First, let me start with a confession. Today was lots of fun for an Iowa pastor!
I got to spend time with some really cool people, people whose names I have known for years and with whom I have interacte only (or mostly) online. I got to chat with Ed Stetzer, Trevin Wax, to meet JD Greear and Matt Chandler, to have lunch with Travis Loller from Associated Press, and to share meals and coffee with Matt Svoboda, Micah Fries, and the Godfather of Baptist blogging, the inimitable Marty Duren.
And LifeWay demonstrated some wonderful Southern hospitality. They brought me here, put me up in a hotel and fed me some mighty fine BBQ. And the webcast was really fun. They were amazing hosts the whole time.
So, it would be easy for someone to accuse me of being hoodwinked by their hospitality. I don’t think so. I tell you what impressed me more than the nice hotel and the great BBQ was the passion of the people for the gospel project (and for Christ himself) and the integrity of their convictions. Sitting at breakfast this morning, talking to Trevin, hearing Matt Chandler at chapel, watching the webcast in the studio – it all convinced me that these people are committed to doing something good for Southern Baptists. They believe in the Gospel Project.
And so do I.
I think those who take the time to actually look at the materials and not just listen those who began condemning the project before even seeing the materials will be impressed. This isn’t about convincing people of certain letters in a flowery acronym, its about exalting Christ and helping people to see the overarching theme of the Bible – Jesus.
The Bible is not just a treasure trove of moral stories, but a grand narrative that points to and focuses on Christ. One of the buzzwords I kept hearing today stuck with me. “The Bible is one story and Jesus is the hero.”
Here are my thoughts:
1) In private conversations and in public statements today I saw no evidence that promulgating Calvinism was a driving purpose. In fact, I was told by more than one person that it was simply not a factor. One person told me that they were not going to worry about the naysayers and critics, but were going to stay focused on producing a quality, Christ-exalting, gospel-focused curriculum and let that speak for itself.
If I thought this was Calvinist indoctrination, I would not support it. I am convinced it is gospel-indoctrination and I am all-in on that. I cannot imagine that anything I heard today would offend any Christian regardless of their position of “the doctrines of grace.”
If you say, “Of course they didn’t say anything today about that. They are trying to hide that part from the public,” I say – prove it or keep it to yourself. That is an accusation of a lack of integrity against men whom I believe are not deceivers, liars or manipulators. To me, accusing someone of that kind of deception is a serious accusation – a moral failing. If you can’t prove it then don’t lodge false accusations against men of God.
2) The Gospel Project looks like its going to be BIG. Already 4500 churches have signed on to the pilot program and they are hoping to more than double that in the near future. During the first half-hour of the webcast today, #thegospelproject was trending #2 on Twitter. There is a lot of buzz and a lot of excitement.
3) The proof is in the pudding. All of this will either succeed or flop based on the qualities of the lessons that will start going out this fall. I’m expecting great things.
I’ve heard all the complaints about the make-up of the advisory board on this one. We don’t need to rehash that. Here’s my challenge. Can anyone find anything anyone said on the webcast today or in the sample lessons that are available online that buttresses suspicions that this is a Calvinist indoctrination tool? Has anyone seen any evidence of that in the words of the leaders or in the materials themselves?