Noting the culture’s incessant promotion of LGBTQ lifestyles, Kevin DeYoung stated: “The world is already busy promoting its catechism. The only question is whether we will get busy promoting ours.” Given that the world is bombarding us with vain philosophies, shepherding the church through catechizing is as important as ever. To provide clear boundaries and green pastures of truth, elders should prioritize catechizing in the local church.
Catechesis is a method of instruction that involves memorizing doctrinal questions and answers. The two most common catechisms in Reformed churches are the Heidelberg Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. If you do not have a copy, it’s easy to download an app containing them or order copies to be sent to your home. Now, with a catechism in hand, what should you know?
Catechizing is a historical practice of the church. The records of the New Testament and early church show a commitment to systematically teaching biblical truths. Luke wrote to Theophilus to give him “an orderly account” so that he would “have certainty concerning the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:4). The word Luke uses for “taught” is kateche , from which we get the word catechism. History tells us that the early church prepared converts for membership, calling them “catechumens” as they instructed them.
At times in history, catechizing has lagged. Yet the Reformation saw this practice revived, as hundreds of catechisms were developed in different branches of the church. We should receive and gladly use this heritage of concise systematic theology.
Make catechizing part of discipleship. Elders can develop fitting catechizing practices for their congregations. Have catechesis as a regular part of the curriculum of Sunday school. Encourage parents to use the catechism in family worship. Feature a question and answer each week in the bulletin. Develop accountability whereby adults listen as children recite. Give recognition and awards to those who successfully memorize the catechism.
Yet always keep Martin Luther’s words in mind: “Don’t know what was said only, but what was meant.” When catechizing, discuss and apply the truths. No doubt about it—catechizing is hard work. Yet this discipline can be done with joy and anticipation of seeing its rewards.
Revive catechetical preaching. Using the catechism to direct the preaching in the evening services is a wonderful practice faithfully maintained in the Dutch strain of the Reformation. Indeed, the Heidelberg Catechism is organized into fifty-two sections to preach its doctrines annually. It can be helpful when this doctrinal preaching is combined with catechetical instruction among households. Paul told the elders at the church in Ephesus that he was teaching them “in public and from house to house” (Acts 20:20).
As the world seeks to catechize us, may the church counter it with this ancient practice.