Lifeway Steps Out Again

This week I received Lifeway’s Leadership and Adult Ministry Resources And Events Promo for the Spring of 2012. Of course, The Gospel Project is the featured resource as expected and I have already spoken to that issue. If you have not read my comments on The Gospel Project, you may do so by clicking the following article titles:
The Gospel Project;
A Response to Kevin Wax’s remarks Concerning the Gospel Project;
An Open Letter to Drs. Thom Rainer and Ed Stetzer and the Trustees of Lifeway; and more recently
Worried About The Gospel Project?

I looked at some of the other items that Lifeway was promoting and there was Courageous, which was an outstanding production from Sherwood Baptist Church. In the small groups class, there were a couple pieces written by the Shooks, one by Kerry and then a second by Kerry and his wife Chris. Kerry is a mega-church pastor in Houston and seems to have a lot to say about relationships and while there is some criticism, the Shooks do not seem to be lighting rods of controversy and neither do Les Parrott and Bill Donahue who have co-authored another small group option, Group Insights. All seems good.

I opened to the next session called Discipleship Groups and there were three curriculums highlighted. The first was titled, “Church Essentials: What is a Healthy Church” written by none other than Mark Dever. Dr. Dever has been the senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC since 1994. He is also President of 9 Marks. According to his church’s web site, he has served as a trustee of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, a member of the council of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, and a board member of The Gospel Coalition. From 1995 until 2001, he served on the steering committee for Founders Ministries. Dever believes in a plurality of elders that are given the task of leading the church to better health. Everyone is or certainly should be aware of the Reformed argument surrounding the ecclesiological issues that are being raised in the differing theological circles of the SBC today. Kudos to Lifeway in this production.

The second of three programs for Discipleship Groups in our SBC churches is titled, Explicit Gospel written by Matt Chandler, Senior Pastor of the Village Church in Highland Village, Tx. He was just named the new President of the Acts 29 church planting movement. Obviously Matt is a well-known Calvinist who cares very deeply about the “gospel”, what it is and is not and how that message affects people, both saved and lost. Matt has a book published with the same name by Crossway, a calvinist book publisher.

The third program is called faith Limps and is written by Matt Kelley, a young writer for Lifeway, who has learned a lot about God’s grace and His strength to persevere as he and his wife have been faced with a toddler and cancer.

So, while it can be argued that Lifeway is not exclusively a Reformed Curriculum Publisher, it is certainly obvious that they are not shying away from the more controversially Reformed writers and are promoting them to Southern Baptist Churches. Good luck with that!

This will not concern some but ought to be a continued source of irritation for those in the SBC who are tired of Lifeway continuing to promote this calvinistic influence in our churches. We can do one of two things about this. We can 1) continue down the current path and do nothing or 2) we can stand up and say “enough is enough” and we have had enough. This whole business of Lifeway catering to a vocal minority ought to be completely unacceptable to the majority of our churches. If the people in the pews of our Southern Baptist churches understood what is taking place here, they would not allow it. That time is NOW.


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19 Responses to Lifeway Steps Out Again

  1. jimmiedon says:

    Bob, it is distressing to read of your opposition to people expressing the theology on which the SBC was launched, a theology which can clearly be identified, cited, illustrated, and documented in the lives of countless thousands of Southern Baptist ministers. They were the people who opened the door for differences on such issues as, for example, the atonement. In the union of Separate and Regular Baptists in Virginia, they allowed for the preaching that Christ tasted death for every man to be no bar to communion. The fact is that the publishing of materials by those who hold to Sovereign Grace has always been a part of the history of the SBC. You might want to consider George W. Truett’s Centennial Address on the Anniversary of Spurgeon’s birth in London in 1934, where he boldly declares that calvinism presses down on the brow of man the crown of responsibility. We also have the writings of W.T. Conner which was, in part, the source of the Sovereign Grace renascence of Sovereign Grace among Southern Baptists before Ernest Reisinger or any of the present day crop of Reformed Baptists ever showed up. My country farmer preacher pastor in Arkansas in my childhood was preaching the doctrines of grace. My ordaining pastor, Dr. Ernest R. Campbell, was preaching Sovereign Grace in the pulpits of the FBC Joplin, Calvary in St. Louis, FBC Highleah, Fla.,, and many other churches. He was associate to Dr. R.G. Lee who also believed in these doctrines and never preached contrary to them and who specified in his will that Ernest R. Campbell was to preach his funeral. There is the writings of Ralph Herring. His book, the Cycle of Prayer, published by Broadman Press in 1966 spells out his belief in Sovereign Grace. A pastor friend of mine was a deacon under Dr. Herring during his service at the FBc of Winston Salem. He spoke highly of the man and his devotion to Christ. There are the writings of Dr. Curtis Vaughan who taught Greek at SWBTS for many years. My brother-in-law had him for Ephesians, one of the epistles for which he wrote a January Bible Study book which I taught many years ago to one of my churches and which I still consult whenever I prepare a message on a text from that letter of Paul.

