Nearly twenty years ago when I was preparing to get baptized I went through baptism classes. During those classes we went through a catechism. My church linked baptism and catechism together, but this does not have to be the norm. Apart from my experience, what reasons do (or should) churches today have to study a catechism? Why should we go through an age-old tradition?
Or a better question is: Why are churches not using catechisms? And what effect does this lack have on the congregations?
I cannot answer this for every church or denomination. I can only answer according to what I have seen within the Christian communities that I have been part of over the past decade. Before we can dive into the importance of catechism studies we need to know what its purpose is.
The Oxford Dictionary defines it as (emphasis added):
1. A summary of the principles of Christian religion in the form of questions and answers, used for religious instruction.
1.1 (in Roman Catholic use) religious instruction in general.
1.2 A series of fixed questions, answers, or precepts used for instruction.
Synonyms include: “system of belief, set of principles, statement of beliefs, profession of faith”. (Definitions and synonyms taken from OxfordDictionaries.com).
Here is my answer to “what effect does this lack have on the congregations?”
The patterns that I have seen within today’s churches truly terrifies me. The lack of Bible knowledge and therefore the lack of theological knowledge. God’s Holy Word is our primary source of God communicating to us as His people. If we want to hear what God has to say then we need to read what He has to say. But where in the Bible do we start? Everyone has his/her own answer to this. And for believers it is different than for soon-to-be-believers.
A Christian catechism is a series of questions concerning many aspects of Christian theology (i.e.: what we believe about certain topics as the Bible lays them out). While a catechism will never get a Christian to read through the entire Bible, it does help us understand in simple terms what the Scriptures say about God, creation, sin, redemption, etc.
Why should churches use catechisms? First of all, a proper catechism lays out the questions according to themes or theological concepts. Secondly, a catechism can assist leaders and learners in studying Christian beliefs more effectively. And lastly, a catechism is rooted in Scripture, with a Bible reference backing up each and every answer.
Recently I came across a new catechism for Evangelical Christians, The New City Catechism. This specific catechism is perfect for churches or denominations that do not already have their own catechisms. It is “a modern-day resource aimed at helping children and adults alike learn the core doctrines of the Christian faith via 52 questions and answers.”
What resources does your church use to teach the basics of Christian beliefs? How can studying a catechism change your church? How can it change your life as a true, Bible believing, Christian?