Earlier this week, I wrote a post aimed at working towards a common understanding of catechesis. There I defined catechesis as "intentional-teaching-in-foundational-areas-for-formation" and broke down the constituent parts of that definition. If you've not already, I encourage you to check out that post here.
But even if we can stack hands on what catechesis is, we may not agree that it is really all that important. We may be surprised to hear that John Calvin said "...the Church of God will never be preserved without catechesis" (quoted in Packer and Parrett, Grounded in the Gospel p. 23). He obviously thought catechizing was important! The question we need to ask is, what did Calvin see catechesis contributing that was so essential for the preservation of the church? Or, more simply: Why is catechesis important?
Let me suggest at least three practical reasons:
Catechesis helps make the relationship between conversion and discipleship a well-lit path, instead of a confusing maze.
I love that Brookside pursues a passionate heart for those that don't know Jesus AND a goal of maturing the believers in their midst (along with lots of other churches). Any church that doesn't have BOTH of these groups in mind as they minister can quickly become imbalanced. I wonder, though, if the evangelical church, broadly speaking, can assume too much about the transition from disbelief to discipleship. Let's be honest - oftentimes, this transition can have its rough patches. Surely, there's a whole web of things that need to be part of seeing people through this transition well: healthy community, patience on the part of all involved, and of course the ministry of the Holy Spirit. One of the important components in guiding people through this transition toward discipleship is some form of instruction (can I say "catechesis"?) to help re-set the trajectory of a life that had been lived for self, that is now lived for, with, and under Christ.
J.I. Packer and Gary Parrett reinforce this point effectively: "The warrant for catechesis is quite simply the fact that Christian belief and behavior, being strange and alien to fallen human nature, have to be learned" ("The Return to Catechesis" in Renewing the Evangelical Mission. ed by Richard Lints. p. 112, emphasis original).
Catechesis Is an Important Component of Leadership Development
There's lots of things to build into leaders: Vision, core values, an awareness of healthy processes to be used in various situations, emotional intelligence, and more. Please don't hear me say catechesis is the only thing to build into leaders. And yet one of the things I think most of us want is healthy leaders who have a strong foundation in essential areas of the Christian faith - essential areas like the basics of Bible study, a high-level understanding of orthodox Christian theology, and an awareness of what a formed Christian life looks like (and what contributes to that). How do we cultivate that in leaders? The answer is intentional teaching in foundational areas for formation. The answer is catechesis.
Catechesis Helps Preserve the Faith and Protect the Church
Simply put, catechesis helps keep the main things the main things, and therefore helps preserve the "faith once for all entrusted to God's holy people" (Jude 3). Strategy and ministry philosophy may get tweaked or overhauled over the course of time. But the gospel that the Apostle Paul received and passed on as of first importance (1 Corinthians 15:3) stays the same. The truth that God's Word is true (John 17:17), and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training (2 Timothy 3:16) keeps us tethered to the text for our lives and our teaching.
Continually returning to these foundational truths (and others) - and considering their implications for our lives and our ministry - helps preserve the faith in our generation as we seek to faithfully pass it along to the next. These foundational truths help protect the church from error, imbalance, and drift. In short, catechesis can help preserve the faith and protect the church.
Why would you say catechesis is important - in your own words? What practical benefits does it offer?
Christian. Husband. Father. Pastor. Learner. Contributor. Reader.