    Are you now going to protest and bother Lifeway for publishing materials by those who favor the theology of the founders? Shall I therefore crawl off in a corner, ashamed to mention that the minority view of today was that of my predecessors and ancestors in the history of Southern Baptists? I think not.

    For nearly 39 years (it will be this fall), I have been praying for a Third Great Awakening. I did not pray for the theology of awakenings to come back. I prayed for an awakening, but let me say here that in order to have an awakening you must have the theology that produces one. The First and Second Great Awakenings and the launching of the Great Century of Missions involved the theology of Sovereign Grace or what you call calvinism. Listen to one of the Fountainheads of that theology and the awakenings, Jonathan Edwards. Joseph Tracy in his work, The Great Awakening, first published in 1842, declared: “Edwards himself testified , that no discourses had ‘been more remarkably blessed, than those in which the doctrine of God’s absolute sovereignty with regard to the salvation of sinners, and his just liberty with regard to answering the prayers, or succeeding the pains, of mere natural men, continuing such,’ were insisted on.”(Banner of Truth Trust edn., 1976). It follows that praying for a great awakening must inevitably receive its answer in the appropriate theology being renewed among the ministers and members of churches along with prayers invoking the sovereign pleasure of God according to the promises of His word to grant the desired blessing of another visitation from on high. Others have been praying for such a revival even longer than I have. Could it be, dear brother, that we are on the verge of having such a blessing and that one of the signs of its coming is the renewed interest in the theology that produced such a transformation in the history of the Christian Faith?

    Are you calling, Brother Hadley, for the majority to rise up and boot out the successors and descendants of the founders? Your last paragraph above surely seems inflammatory to that end?

    • sbcissue says:

      Dr. Willingham,

      Calvinism has been part of the history of the SBC. That does not validate its theological accuracy. The SBC today is decidedly non-calvinist: not anti-calvinist and there is a difference. However, the more determined calvinists are to make their position the majority position, non-calvinists may well begin to move in the anti-calvinist position.

      Please acknowledge that this friction has not been precipitated by non-calvinists. We did not ask Lifeway to take on this particular position. They have done it on their own and I simply do not approve and I believe given the opportunity to express my feelings, a majority of Southern Baptists today would agree with me as opposed to the calvinist position.

      Personally, I cannot agree with the calvinist position of soteriology in any form or fashion. We may both be wrong but it is crystal clear to me and many others, including you, we cannot both be right. When it comes to how a person is saved and comes to Christ to be born again, I am not inclined to agree to disagree with the calvinist position and I would be sorely disappointed if you would agree to do the same.

      I personally have not advocated that Lifeway STOP publishing calvinist literature or calvinistic literature. I have advocated labeling the Gospel Project as a Reformed Perspective. Churches deserve to know the theological bend of the literature…. that is exactly what The Gospel Project is…

      It is time for folks to pay more attention to who is and is not writing the literature they are buying because Lifeway is no longer a safe place for the majority of our churches to purchase literature.


