Everyone has an idea of what church should be like. Some people are looking for specific traditions or programs they believe the church needs in order for them to attend. Others have a long list of requirements, to the point that they will never find the “perfect” church they are looking for.
So when someone steps into our church they have preconceived ideas of what they expect and don’t expect to see. For some when they enter, there are surprised by some things they did not expect to see at church. They notice we aren’t dressed up – at least not traditionally for church. Even the pastor wears jeans most of the time. They also might notice that we have a full band.
So in many senses one might label our church “contemporary.” Then there are things that don’t fit into that contemporary mold. One of the reasons is that we don’t try to be contemporary just for contemporary’s sake. We try to have a purpose and reason from scripture applied to everything we do in our church service. But the person that enters might wonder why, what they perceive as a contemporary church would use such an outdated method as a catechism?
What is a catechism? A basic understanding of catechism is a list of short sentences defining Christian doctrine. Often catechisms ask a question followed by the answer. It not only provides the biblical answer to many of life’s questions, it also helps spur our memory for the answers. So why would we use a catechism?
We take unity at our church very seriously. How we get there is a long discussion, but one way a church becomes unified is through learning together. Sharing catechism together can help us with that. If we are all learning, memorizing, or talking about the same things – we should be unified in our doctrine.
Often churches struggle with areas of disagreement. The catechism we use has 52 different statements of doctrine. I would say that the majority of our church is unified on almost every single statement. While there may be a couple minor differences between believers, it is a testimony to the majority of doctrines we agree upon.
Another area of our church unity is that all ages of our congregation can learn doctrine together. Too often many churches are running in different directions teaching different topics to a variety of age groups. Catechism is often short and can be memorized by children. In this way children and adults are united as they learn God’s Word together.
A good catechism is doctrinal-based. We often talk about the importance of doctrine order. In other words, there are base doctrines and then secondary doctrines. You cannot learn the secondary doctrines without understanding the foundational doctrines. A good catechism will have an order to doctrine. It will start with the center point of doctrine and work itself out, or have a chronological order to the doctrine as it is revealed throughout Scripture.
One of the toughest parts about teaching scripture is not being able to cover everything. A pastor could spend his life at one church and never cover every book in the Bible. My 2017 teaching schedule covered the 10 Commandments and the Fruit of the Spirit. Our study included several verses in Exodus and a half dozen verses in Galatians. While we covered the basics of what is God’s law and who is the Holy Spirit, we had many topics and passages that spun out from those two series.
You could teach for years and not cover every single major doctrine. The great thing about the catechism is it gives us a basis for covering all of them, even if it’s just a small sentence each week.
Also, most churches have somewhat of a fluidity of attendance. In other words every year there are people in our church that weren’t there the year before. So even though in 2017 I spent weeks teaching on the Holy Spirit, in 2018 there are going to be people who come but did not hear that teaching. It’s not that they will not hear any teaching on the Holy Spirit, but there wasn’t necessarily a major focus on that doctrine for him and the personhood of the Holy Spirit.
A good catechism is a constant reminder of the major doctrines that we hold true. In a year’s time we could be reminded of doctrine that we might not have taught in a while. All the bases are covered.
A church who studies catechism together can work on doctrine together. The idea that some people are coming in during the year who may hear something about doctrines they did not know or may even have been taught something different, provides opportunity for newer people to ask questions of leadership or others who have been around a lot longer about what a church believes. In a year’s time someone can understand the basic doctrines of the church by using a yearly catechism and “catch up” to those who have been around longer.
My last thought addresses families. Many families struggle with the idea of teaching their kids theology. I think a catechism is a great tool in this endeavor to raise children to love God and His Word.
Remember we said before that a catechism is often short. Children often have an easier time than adults memorizing anything. Using a weekly catechism, a family can go from a church service on a Sunday where the catechism was recited as a group and use that throughout the week. They can continue to ask children questions and have them memorize the answers.
Parents who help their children are learning also. If families use the same schedule as the church they won’t get hung up on forgetting about it for a couple weeks and it taking them years to go through one catechism. If you forget about it this week and next week and the third week you come to a new one, just go with that one. If parents spent a decade or more doing this, by the time the children are in high school they could have 52 doctrines memorized. This is a great start for building a theological library in your own mind.
Speaking of a theological library in your mind – a fourth benefit of learning catechism is the theological library at hand. As you’re reading a devotional book or listening to a sermon, you can recall some of the doctrinal basis that goes along with that topic. Maybe the pastor or author mentions something and you were able to understand it better because you have that doctoral basis that you may not have had before.
Do you or your church use a catechism? Can you think of any other benefits of using a catechism? What are some practical steps you could take to implement a catechism into your life?
Thanks for taking time to read this Maddening Theology post. If you enjoyed this content you can find Pastor Tim’s sermons at www.cornerstoneforestcity.org. You can also join us at 520 Marion St. Browndale, PA 18421 on Sundays at 10:45 AM. To make following the blog easier you can also register. You can also join us on Facebook at Cornerstone Forest City. Also, don’t forget to download our APP on iTunes or Googleplay.