian Stores. It never wrote a song or provided choir arrangements for our churches, nor addressed any of the significant challenges facing the church in this godless world. It never won a single soul to faith in Christ.

But the people who have served in LifeWay's buildings have done all that and infinitely more. Individuals come and go, but all who serve or have served at LifeWay comprise its essence and strength. The stones, steel and mortar of that building were lifeless materials. The only thing that made that building sacred and distinct from other buildings is the extraordinary people who ministered there and still do in another place.

When I moved back to Texas after leaving LifeWay, I did not cease to be who I am. I simply relocated to another place. LifeWay is the same. LifeWay still lives and ministers because those phenomenal people are LifeWay. Those of us who have been privileged to serve as the face of LifeWay for a season could not have done it without them. They will always be LifeWay Christian Resources wherever they are!

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