Author Archives: trh@midrivers.com

Review of Luther’s Catechism Comes to America, by James S. Hamre

Hamre, J.S. (1984) ‘Luther’s Catechism Comes to America: Theological Effects on the Issues of the Small Catechism Prepared In or For America Prior to 1850. By Repp Arthur C., Metuchen Sr., New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1982. American Theological Library Association Monograph Series 18. xiv + 297 pp.’, Church History, 53(1), p. 144. doi: 10.2307/3166041.

Luther’s Catechism Comes to America: Theological Effects on the Issues of the Small Catechism Prepared In or For America Prior to 1850. By Arthur C. Repp, Sr. Metuchen, New Jersey: Scarecrow Press, 1982. American Theological Library Association Monograph Series 18. Xiv + 297 pp. $22.50.

This book is significant primarily because of its focus: it directs attention to the “day-to-day working theology” in Lutheran congregations by discussing the issues of Luther’s Small Catechism used in America from the colonial period to 1850. It thus provides one mode for the study of what Martin Marty, the writer of the foreword, calls “the mentality of ordinary believers.” This type of monograph can add an important dimension to our understanding of religion in America.

Prior to 1850 Luther’s Small Catechism was prepared in or for America primarily in two languages: German and English. There was considerable variety in the publications. Repp discusses 29 German and 30 English catechisms that made their appearance in America. They can often be seen as giving expression to or reacting against such movements and practices as pietism, orthodoxy, rationalism, “American Lutheranism,” and New Measures revivalism. The arrangement of the contents of a catechism and the materials published with it frequently provide an indication of the theological perspective incorporated in it. Repp evaluates the various versions in terms of their faithfulness to Luther’s understanding, especially Luther’s views on the sacraments and his intention in publishing his Small Catechism.

James S. Hamre
Waldorf College
Forest City, Iowa

Catechism Bible Illustrations — Part 4b — Confession and Keys

This is a table of Bible illustrations to help parents, teachers, and pastors illuminate truths taught in the Small Catechism.

Links to parts:

Part 4b – Confession and Keys

Nathan confronts David about his sins (2 Samuel 12:1-22)
David confesses (Psalm 51)
John preaches repentance (Matthew 3:1-12)
Jesus preaches repentance (Matthew 4:12-17)
The prodigal son confesses (Luke 15:17-24)
The tax collector confesses (Luke 18;9-14)
I will give you the keys of the kingdom (Mathew 16:13-21)
Jesus gives the Church power to forgive sin (John 20:19-23)
If your brother sins against you (Matthew 18:15-19)
An excommunicated person is reinstated (2 Corinthians 2:5-11)
O LORD, do not rebuke me in Your anger (Psalm 6)
Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven (Psalm 32)
Out of the depths I have cried to You, O LORD (Psalm 130)

Catechism: Handbook for Persecution

In the Facebook group Didache, Dr. Pless has uploaded a powerful article.

“Luther’s Small Catechism is a multipurposed tool. Not only is it a brief summary of Christian doctrine and a guide to the Christian’s life of prayer and vocation in the world, it is also a book of comfort. It anchors hearts and minds where true joy is located: in the promises of God made certain in Christ Jesus. As we learn and pray the catechism, God is preparing us for trials and afflictions that well may await us in this life as we move toward death.”

John T. Pless, The Catechism: A Handbook for Times of Persecution, The Lutheran Witness, May 2017, pp. 6-7.

Catechism Bible Illustrations — Part 4a — Baptism

This is a table of Bible illustrations to help parents, teachers, and pastors illuminate truths taught in the Small Catechism.

