MACON, Ga. (ABP) — Baptists Today, a monthly publication launched in 1982 as a flagship newspaper for moderates opposing conservatives for control of the Southern Baptist Convention, is retooling with features including a weekly Lectionary-based Bible study beginning with the June issue.
Adult Bible studies will be written by Tony Cartledge, associate professor of Old Testament at Campbell University Divinity School and Baptists Today contributing editor. A shorter, youth Bible study based on the Bible research by Cartledge will be included.
Teacher helps will be carried online at no cost, including lesson video summaries. Rick Jordan, CBF North Carolina church resources coordinator, will prepare the teaching guides.
Formed as an independent alternative to denominational newspapers controlled by Baptist state conventions, Baptists Today decided in 1989 to expand into alternative Sunday school material to curriculum from what was then the Baptist Sunday School Board and today LifeWay Christian Resources, whose lessons were taking a decidedly fundamentalist bent.
In the early 1990s Baptists Today shifted to teacher support for a new curriculum line called Formations by Smyth and Helwys, an upstart company formed to publish books and study materials for churches no longer served by fare coming from the SBC.
The Atlanta-based Cooperative Baptist Fellowship has subsidized publication of commentaries on Formations curriculum in Baptists Today – for many years written by CBF Coordinator Cecil Sherman – in order to provide a “solid Bible study” curriculum for use by moderate Baptists, said Bo Prosser, CBF coordinator of congregational formation. Prosser said that support will continue, and it is up to the editorial board of Baptists Today to determine which curriculum to carry.
Darrell Pursiful, editor of Formations, said the curriculum line written by Brett Younger and Judson Edwards is “going strong” and will continue to be published.
Pursiful said he appreciated the exposure Formations enjoyed via commentary for the series in Baptists Today, but “They’re making the decisions they think they need to make to increase their readership.”
“We’re going to continue to publish the best curriculum we know how to publish and get it into as many churches as we can,” Pursiful said.
David Cassady, former publisher and executive vice president at Smith and Helwys and now founder of FaithLab, will write the youth curriculum.
The Revised Common Lectionary is based on the Christian year and is a series of texts, repeated every three years, that came into common Christian use over the centuries. It offers four texts each week and Cartledge said he chooses one on which to base his lessons.
Basing curriculum on the Lectionary means those who choose to use it will be studying the same text as “thousands of churches around the world” adding to “solidarity and community among churches,” Cartledge said.
The curriculum will be published in the magazine, which has a circulation of about 10,000. There are no current plans to publish the curriculum separately.
John Pierce, executive editor of Baptists Today, hopes the new curriculum will be an incentive for increased circulation. An individual subscription is $20 annually, with $2 to $5 discounts for volume.
Pierce recognizes that offering a new curriculum means, “we’re joining a whole bunch of stuff already out there.” But, he said, Baptists Today’s offering of curriculum with a Baptist perspective based on the Lectionary is unique.
Pierce said the effort is “putting Bible study in the context of daily news.”
“The Bible studies form the content for learning in the context for living,” he said. In the transition Baptists Today will expand from 40 pages to 44 and be printed in full color.
Norman Jameson is reporting and coordinating special projects for ABP on an interim basis. He is former editor of the North Carolina Biblical Recorder.