My daughter Lily just turned one the other day and it sparked a conversation in my house about how we were going to educate, not just her but future children we may have. I grew up in a Christian home where Sunday worship attendance was not an option. I can remember vividly being forcefully dragged to church more than once dressed in my blue superman footie pajamas. While this was true from age 0-18 for me (the dragging not the footie pajamas), my wife on the other hand, did not grow up in a particularly Christian home. Her upbringing involved church attendance but it was spotty at best and often entailed going to a Southern Baptist church with her paternal grandfather one week, toddling off to a United Methodist church another week with her maternal grandmother, and every now and then departing with her father to a Presbyterian church the next with many missed weekends in between. Yet one thing we came to realize despite our wildly different attendance patterns at Sunday worship growing up was that neither of us received any consistently direct instruction from our parents in between Sundays (at least until I was in communicants class that is, my mother tried to catechize me in 6 weeks!). Also being that I am studying for the ministry and my wife had a post-high school conversion we speculated on the relative importance of parents catechizing their children. I mean we turned out o.k. right?
This is of course not the point. The mere fact that we are where we are today is by the grace of God not by any direct causation of our lack of mid-week parental instruction. We decided then as we did not have any contemporary examples of family catechizing that we would look to ,as many of my fellow compatriots have begun to do, look back at a time before our parents, even our grandparents, for a day in the past where it was common, strike that, expected that parents would catechize their children at home. What we found in a seemingly odd way was to prove the old adage true. 100 years ago atheists knew more about Scripture and doctrine than we ourselves do today. This caused us quite a lot of soul-searching and wailing with gnashing of teeth thereby causing us to come to the realization that catechizing our children was not just something were going to do but something we had to do.
Our next challenge was seeking out how to catechize our children. While we thought about just using the shorter catechism and “dumbing it down” we thought it would be better to seek professional help. We found up-to-date catechisms that look great and we also found old tried and true books that my grandfather mailed to me. While we look to study up ourselves before the kid(s) get old enough to teach we have made it a little mission of ours in our “community” to help parents understand the importance of family devotions and catechizing sessions not just for mere instruction but for the health of the family because there is a lot of truth to the old saying, “The Family that Prays together stays together.”
I am currently reading two wonderful books as a distraction to the Greek class I am taking this summer (by the way Greek is 100 times easier for me than Hebrew). Here they are:
The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination
by Loraine Boettner
This book is an excellent resource for pastors looking for help in teaching the “laity” about the Reformed Doctrine of Predestination, just like the title implies :). It is in an easy to understand format with more than enough Scripture references to keep you busy for hours. Boettner’s prose is light and gives even the most basic reader no troubles. He even includes chapters on the most common critiques of Predestination by Arminians and others to enable your congregations the ability to fight off attacks from their neighbors.
The Selling Out of the Evangelical Church?
ed. by Michael Horton
w/ essays by Charles Colson, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, Alister McGrath, and others.
A work that gives a detailed and disciplined polemic against the so-called “power gospel” that is currently infesting the “Evangelical” world. Although the book was written way back in the mid-90’s it is
eerily current and equally full of keen insights and bothersome revelations about the future of the American Church.
Preaching as a Sacrament
Those of us being ordained in the Presbyterian Church are going to be called Ministers of the Word and Sacrament. But what is the Word and why are we going to be ministers of it? The Second Helvetic Confession (the second confession in our Book of Confessions) defines Word as being the canonical books of the Old and New Testament as the Church has held it in esteem for two thousand years. But the Second Helvetic Confession goes one step further when speaking of the ministers relation to the Word when at the top of the fourth paragraph of the first chapter it says these words, “The Preaching of the Word is the Word of God.” . How does that strike you? Let the words sink in for a moment…what are you feeling? Pressure maybe? Do you believe this? That the words that you hear on a Sunday morning are the words of God? The question we must ask ourselves is how do we value the 15-20 minute sermon during worship when we check our text messages and examine the persons head in front of us or count the number of fleur-de-leis on the back wall. Do we hold preaching with the same value as the writer of the 2nd Helvetic? Maybe if we did we would expect more than simple stories and clichés from our pulpits fit more for a nice speech at the Rotary or the Lions Club than for true exposition from Scripture. We have coddled our minds to believe that the sermon is not meant as a time for learning or teaching from Scripture about the will God has for us in our lives but as an occasion for mere moralistic tales of “practical life” receding the original presentation of Scripture. The call today is supposedly for an orthopraxis (right work) not an orthodoxy (right doctrine) focus of the Christian worldview. We live in a time of anti-intellectualism in the Church where we want pastors to give us a system of right action not a system of right belief. It is the position of the Confessions and creeds of our church that this is not the correct way to receive the Word. The Westminster Shorter Catechism in questions 88-90 and the Westminster Larger Catechism in questions 155-160 share with the 2nd Helvetic this same view of Scripture and the preaching from thereof. You may be asking now what does this have to do with me? What is required of me in the exposition of the Word? Question 160 of the Larger Catechism calls for the persons in the pew to approach the Word with “diligence, preparation, and prayer, examine what they hear by the Scriptures (alone), receive the truth with faith, love, meekness and readiness of mind, as the Word of God.” The question is asked then how can anyone do this if they are not paying attention to or actually receiving from the pulpit the reading and exhibition of the Word?