  2. jimmiedon says:

    Well, Bob, why in the world should Lifeway need to explain itself for publishing materials that advocate the founding theology, especially if they are continuing in the way originally established of allowing for differences and publishing works by those who differ? The fact that you have determined that the majority of the folks in the SBC do not hold with the original theology does not mean that they should simply change to reflect the views of the majority. The majority can be, and often is wrong. I noticed that you did not comment on the fact that the very fountainhead of awakening theology, Jonathan Edwards, noted that the sermons which he preached that were blessed of God were those that stressed the absolute sovereignty of God with reference to the salvation of sinners. What Edwards said of his sermons on sovereingty in salvation could be said of the sermons of Baptists leaders in the awakenings among our people. would you not like to see another awaklening? I do, and it is a fact that history documents the fact that Sovereign Grace was the theology of the First and Second Great Awakenings and of the launching of the Great Century of Missions. I did not pray for God to increase the number of Sovereign Grace believers or their theology, but I would have expected Him to do as He has done, raising up new believers and new advocates of the theology in order to produce what I ultimate sought and still seek, meaning, a Third Great Awakening, one that reaches every soul on earth with Gospel persuasion, beginning, hopefully, with this generation and reaching to a thousand generations. Like Spurgeon, the five point calvinist, I pray for the conversion of every soul on earth. And like John Owen (often accused, it seems, of originating the doctrine of limited atonement), I view the sufficiency of Christ atonement as having the wherewithal to redeem the inhabitants of a thousand worlds. Bob, each of the doctrines of the TULIP acrostic along with predestination and reprobation are invitations to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage. In fact, they are such wonderful invitations, such winsome, attractive, compelling, persuasive, tenderly appealing, starkly different ways of appealing to helpless, spiritual disabled and dead sinners, even offering them hope when they are most hopeless, that as the lady told a Spurgeon who is a friend of mine, “O, it was so wonderful that I could not resist it.” I still say a lesson on the difference between can and may would be very helpful. The first refers to ability, and may refers to permission. Jesus said, “no man can,” (Jn.6:44,65). That simply means no man is able, no man can. In other words man suffers from the problem of inability/disability, helplessness, impotence, spiritual deadness, and only God can handle such a problem. And He has the right to give or with hold the grace to come, since the sinner does not deserve or merit or earn it. Not of works, lest we should boast. I pray God might be pleased to open your eyes to the word “can”, Bob. One of my ancestors might have well been one of the two fellows appointed by a court in Georgia to handle the execution of Daniel Marshall’s will, Holand (Holland) Middleton. The theology of Georgia Baptists is traceable to the articles of faith of the Georgia Baptist Assn, which like the articles of Sandy Creek in 1816 spell out man’s inability and God’s choice of grace, the doctrines of the Great Awakenings which Edwards and Whitefield preached, which Carey and Gano and Leland and Luther Rice (the latter said these things are in the Bible and you had better preach them). BOb, I want to see a Third Great Awakening, and that is what I am praying God will grant to us. BUt I sure don’t expect Him to forget the truths which He has revealed in His word that produce such effects, the doctrines of sovereign grace.

  3. sbcissue says:

    Dr. Willingham,

    I am curious, you wrote, “Bob, each of the doctrines of the TULIP acrostic along with predestination and reprobation are invitations to begin one’s spiritual pilgrimage. In fact, they are such wonderful invitations, such winsome, attractive, compelling, persuasive, tenderly appealing, starkly different ways of appealing to helpless, spiritual disabled and dead sinners, even offering them hope when they are most hopeless,”

    Pray tell me how this is “good news” to the non-elect? How is this a wonderful invitation to the person who is not regenerated by God and does not have a nature to respond to the gospel? I fully understand the tenet of total depravity or inability that you reference. I do not believe it is Scripturally accurate.

    What kind of Gospel is it that does not have the power to save apart from God’s efficacious calling? I do not see the Doctrines of Sovereign Grace and the glorious gospel as being anywhere even close to one another as presented in the Holy Scriptures.


    • bucketheadbaptist says:

      The solution to this argument is easy.

      Do away with Lifeway.

      • sbcissue says:


        I must say for the record you made me laugh… even though this is no laughing matter.

        I believe it is time for the SBC to stand up and step out and take control of its entities… NOW.

        Thanks for stopping in and leaving a comment and for making me laugh. (even IF I am misreading your intentions!)


    • bucketheadbaptist says:

      Well you are right, it’s no laughing matter.

      Let’s look at the facts…

      You have the least biblically knowledgeable generation of S. Baptists ever…

      You have a central repository of “Approved” Curriculum run by the same organization that continually teaches down to the masses year over year (kinda like the public school system).

      You have the vast majority of churches who ONLY allow curriculum sold by Lifeway (because most people who make the buying decisions in these churches do not have the biblical discernment themselves to know that Joel Osteen is not a preacher of the

      So now the organization that was entrusted with the Biblical education of an entire denomination has realized they have done a spectacularly craptastic job of it … So much so that they realize their folks don’t even know the definition of “The Gospel”… AND to counteract this, they bring in the Fair haired Pastor that actually knew the definition of what “The Gospel” is (because Hey! He wrote a book about it)… to write a curriculum about it (because Baptists will only study from a Magazine format about 45 minutes a week.) AND to make it “Successful” … Let’s put the guy in charge of Church Growth in as Executive Editor.

      The fact that they are all Calvinists is merely the result of the elimination of teaching Prophecy from Baptist Doctrine the last couple of decades. Something had to fill that void.

      How am I doing? You still laughing Bob?

      Entrusting Lifeway to fix the problem THEY created… in my opinion meets the definition of insanity.

      • sbcissue says:

        Well… an interesting critical comment indeed, buckethead. I suppose chuckle was more applicable earlier but that was then and this is now. You are correct or at least partly correct in your assessment of the knowledge in the average SB church. I am not sure it is much worse than it has ever been unless one figures the spectator mentality today is worse than it has been in recent years and that may well be true. It seems that the remnant has always been the moving group in most churches for decades now probably longer than that. People are more distracted today than any other generation and that distraction is centered on the younger ones and that is the probably going to be the straw in the camel’s back that does the most damage.

        The Baptist SS Board was set up to provide quality literature to SB churches and so it is no accident that they still today order literature from Lifeway. Unfortunately, I have not made Lifeway’s actions a priority; I am probably like the majority of SB’s thinking the trustees and employees who have been entrusted to do their job were doing just that. With respect to The Gospel Project, what really surprises me was Lifeway’s decision to make the advisory board such a prominent part of the promotion of the project itself. Had they not done so, we probably would not even be having this discussion and they would continue to run under the radar so that question itself still begs a good answer as far as I am concerned.

        I am also not so sure that the void you cite is that accurate either. I think Dr. Kelley’s articles on The New Methodists at SBCToday may well speak more to the issues of why our churches are suffering as they are today. When our focus shifts away from discipleship and focuses on anything else, I believe we are in trouble. The Great Commission deals more with discipleship than it does evangelism so maybe that is where our fault lies.

        The only real criticism I have on your comment is that literature can only do so much. Education regardless of its source can only go as far as we as individuals want it to go. I preach a message that says, “we are really as close to God as we want to be.” and there is a mountain of truth to that statement. No curriculum can change that. It is an important aspect but it is not the only factor.

        My beef with The Gospel Project is that it is being produced by a group whose theological foundation is radically different from the view in the pew, which I share. To fail to speak out against it is my definition of insanity. The problems that SB’s face is not Lifeway’s fault nor is Lifeway the sole answer but it does hold keys to the direction we go in the future and the calvinist suggestion is not the direction that I believe is best.

        How did you do? You made your point.


    • bucketheadbaptist says:

      Bob… I appreciate your being respectful of my comments.

      I’ve got one more… You probably will not agree, and I MAY lose all that respect… but that’s ok…

      As far as “distractions” go… for the youth.

      There was a $600 Million distraction at the Box Office this weekend. It will have earned a BILLION DOLLARS by this time next week.

      The plot of “The Avengers” movie was taken straight from Genesis 6:1-4.

      You know… that story in the bible that most Baptist churches DON’T teach literally. We may give LIP service that there are two ways of interpreting that section of scripture… but the REALITY is, we don’t put any stock into the literal one… because the other one is SO much more convenient to a Moral Gospel mentality.

