Why Should Churches Use Catechisms?

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?

 

Genesis 1-11, Cultural Context

Genesis is thousands of years before our present. The first major sections (chapters 1-11) has next to no information of their culture. From the passages we can gleam that they had a civilization, society, art, and metal work (Genesis 4:21-22). Apart from what the Bible tells us we know nothing of how their day-to-day life was before the flood.

“The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Genesis 6:5, ESV).

How is this an aspect of culture? Culture is the worldview of a people group: how they think, what they believe, and how they behave is respect to the world around them. The culture is the primeval world was filled with evil. To be honest it was not that different than later biblical periods or even compared to our age. “Everyone did what was right in his own eyes” Judges 21:25b. The original audience of the Torah (Genesis-Deuteronomy) knew all too well how rebellious people can be, even when they had the blessing of seeing God at work before their eyes. Half of the kings of Judah and all of the kings of Israel had led their people into evil.

The cultural context here is one that repeats throughout human history: sin and judgement.

When we get to Exodus we will look at the cultural context of the original audience as we study the contexts of their own stories found in Exodus through Deuteronomy.

 

Prayer Challenge Eighty-Four

DEVOTIONAL: For though we walk in the flesh, we are not waging war according to the flesh. For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ.” 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, ESV.

CHALLENGE: Praying disciples are not perfect disciples; they are obedient disciples. Watching the news or reading the headlines from around the world we see that evil is everywhere and is only getting worse. We cannot stand on the sidelines and expect the next Christian “prayer warrior” to fight the battle with prayer. We cannot allow our pastors or ministers to wage the war on behalf of his congregation alone. As the Apostle Paul said to the church at Corinth, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of flesh but of divine power…” (emphasis added). As Christians we are disciples, as disciples we are in the spiritual war together.

The Holy Spirit equips us to fight, and our weapon is prayer. Praying with authority is the greatest weapon the enemy fears. J. Oswald Sanders describes prayer as the “most formidable and potent in our conflict with ‘the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms’ (Ephesians 6:12).”

What gives us the power to pray with authority? The Scriptures can help. But above all, a relationship with our Lord and Saviour and a faith that He will do what He says He will do. What is standing our your way of praying with authority to “fight the good fight” (1 Timothy 6:12a)?

The Study: Update

Over the past many months I’ve been reading and posting on the introduction to Genesis 1-11, based on the New American Commentary, volume 1A. There are over 100 pages of information on various academic fields on the background of Genesis and how we got the version we have now.

This coming month this study will be looking at the various types of context that we looked at last summer. The format of “In God’s Holy Word: The Study” will look different than what it has been so far. Questions will be posted with the idea being that anyone should be able to use any commentary series and/or and study Bible to find the contextual answers. Applying the Scriptures to a personal level will be based on the contexts and personal conviction.

 

Prayer Challenge Eighty-Three

DEVOTIONAL: As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” 1 Peter 2:4-5, ESV.

CHALLENGE: As Christians we are Christ’s disciples; as disciples of Christ we need to be training to become like Him. In order to be trained we require communication between the trainer and the trainee. As Christians we do this through reading the Bible (God to us) and prayer (us to Him). J. Oswald Sanders touches on this in chapter 13,”The Disciple’s Prayer Life”, of his book Spiritual Discipleship. Being a disciple means to be in the thick of things, during the good times and the bad times. God want us to come to Him no matter what situation we find ourselves in. That is the blessed gift of prayer, we can go before our High Priest. Sanders describes prayer as “an amazing paradox. In is a blend of simplicity and profundity. It can be agony or an ecstasy. It can focus on a single objective, or it can roam the world.”

“To the maturing disciple, God’s interests will always be paramount.” How are we praying? What or whose interests are paramount in our prayer lives? Are we praying like the Master prayed in the Gospels?

 

Prayer Challenge Eighty-Two

DEVOTIONAL: “Then he said to his disciples, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.’” Matthew 9:37-38, ESV.

CHALLENGE: Praying for the church and praying for revival. The Great Awakening of the 1700’s began with prayer: a small town in Germany did not necessarily pray for change in the world around them, but for change within their church (see page 217-218, The Battle Plan for Prayer). When “dissension and infighting” turns to “joy, unity” within the church people around us begin to see “the mighty power of the Holy Spirit” at work. This was the beginning of the modern missionary movement that converted John and Charles Wesley as well as Jonathan Edwards.

“Ordinary people praying in extraordinary fashion.” This has happened throughout the ages, from the apostles to the Great Awakening. Kendrick says this is our prayer. “For you, for us, for the church, for the world. And ultimately for the glory of God.” How are we continuing praying in such a fashion?

If we desire for revival around us, for Christian revival in the world, we need to pray for the Holy Spirit to work in us and through us. “There’s no reason why we can’t see God’s Spirit poured out in abundance on us…” “There’s no reason why we can’t see” transformation of the “whole cultural landscape” around us.

Pray for the harvest. Pray that labourers heed Jesus’ call. Pray that we hear and obey the call to be labourers in the God’s harvest.

Prayer Challenge Eighty-One

DEVOTIONAL: “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior.” 1 Timothy 2:1-3, ESV.

CHALLENGE: In the twenty-first century praying for our authorities can be stressful, or, on the other hand, we just do not do it for personal reasons. News headlines are full of anti-this or anti-that protests, marches or books being released. Instead of praying, generally speaking, we are complaining that we didn’t get our way.

Kendrick opens chapter 33 of The Battle Plan for Prayer with the following two statements: “Actions and decisions made by people in authority create a significant impact on those within their sphere of influence—both good and bad.” “Our authorities either help us in doing the will of God, or they make it harder for us to pursue.”

Kendrick talks about government and how we should pray for them. By doing so we are obeying God our Father.

Whether it is local/city, provincial/state or federal governments, they all are in place for a reason. Kendrick also adds other forms such as “supervisors, parents, officials, law enforcement”. And to top that off “most of us also represent some kind of authority.

Do we want those beneath us to constantly be in rebellion? If we as non-elected authority figures desire peace and obedience, how much more do those in elected office deserve to control a peaceful and respectful country?

Let us pray for those who are in power over us, as well as those who we hold authority over. Pray for our respective nation, each other’s countries, and the world.