The following is a recent interview I did with my friend Ed Stetzer. Ed talks about a new project called “The Gospel Project” which is very much in line with what Leonard Sweet and I did in our book Jesus: A Theography, showing Christ through all the Scriptures. Enjoy the interview.
Among the many other things you do, you also serve as the general editor of The Gospel Project at LifeWay Christian Resources. What is The Gospel Project and how did it come about?
Ed Stetzer: A few years ago, several of us at LifeWay began dreaming of developing a theologically robust curriculum line. We wanted a resource intended to help believers encounter the truth of Scripture through a theological lens, while providing a mission-driven theme to nudge believers to action. With those goals in mind, we developed The Gospel Project.
The Gospel Project is a Christ-centered curriculum looking at the grand narrative of Scripture and how the Gospel transforms lives. This was the first new curriculum line that LifeWay released in many years. It has been exciting to hear how God is using it.
There are a lot of church curriculum lines out there, what is unique about The Gospel Project?
Ed Stetzer: The Gospel Project is one of the few that approach Bible study through the lens of Christ-centered, biblical theology. It starts with theology, drives to mission, while taking a hermeneutically responsible approach to the question, “How does this part of the Scripture point to God’s grand plan?”
Since Jesus is the center of God’s plan, we often (when appropriate) take people back to what God has done, and is doing in Christ. We believe in reading the text from the perspective of Jesus on the road to Emmaus, where He told two of His disciples that the Old Testament points to Him. He showed the Bible is not a series of isolated stories or passages, but a narrative leading to Him. That’s why we ask, “How does this passage fit into God’s plan?”
If we preach the story of Moses, for example, without ever pointing forward to our Passover Lamb (Jesus Christ), then we are preaching the Old Testament much like a rabbi, not like a Christian herald of the gospel.
The same is true for the Proverbs. We can teach them as what they are—pithy, truthful sayings for common sense living. However, we only have the ability to apply the Proverbs through the power of Christ, who is our Wisdom (1 Cor. 1:30).
David and Goliath is a perfect example. It is not a story about David’s lucky shot, but instead is about how God used the little things to show His power—and we can rely on God in the midst of difficulty and trust, ultimately now, in Christ.
These stories may not specifically refer to Jesus, but all of Scripture must be read in the light of what God has done in Christ.
If a local church signed up for The Gospel Project, what would the curriculum cover during the on-going cycle?
Ed Stetzer: Our goal is to provide biblical theology within a systematic framework.
Frequent retellings of the overarching gospel narrative of Scripture accomplish this. Students will move through Genesis to Revelation thematically during three-year cycles of The Gospel Project. You can see the scope and sequence of The Gospel Project for Kids here. The best way to get a picture of this is to look at the different themes and subjects in the adult and student line.
Here are the studies already available.
- The God Who Speaks (The Doctrine of Revelation)
- God’s Story (Part 1): The Old Testament (Christ-centered Bible Overview)
- God’s Story (Part 2): The New Testament (Christ-centered Bible Overview)
- The God Who Is (The Doctrine of God Viewed Through His Triune Work for Us)
Here are the ones to be released soon.
- Bearing God’s Image (Doctrine of Humanity)
- A God-Centered Worldview (Worldview and Apologetics)
- Atonement Thread (Tracing the Bible’s Story Through the Lens of Atonement)
- God’s Way (A Journey Through the Ten Commandments)
- The Story of God’s Kingdom (Bible Overview Through the Lens of Kingdom)
- Bowing Before the Idol-Conqueror (Sin and Salvation Through the Gospel Grid)
- On Mission with and for Our Missionary God (Doctrine of Church)
- Spiritual Disciplines for the Gospel-centered Life
The team of writers on board with this project makes the solid choice of studies even stronger.
We also provide Leader and Personal Study Guides that deliver a combination of story, systematic and biblical theology, and missions, while always pointing back to the gospel. Moreover, each session offers in-depth study with discussion questions, drawing small groups and Sunday School classes into a lifestyle of discipleship.
We’ve made print and digital editions available for greater flexibility and easy use. Plus, if you are a minister to children, we have developed so many additional resources.How has The Gospel Project been received?
Ed Stetzer: To say that the launch of The Gospel Project has been a success, would be putting it mildly. Over 400,000 individual participants, 40,000+ separate groups and 7,000+ churches have already started their journey with The Gospel Project. That’s not counting the many more who sign up for the free trial version every day.
One of the really exciting characteristics of The Gospel Project usage has been how widespread its use has become across a significant variety of denominations and networks. I get excited any time I see theologically strong, missionally compelling content effectively serve in a catalytic role across the scope of the body of Christ. This kingdom advance is energizing!
Anglicans, Charismatics, Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, and so many others with other (or no) denomination are using The Gospel Project. We have churches using it in their small groups, Sunday School classes, and home groups. We have individuals using The Gospel Project for their own studies. Needless to say, we have been blown away by the response.
Because we are so excited about how God is using The Gospel Project and would love to see even more churches from various denominational backgrounds giving it a try, we made a full month of The Gospel Project for every age available for free.
Len and I noticed that our book, Jesus: A Theography, was quoted several times in The Gospel Project. Of all the books on Jesus, why include so many quotes from ours in The Gospel Project.
Ed Stetzer: There are many good books on Jesus, and there are many books on Jesus that are not so good. One of the things that we found unique about Jesus: A Theography was that it starts with the Trinity and explores the person and work of Christ through the Old Testament.
Many biographies start in Bethlehem. However, tracing the presence of Jesus throughout the entire Bible demonstrates the unity of the canon and its focus on Christ as the center. We both agree that the written Word is a testimony to the Living Word, so we really appreciated the Christ-centered approach to the big picture of Scripture. Just as you said in the introduction:
The Bible is often viewed as a disjointed array of stories, events, laws, propositions, truths, ethical statements, and moral lessons…But as we will demonstrate in this book, the sixty-six books of the Bible are woven together by a single storyline…and what is the story?…It’s the story of Jesus Christ.
Again, this is very similar to the approach we take with The Gospel Project as an ongoing curriculum for the local church. We want to point people to Jesus. We want people to fall in love with Jesus. We want to show people how the Bible centered on Him!
Let’s say a church was already using The Gospel Project, how could we encourage them to utilize Jesus: A Theography in the life of the church?
Ed Stetzer: In 2 Timothy 2:2 we see that the church is to be a learning community. Passing on of what we learn is vital to the health and spiritual progress of the body as a whole. I think churches have, unfortunately, lowered the bar on learning. Instead, we think it’s best to expect a lot out of those who attend a small group or Sunday School class.
With The Gospel Project we have aimed at providing a curriculum for the church that is deep, but not dry; material that is Christ-centered, story focused, and mission driven. I think Jesus: A Theography is a great compliment to the philosophy of The Gospel Project. So, I would encourage church members to utilize books like Jesus: A Theography for smaller discussion groups or personal devotions alongside The Gospel Project’s on-going curriculum.
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