      However… when I witness to youth… I’ll tell them about the war between Good & Evil… and I WILL teach ALL of Genesis 6 more literally than was taught to me… Because they WANT to know this. They understand a war is going on.

      This section of scripture is key.

      • sbcissue says:

        I am not a big movie goer so I am not aware of the movie you reference. As for Genesis 6, I am fairly confident there are more texts in the Scripture that are not taught in MOST churches as well. As to the “literal interpretation” of Genesis 6 and your take on it, I cannot comment since I have no idea what that is. I think there are many passages that deal with the issues of battles going on in our lives that may carry a little more weight than the 4 or so verses you reference in Genesis 6. Somehow the flood seems to overshadow the passage you cite but I am sure that was unintentional.


  4. bucketheadbaptist says:

    Sorry, Bob… I missed seeing this in your post: “Lifeway is no longer a safe place for the majority of our churches to purchase literature.”

    You were already ahead of me.

  5. jimmiedon says:

    Bob, to a desperate sinner, the words are as life to the dead, liberty to a slave, freedom to a prisoner, humbling to one caught in the helpless webb of arrogance and pride. When I saw the Lord, I ran the other way. His knocking at my door I could not abide. Then He caught me and opened the door so that I would seek Him seeking me. The woman of Canaan worshipped,Jesus, when He said he was not sent but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (and she was not a Jew). then he said she was reprobate, a dog, and she agreed, “Truth, Lord,” and offered that as a reason for Him to answer her request. You know, Sort of like David saying, forgive my sin, for it is great!!!

  6. sbcissue says:

    This is ALL good for that one who Sovereign Grace folk identify as one of them… my question you continue to avoid is what about the gospel message for the unregenerate? What kind of Good News is there for that person that Jesus did not shed His blood for on the cross? There is no hope for that person… none. This obviously represents the vast majority of folk in the world.

    I believe it is Scripturally wrong to say God has no intention whatsoever to save them. I cannot see how you or anyone else can hold onto a soteriological system that makes such a charge. If there is any evidence of total depravity, that would have to be at the top of the list.


  7. jimmiedon says:

    The true knowledge of one’s situation is a step in the right direction. When one learns how desperate his or her situation is, then one will be more open to the radical solution that God provides. By the way, I am working on a sermon (in the process of gathering the materials for it). I first proposed the idea to a young man who is 30 and is grad. from the UNC-CH with a bachelor’s in physics and is on his way to Univ. of Calif., Irvine to work on a Ph.D. in Neutrino Physics, by passing the Master’s. I told him that the proof of God’s existence (he is into agnosticism and atheism) is the African American Christian. The title of the message will be, d.v., The Ethiopian Proof, texts, Zeph.2:12; Ps.68″31b, illustrative Acts 8, Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch….idea of the spiritual renewal of western civilization (an idea of Arnold Toynbee taken up by MLK,Jr., and illustrated by the Negro Spirituals (FIske Univ. Jubilee Singers in the 1800s and Bonhoeffer’s being inspired by the Spirituals and the simple biblicism of the Negro preachers in American, circa 1929. So remember in prayer….

    • bucketheadbaptist says:


      I’d hate to see you base your argument on the proof of God’s existence based on questionable and biased interpretations of the text. The Zephaniah 2:12 text refers to Cush… so does Zephaniah 3:10. Problem… the Cush of THAT time … could be referring to what we know as Libya today. Cush was large… very large. It encompassed basically all of Northern Africa … What the King James Translators called Ethiopia … you have to be VERY careful with. They were dealing with a map that was 2000 years younger than the text of Zephaniah was.

      Please… don’t get me wrong… I’m not trying to confuse the text… I’m trying to clarify it by pointing out that Ethiopia seems to have a very special purpose based on Zephaniah 3:10 and Isaiah 18… in some circles, those are both considered Millenial Kingdom references.

