Count me as one who is favorably impressed with The Gospel Project. After reviewing the online sample materials and reading about the philosophy behind Lifeway’s newest Sunday School/Small Group Bible study curriculum, I was already leaning toward using this material for our church’s preschool, children’s and student Sunday School groups this fall. I will also be encouraging our adult classes to at least try the curriculum to see if this would be a good alternative to the other Lifeway material that is currently being used.
Following Wednesday’s webcast featuring Trevin Wax, Matt Chandler, J.D. Greear, and Ed Stetzer, I am “all in” for The Gospel Project. Why the enthusiasm? In a word (well, two words really), Matt Chandler. He sold me. Not that he was trying to sell this curriculum or that I took it that way. But, his explanation of The Gospel Project — particularly the vital role that the Gospel plays in all of Scripture – was so persuasive that I believe any Southern Baptist church — Calvinist or non-Calvinist — would benefit from this material.
When so many young adults (and older ones too) have been in church — both in worship services and Sunday School/Small groups — but have been taught what Chandler describes as a “moralistic therapeutic deism,” then we need to do change the way we are “teaching” God’s Word:
The providence of God is a pretty spectacular thing… A number of years back, during a baptism service, I heard a number of testimonies that went like this: “I went to church, I went to sunday school, I went to VBS… and I’m here to say that I’ve never heard the gospel and now I want to be baptized.” The first time you hear that, it doesn’t really unsettle you, but when you hear it a bunch of times… hearing people say, I grew up in church but never heard the gospel, it hits your heart in a really heavy way. And because the Holy Spirit wouldn’t let go of me on this, I settled it by going back to these people and asking them to go through their journals and finding out whether or not they really ever heard the gospel. Some came back and said, “yeah, I did hear it but didn’t understand it,” but more came back and said that what they found was a checklist of dos and don’ts—of moralistic therapeutic deism. And so it exploded in my heart that I couldn’t assume that people in the church have heard the gospel. (Notes from #TheGospelProject Webcast)
Couldn’t Chandler’s observations apply to just about any Southern Baptist church — large or small, rural or urban, contemporary or traditional — which has been around for any length of time? I would daresay that many of our SBC churches which find themselves declining or plateaued (declining gradually) are churches where “moralistic therapeutic deism” rules. I don’t think that most pastors or Sunday School teachers mean to preach or teach with this type of philosophy, but it’s much easier to give children and students (and even adults) a checklist of dos and don’ts than to infuse the messages with the Gospel. I would hope that all Southern Baptists — regardless of their soteriological or methodological positions — would welcome a resource that would help to make the Gospel more “explicit.”
Will The Gospel Project be this kind of resource? While some have raised legitimate questions about the process of bringing The Gospel Project to life, I believe that the teaching materials will be such that a broad spectrum of Southern Baptist churches will profit from their use. However, the proof, as they say, will be in the pudding, but the pudding looks to be quite delectable, much like a good, homemade banana pudding that you would find at a church potluck in the south. And, for those who still might have questions about The Gospel Project, just remember something else you might find in the south – old-fashioned hospitality that teaches, “don’t go knockin’ it till you try it.”
If that don’t suit, then it might even be helpful to remember what mama and grandma used to tell us when we were children, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, it’ best not to say anything at all.” In the blogging world, I wish I would have put that last one into practice more often. Probably wouldn’t be a bad thing for everybody to do (see here for an example of why that’s needed), regardless of whether you’re “all in” or “all out” for The Gospel Project.