"The Gospel Project® is a chronological, Christ-centered Bible study for Kids, Students, and Adults that examines how all Scripture gives testimony to Jesus Christ. Over the course of three years, participants will journey from Genesis to Revelation and discover how God’s plan of redemption unfolds throughout Scripture and still today, compelling them to join the mission of God."
Have you heard of The Gospel Project®? If you are Southern Baptist, chances are your church has been strongly encouraged to try it for a month for FREE. 🙂
What's the catch? Hang on…
Let's take a chronological look at this 'chronological' Bible study. In an SBC Voices interview published on February 8, 2012, Trevin Wax, Managing Editor for The Gospel Project®, provided the following information when asked about the beginning of this Bible study. (see screen shot below)
On July 6, 2012, the Christian Post interviewed Ed Stetzer, vice president of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources and Managing Editor for The Gospel Project®. Their initial question for Stetzer was: "What's the purpose of The Gospel Project?" He responded as follows:
We created The Gospel Project because churches had a desire to go deeper, not just for the knowledge, for the transformation. So we're providing a resource that takes people deeper into Scripture so they know the big story of what God had done in Christ and the transformation flows out of that experience of new life and the knowledge of the Good News of Christ. So our ultimate goal is to get people to live lives on mission. It's kind of like a unique combination of depth projecting itself out onto mission.
What surprised me the most in this article was Stetzer's concluding remark (see below):
It's intended for and used by all different denominations. The majority of people who've signed up now are from all different types of denominations. It's not just something for churches of one denomination. It's for evangelical believers who want to go deep and live faith.
How interesting that "all different types of denominations" are using this LifeWay Bible study, not exclusively Southern Baptists…
Then on July 31, 2012, Stetzer wrote a Christianity Today article entitled "The Gospel Project Blows Up". In it, he stated:
Needless to say, we are thrilled that so many have decided to use the curriculum. I was just looking at the list of churches using it and it is amazing. We are glad to see that lots of different denominations are using the curriculum: Evangelical Free, Baptist, Pentecostal, Presbyterian, non-denominational, and Lutherans (one Lutheran church using thousands of the student guides). The biggest user is a part of the Restoration movement! But, what is encouraging is that there are churches of all sizes and places, different denominations, and ministry styles.
How strange that so many Christians outside the Southern Baptist denomination were among the first to sign up for this Bible study. How did they find out about it?
Ed Stetzer wrote a follow-up article for Christianity Today (8/22/12) entitled The Gospel Project: More Milestones & Encouragement, and You Can Still Be a Part! which begins as follows:
Thom Rainer, president of LifeWay, shared at length today in chapel about the surprising success of The Gospel Project. Needless to say, we all were encouraged– this kind of engagement in small group curriculum is quite amazing. In 2012, TGP will have more than 300,000 users as part of 40,000 different groups. Yes, 40,000 groups at the introduction of a new curriculum line.
The Gospel Project® launched shortly thereafter. If you were reading over at SBC Voices around that time, you would have seen a post with a perplexing title — Why I'm Sending Back The Gospel Project.
If the Bible study was so great, why would anyone send it back? Upon further reading, it became clear that Mke Leake's post was dripping with sarcasm. (see screen shot below)
Obviously, there's more going on here than just the publication of a new LifeWay Bible study, so I did some digging. Turns out that the Advisory Council for The Gospel Project® is made up of ALL Calvinists! (see screen shot below)
Over four years ago, Gerald Harris, editor of The Christian Index (a newsjournal of the Georgia Baptist Convention), wrote a column entitled "The Calvinists are here". The Baptist Press then wrote an article entitled 'Encroachment of Calvinism' concerns editor. That was on February 10, 2012. Here is an excerpt from the Baptist Press article:
"… It appears that some of our institutions and agencies are giving, at the least, tacit approval to Reformed theology or are, at the most, actively on a path to honor, if not implement Reformed theology and methodology in their institutions," Harris wrote at ChristianIndex.org.
Southern Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, Ky., was cited in the column as "a particular source" of recent graduates espousing Reformed doctrines.
"There is a growing perception that Southern Seminary has become a seedbed for a brand of Calvinism that is quite different from the Reformed theology of its founder, James Petigru Boyce, and also a training ground for Reformed church planters," Harris wrote.
In response, R. Albert Mohler Jr., president of Southern Seminary, told Baptist Press, "I have no idea what Dr. Harris has in mind with this comment, and only he can explain it. The theological standard at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary is the Baptist Faith & Message and the Abstract of Principles, upon which the institution was founded, and on which the first signature is that of James Petigru Boyce."
The North American Mission Board was included as an example of Calvinistic infiltration because a recent issue of its On Mission magazine highlights several church planters, "two of whom could be seen as Reformed in their theology."
Harris also pointed to NAMB's decision to include St. Louis as one of its focus cities in the Send North America church planting initiative.
"In St. Louis NAMB will encounter a Baptist association that has already launched 15 church plants, seven of which are listed as Acts 29 Network churches," Harris wrote, characterizing Acts 29 as "admittedly evangelical, missional and Reformed in its approach to church planting."
Remember, this article was published over four years ago… Where are Southern Baptists gathering in two weeks (for their annual meeting)? Meet me in St. Louis…
The Baptist Press article also included Trevin Wax's response to Gerald Harris' claim (see below).
