As our church lives out its mission “to make Christlike disciples in the nations,” it might be a good time to consider classic, traditional faith formation in the church.
Q: I hear our pastor talking about beginning a catechism class. What is catechism anyway? Isn’t it for Catholics? I thought we were more interested as a denomination in getting people sanctified, not just memorizing cold facts about religion. ?
A: Christianity is a faith that in its sanctified expression is a life characterized by a holy heart. Yet it becomes nearly impossible to demonstrate what that life looks like without teaching the faith properly. The challenge to those of us who seek to keep the romance of Christian orthodoxy alive is to model how the living is deeply rooted in the believing.
Well, how does one learn to think and live and love and worship in holy obedience? How does a believer develop the spirit of discernment to uncover false teachers, or to reject a damnable doctrine, or to challenge those even among evangelicals who dismiss the idea that Jesus is the only Savior, or the only Way-Truth-Life, the one Master and Lord?
That is the work of a catechism. And, how do we do this work of catechesis in a world of distractions and self-centeredness, where any authoritative voice is immediately questioned? Personal faith, of course, is vital, but the source of heart understanding is head knowledge. Transformational truth enters the heart by way of one’s understanding (Romans 12:2).
As our church lives out its mission “to make Christlike disciples in the nations,” it might be a good time to consider classic, traditional faith formation (catechism) in the church—teaching to inform, form, and transform both the new believers and the vintage pilgrims who have been on the way for several years. While your question suggests that our tradition has paid scant attention to the need for a formal catechism, perhaps we ought to take a closer look. There is validity in that kind of intentional faith formation, especially when we view it as the necessary partner in a revived commitment to a bold, uncompromising gospel proclamation (kerygma) of our holiness message.
Remember, the mandate of Christ is not simply to instruct for content, but to teach obedience to everything he has commanded (Matthew 28:20). That approach takes seriously our responsibility to disciple every seeker and every believer for the life of holy obedience. A serious commitment to a rightly formed faith among believers is both essential and necessary to sustain the church in its ministries and to fulfill our mission of making authentic, maturing Christlike disciples in the global community.
Merritt J. Nielson is a part of donor development for Nazarene Compassionate Ministries and is working for the Church of the Nazarene on developing a comprehensive faith formation initiative.