Wednesday, March 15, 2017

App expands VBS impact for LifeWay

By Aaron Earls
The excitement and learning that takes place at Vacation Bible School can happen anywhere now, thanks to the LifeWay VBS Galactic Starveyors app.
For the fourth consecutive year, LifeWay Christian Resources has released an app connected with its latest VBS material.
The app provides churches and parents numerous opportunities to reinforce biblical lessons from VBS, according to Melita Thomas, VBS and kids' ministry specialist at LifeWay.
"The app is a wonderful tool for connecting church and home," Thomas said. "It also provides churches with an additional easy follow-up tool."

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

ERLC, LifeWay release religious liberty curriculum

By Tom Strode

Two Southern Baptist entities have combined efforts to produce a small group study on religious liberty at a time when the fundamental freedom appears to be both threatened and misunderstood in the United States.
The Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission (ERLC) and LifeWay Christian Resources announced the release of the study -– "Religious Liberty: How the Gospel Shapes Our First Freedom" -- Tuesday (March 7). The six-week study is available for purchase through LifeWay.
The free exercise of religion guaranteed in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is under attack for some Christians and other religious adherents -- especially those who object to using their services for same-sex weddings or to performing abortions or other medical procedures that violate their consciences. In addition, some in the church seem uncertain whether religious freedom should extend to people of all faiths.
The curriculum's goal "is to equip churches to see religious liberty as it is -- grounded in the Gospel," said ERLC President Russell Moore.
"In an age when religious liberty is increasingly imperiled we all need to be reminded that religious liberty isn't a partisan political idea," Moore said in a written release. "It's a fundamental part of being made in the image of God, and being created with a conscience that is answerable ultimately to Christ, not Caesar."
He prays the study "will help believers and churches dismantle myths and misconceptions and help the body of Christ be faithful in its witness in the years ahead," Moore said, adding he is thankful for the partnership with LifeWay and those who contributed to the study.
Each of the six lessons consists of a 60-minute group session, plus individual study, journaling and an article by a religious liberty expert. Each group session includes 15 to 20 minutes of video featuring pastors, scholars and other leaders commenting on religious freedom.
Among the more than 70 leaders appearing in the videos are Matt Chandler, lead pastor for teaching of The Village Church in the Dallas-Fort Worth area; Mark Dever, senior pastor of Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.; Robert George, professor of jurisprudence at Princeton University; and Nathan Lino, senior pastor of Northeast Houston Baptist Church.
The six lessons are:
-- Religious Liberty in Today's Culture;
-- Religious Liberty and the Bible;
-- Religious Liberty and Mission;
-- Religious Liberty and the Common Good;
-- Religious Liberty in the Public Square;
-- Religious Liberty and Common Objections.
The curriculum's primary authors are Phillip Bethancourt, the ERLC's executive vice president, and Andrew Walker, the ERLC's director of policy studies.
Walker told BP the ERLC-LifeWay curriculum is the first to his knowledge to be "dedicated explicitly to religious liberty."
"Considering that religious liberty faces challenging headwinds like never before, it is urgent that Christians understand the relevance and necessity of religious liberty, not only for themselves, but how its biblical foundations lay the groundwork for a society that fosters respect and liberty amid great diversity," Walker said in written comments.
"Understood from a biblical perspective, religious liberty is a vital component for the advance of the Gospel," he said. "Consciences must be free to respond to Christ, and free societies ensure that persuasion -- not coercion -- can occur."
Materials for the study may be ordered online at
Tom Strode is Washington bureau chief for Baptist Press, the Southern Baptist Convention's news service. BP reports on missions, ministry and witness advanced through the Cooperative Program and on... [Expand Bio]

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Welcome the Christian Standard Bible (CSB) to LifeWay Kids!


