(This is a new series of posts I’m going to be writing as an exposition of the catechism that I’ve written for our church)
If you were to ever visit our church, we’d hand you an “FAQ Sheet” that answers questions people typically have about our church such as “why is your pastoral prayer at the beginning of the service so long?” and “why do you take the Lord’s Supper every week?” and “why do all the children stay in the service with the adults?”. One of those questions has to do with why it is that each week, we have someone come up to the pulpit and ask the congregation a series of questions that we all answer in unison. It’s called a “responsive reading” and the readings that we do come from our “HBC Catechism.” These posts are going to be dedicated to a further exposition of each of our catechism questions, but before that, I thought it’d be good to explain the what, why, and how of a catechism.
WHAT IS A CATECHISM?
If you’ve never heard the phrase before, or have only had limited interaction with the term, you probably immediately think of the Roman Catholic Church. They have a “catechism” that explains everything they believe on every aspect of their faith. But, theirs is not the only catechism, and obviously one coming from a Baptist church is going to be very different than one coming from a Roman Catholic church. (note: I’ll write another post sometime soon on why I never simply say “catholic” but always “Roman Catholic” to denote that specific faith).
The truth is though, that catechisms have a long, healthy, and varied history in the church. In their most basic form, they are simply a systematized way of learning something. What happens is the catechism will ask a question, and then it will give the answer. With biblically based catechism’s they most often will also have scripture references to show where they’re getting their answers. Each question then will build on the previous one, or else build on an even more previous question. An example could be:
What is the speed limit on Highways I44 and I29?
– The speed limit on Highway I44 is 70 miles/hour
And what then is the speed limit on I29?
– The speed limit on Highway I29 is 75 miles/hour
And so on…
So, a catechism then is a systematized way of learning various aspects of the bible. Our catechism specifically is focused on what the gospel is and how it applies to our everyday lives.
WHY DO YOU USE A CATECHISM?
We use a catechism in our corporate worship for the purpose of regularly reminding our members (both old and new) what the essential aspects of God, man, sin, Christ, and christian living are. It takes about a year to get through our catechism, and so we are yearly walking through essential truths of the christian faith in our corporate worship.
We also make this catechism available for our members to use during their own personal study and “family worship” (another blog topic that I need to write!). We have some members that have worked on memorizing our catechism as a way of reminding themselves and their kids essential aspects of the gospel. I’ve seen this used to great avail in other families I’ve known. I remember once I was sitting in on someone else’s bible study, and one of the children asked a question, to which the mom immediately responded with a question from the catechism, and the child answered the question just as quickly. The mom, by putting the kid’s question in “catechism form” was able to remind her son that he already knew the answer to the question he was asking.
So, a catechism is an excellent tool for use in both corporate and private worship.
HOW DID YOU PUT YOUR CATECHISM TOGETHER?
As we were looking through historic catechisms (and there are many) to decide which one would be best for our church to use, I became frustrated that nothing quite met the specific criteria that we were shooting for. But, I also didn’t want to write a catechism from the ground up, knowing that there was plenty of good material already out there. So, instead I began to think about the overall structure that we wanted, and then I went and pulled from a few of the great catechisms out there, and then I supplemented their questions and answers with ones of my own where I wanted to clarify or adjust. So, we have a customized catechism, but it finds most of its questions from the great, historic catechisms of history.
I pulled from catechisms like the “Westminster Shorter Catechism” (and its “Larger” counterpart), the “Heidelburg Catechism”, “Keach’s Catechism”, and the “Baptist Catechism”.
I was also helped in a structural way by the “New City Catechism”, but it follows a very condensed version of the Heidelburg in its actual questions, so the biggest help it offered was in helping me formulate a shorter catechism than those others that I mentioned.
I did write or rewrite a few questions as well, but not very many. Most of it I tried to keep to the historic questions that have stood the test of time.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful by way of introduction, and that you’ll be blessed by the forthcoming expositions!