“What’s a Ligonier?”
We receive many questions at our conference events. One of my favorites is: “What’s a Ligonier?” That one is fairly easy to answer, and it’s my joy to recount the almost forty-year history of how God has used Dr. Sproul and this ministry.
The short answer is that the ministry began in a small town called Ligonier in western Pennsylvania. Dr. Sproul was born and raised in the Pittsburgh area, so it was natural for him to begin his public ministry there. Focus groups or marketing consultants surely did not pick “Ligonier” as the name for a Christian media organization with global impact. No one can accuse us of being seeker-sensitive when it comes to picking a name for this ministry.
Born in a time of turmoil
A longer answer to “What’s a Ligonier?” comes when we look at Dr. Sproul’s purpose when the ministry was begun as the Ligonier Valley Study Center in 1971. Remember that the zeitgeist of the 1960s had popularized rampant relativism, in effect accelerating the secularization of culture and liberalism in the church. Thus, the study center was born as a place to equip Christians to be articulate and effective in their defense of classical Christianity. And hundreds of students came to live and learn among the Sprouls and other teachers. It was there that the messages of the series The Holiness of God were first delivered.
I’d call that Ligonier 1.0, because it quickly became apparent that the Lord had more in mind for the teaching fellowship of R.C. Sproul. As he taught, new forms of media and communication were rapidly developing. While the ministry’s use of radio was still a few years away, the rise of “radical” new technologies such as audio cassettes and Beta/VHS presented the ministry with a whole new audience beyond the confines of the study center.
Students studied resources delivered by the mail, and the growth was explosive. Adding to the growing national following was the birth of Tabletalk magazine in 1977. The distance learning aspect of Ligonier quickly eclipsed the regional campus, so in the early ‘80s, Ligonier relocated to Orlando to accommodate the growth. We did this all while Dr. Sproul continued to pour his academic life into students through service at the seminary level. In 1985, The Holiness of God was published, followed by Chosen By God in 1986. Nineteen eighty-eight saw our first national Reformed theology conference. And the pace of growth kept going throughout the ‘90s into the present. In 1994, we began our international radio broadcast, Renewing Your Mind. In 1995, The Reformation Study Bible was first published, originally as the New Geneva Study Bible. Reformation Trust Publishing began in 2006 to maintain our focus to serve learners with trustworthy Christian books from contemporary authors. Much of our activity today focuses on strengthening the outreach of our core teaching ministries and harnessing new communication technology, while at the same time returning to our study-center roots with the new Ligonier Academy campus.
Why we exist
We exist to proclaim, teach, and defend the holiness of God to as many people as possible. God’s holiness is essential to understanding His character. When we rightly know the character of our Creator, we know who we are as creatures. Our vision is to propagate biblical Christianity throughout the world and see it flourish in the church. We believe that the best and most biblical expression of Christianity is found in the emphases coming out of the Protestant Reformation. The world-shaping impact of Reformed theology includes a desire for revival, but goes far beyond it. We want to see hearts and wills conquered so that Christians are equipped to effect change in every sphere in which God places them — in the church, in their homes, and in culture.
Look at Isaiah 6. The Lord reveals Himself to Isaiah and, for the first time in his life, Isaiah knows who Isaiah is. To what end? So that Isaiah would then proclaim the great and awesome name of God Most High to his generation. We are not redeemed so that we hoard the truth and bury our treasure. Rather, we are saved to spend — to spend our lives for the sake of God and His purposes in this world. Once we bow the knee to the Lord Jesus Christ, repent, and flee to Him as our only righteousness, we are propelled back into the world, back to proclaim His holiness to as many people as possible. Our greatest encouragement is when we meet people who our Lord has reached with His truth and hear how it is being put into practice in their lives.
This is why the mission of Ligonier endures: because just as the fundamental problem of the sinfulness of humanity endures, God’s Word endures, ever relevant, ever piercing to the root of our deepest need. Our prayer is that Ligonier, through our many outreaches, would be used by the Holy Spirit to equip you and generations to come to know the God of the Bible and, by His grace, change the world.
Chris Larson is president of Ligonier Ministries.