Monday, 14 May 2018

Recovering the Lost Art and Practice of Catechising

What do think of when you hear the word "catechise"? Perhaps for some they think of nothing because they are located in a part of the church which does not use the word "catechise". For others, what do they think? For some this is something restricted to family worship, where parents pass on the Westminster Shorter Catechism to children, but is catechising primarily for children? The answer is no, it is not primarily for children, though they are not excluded.

The church needs to recover the passing on the Christian faith by teaching the faith. We have two magnificent catechisms, the Shorter and Larger Westminster Catechisms and "the dust needs to be
blown off them", as it were, metaphorically speaking. With the new edition of the Westminster Standards for Today published by EP, there is a new format which is fresh, accessible and easy to use. Let us all "jump into the river" of catechising, no matter what kind of church you are part of. This includes catechising for yourself. The question and answer format of the Westminster Larger Catechism means we can examine ourselves more clearly and objectively and enjoy the process as you learn more of the Christian gospel.

Lamentations 5:21-25 is a timely prayer: "Restore us to yourself, O LORD, that we may be restored!
Renew our days as of old— unless you have utterly rejected us, and you remain exceedingly angry with us".


We want to return to the ancient paths. John Calvin when he published the Catechism of the Church of Geneva stated that in its dedication that this catechism was "nothing else than the use of things which from ancient times were observed by Christians and the true worshippers of God, and which were never laid aside until the Church was wholly corrupted".

The Rev Ronald Christey recounted: "There was a day in Scotland — the best days, some folk think — when a minister or a catechist gathered families together in a home and catechised them — probed their understanding and experience of Scriptural truth, encouraged them to express themselves. Such catechetical instruction was a source of spiritual strength. Where is that done now? Hardly anywhere".

Jeremiah 6:16 'Thus says the LORD: “Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it’ ".

Monday, 7 May 2018

Teaching the Westminster Larger and Shorter Catechisms

One of my life goals is to disseminate the Westminster Standards as widely as possible. By this I am especially referring to the Westminster Confession of Faith along with the two Catechisms. Without doubt, one of the greatest needs today is for doctrinal teaching. This also includes the need for reformed churches to teach the people in the church the truths of the Westminster Confessions.

People can never be expected to simply imbibe truth, but we all need constant positive teaching. Indeed the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church requires this as he gave his commission at the end of Matthew's Gospel:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20).

Make disciples ... and teaching go "hand in hand" and teaching means to actively and positively instruct. Preaching is part of worship and indeed it is intended to be the high point of worship. However, there is the need for the church's office bearers to pass on the content of the Christian faith to the church in detail as well. This is why there are many different words for preaching and teaching in the New Testament.

Some of the main verbs for passing on information by authorised office bearers are:

To preach (kērussō)- which means to declare or to herald the truth of God like the representative of a king. This word occurs more than 60 times in the New Testament.

To evangelise (euangelizō)- this word means to bring good news or to announce good news. It is commonly used in connection to the bringing forth of the gospel (Romans 1:1, 1:9, 1:16).

To witness (martureō)
- this verb means to bear witness to facts and it is from this Greek word that we also get the word martyr. However, this verb is concerned with testifying to the facts of the gospel, namely the facts of the death, burial, resurrection, ascension and second coming of Jesus Christ.

To teach (didaskō) - as already mentioned this is a different word from the verb to preach. To teach means to spell out in no uncertain manner, the truth of the gospel, so that people can understand. It is not simply heralding, but in explaining truths.

To preach and teach using a catechetical method (katēcheō): This is found in Luke 1:4 which records "you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught" and the word taught is the word to catechise. This important Greek word means "to impart information" (Luke 1:4, Acts 18:25, 21:21, 21:24) and "to instruct" (Romans 2:18, 1 Cor 14:19, Gal 6:6). It is the work of the church in relation to this Greek word that I most want to highlight in this blog post.
Here are some questions for all of us to consider.

What are we doing in the church to impart the information of the church's apostolic doctrine, as summarised in the Westminster Standards?
How can we find avenues to impart this information in the church?
What opportunities can we create in the church's monthly calendar to impart the information of the Westminster Larger and shorter catechisms?

This is my prayer for the rich content of the Christian faith to be passed onto church members. Let us pray for this to happen in our own generation.