      In late August 2001, at the Branson Prophecy Conference… inspired by and building on the work of Economist Reporter Graham Hancock, a presentation was made by Bob Cornuke and Dr. Chuck Missler… that concerned Ethiopia… and the Eunuch… and those verses I just listed…and speculation about what that “gift” or “offering” is. Because whatever it is… its currently inside St. Mary’s of Zion Church in Axum. At the time… many scoffed at their presentation.

      The events of September… most likely drowned out their getting into the news cycle of major news media … I didn’t hear about this presentation myself until November… and I know that the Associated Press did NOT pick it up… because I worked for them at the time and I started diligently watching for any news coming out of Ethiopia… ANY news.

      In 2002… a special Envoy from the Vatican was sent to Axum, Ethiopia to inquire about Mr. Cornuke’s assertions. He was turned away. The Associated Press DID cover that.

      I’ve heard there were also visits from interested parties from the nation of Israel… but I can’t prove that.

      If you’re gathering materials for this presentation of yours… I think you better check out the Branson presentation. I consider it as one of the top 5 Bible studies that changed my life.

  8. jimmiedon says:

    I don’t know what happened to my reply to buckethead’s comment re: Cush. I was saying that my perspective was not concerning the ark of the covenant, but simply from the perspective of the Ethiopian converts, some my researches and studies in Black History have prepared me for.. I do thank you for the link re: the ark at Axum. While interesting, it has no bearing until they show what thye have in that building there…In any case, the Ethiopian conversions are really and truly remarkable events in history. I said more, but I thank I shall let it go with this.

    • bucketheadbaptist says:

      It’s a shame you lost your post… Would have enjoyed it.

      Respectfully… I didn’t share that link and info with you because of thinking it was an interesting side note. I jumped in because the information will be far more helpful to you than I believe you realize.

      Ethiopia’s holiest day on the calendar is called Timkat. They do not celebrate Christmas and Easter like we do… Because they are free from the taint of the paganism that Western Christianity suffers from having been married to Rome.

      Timkat is the celebration of the BAPTISM of Jesus, it occurs around Jan 17-19 every year and tens of thousands of worshipers come to Axum to commemorate the Baptism.

      The Ark is central to the Ethiopian church… Every church has a copy of it hidden away from prying eyes. It is only on Timkat that the churches will bring out their copies of the Ark in a grand parade (in anticipation of the day the REAL one is brought out).

      Before you dismiss the idea of them having the Ark (or Mercy Seat)… You should realize…they REALLY don’t CARE if we believe them or not. In fact, there are some who are not in favor of the recent publicity of it (though the tourist dollars have been welcome).

      They aren’t interested in proving it to anyone.

      They have a tradition of caring for this object for around 2600 years… They feel honored by God to carry out this mission and they will continue.

      So… I can only lead you to the water … I can’t make you drink. You’ve decided on a particular and traditional interpretation of the passage that only deals with the opening of the Gospel to Africa. That’s the safe play. The traditional no feathers ruffled approach.

      I would like to leave you with just two items before I leave you to the safe approach.

      1. There are only about 4 or 5 instances in the Bible where God Supernaturally transports someone into or out of a situation. There’s usually a very important reason for doing this. Acts 8 is one of these places. A “snatching away” rapture model if you will.

      2. IF the Ark WAS in Ethiopia during the time of Christ. One man would know about it. He’s the guy in Acts 8. If a Treasurer is coming to visit Jerusalem… He’s coming for a reason… And he’s not coming empty handed. He’s going to bring Tribute. If you’ll search for the scripture that he’s reading… And go back a few verses earlier, you’ll find words that sound more like INSTRUCTIONS from God on how a servant should bear the vessels of the Lord. I hate to tell you this… But that Eunuch was being more serious in his bible study than You are. He was well versed in Isaiah, including chapter 18.

      Look at it this way… God brought the Eunuch/Treasurer a Philip.

      He brought you… A Buckethead.

  9. sbcissue says:

    Dr. Willingham,

    I did not get the comment you mention… your comments automatically appear here without moderation.. so you must have left the page before submitting it. Just thought I would let you know that!


  10. jimmiedon says:

    Didn’t think it was you Bob. having trouble with computer, I think

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