Links to parts:

Part 4a – Baptism

God saves Noah through the flood waters (Genesis 7:17-8:19)
Moses is drawn from the water (Exodus 2:1-10)
Baptism in the cloud and in the sea (Exodus 14:9-3; 1 Corinthians 10:1)
God’s covenant with Abraham (Genesis 17:1-14)
Water and the Word cleanse Naaman (2 Kings 5:1-16)
John preaches baptism of repentance for remission of sins (Mark 1:4-8)
The baptism of John and Jesus (John 1:19-34)
The Trinity in Baptism (Luke 3:21-22)
New birth from above by water and the Spirit (John 3:1-15)
Jesus blesses little children and infants (Mark 10:13-16; Luke 18:15-17)
John the Baptist filled with the Holy Spirit before and from birth (Luke 1:15, 41-44)
Ceremonial washing of the Pharisees (Mark 7:3-4)
Jesus commands and promises Baptism (Matthew 28:18-20)
The apostles preach repentance and Baptism on Pentecost (Acts 2:38-39)
Ananias teaches Paul to wash away his sins in Baptism (Acts 22:12-16)
The Ethiopian is instructed and baptized (Acts 8:26-39)
The jailer is instructed and baptized (Acts 16:19-34)
Buried and raised with Christ in Baptism (Romans 6:1-11)

 

Slow and Steady Wins the Catechetical Race — by Pastor Ryan Loeslie

Editor’s Note:  The following is a guest article by Rev. Ryan Loeslie, Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Merna, Nebraska.

 

Most of us are familiar with Aesop’s Fable of the tortoise and the hare.  The hare boasted of his speed repeatedly.  But tiring of the excessive boasting, the tortoise challenged the hare to a race.  They agreed.  Once the race was on, the hare predictably got out to a great lead.  Seeing the tortoise so far behind, the hare thought he had ample time to take a nice nap.  Of course, this was a bad idea.  By the time he woke again, the tortoise was just about finish the race.  The hare jolted for the finish line, but it was too late.  The tortoise was victorious.  Slow and steady won the race.

Aesop’s Fable about the tortoise and the hare can be applied to many facets of life.  One place where it applies is the catechesis of our children.  Catechesis is like a race.  For several generations now, by and large Lutheran congregations have employed the hare’s method of running the race and catechizing our children.  We consider the hare.  He was built for the race.  He had the skills and the lightning speed.  The tortoise shouldn’t stand a chance against him.  So also we have entrusted pastors with teaching our children the Small Catechism.  Pastors are like the hare.  They are educated and equipped especially for this job.  Certainly, we reason, the pastor should be able to do a better job at teaching the faith than the parents.  Just as the hare is better equipped for the race than the tortoise, the pastor is better equipped for catechesis than the parents.  And so what have we done?  We have placed our bets on the hare to win the race.

But we can extend this analogy even further.  We consider how the hare ran his race.  He got off to a big lead, and he saw the tortoise safely in the distance.  No worries, he thought, and so he thought he might take a nice break and settle in for a nap.  This is a shocking parallel to the way Lutherans have catechized their children for the past several decades.  Children meet with the pastor for an intense hour of instruction once a week, and then for the next week there is nothing – a nice break like the hare took.  I suppose conscientious families in the past have taken memory work seriously, but this is simply not enough over the long haul.  When school is out, catechesis breaks for an entire summer.  When children are confirmed, many never take up the Small Catechism again.  Like the hare, our congregations have been caught napping.  If they are even fortunate enough to wake up, they will see they have lost the race to those competitors in this world who have worked harder to indoctrinate their children – the media, the academy, secular culture, Hollywood, etc.  These are relentless every day.

I don’t have to cite technical statistics to claim that Missouri Synod congregations are losing.  Too many congregations bury more than they baptize.  Children often never show up in church again after confirmation.  If they do, chances are still high that they go to college and fall away from the faith.  Long-established congregations have been in decline for almost five full decades.  Why?  We have adopted the hare’s approach to running the race.  We have relied too much on the so-called “experts.”  We have become ignorant of our responsibility to teach the faith at home.  Like the hare, we have taken too many breaks, and we have relied on quick fixes and programs when these never last over the long haul.