I am very excited about the release of the Christian Standard Bible (CSB). Today the release was made “official” in LifeWay Kids ongoing Bible study curriculum lines. Starting with our spring releases you’ll notice the use of the CSB in Bible Studies for Life, Explore the Bible, and The Gospel Project.
I want to share some quick FAQs and links to help answer your questions and get you started well with the CSB.
Why has LifeWay created a new translation?  The Christian Standard Bible (CSB) is a revision of the Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB), updating translation and word choices in order to improve on the HCSB’s balance of faithfulness and clarity, as well as to enhance the shareability of the translation to new Christians or those reading the Bible for the first time. At LifeWay we are committed to improving the translation based on advances in biblical scholarship and input from Bible scholars, pastors, and readers. Taking each of these factors into consideration, the Christian Standard Bible has improved on the HCSB’s faithfulness to the original text and clarity for a modern audience.
What is the difference between the HCSB and the CSB? There are five major differences between the HCSB and the CSB. They are:
  • The capitalization of pronouns referring to God.
  • The use of “tongues” instead of “languages” in some texts.
  • The use of “Yahweh” as God’s personal name.
  • The rendering of doulos as “servant” instead of “slave.”
  • The translating of gender language into English.
This page elaborates on these specific differences.
When can we get actual copies of the CSB for our kids? There are two kids Bibles releasing this month CSB Big Picture Interactive Bible and the CSB Kids BibleThe CSB Read to Me Bible will release in August. Other Bibles editions (not specific for kids) have been released and more will come in the days ahead. CLICK HERE to sign up for notifications regarding releases.
The CSB is available online but last week I went ahead and downloaded the free app (iTunes or Google Play) so that I could have it with me all the time.
Tell me more! Have more questions? CLICK HERE to find answers to more frequently asked questions.
By the way … LifeWay’s VBS resources will make the change to CSB in 2018 and the change in children’s Bible Drill will affect the 2019 drills.
Bill Emeott serves as Lead Ministry Specialist for LifeWay Kids. A graduate of Mercer University and New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. Bill has served as a Kid’s Minister and currently teaches 2nd Grade Bible study.

First posted here...

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Enhancements coming this Fall to LifeWay's Explore the Bible resources

Exciting new enhancements are coming to LifeWay’s Explore the Bible bible study resources for all ages this fall. See below some highlights of what’s coming and check out the links for more info. And as always, let me hear from you as to how I might assist you with strategies or resources to help strengthen your ministry.


·         Explore the Bible Daily Discipleship Guide will be introduced. This is an all in one resource (leader and learner in same piece). It will encourage daily Bible engagement, support discipleship groups meetings during the week, and simplify training additional leaders to start new groups.
·         The Young Adult version will be discontinued.
·         Studies of longer Bible books that require more than 3 months of study will be done in consecutive quarters.
·         In the Personal Study Guide, the Bible text will be printed once (with the commentary). This will gain space for additional commentary.
·         The Leader Pack will add pack items in PDF format to the CD-ROM.
·         In the QuickSource, we will change the way the key words are marked
·         No changes to Leader Guide and Leader Commentary.


·         The Central Truth of each study will appear at the beginning and the end of each study.
·         NEW! Family Connection provides simple questions based on each session for parent to discuss with students throughout the week. It also contains a family devotion for those families who want to go deeper with their students.
·         NEW! Middle School Option: A middle school specific version of the leader guide complete with unique Explore Options and discussion questions will be available for a free download to all who purchase a leader guide.
·         Leader pack will contain posters to help make sessions more interactive, videos that provide leaders with hands on training for each session, and PowerPoint templates.
·         Midweek Studies: Free downloadable studies will provide complementary studies in other books of the Bible for students and student leaders who have additional meeting in the middle of the week.
·         NEW! Explore Options: Interactive activities and engaging illustrations that provide leaders with fresh ways to introduce the Central Truth of each session and connect it to the lives of students.
·         NEW! Discipleship Moments: Provides leaders opportunities to share their lives with their student and to connect with them at a deeper level to show that there is more to following Jesus than just studying the Bible.
·         Verse number headings will be added to the commentary to make it easier to use and follow.
·         Context Notes: Notes about theological, cultural, historical, and literary context will be designed to train students and leaders how to study the Bible in context.
·         Now What? Application questions that challenge students to process the implications of each study and apply its central truth to their lives at school, at home, and in their neighborhoods.
·         Personal Challenge: Each session will end with a personal challenge calling students to continue processing what they’ve learned and apply the central truth to the context in which they live.
·         Bible Reading Plan will be contained in each guide that will challenge students to dig into that session’s book of the Bible on their own.


·         Explore the Bible: At Home will connect adults with what kids are studying. It will provide a devotional thought and a family reading plan.
·         New Scope and Sequence will provide a three year plan where all 66 books of the Bible will be studied in a book by book fashion.

·         Redesigned layout for Babies & Toddlers Leader, Preschool Leader, and Preschool Worship.
·         Introducing new Family Card for preschoolers: Larger format card with rounded corners and hole punch.
·         Added Text Connection to leader guide to spotlight other areas of Scripture that tie in with what preschoolers are studying.
·         Bible Skills Spotlight: Bible skills are highlighted for each session.
·         Inclusion of next hour teaching helps in Preschool Leader Guide for ready access by teachers.

