Lifeword Media Ministries began as a sideline effort by a grounded missionary sent home from the foreign field for medical reasons. Harold Morris was the first foreign missionary sent to the field by the Baptist Missionary Association (BMA) of America after its organization in 1950, and he pioneered BMA work in Brazil. He also served briefly in Portugal and France. When health issues forced his return to the States in 1962, he served as a promotional secretary for the BMA Department of Missions and started a radio broadcast on the side. He called it the Harvest Gleaner Hour.
The broadcast went on the air September 4, 1965, over Station KSTL in St. Louis and grew quickly while Morris continued to work out of the Missions Office in Little Rock, Arkansas. The radio ministry was incorporated in 1966 with a board of five businessmen from Temple Baptist Church of Little Rock.
The BMA of America adopted the growing ministry as a separate department in 1968 and retained Morris as the executive director. He died in November of 1970 at the age of 45. The Board elected A. R. Reddin as his successor, and he assumed the leadership of the department February 1, 1971. One year later Reddin died at the age of 54. Paul L. Bearfield, BMA Missionary home on furlough from Taiwan, followed Reddin as executive director. He led the ministry for fourteen years of growth until his death in 1986 at the age of 55.
George Reddin, who had served as Bearfield’s assistant for six years, was chosen as the new director on January 25, 1986, his 41st birthday. Reddin and his leadership team witnessed the relocation of the ministry headquarters in Conway and the expansion to 31 languages of outreach into almost 100 countries around the world. The ministry name was changed to Lifeword in 1988.
Steve Crawley was elected to succeed Reddin in May of 2011, and the implementation of a new vision for the next chapter in the history of Lifeword began. This vision included working in close collaboration with other BMA departments, particularly the Department of Missions and DiscipleGuide Church Resources. This vision eventually led to a dramatic change in the BMA of America in 2013. The Association voted to move forward with a joint-recommendation from the Lifeword Board of Directors and BMA Missions Missionary Advisory Committee to reinvent the two departments in a new structural framework. Subsequently, DiscipleGuide’s board voted to join the effort in 2014. As a result of these boards’ actions, a number of changes ensued.
The former Lifeword campus is now home to the BMA Global Ministry Center (GMC). The GMC houses the staff of Lifeword, BMA Missions, DiscipleGuide Church Resources, and the BMA Foundation. The new structure has enabled Lifeword to take advantage of additional ministry opportunities and broaden its ministry footprint. New initiatives include Lifeword Community Radio, Lifeword Leadership and Media Training, and the “Tell the Story” video series, which aims to use inspirational stories to share God’s faithfulness in life’s testing times.