The Art of Catechism
One of the beautiful things about the church is that we have 2000 years of history to call back on. That’s 2000 years of saints gathering together in the name of Jesus, taking communion together, and baptizing those that have professed faith. As 21st century Christians, we can easily miss the fact that church history is rich with lessons for us to learn from our brothers and sisters who have gone before us.
One such thing is the art of catechesis. As I mentioned last week during our weekend gatherings – the practice of catechesis can be traced back to the first century as a means that the church used for teaching Biblical doctrine. We must remember that the early church was likely made up of mostly illiterate men and women. Thus, the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, found in Matthew 6:9-13, and of the apostles creed (which was likely used as early as the second century) are just two such examples of the church using memorization and recitation as a means for holding onto the truth of the Scriptures. Catechism was heavily used in monasteries after the 6th century, which were responsible for raising up many Christians who then went forth to evangelize throughout all of Europe (the monastic movement had a HUGE impact in the spreading of God’s kingdom). Fast forward another five centuries, and catechism was at the heart of the protestant reformation as Martin Luther (and others) sought to solidify the truths of the Scriptures in the hearts of those who had broken away from the catholic church.
In short – catechism is simply a way of rehearsing, reciting, and remembering the doctrines of: God, His plan of Salvation, and His church. We hope to implement it as a tool precisely because it’s incredibly valuable to know the doctrines of God that come from the Scriptures. It’s why we as a church have a doctrinal statement (if you’ve never read it, you should! It’s here on our website) – because we believe there is objective truth from the Scriptures, and we have a conviction about what those truths are from careful study of the Word.
Furthermore, catechesis is a way of indoctrinating us! That may sound like a negative thing. The term “indoctrinate” has a negative connotation in our culture – almost synonymous with “brainwashing.” But let us not forget that the world is trying HARD to indoctrinate you and your children – it’s just hidden under the guise of a news outlets, school curriculums, Tweets, TikTok influencers, and YouTube channels. The church is a place where the ideologies of the world are dispelled as myths and truth is taught from the one source where it all comes from: the Scriptures. Thus, the use of catechism as a way of indoctrinating us is, in fact, a wonderful thing for our souls and the souls of our children.
I am looking forward to using the tool of catechism with you in the coming year(s) to continue the work of the saints throughout history in filling our minds with the things of God. The New City Catechism, which we’ll be using every week, has some great free resources for your own personal memorization and study (including kids songs for each question). You can find the free app for your phone here, along with their website here. In addition, you can access the New City Catechism Devotional Guide here, which has further commentary on each question, for those who are interested. I would encourage you to make these short statements a part of your weekly rhythm of devotions – and if you’re in a season of childrearing, to use this as a resource to train up your children to know what they believe and why.
In His Mercy,
Pastor Ryan Aufenkamp
We will also include the questions from each previous and upcoming week here in the update below.