Voices

Tackett the teacher

"The Truth Project" goes well beyond mere rhetoric

Issue: "The audacity of real change," Aug. 23, 2008

Del Tackett likes to tease his audience with the question: Is he mostly a public speaker-or is he at heart a teacher? Tackett pretends to leave his listeners with the issue, challenging them sometimes to vote one way or the other. An orator, he says, asks rhetorical questions. A teacher wants real interaction.

Del Tackett certainly understands rhetoric. But if anything in life frustrates him, it's watching something that's important and true get diluted by mere rhetoric. That's why he insisted, over the last four years as he developed "The Truth Project" for Focus on the Family, that the venture not be allowed to become a package that would be marketed, consumed, and then stashed away on a shelf. He insisted instead on burrowing into the consciousness of participants in a life-changing manner.

That means you can't just go buy a copy of the "Truth Project" package. It's not available at bookstores or by mail. Last time I checked you couldn't find it on eBay, either. Basically, you can expose yourself to "The Truth Project" in only two legitimate ways. You can go to a regional training conference-typically involving 350 to 2,500 people for a Friday-and-Saturday session under Tackett and his team. Almost 30 such conferences across the country have attracted more than 20,000 people over the last couple of years-all of them equipped to go out and lead small group sessions with the help of a polished and persuasive 13-­lesson video series.

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But it's primarily through such small group sessions that "The Truth Project" has really exploded. Tackett told me that another 30,000 individuals have taken on the project's content in such settings, with a high percentage so moved that they then volunteer to replicate the cycle in yet another small group that they organize in their church or neighborhood. (I know of one Christian school headmaster who requires every faculty member to work through the series.)

The project's content is a basic, biblical, and sometimes lyrically creative explication of a Christian worldview of all of life. It leads with broad apologetic treatment of the nature of truth, of man, of God, and of revelation. A couple of segments reflect on the impact of modern science on Christian faith. Then Tackett turns to history, sociology, law, and labor, before his final segment on community and compassion-which all by itself is worth the price of admission.

It's clear that "The Truth Project" would never have happened apart from the personal obsession of Del Tackett. A product of mid-America, and raised in a nominal Christian setting, Tackett says he was for many years ­virtually oblivious to really significant truth. As a 20-year veteran of the U.S. Air Force, he found himself in the late '80s and early '90s as a senior staffer in the first Bush White House. Here he was next to the highest seats of power-but increasingly skeptical of the shallow thinking he saw everywhere within the beltway. Such doubts drove him to some serious reading: the original writings of America's founding fathers, the works of Francis Schaeffer, and the Bible itself.

Quickened by such vital thinking, Tackett left the White House and his military career. The Tackett family moved to Colorado Springs, and almost immediately he became involved, as an increasingly aware layman, in the formation of a new theological seminary.

Yet even with 100 students, financial duress at a key point threatened to shut down the seminary. During that discouraging interim, doors opened for Tackett to join the team at nearby Focus on the Family-along with an informal opportunity to lead several top Focus personnel through some of the very worldview material he had been teaching at the seminary. With the encouragement of Don Hodel, who was serving for a few years as Focus ­president, Tackett got a green light to "go national" with the program. Few organizations had Focus' clout-or the required $2 million-to make the project fly.

"The Truth Project" is important, timely, and well done. It's not just unbelievers these days who doubt the existence of truth. Growing numbers of evangelical Christians wilt easily before the assaults of their critics. Here is a tool to help them press the truth claims that ought to be part of every believer's arsenal.

If you have a question or comment for Joel Belz, send it to jbelz@worldmag.com.

Joel Belz
Joel Belz

Joel, WORLD's founder, writes a regular column for the magazine and contributes commentaries for The World and Everything in It. He is also the author of Consider These Things.

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