Trevin Wax, managing editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay, told SBC Voices eight of the 11 advisory council members are Southern Baptist, and LifeWay did not ask them if they were Calvinists. [emphasis mine] The members were asked about the Baptist Faith and Message 2000, and "the conversations were about how we could structure this curriculum in a way that points to Christ, not Calvinism," Wax said.
Can there be any doubt that Trevin Wax made Al Mohler proud with his crafty response?
And here's another response by Wax that must have made Mohler proud. (see screen shot below)
This Q&A comes from the very first article to which we linked.
If you're interested in the Contributors to The Gospel Project®, they are listed here. Some of the names will be very familiar to our regular readers.
So how did so many other denominations know about The Gospel Project®? If you've spent any time at all over at The Gospel Coalition website, you have no doubt seen the continual promotion of The Gospel Project® (which we assume pays for the advertisement). Here is a screen shot of the current ad on TGC's website.
Recently, Trevin Wax provided an update on The Gospel Coalition website, which included the following: (see screen shot)
It's obvious whom Wax views as his support team — The Gospel Coalition crowd (which knew about the Bible study long before most Southern Baptists did).
The Gospel Project® has been revised and re-released. It appears it is now being pushed in Southern Baptist churches. Here's what happened in one of those churches.
The pastor expressed a strong desire for everyone in the congregation from children to adults to give The Gospel Project® a try. As the promotional material readily shows, the first set of Bible studies (which includes Units 1 and 2) are free. The suggested week to begin Unit 1: God the Creator was September 6, 2015. Then in December, the church began paying for the curriculum (just as it would for any other LifeWay materials).
Nearly all of the Sunday School classes are using The Gospel Project®. They have now completed Volumes 1-3, and Volume 4 will begin on June 5th. Is it merely coincidental that one of the two contributors who wrote the upcoming lessons for June 2016 (when the SBC Annual Meeting is taking place) is none other than a presidential nominee for the Southern Baptist Convention – namely J.D. Greear? He, along with his church-planting sidekick, prepared the lesson on "A Kingdom Established".
This timing was neither coincidental nor providential. It was purely strategic. Greear is clearly Al Mohler's choice for SBC president since he is being nominated by one of Mohler's lieutenants, Jimmy Scroggins. You may recall that several years ago Greear served on the committee that pushed for the re-naming of the SBC to "Great Commission Baptists".
Now that The Gospel Project® is being used far and wide (see screen shot below), maybe some of the messengers who will be voting in two weeks will see Greear's name in their Sunday School lesson and cast their vote for him… No doubt that's what The Gospel Project® crowd is hoping. If there were ever a scheming group of Christians, it would be the Neo-Cals who have stealthily trying to take over the Southern Baptist Convention. Mohler has been successful in gaining control of the NAMB (via his former pastor Kevin Ezzell) and the IMB (led by his disciple David Platt). And now the presidency is nearly in his grasp…
Just in case you're curious about the latest and greatest LifeWay Bible study, here is Trevin Wax with his introduction to The Gospel Project®.
Finally, here is the link to an open letter to Drs. Thom Ranier and Ed Stetzer and the LifeWay Trustees from by a Southern Baptist pastor in Florida. It was written back in 2012 when The Gospel Project® was being launched. Here is a significant portion of that letter.
I do have serious concerns with Lifeway’s labeling this project simply as “the Gospel Project” with no reference to its theologically leaning perspective. The administration of Lifeway knows full well that Baptist churches have looked to Lifeway for decades for theologically pertinent literature for their members. Many churches will see the promotional information on the “Gospel Project” that is new and exciting and Lifeway knows churches will purchase the literature. There is absolutely no doubt that this project will have a Calvinistic leaning perspective; otherwise there would be no reason to choose such a tightly knitted theological group.
Here comes the anticipated two-fold defense. “This is not a theologically biased project.” That argument is an argument from naivety, ignorance, or intentional cover-up. To attempt to even make this kind of argument, in my opinion, a brazen insult to this group of writers who were carefully selected for this project. No one should expect them to set aside their strong theological persuasion to produce a project of this magnitude and not be biased in their understanding of the synonymous position that the “true gospel” is Calvinism. It was their own admission and original purpose to make this project “Christ-centered, mission-driven, shaped around the narrative of God’s redemptive plan.” For this select group of writers that plan is best set forth in the Doctrines of Grace and Calvinism.
The second anticipated response is, “There is no hidden agenda on Lifeway’s part to put this project into churches to help ‘reform them’.” Great. Label the project’s title as “A Reformed Perspective” and all will be kosher. This is a simple request. Anything less, will shed serious doubt on Lifeway’s intentions and its ongoing ability to provide theologically pertinent literature to the mainstream Southern Baptist church. This potential problem MUST be avoided. According to Dr. Stetzer’s 2006 research 90% of SBC churches are not Reformed in their theology and as such, I suggest that they are not very likely to be looking for literature to move them in that direction any time soon.
Of course the editors and contributors of The Gospel Project® planned from the beginning to write the lessons in such a way as not to reveal their true theological leanings. This group of Neo-Cals are much too savvy to do that.
Dee and I have been observing the Neo-Cals in action for over eight years now. Once they have all the power, look out! The matters we discuss in this forum – membership covenants, discipline, 9Marx, etc. – will become the modus operandi for many Southern Baptist churches, and we predict that such a trend will cause the denomination to shrink at a faster rate than before.