Tuesday, March 14, 2006

LifeWay responds about Centrifuge

I received the following letter, dated March 14, from Mark Marshall, who has responsibilities that include overseeing the work of Centrifuge for LifeWay. I am very grateful for his gracious letter. His gentle spirit and open acknowledgment of areas that need to be strengthened combine for an example of how Christian brothers should discuss matters of importance like this, even when we may not see exactly eye-to-eye. His words should have a calming effect on those who are extremely exercised over the material and on those who are extremely exercised that concerns have been raised about the material. As a pastor I find his letter refreshing and encouraging. Upon receiving it, I prayed for Mr. Marshall regarding the work that is before him. Let me encourage you to pray for him, as well.

March 14, 2006

Dear Dr. Ascol and the readers of Founder's Ministry blog:

I appreciate the opportunity to respond to the comments that have been posted about the Centrifuge camps, specifically the
2006 Bible Study Leader Guide. As many of us at LifeWay reread "Thrill Ride," we agree with our critics that it not as theologically strong as it could be. As a result, we will intensify the upcoming 12-day training program for summer staffers to ensure that the doctrines of sin, God’s holiness, and the necessity of Christ's death, burial and resurrection are central to our teaching. In addition, we'll take a harder look at curriculum development for Centrifuge for the years ahead.

At the same time, it may prove helpful to provide a little context for the
Leader Guide and how it is used at Centrifuge, a summer camp for youth in grades 7-12. The Bible study is designed to present the foundational truths about Jesus Christ to young people from a broad spectrum of religious backgrounds – including the unchurched. Additional study tracks, worship, and individual consultation help us go deeper into the Biblical truths about the Person and work of Christ. The Leader Guide is part of a much larger whole.

We share with each of you a deep desire for Christ to be glorified in the changed lives of young people. And at Centrifuge, many lives are changed forever. Over the last three years, Centrifuge has recorded 18,862 decisions for Christ, including 2,869 professions of faith; 1,399 calls to Christian vocation; and nearly 14,600 rededications and other decisions. We thank God for the work He has done in the hearts of young people at Centrifuge.

Humbly in His service,

Mark Marshall

Director, Training and Events, LifeWay Church Resources


Timmy said...

Thank you Tom for sharing this letter. I am glad to see that there is the recognition that the curriculum is needing to be changed. One must wonder, however, why it took bloggers to bring aboutsuch change. Should this not have been realized earlier?

As I have been corresponding with Dr. Rainer, I affirmed my commitment to him and his leadership with Lifeway. I will continue to pray for him as well as Mark Marshall as they work to facilitate such changes in the future. As I shared with Dr. Rainer, bloggers are not against Lifeway. We are for the truth, and one of the greatest allies they could have are those of us who genuinely and passionately care about God's Word, God's people, and God's glory. I only hope that in the future they will see us as proponents and not opponents in the work they are doing and will continue to do in the future. May the outcome be that we are even more united for proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ in all that we do.

Castusfumus said...

Over the last three years, Centrifuge has recorded 18,862 decisions for Christ, including 2,869 professions of faith; 1,399 calls to Christian vocation; and nearly 14,600 rededications and other decisions.

Is there any Biblical definition of "rededications and other decisions?" Who invented "rededication?" What is a decision? Should we rebaptize this individual? Should we call this public repentance?

It just seems hoplessly sad that we set up metrics, pragmatically goal oriented, to statistically justify OUR achievements. I see this as another caveat of arminianism producing a man centered quasi-salvation that is no salvation at all.

We have also lost our awe and respect for James 3:1.

I pray that we would be on our contrite faces begging mercy.

Sojourner said...

Pastor Tom,

I see this letter exchange as a very positive step. I am overjoyed that the criticism of the curriculum was taken seriously, and that steps have been taken to address the concerns.

hashbrown said...

I am thankful for Lifeway's responsiveness and encouraged by most of what I read. Looks like they've got some good people there, who want to do what is right.

My only difference with this curriculum and most modern youth curriculums is philosophically. Mark wrote;
The Bible study is designed to present the foundational truths about Jesus Christ to young people from a broad spectrum of religious backgrounds – including the unchurched

As a youth minister for over 10 years, I've found that unchurched teens appreciate straight forward lessons as much as churched teens.

Should there be a consious effort, philosophically, to be vague when the audience includes unchurched students? I don't understand that. Is God's holiness boring, is sin boring, is Christ's death boring, is judgement boring? I think you can get the unchurched attention without making it a Thrill Ride.

My youth ministry was revolutionized when I came to the understanding that all teens want to be spoken to plainly. If your talking about sin, say sin; if your talking about repentance, say repentance; if your talking about faith, say faith; etc...

Being vague is what has led to SBC rolls being littered with names of folks, many who made their decision at camp, who now never attend, serve, worship, give to the church.

I recently attended a youth rally where hundreds of decisions were made. I can tell you that many of the teens around me were confused about what they were standing up for. (That is after the whole arena prayed the sinners prayer.)