·         Redesigned layout for Younger Kids Leader, Older Kids Leader, and Kids Worship.
·         One Family Card to be used for both Younger and Older kids.
·         Added Text Connection to leader guide to spotlight other areas of Scripture that tie in with what preschoolers are studying.
·         Bible Skills Spotlight: Bible skills are highlighted for each session

If you want more information and download a sneak peek of the new studies, click here or go to

To learn more about the new study plan for Kids, go here and here.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

B&H Academic launches 'Lost Sermons' of Spurgeon

B&H Academic has launched the first of a 12-volume series of previously unpublished sermons by the famed British preacher Charles H. Spurgeon.
"The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon" series is being researched and edited by Christian T. George, assistant professor of historical theology and curator of the Spurgeon Library at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, which hosted a luncheon for the launch at its Kansas City, Mo., campus.
The first volume includes a series introduction, an overview of Spurgeon's life and times, 78 sermons he preached itinerantly and in his first pastorate at Waterbeach Chapel, and George's analysis of the sermons. Each volume within the compilation will include full-color facsimiles, transcriptions, contextual and biographical introductions, and editorial annotations of sermons from Spurgeon's earliest years in the pulpit.
The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon adds approximately 10 percent more material to Spurgeon's complete body of literature, with the volumes being developed for scholars, pastors and students alike, according to B&H Academic, a publishing division of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
"It is a tremendous occasion to partner with B&H Academic and mark the launching of this vital series -- The Lost Sermons of C.H. Spurgeon, which documents Spurgeon's earliest sermons -- on the campus of Midwestern Seminary," President Jason Allen said. "God has shown immeasurable favor upon our institution over the past five years, and one of the greatest blessings has been through sending Christian George to serve on our faculty and curate our Spurgeon Library.
"As one of the foremost Spurgeon scholars, Dr. George has worked tirelessly researching and writing this volume.... I am certain that these efforts will pay enormous dividends in reaching the world for Christ," Allen said at the Feb. 15 luncheon.
Jim Baird, vice president of B&H Academic, noted that the launch of the initial volume provided an opportunity to further the imprint's relationship with Midwestern Seminary and to offer a practical resource that encourages Christian believers everywhere.
"This project represents years of hard work by Dr. Christian George and the beginning of a fruitful partnership...," Baird said. "This partnership should serve to encourage and bless numerous church leaders and introduce new people to the depth and breadth of Charles Spurgeon's ministry."
George, interviewed by Allen during the luncheon, described the long, and at times frustrating, path that led to the day's events. He noted how in 2011, while researching for his doctor of philosophy degree at Spurgeon's College in London, he came across the original journals containing the sermons.
George soon realized they were messages that Spurgeon had previously promised to have published for his readers. Unfortunately, the demands of ministry prevented him from fulfilling his promise. Thus, the sermons had been lost to history for some 160 years.
Upon realizing the value and scope of the documents, George came to an agreement with the college's principal and began to search for a publishing company. In due course, he said, that led him to B&H Academic, with the volumes being published "for such a time as this."
George said the aim of the series is to bring its readers into a closer relationship with Jesus Christ -- through the lens of Charles Spurgeon's ministry and messages.
"Ultimately, the heartbeat of this project is that its readers will not look to Spurgeon, but through Spurgeon, to find a deeper relationship with Jesus Christ," George said. "There is a danger that we might worship Spurgeon, and we certainly don't want to do that. We want our sole focus of worship to be on Christ. However, we don't want to forget Spurgeon and his contributions to the Christian faith, either."
Volumes 2 and 3 are in various stages of the editing process and, according to B&H, the full 12-volume set will be completed by 2023. To learn more about obtaining a copy of Volume 1, click here.
Spurgeon, born in 1834, served as pastor of Metropolitan Tabernacle, a London megachurch, from 1854 until his death in 1892.
The Spurgeon Library at Midwestern, dedicated in October 2015, includes Spurgeon's personal collection of more than 6,000 books and hundreds of artifacts, letters and assorted materials. The seminary acquired the collection in 2006 from William Jewell College in Liberty, Mo.
Midwestern also is home to the Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching, which offers a limited number of scholarships to full-time residential students called to pastoral ministry and sponsors the Charles Spurgeon Lectures on Biblical Preaching each fall. The Spurgeon Center is online at
T. Patrick Hudson is executive assistant to the president of Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