Wouldn’t it be great if our congregations started winning again?  I believe they can.  They can, if they adopt the tortoise’s strategy.  Slow and steady wins the catechetical race.  This means a change of direction for most of our congregations.  Instead of the pastor being in charge of Small Catechism instruction, parents must take this responsibility themselves.  And this is not a once a week for two years type of thing.  This must be done over the long haul – every day for a child’s entire upbringing.  At least this is the goal we shoot for every day.

Perhaps this sounds overwhelming and unreasonable, but it’s not.  Remember, this is the tortoise we’re talking about here.  He doesn’t try and bite off the whole race in one step, but he takes just a small step every day.  And so families should spend just a little bit of time in the Small Catechism every day.  For the parent, this could mean reciting just one of the Commandments with your children every day at the dinner table or with bedtime prayers.  It could mean just reviewing Jesus’ words of institution for Baptism or the Lord’s Supper.  Perhaps it is reviewing one article of the Creed with Luther’s explanation.  Maybe go sequentially through the Catechism one question at a time.  Learn to enjoy this time conversing with your kids.  It’s quality time.  The point is, you’re not trying to accomplish everything at once.  Neither are you speeding through everything like the hare.  You’re doing like the tortoise does.  You take a slow step in the right direction every day. Slowly but surely, you will see results.  You will find yourself loving the Small Catechism and what it teaches you about Jesus.  You will find yourself loving your church and what your pastor preaches.  You will find your children loving it too.  After decades of losing with the hare, it’s time to try a different formula.  It’s time to go with the tortoise.

Running the catechetical race with the tortoise, you can be confident that you are also running in the way which Scripture commands.  I think of the words of Psalm 119.  “I will run in the way of your commandments when you enlarge my heart” (Psalm 119:32).  For us as Christians, this race can be grueling.  Even going at the tortoise’s pace, there are many distractions and fears in this life which vie for our attention and push us off course.  And yet, we know that Jesus is always with us.  He forgives our weaknesses and failures.  And still God equips us with his perfect words that we may run the race set before us.

Reformation of the Keys: David M. Wilson Reviews Ronald K. Rittgers’ Book

[As shown in the copyright notice at the end of this quoted review, permission has been granted for this redistribution of this review. This review is the work of David M. Whitford.]

Whitford on Rittgers, ‘The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany’

Author: Ronald K. Rittgers
Reviewer: David M. Whitford
Ronald K. Rittgers. The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2004. xii + 318 pp. $49.95 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-674-01176-2.

Reviewed by David M. Whitford (Department of Philosophy and Religion, Claflin University)

Published on H-German (January, 2005)

In Matthew 16, Jesus promises to give the keys of heaven to the Apostle Peter. Along with the promise of the keys, Jesus asserts that Peter will have authority on earth to bind or to loose sins. The historian of Christianity cannot underestimate the importance and influence of these two promises on the history of the church and the societies shaped by it. Almost immediately the two promises were combined. Originally, their power extended only to the spiritual life of Christians as they related to their local congregations. Over time (and especially after the Constantinian settlement), their power began to creep into other aspects of life. By 1302, in the bull Unam sanctam, Pope Boniface VIII (d. 1303) could claim that the power of the keys gave him authority over all living creatures (including kings and emperors). Needless to say, not everyone agreed with Boniface’s interpretation of Matthew, and the authority of the church over the spiritual and temporal lives of people continued to be a point of contention well into the era of the Reformation.Ronald K. Rittgers, assistant professor of the history of Christianity at Yale, offers a thorough and thoughtful examination of the Power of the Keys during the Reformation in this revision of a dissertation written at Harvard under the direction of Steven Ozment. The book begins with a short introduction to the history of the Office of the Keys in the Western church. Rittgers then turns his attention to the city of Nuremberg and uses that city as a case study for his examination. Nuremberg is an excellent choice of cities for a number of reasons. While its size, history, and importance in the life of the Empire are key factors, more importantly Nuremberg adopted the Reformation of Martin Luther fairly early and became a model for the evangelical city as a consequence.

