Catechising is something that’s not really done any more, at least not in the circles that I have moved in. I wonder if we have lost something by neglecting the practice that the reformers regarded as a key spiritual discipline.
Catechisms through out Christian history have been regarded as an important part of the discipleship of both children and adults. Have we as ‘Evangelicals’ neglected this to the demise of discipleship. Do we even have a an understanding of what discipleship is? It’s interesting to think that the children of a couple hundred years ago were more theologically literate than most of us ‘evangelicals’ today. I’m not claiming that theological literacy is discipleship, however if we long to know and love God then surely learning about His character our responsibility to honour and worship Him is a useful tool in ones spiritual formation.
Historically catechisms were written with at least three purposes. The first was to set forth a comprehensive exposition of the gospel—not only in order to explain clearly what the gospel is, but also to lay out the building blocks on which the gospel is based, such as the biblical doctrine of God, of human nature, of sin, and so forth. The second purpose was to do this exposition in such a way that the heresies, errors, and false beliefs of the time and culture were addressed and counteracted. The third and more pastoral purpose was to form a distinct people, a counter-culture that reflected the likeness of Christ not only in individual character but also in the church’s communal life.
I guess as good ‘Evangelicals’ many of us were taught bible verses as children. Indeed this also is an important practice that perhaps today has been sidelined. I remember many many verses that I was taught around the breakfast table, with my dad banging on the table to keep a rhythm to make it easier for us to learn. I guess at the time I wasn’t the most thankful for him doing this… However now I am incredibly grateful that I am able to recall various verses that i learned all those years ago, particularly helpful in pastoral ministry.
Maybe its about time that we begin to start memorising scripture again. Perhaps we should be thinking about catechising each other…
The good news is that Tim Keller and the guys at the Gospel Coalition have developed a fantastic catechism for both children and adults. Its called the ‘New City Catechism’ There is an iPad app, and the material can be used online (sadly no Android app yet) or downloaded as a pdf.
The New City Catechism is based on the Geneva, Westminster and Heidelberg catechisms and consists of 52 questions, one for each week of the year. The catechisms of the reformations times were much larger but the New City Catechism has been developed especially for the busy family today. For each question there is a prayer, a exposition of the Q and A and a short video reflection.
So have we neglected an important aspect of our Protestant heritage? If you think so, join me in leaning the New City Catechism. It would be good to have others to work learn along side to keep each other accountable in our learning, so if your up for it- do get in touch!