7 Ways to Get More Members Involved

By Chuck Lawless

Most of us who lead churches have regular attenders who aren’t involved in the congregation. These folks sometimes frustrate us because we can’t imagine why genuine believers just sit on the sideline. Rather than get frustrated, try this strategy to move them toward involvement:
  1. Pray for more laborers. Jesus taught us to pray this way (Luke 10:2). Frankly, if we’re not at least praying like Jesus commanded, we don’t have much right to complain about uninvolved members. 
  2. Don’t assume that every uninvolved member doesn’t care much about the Lord’s work. That might be the case, but not always. If you assume that everyone doesn’t care, you’ll approach every situation with a critical spirit. That’s not helpful.
  3. Understand that every uninvolved member has a story. Some of these folks have home situations that make it difficult to serve much through the church. Some have served in the past but were wounded – and have not yet dealt with that pain. Some see themselves as unworthy of service. Others really are just lazy and unconcerned. In any case, you need to know their story to know best how to lead them.
  4. Create a clear process to get involved, and tell your congregation how to do it. Then tell them again. And again. Regardless of how many times we tell people how to get involved, they don’t always hear it the first time. And, they can’t hear it well if our process is non-existent or unclear.  
  5. Sponsor a one-time “Membership Re-start Class.” Set up a “re-start” class that openly invites uninvolved members to re-engage, discover their spiritual gifts, and get busy in the church’s work. Make a big deal of the class so folks are actually excited about the possibility.
  6. Plant a new ongoing small group from uninvolved members. Select the strongest leader you can find, and let him or her build the class. Again, I’d be upfront about the purpose when recruiting group members: “I’m building a class to get folks more involved. I’d love to have you join us so all of us can do the Lord’s work more.”
  7. Talk one-on-one with uninvolved members. Pulpit or bulletin announcements seldom move these folks. Personal conversations can, though, especially if the church is ready to follow up.  

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Church response to domestic violence focus of study

By Bob Smietana

When it comes to domestic violence, Protestant pastors want to be helpful but often don't know where to start, a new study shows.
Most say their church would be a safe haven for victims of domestic violence. But many don't know if anyone in their church has been a victim of domestic violence. And only half say they have a plan in place to help if a victim comes forward, according to a new report on churches and domestic abuse from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, conducted Aug. 22–Sept. 16, is based on a phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors.
Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research, said churches want to help victims of domestic violence but aren't always effective at doing so.
"Many pastors aren't aware if domestic violence is happening in their congregation," McConnell said. "And even if they are aware, they often don't know how to help."

Monday, February 20, 2017

Great and Not So Great Pastors!

Over the years I have worked with and for a lot of pastors and interim pastors. At one time I think I counted up that there were 18 along they way.

That's a lot of pastors...some were great to work with and some were not so great.

These two posts from Thom S. Rainer made me think of several of the good ones and the bad ones I've journeyed with. 


Ten Ways Pastors Can Be Bad Bosses

Ten Ways Pastors Can Be Great Bosses

Friday, February 17, 2017

The Big Picture Easter Bundle for Kids Ministries

The Big Picture Easter Bundle: From the Makers of The Gospel Project for Kids provides digital content for five one-hour sessions centered around Easter. Bundle includes downloadable Bible story videos, songs, music videos, discussion starter videos for kids, digital Leader Guides, Activity Pages for preschoolers and kids, posters, coloring pages, Big Picture Cards for Families, and more. Leader Guides are filled with step-by-step instructions and activity suggestions, including low-prep options for busy leaders. Bonus content includes the Big Story Circle digital download (a $39.99 value!) and more.

Sessions include:
  • The Last Supper
  • Jesus' Triumphal Entry
  • Jesus' Crucifixion and Resurrection
  • The Emmaus Disciples
  • Jesus Appeared to the Disciples

You have options! Tell the story in chronological order OR study Jesus’ Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday. Sessions are flexible and can be mixed and matched according to your needs.

The Gospel Project for Kids is a Christ-centered Bible study resource that looks at the big picture of God's story — the story of redemption through Jesus Christ. Each week, kids of all ages will follow a chronological timeline of Bible events, all the while learning how each story points to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Throughout these Easter sessions, kids will discover God’s plan for redemption, which began before creation, culminates with the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus was welcomed as King but days later was crucified by the people. Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and subsequent resurrection provided salvation for sinners and restores our relationship with God.

Learn more and order here...

And got to throw in a picture of my three year old grandson...

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

The Ongoing Power of a 95-year-old Formula

Sometimes when I need to gather my thoughts, I will go to a space where I can be surrounded by reminders of LifeWay’s history. In the middle of one display is Arthur Flake’s journal. Flake was a businessman and volunteer church leader from Winona, Mississippi. In 1920, he became the first leader of the Sunday School division at LifeWay (then the Baptist Sunday School Board). One of the first things he did was establish a set of standards that painted a picture of an effective Sunday School. The journal on display at the LifeWay building contains Flake’s notes for establishing that standard.

The journal is opened to a significant page (see image above) that includes a list of actions that would become known as Flake’s Formula. The formula eventually evolved to these points:
  • Know the possibilities
  • Enlarge the organization
  • Enlist and train leaders
  • Provide space and resources
  • Go after the people
The men who followed Flake (Gaines Dobbins, J. N. Barnette, Othal Feather, A. V. Washburn, Harry Piland, Bill Taylor, and now David Francis) built upon this formula. Flake’s formula was the impetus for much of the growth of Southern Baptist Sunday School in the 20th century.

Read more of Part 1 and be sure to follow the links to Parts 2, 3, and 4 of this great treatment of Flake's Formula.