Known as the “Ligonier Valley Study Center” at its founding, Ligonier Ministries has unearthed and applied the historic truth of Scripture through the lens of the Reformed tradition since 1971.
Settled in Ligonier, Pennsylvania, in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains, the Ligonier Valley Study Center was founded in 1971 by Dr. R.C. Sproul, remembered today as a giant of the Reformed tradition. Sproul launched the center at the urging of ministry leaders in the Pittsburgh area to create a forum for brothers and sisters in Christ to gather for deep instruction on the Word of God.
In 1984, under Sproul’s leadership, Ligonier Valley Study Center was renamed as Ligonier Ministries and relocated to Orlando, Florida, to expand the ministry’s reach. In 1994, Sproul took his message to the airwaves with the “Renewing Your Mind” broadcast, making in-depth Bible teaching from the Reformed perspective accessible to listeners nationwide.
Sproul’s leading biographer points to the simplicity and effectiveness of Sproul’s process. “[Sproul] had a chalkboard, and he had chalk, and with that, he created these 22-minute lectures. That was the program,” said Ligonier Ministries chief academic officer Dr. Stephen Nichols. Nichols is the author of R.C. Sproul: A Life, a 400-page work released in 2021.
“[Sproul] was a teacher that God blessed and gifted with a wonderful mind and introspective communication skills, a man in awe of the holiness of God,” Nichols said. Sproul passed away in 2017.
After more than fifty years in operation, Ligonier seeks to preserve its late founder’s vision: to make theology accessible to everyone, defend the inerrancy of Scripture, proclaim the Christian faith globally, and recognize the holiness of God. Ligonier’s activities are all rooted in its mission––“proclaiming, teaching, and defending the holiness of God in all its fullness to as many people as possible.”
“Our vision and mission is to proclaim the holiness of God in all its fullness––that is the theological center that we must be faithful to. But then our mission statement ends with ‘to as many people as possible,’” said Nichols. “That is an animating principle for us to be constantly looking at––how do we reach new audiences with new technologies?”
The guiding light of its mission statement has allowed a traditional ministry like Ligonier to leverage the latest technologies to reach all demographic audiences. Nichols called on Christian organizations and networks to be “strategic” by combining “edgy technological adoption” while still upholding and affirming “very solid, conservative theological commitments.”
“We are in the 2020s, and we know the challenges, we know the complexities that we face. We know how out of step our Christian convictions are with our own American culture,” said Nichols. “This is a time for teachers of the church to teach. This is a time to help Christians know that they can find the answers to these things in God’s word. And we can stand on these Christian convictions.”
Since 2014, Ligonier, in partnership with Lifeway Research, generates a bi-yearly survey on the nation’s “State of Theology,” capturing data on what Americans collectively believe regarding God, salvation, ethics, and Scripture. The study is aimed at helping Christians “better understand today’s culture and to equip the church with better insights for discipleship,” and offers a valuable tool for Christian communicators in developing a framework for the distribution of Gospel-centered programming. Nichols pointed to Sproul’s go-to broadcasting rule: “Know your audience as the first rule of speech.”
Some of the study’s findings are sobering. Nathan W. Bingham, vice president of engagement and new host of “Renewing Your Mind” beginning in early March, said theological confusion in the culture is to be expected, but Christian communicators should be “shocked by the gross denials and distortions of God’s attributes and the clarity of His Word.”
“This is a wake-up call for every teacher and preacher of God’s Word. Right doctrine should never be secondary, for when it is, knowing who God is, becomes secondary, and that has eternal consequences,” Bingham said.
The study results demonstrate the need for Christians not to retreat from the culture, but to arm themselves with truth for the battle that awaits. Reflecting on Acts 20:27 and the apostle Paul’s time with the Ephesian elders, Nichols pointed to a common error amongst Christian media––failure to teach the whole counsel of God.
“We gravitate towards those portions of Scripture that we like and resonate with,” said Nichols—but in cherry-picking biblical truths, Christians fail in their objective. In Sproul’s early years as a minister, he was known to place a notecard in front of him while preparing sermons with a reminder: You must teach what the Bible says, not what you want the Bible to say.
“Christian broadcasting covers many topics and many areas of life, but we must not shortcut theology and go straight to some form of application,” Bingham reflected. “To parent well, to vote well, to live all of life well, we must first know who God is—and that’s why Dr. Sproul founded Ligonier Ministries. The Christian faith is reasonable, and it can stand up against the skeptics and ideologies of today.”
Sproul’s impact was due not only to his commitment to integrity in Bible teaching, but his excellence as a communicator. “He really, as a communicator, had a way of sort of reaching across the microphone and talking to people directly,” said Nichols. “I think it wasn’t a technique. I think it was something that flowed from R.C. genuinely caring about people and genuinely having an interest in people.”
Over half a century, Ligonier’s scope of impact has expanded from equipping Christians at a study center in Pennsylvania, to placing biblical teaching in the hands of every nation.
“We recognize that we are no longer an English-first ministry. . . One of our big projects that we’re very excited about is pursuing the top 20 major languages in the world,” said Nichols.
In addition to Ligonier’s global initiatives, the media ministry is pouring into the next generation through apologetics conferences, digital resources, and hands-on instruction at Reformation Bible College, which Nichols leads.
“We know that young people, twelve to 20, are dealing with really complex issues that get to the heart of Christian faith and Christian convictions,” said Nichols. “We want to equip them to be able to answer those questions.”
The ministry’s teaching fellowship, which includes Dr. Sinclair Ferguson, W. Robert Godfrey, Steven Lawson, Dr. Stephen Nichols, Burk Parsons, and Derek Thomas, publishes and teaches through Ligonier resources such as Renewing Your Mind and other podcasts, the Reformation Study Bible, Tabletalk magazine, books, and hundreds of teaching series. The ministry offers academic degrees through Reformation Bible College, hosts regional, national, and international conferences, offers an online learning community through Ligonier Connect, streams 24-hour Christian internet radio through RefNet, answers biblical and theological questions with Ask Ligonier, leads translation efforts around the world, and publishes thousands of unique resources at Ligonier.org.
Shortly before his passing in 2017, Sproul spoke at the NRB International Christian Media Convention to deliver a historic charge to Christian communicators to stand upon the Word of God.
“If we want to see an awakening in our time; if we want to see a new Reformation in our time, what we’re going to have to see are Christians whose consciences have been captured by sacred Scripture and can say, ‘Here we stand. We can do no other,’” Sproul said.
Ligonier Ministries has been an NRB member since 1993. In 2016, Sproul was inducted into the NRB Hall of Fame—NRB’s most prestigious award presented to an individual NRB member for “invaluable contribution to the field of Christian communications, exhibition of the highest standards, and evidence of faithfulness in Christ.”