Ed Stetzer thinks Christians can be "knowledge addicts" when it comes to the Bible but have an "application deficit" when it comes to living on mission. In other words, Christians can talk the talk but they don't walk the walk.
That's where Stetzer, the general editor of The Gospel Project, is hoping the new LifeWay Christian Resources curriculum will be different from other Bible study curriculums out there. Stetzer and the project's managing editor, Trevin Wax, were intentional in making a resource that connects deep theological concepts with mission-driven application.
"We're really working hard to make sure that people know the big story. Not that they will be addicted to knowing more but that it will lead to actional application. That's what we're trying to do is to break that cycle," said Stetzer, an expert in missiology and vice president of Research and Ministry Development for LifeWay Christian Resources.
"I think that's one of the things that makes The Gospel Project unique – going deeper so that we can go out further. That is our goal and focus. That means living on mission lives."
The Gospel Project has three separate tracks for different age groups: Kids, Students, and Adults. Each track follows a three-year study plan that is divided into 13-week units. While the curriculum is geared toward helping Christians go deeper in their faith, it has "on-ramps" for beginners to get up to speed.
Stetzer recently spoke with The Christian Post about The Gospel Project and why knowing more about the Bible story means being mission-driven.
CP: What's the purpose of The Gospel Project?
Stetzer: 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.
CP: The Gospel Project is described as a "Christ-centered" curriculum. How does The Gospel Project help deepen faith in Jesus? Can you provide a specific example?
Stetzer: If we just look at the Bible as a series of isolated morality tales, that so and so did this, we really don't understand that really the central theme of the Bible is what God is doing. The highpoint of that is what God has done in Christ.
Spurgeon said I bring them back to the cross. That's what we're trying to do. Not in a hermeneutically irresponsible way [making sure you don't read into the text, but actually read what is there], not in a way that says every verse in the Bible is secretly in code talking about Jesus -- it's not. But all the Scriptures testify to Jesus. We just want to help people make that connection and see so that they don't read a story in the Old Testament of Abraham and Isaac and say that's just a good story and we just need to be like Abraham and Isaac in this story. No, no, no. You need to understand that's a picture of what God is doing in Christ. So we get this beautiful picture. For example, Moses says in the Old Testament that this blood is the covenant so he marks the beginning of the covenant. And Jesus says in the New Testament this blood is the new covenant in my blood. Well, it's quoting and modifying Moses in the Old Testament. So we see this beautiful connection between the Old and New Testament that God is fulfilling his promises in Christ. That's what The Gospel Project points to.
CP: The project is made for all ages?
Stetzer: We have it for three ages.
Lifeway is the largest provider for these kinds of Christian resources in the world. We have found that you really have to take into account how people learn. Some people want to say let's just have everyone learn the same thing. But people learn differently and they learn concepts differently. So the theme is throughout. In the children's material, there is a Christ connection. We tell the story about Job and how Job's friends and ultimately how God had a plan for Job. But the ultimate plan of redemption is in Christ. So we always point people to Jesus -- that's the children's material.
The students and the adults track together. It's kind of a place where they have some of those discussions, go a little deeper, but there is always on-ramps where people can come in to learn. The end result is they'll know in three years theologically-grounded pictures. Kids, students and adults. After three years, we think we can say with confidence that these people really have a grounding in the Word of God, theology and what they believe. And that grounding enables them to live more faithfully for Christ.
CP: Is the entire curriculum already finished or is it an ongoing curriculum that incorporates feedback for future issues?
Stetzer: It's an ongoing curriculum. We have the first quarter done. It's in my office for a matter-of-fact and it's out to people. Every quarter, we bring in a series of writers that write the curriculum. They have to have a passion for theology and living on mission.
We try to draw from at least one out of four (writers) is a non-Anglo. We want to have an international feel to make sure that it's more representative … and so the end result is that it goes on. So it's a three year cycle and people can say I want to use that cycle. But then we start the cycle again with new eyes, new perspective so people can keep going back and seeing things with fresh new eyes.
CP: How does The Gospel Project meet the needs of today's church?
Stetzer: A lot of times we're knowledge addicts but we have an application deficit. And so we're really working hard to make sure that people know the big story. Not that they will be addicted to knowing more but that it will lead to actional application.
That's what we're trying to do is to break that cycle. I think that's one of the things that makes The Gospel Project unique. Going deeper so that we can go out further. That is our goal and focus. That means living on mission lives.
To be honest, as a general editor, I've written 12 books. They're pretty much all the same theme. I probably shouldn't say it that way but it's living on mission, it's sharing Christ. I guess I'm a one-trick pony. But you know, sharing Christ, starting churches, church revitalization, global missions – that's woven throughout what we're doing here. The end result is, again, they'll know the story so they can live and tell the story.
CP: Anything you would like to add?
Stetzer: 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.
WATCH THE VIDEO ON THE GOSPEL PROJECT: