Baptists Today‘s new Nurturing Faith curriculum has been out for about six months now, and it’s picking up some really nice reviews from the many classes and churches that have given it a try. Users seem especially pleased with the content of the core lessons and the extensive teaching helps that provide lesson plans, additional commentary, and even a short video overview of each lesson.

Since I’m the guy who writes the core lessons, I thought it would be worth saying a few words about what makes the Nurturing Faith curriculum different, and the philosophy/approach/mindset I adopt when writing the lessons.

We think a number of things set Nurturing Faith apart from other curriculum lines:

1. It’s a Baptist resource but draws on the lectionary, which we hope will help to promote a sense of community with the larger family of faith. It also assures readers that each lesson is drawn from a biblical text, not a social or political issue of the month.

2. It’s packaged as part of the Baptists Today journal, which gives readers a cultural context from the wider Baptist and Christian world to inform the biblical content found in the middle — yet the cost is comparable to typical curriculum materials alone, and often less.

3. It can be shipped in bulk to churches, or mailed individually to users — at no increase in price.

4. It comes with all those teaching helps mentioned above (free) — including ways to use the material with youth, or even adapting it for children’s sermons.

5. Its content is consistent — there’s no need to worry about whether this month’s or this quarter’s lesson writer will provide quality, readable content that will spark healthy class discussions. For better or worse, I’m the writer, and though I may adopt different approaches to add variety or look at a familiar text from a new angle, readers have a good idea of what they can expect in the lessons.

6. The curriculum is written for Baptists who believe that thinking, learning, and asking questions are good things. This, to me, is the most appealing feature of the curriculum: I am determined not to “dumb it down” or avoid critical questions for fear of offending someone. I write these lessons in the same way I approach teaching my divinity school classes — with the belief that God has given us brains and expects us to use them. I think that’s a very Baptist approach. So, instead of trying to make the lessons more palatable to the broadest common denominator by sidestepping controversial issues, I tell the truth as I understand it. I won’t pretend that I don’t know something or conveniently stay away from thorny questions. I’m generally careful to frame new information as non-threateningly as possible, providing information readers need to make their own judgments about interpretation — but in an informed manner. Our online helps even include an item for each text called “The Hardest Question,” designed as a resource for teachers but available to anyone.

Why does this matter? I often run into people who have attended Sunday school, worship, and Wednesday night Bible study for 50 years (sometimes in moderate Baptist churches) who have never been exposed to standard academic approaches to unraveling the authorship of the Pentateuch, or to the (very important) insight that the Book of Isaiah deals with historical contexts more than 200 years apart and must have had at least two authors. Many faithful Bible students who should have had an opportunity to know better still think the serpent in the garden and the accuser in Job are the same character described in the New Testament as Satan — but they are not. If I know that the first two chapters of Genesis contain two very distinct (and different) creation stories, it’s my job to explain how the stories differ, and what difference it makes for interpretation.

These are just a few among many things about the Bible that informed believers ought to know. I know that some readers (and teachers!) may find it challenging to hear their long-held or cherished assumptions questioned, but I believe the exercise opens the door to an expanding faith, rather than one that hides behind walls of the familiar.

So, if you’d like to know the real skinny on Ruth and Esther, or to understand why David is flawed in 1-2 Samuel but near perfect in 1-2 Chronicles, or to take an honest look at why the four gospels paint differing portraits of Jesus, consider expanding both faith and knowledge with Nurturing Faith.

I think you’ll be glad you did.

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