“Catechesis is an education in the faith of children, young people and adults which includes especially the teaching of Christian doctrine imparted, generally speaking, in an organic and systematic way, with a view to initiating the hearers into the fullness of Christian life.”
A few years ago, Christianity Today published some statistics about the lack of knowledge of basic Christian doctrine amongst evangelicals. See: ‘Evangelicals’ Favorite Heresies’.
This data was very eye-opening for me, and solidified my decision to introduce a Christian education program at White Fields which we now call School of Ministry, but which we eventually plan to build into something bigger that will reach beyond our church.
One of the reasons for the lack of knowledge of basic Christian doctrines among evangelicals is that although many evangelical churches have a strong focus on Bible-teaching, oftentimes that teaching is focused on personal application rather than explicit doctrinal instruction and core doctrines are assumed rather than explicitly taught.
It could be argued that if you teach expositionally through the Bible, then all major doctrines will eventually be addressed and taught and a systematic theology will naturally develop. I believe this is true, and it is why I take an expositional and verse-by-verse approach in teaching the Bible in our church. However, I do think that along with an expositional approach to biblical theology, a systematic approach is also important. A systematic approach is when you say, What does the Bible teach about ________? If we’re honest, everyone has a functional systematic theology, although it may change or develop over time, and we employ that systematic theology whenever we approach the Bible expositionally.
For these reasons, we’ve started a foundations class at White Fields. I originally assumed that this class would be attended mostly by new believers and youth, but I’ve been surprised at the amount of interest from people who have been Christians and have been attending church for years, who feel like they need this instruction on the core Christian doctrines.
On a personal level, one thing we’ve started doing in our home with our kids is going through the New City Catechism.
I can already anticipate the question: “Catechism? Isn’t that a Catholic thing?” The answer is: No. The word catechism means “to teach orally”, and “throughout the history of the church, Christians have used catechisms—collections of questions and answers designed for memorization and recitation—to teach others the core doctrines of the faith. The New City Catechism is a modern-day resource aimed at reintroducing this ancient method of teaching to Christians today.”1
There are some great things about the New City Catechism that make it helpful:
- It has a free app for iPhone, iPad and Android, as well as a printed version which can be purchased
- It has 52 questions, designed to be memorized at one per week
- It has a children’s mode, which includes simplified answers and songs to help them learn what is being taught
Our kids enjoy doing it. We do it at the dinner table, and then throughout the week we’ll practice together. I would recommend it as a great tool for individuals and families. If nothing less, it is a way to get yourself or your family focused on, talking about and thinking about Biblical doctrine throughout the week.