In chapter 2, Rittgers turns to examine the theology and practice of penance in the theology of the church. Penance was the process by which one paid the penalty for breaking the laws of God and of the church. This very detailed chapter highlights the religious milieu of the late medieval world. Chapter three examines the early critiques of late medieval penance by Luther and other early reformers. Rittgers highlights how the religious critique of penance and the Office of the Keys were welcomed by cities like Nuremberg who saw an opportunity to forward their social and political aims while reforming religion. This chapter, perhaps more so than the others, highlights Rittgers’s ability to weave theological insights and historical narrative together.

Chapter 4 examines how the reformers and city magistrates dealt with the repercussions of their critique. It is one thing to call for dismantling a system; it is another thing entirely to try to put something new in its place, and Rittgers explains this difficulty well. Chapter 5, then, turns to look at the new system of the keys and authority (both spiritual and temporal) built by the reformers. The clergy and the civil magistrates had to struggle to find a balance between order in the church and the community and freedom to proclaim the new Gospel. Given the history of the Peasants’ War, the Knights’ Rebellion, and the Edict of Worms, finding this balance was both essential and rather difficult. Chapters 6 through 8 present vignettes that highlight the struggles and successes of the Nurembergers as they tried to walk this fine line.

The last chapter is perhaps the most interesting because it turns to assess the relative success or failure of Nuremberg to create a Lutheran city both in doctrine and life. The degree to which the Reformation was successful in this regard has been a heated debate in Reformation studies since at least Gerald Strauss’s important Luther’s House of Learning: Indoctrination of the Young in the German Reformation (1978). In that book, Strauss argued that this endeavor was largely unsuccessful. Rittgers offers a breathtaking critique. On point after point, Rittgers points out that Strauss’s critique is overstated and at times says more about the author than it does about early modern Lutherans.

In the first chapter, Rittgers notes that the Power of the Keys has been largely ignored in the scholarship of the Reformation. As I read that, I thought that such a claim must surely be impossible. It is like ignoring the proverbial elephant in the middle of the room. And yet, Rittgers is absolutely correct. This book is a welcome remedy to such a striking deficiency.

Printable Version: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showpdf.php?id=10109

Citation: David M. Whitford. Review of Rittgers, Ronald K., The Reformation of the Keys: Confession, Conscience, and Authority in Sixteenth-Century Germany. H-German, H-Net Reviews. January, 2005.
URL: http://www.h-net.org/reviews/showrev.php?id=10109

Copyright © 2005 by H-Net, all rights reserved. H-Net permits the redistribution and reprinting of this work for nonprofit, educational purposes, with full and accurate attribution to the author, web location, date of publication, originating list, and H-Net: Humanities & Social Sciences Online. For any other proposed use, contact the Reviews editorial staff at hbooks@mail.h-net.msu.edu.

Catechism Bible Illustrations — Part 3 — The Lord’s Prayer

This is a table of Bible illustrations to help parents, teachers, and pastors illuminate truths taught in the Small Catechism.

Links to parts:

Part 3 – The Lord’s Prayer

Prayer in General

Lord, teach us to pray (Luke 11, 1-13)
And when you pray (Matthew 6:5-15)
Ask, seek, and knock (Matthew 7:7-12, Luke 11:9-13)
The Canaanite woman prays for her daughter (Matthew 15:21-28)
Praying in Jesus’ name (John 16:23-27)
The leper’s request and thanksgiving (Luke 17:11-19)
The request of the mother of James and John (Matthew 20:20-23)
Abraham prays for Sodom (Genesis 18:23-32)
Solomon prays for wisdom (1 Kings 3:5-14)
Paul prays about the thorn in his flesh (2 Corinthians 12:1-9)
The widow persists in prayer (Luke 18:1-8)
Jesus prays for believers (John 17)

Our Father who art in heaven

I bow my knees to the Father (Ephesians (3:14-20)
Elijah and the priests of Baal pray to different gods (1 Kings 18:25-29, 36-39)
The people of Lystra would sacrifice to Paul and Barnabas (Acts 14:8-18)