Do I stand up if I prayed the prayer, if I prayed the prayer and meant it, if I prayed the prayer a long time ago and still meant it? I saw kids stand look around, then sit down, then stand, then fill out the card.

I don't think this issue is liberal vs. conservative, its a matter of philosophy of reaching the lost.

The Traveler said...

I am so glad that Lifeway is addressing our primary concern to the material. I am overjoyed that they are going to correct the absence of the gospel. I am concerned though that this letter seems to still justify what was done in the past and even this summer's material. It looks eerily like the classic "I got caught so I'm sorry BUT..."

1.I have heard though that the material over the past years was worse than even this year's.

I truly wonder what those "18,862 decisions for Christ, including 2,869 professions of faith; 1,399 calls to Christian vocation; and nearly 14,600 rededications and other decisions." were in response to. Were they to the gospel or was it to get on the proverbial thrill ride?

I appreciate the concillitory tone and the movement; however, ends never justify the means. We really shouldn't care if the whole state of Alabama converted at a Centrifuge camp if they converted without the cross.

2. "The Bible study is designed to present the foundational truths about Jesus Christ to young people from a broad spectrum of religious backgrounds – including the unchurched." should not the foundational truths have been our sin, the cross, and the resurrection? Why are these excuses given?

I hate to be a naysayer but this is no apology. This is no confession. This is a response. It sure looks like a lot of arm twisting. The first paragraph was great. The second almost negated the first. The third was troubling.

Tim Batchelor said...

Today I sat in a meeting where I had the opportunity to hear the son of a very well known evangelist preach to a few of us preachers. He made the comment that we emphasized discipleship too over soulwinning. That false distinction is part and parcel of the problem we have in this convention and what has led us to this dismal state of an unregenerate membership which we find ourselves in. I can appreciate the numbers that Mark mentioned but they are just that. A decision is the first step in discipleship but it cannot be equated with discipleship. It is what happens the rest of their lives that tell us what really happened at centrifuge.


Jared Moore said...

I'm glad that Lifeway responded; however, they also responded last year to me, and yet, still put out this weak curriculum this year.

I look forward to the day when no email is needed, nor a response... and, I hope that day is very soon.

In Him,

Jared Moore

Baptist Superman said...

Brothers, I am ready to name names! Hyper Calvimism is a real threat. Insivisble though it may be, silent and odorless as well, Hyper Calvimism is a real threat.

You want names? Today I will only give you two. John C. Calhoon and Tobias Bubler of First Baptist Brushwater Creak in South Brushwater Mississippi. They must be stopped.


hashbrown said...

Baptist Superman,
That was the most random comment.
Are you spamming websites?


joethorn.net said...

Yes he is. He's some guy from Southwestern hitting a few blogs.

Nathan White said...

Mark Marshall...what a small world. He was my pastor for several years here in the Marietta/Kennesaw GA area at Calvary Baptist Church. I was pretty young then (12-14yrs old), but I do remember him.

Tom, why do my former pastors keep coming up on your blog :)


The Rambler said...

There is definitely a problem with presenting Christ as merely a thrill ride when there seems to be nothing 'thrilling' about carrying your cross. However, I also know that it is truly a joy to see students on their spiritual journey 1)realize that God is calling them into a relationship with Him, 2) begin to deal with the sin in their life because they are experiencing God's discipline and grace simultaneuously as His child 3) watch as Christ helps a student come to grips with a vocational call, and 4) if nothing else, begin to process numerous other ways that Christ is moving t to draw them to Himself. This does not have to happen at Centrifuge. Yet, it does. The program is not perfect. But there are a number of other things that are not perfect that God uses for the sake of His glory. Numbers aside, there is an amazing work done in the life of students during a summer of camp. At any rate, I hope that you are all in prayer for pastors, Bible study leaders, and other staffers whose desire is to preach and teach Christ Crucified and Resurrected as the way to true joy throughout the summer. Otherwise, we as pseudo-intellectuals are bordering
on hypocrisy.

Pastor Chris Humphreys said...

My question goes beyond what Lifeway is doing about Centrifuge. Maybe this is not the time or place, but without trying to pick a fight over another issue, what biblical justification is there for all this emphasis we place on doing things for young people separately from their families? I don't oppose all youth activities, but I just wonder if there is any evidence that all of our pampering the youth in our churches has really done much long-term good for the kingdom of God? According to what I heard on Point of View, 7 out of 10 very active youth in our churches will not be found in church 2 years after they graduate from high school, and this is after pouring lots of money into youth programs for years and years.
Coming back to Oklahoma in 1992, I was expected to go to Falls Creek, the Mecca of Southern Baptist youth, every summer with our children and youth. I came back each time sick at my stomach because of all the things I heard and saw. I appreciate the Founders having a more healthy biblical alternative for the youth each summer. We have right now at our church a family Bible study class on Sunday mornings, and people are loving it so far. I don't know if we will continue with that forever, or offer an option of age-graded classes.