On Tuesday July 17, Pastor Ralph Green of Calvary Baptist Church in Bel Air, Md. posted a message to his church members about plans they had to being using The Gospel Project in their Sunday School. I called and spoke to him about his article. He said, “I was excited about the prospects of having a Biblically based curriculum that did not attempt to cover 5 chapters of Romans in 30 minutes. One afternoon one of my deacons came to him with the news that the advisory board was overwhelmingly Calvinist.” This information led to a thorough study of the material before it was released to the different departments of the church. Pastor Green had planned to use the curriculum in all of his classes. His article speaks for itself. You may read it by CLICKING HERE.
After receiving the literature, Pastor Green said he and another pastor spent “days digging through this curriculum once we received the shipment to see for ourselves. We found it to be biased in how it explains and interprets the study themes. There are numerous subtle seeds of the Calvinistic approach to Scripture and many that are overtly obvious. The more we read and studied the curriculum, the more convinced we have become that this curriculum is not suitable for use here at Calvary.” Pastor Green said the curriculum had a majority of footnotes and references to Calvinistic writers, some that were not even Southern Baptist. He said, “Many of my people would investigate these references and would not be pleased with what they found out.”
“Honestly, I was in shock for several days as I wrestled with this curriculum. I feel as though the sacred trust has been violated because the publishing arm of my convention seems to be embracing reformed Calvinistic theology. You should know Lifeway does not depend on cooperative program dollars and they are a for profit organization based on what they sell. They are guided by a President and Trustees who’ve been duly elected by our convention so there is accountability there. We are sending this curriculum back to Lifeway and I’ll be writing letters to President Thom Rainer and the board of trustees expressing my disappointment over this curriculum and explaining why we’ve pulled the proverbial plug on “The Gospel Project” curriculum.”
Pastor Green admitted that he had to call the deacon that shared this information with him into his office and told him, “You know you have been a pain in the neck to me don’t you?” He said, “I had to admit to that deacon that he was right and that he was glad he had the insight to come to him with this information knowing that everyone was looking forward to using the literature.”
Finally Pastor Green said, “I encourage all SBC pastors I know to examine this for yourself and see the agenda within The Gospel Project curriculum. I hope you’ll send it back to Lifeway as well with your observations.”
We’re about to implement the curiculum in our church in September. I wish Pastor Green had offered specific examples of some of the content that caused concern. That would have been helpful to me.
I see that you are a student at SBTS so I am sure you are capable of reading the material and making the decision for yourself as to its fitting your church and SS departments. He did so and decided that it did not. His reasons are not important as yours may differ. One of his deacons came to him and pointed out the Calvinist leaning Advisory Board and that prompted them to take a closer look at the curriculum. Had that not happened, he said they probably would have just implemented the program.
It appears that we ALL need to be taking a much closer look at the literature we are using, Calvinist or not. It seems that Lifeway is not the “safe haven” for the literature needs of our SB churches many of us think it is. I know MY EYES have certainly been opened.
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I have NEVER particularly cared for the LIfe Way S.S. quarterlies! Too much info. to ever cover in a short class room session! I pick a few talking points and go with that! I do discussion teaching.I don’t believe in the lecture style of teaching.
Steve, for the record, the Lifeway curriculum does not encourage lecture style teaching. I’ve been teaching the Explore the Bible series since 2005 at our church, and I do it in a strictly question and answer format.
Obviously trying to write a curriculum is difficult. I think the general thrust is to cover material and give the teacher enough leverage to gleam what he or she feels is best to cover in their class AND if those in the class will read the material as well, they will no doubt pick up on things that have particular meaning to them and that can make for an interesting class time!
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I’m teaching The Gospel Project to adults at Arrowbrook Baptist in Ohio. It’s really more reflective of Augustinian thought as well as the persuasions of the early church Fathers like in The Council of Orange (529 AD). Were there specific Biblical Doctrines that were misinterpreted or misrepresented? Anyone want to reason through the gospel implications contained in The Gospel Project?
Thank you for telling the truth. The average church member needs to be informed. Keep up the good work of letting us know what is happening.
Not all SBC churches are Arminian, so thank God that life way is putting out material worth actually studying!! Although I don’t think it’s Calvinistic enough!
As the Minister of Education at our church, I take the responsibility of selecting quality, biblical curriculum VERY seriously. After previewing several lesson plans of The Gospel Project, I did not see any clear Calvinistic or Arminian leanings that concerned me at that point. The sample lesson plan was marginally “okay,” but I thought we could work with it and it would be a profitable program for our church. However, we just completed our 6th week in the first Unit of lessons, and I am NOT impressed at all. I had high hopes and expectations of Lifeway’s writers, but they have greatly disappointed. As a Bible expositional teacher, I have been disappointed in the overall weak approach to Bible hermeneutics that I have discovered in The Gospel Project. For the most part, I have to rewrite each lesson in order to provide our teachers and students with the proper context, then provide a more contextual outline that comes from an exegesis, not isogesis, of the passage. The lesson on Job 1 was absolutely ridiculous as 2 of the 3 main points did NOT come from a study of the biblical text in Job, but from the writer’s own thoughts. It’s as if the writers come up with some good “Gospel sounding talking points” then stretch the biblical text to support those points.
They used deductive, not inductive, Bible study methods, which is never consistently accurate.
Needless to say, we are also dumping The Gospel Project, not because of any noticeable Calvinistic/Arminian hobby horse, but because of sloppy, shallow, and inconsistent hermeneutics. Shame on you, Lifeway. You should know better!