The First Petition
Hallowed by Thy Name

Solomon prays at dedication of the temple (1 Kings 12-30)

The Second Petition
Thy kingdom come

The little Syrian maid (2 Kings 5:1-17)
The Reign of Messiah (Psalm 72)
Kings of the earth gather together against Christ (Acts 4:23-31)
Parable of the growing seed (Mark 4:26-29)
Parable of the mustard seed (Mark 4:30-32)

The Third Petition
Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven

Jesus prays in Gethsemane (Matthew 26:36-44)
Abraham’s trial (Genesis 22:1-19)
God uses the sin of Joseph’s brothers for good (Genesis 15:15-21)
Peter and John pray for boldness (Acts 4:13-37)

The Fourth Petition
Give us this day our daily bread

Do not worry (Matthew 6:25-34, Luke 12:22-31)
Jesus heals a centurion’s servant (Matthew 8:5-13.
Jesus heals a paralytic (Matthew 9:1-8)
Jesus heals blind Bartimaeus (Mark 10:46-52)
Jesus Heals ten lepers (Luke 17:11-19)
Parable of the rich fool (Luke 12:15-21)

The Fifth Petition
And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us

Jesus prays for his enemies (Luke 23:32-35)
Steven prays for his enemies (Acts 7:54-60)
Joseph forgives his brothers (Genesis 50:15-21)
The unforgiving servant (Matthew 18:21-35)
The prodigal son’s father forgives him (Luke 15:17-24)

The Sixth Petition
And lead us not into temptation

The devil tempts Adam and Eve (Genesis 3:1-6)
Jesus uses the Word against temptation (Matthew 4:1-11, Luke 4:1-13)
The world tempts Peter to deny Christ (Luke 22:54-62, Mark 14:66-72, Luke 22:54-62, John 18:15-18, 25-27)
David’s flesh tempts him to commit adultery (2 Samuel 11:2-4)
Joseph flees from temptation (Genesis 39:1-20)
God tests Abraham (Genesis 22:1-19)
Put on the whole armor of God (Ephesians 6:10-18)

The Seventh Petition
But deliver us from evil

God delivers Job from his troubles (Job 42:10-17)
Three men in the fiery furnace (Daniel 3)
Daniel in the lions’ den (Daniel 6:1-23)
God does not let the Devil destroy Job (Job 1:1-2:6)

For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for every and ever. Amen.

The King of kings and Lord of lords (1 Timothy 6:13-16)
I will extol you, My God, My King (Psalm 145)

Catechism Bible Illustrations — Part 2c — The Third Article of the Creed

This is a table of Bible illustrations to help parents, teachers, and pastors illuminate truths taught in the Small Catechism.

Links to parts:

Part 2 – The Creed

Part 2c – The Third Article – Sanctification

The Holy Spirit

Joel’s prophesy of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32)
Fulfillment of Joel’s prophesy (Acts 2:1-13)
Peter’s Pentecost sermon (Acts 2:14-31)
Ananias lies to the Holy Spirit (Acts 5:1-11)
Jesus sends the Helper (John 16:5-15)

The Holy Christian church

The 7,000 in Israel (1 Kings 19:9-18)
Solomon builds the temple (2 Chronicles 6:1-14; 7:1-3)
Birthday of the church (Acts 2:1-4, 37-42)
The church commissions Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:1-5)
Weeds among the wheat (Matthew 13:24-30)
Beware of false prophets (Matthew 7:15-20)

The forgiveness of sins

David’s prayer for pardon (Psalm 51)
Jesus heals the man with palsy (Mark 2:1-12)
The king forgave the servant all his debts (Matthew 18:23-35)
The publican justified (Luke 18:9-14)

The resurrection of the body

Elisha raises the widow’s son (1 Kings 17:17-24)
The judgment scene (Matthew 25:31-46)
Christ’s resurrection and our resurrection (1 Corinthians 15)
Lazarus raised from the dead (John 11:17-44)

Life everlasting

The holy city (Revelation 21:1-7)

The Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, sanctifies, and keeps

“Called me by the Gospel”

Invitation to the wedding banquet of the king’s son (Matthew 22:1-10)
Invitation to the great banquet (Mark 14:16-17)

“Enlightened me with his gifts”

Philip preaches Christ to the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-8)
The Philippian jailer and his family come to believe (Acts 16:25-34)

Repentance

Jesus dines with a Pharisee (Luke 7:36-50)

Faith

Abraham’s faith (Genesis 12:1-4; 22:1-19)
Heroes of faith (Hebrews 11)
Many of the Apostles hearers believe (Acts 17:1-12)
Peter’s confession (Matthew 16:13-20)

Justification and regeneration

The blessedness of forgiveness (Psalm 32)
The woman of Samaria (John 4:1-26)

Conversion

Saul’s conversion (Acts 9:1-19)

Sanctification and preservation

The Psalmists prayer for pardon (Psalm 86:1-12)
The Christian’s daily life (Colossians 3:1-17)

 

“Say It!” Says the Little Girl — by Pastor Ryan Loeslie

Editor’s Note:  The following is a guest article by Rev. Ryan Loeslie, Pastor at Immanuel Lutheran Church, Merna, Nebraska.

Most Lutherans who went through junior high confirmation class at one time in their lives are familiar with Luther’s famous question from his Small Catechism, “What does this mean?”  Sadly, this is all many remember.  But at the same time, this proves Luther’s genius.  He devised a simple, childlike question which all people can relate to as they are learning the basics of the faith.  Whatever failure the church has had in retaining its children after confirmation is its own fault, not that of the Small Catechism.

In the original German, Luther’s question was framed a bit differently than what we’ve come to know in English translation.  “Was ist das?,” the Small Catechism reads.  Literally we would translate this as “What is it?” or “What is that?”  As you can see, this is an even more basic question than “What does this mean?”  It is simpler.  It is more childlike.  We can picture a small child pointing to a colorful flower or a strange-looking insect and asking the same question: What is it?  What is that?

I never knew the genius of Luther’s question until having my own child and teaching her the Small Catechism.  We started teaching our daughter the Small Catechism even as she was starting to speak her first words.  She started learning by repeating after us the last word which was said.  So if we said the First Commandment, “You shall have no other gods,” she would say “gods” when we were done.  It didn’t take long before she could say more and more, and even at two and a half years old now she can say the Lord’s Prayer, most of the creed, and most of the commandments.  And actually, her favorite thing to do is answer Luther’s question, “What is Baptism?”  On the one hand, this is very special.  We are glad such a small girl whom we love so much can pray and say the commandments.  On the other hand, it’s not so special.  I imagine this is within the capability of almost any child the same age.

What I find fascinating about this is how she grew into the routine.  We always do a bit of Catechism work after reading a Bible story at bedtime.  And our daughter came up with her own name for our little time of catechesis.  She says it’s time to “say it!”  What is fascinating about “saying it” is that my daughter with her words hearkened me back to Luther’s question, “Was ist das?” or “What is it?” I learned in the most profound way, through the lips of a child, that our simple home catechesis with our children was truly the vision that Luther had when writing the Small Catechism.  He didn’t have in mind 7th and 8th graders with the pastor on a late Wednesday afternoon.  He envisioned parents “saying it” with their children.

And this is a much more joyous way to pass down the faith, one which does not require cumbersome worksheets, tedious homework, and scheduling hassles. Children love to please their parents, and so also our daughter loves to “say it.” I have a funny story to illustrate this, too.  One evening we were visiting friends and came home much later than our children’s bedtime.  It was our intention to say the Lord’s Prayer with them quickly and put them to bed.  But what happened?  Our daughter broke down in tears because she wanted to “say it.”  She would not let it go.  So as I tucked her in we did “say it,” however little time we had.  The day wouldn’t be complete for her otherwise.

I mention this not because it’s cute, but because it demonstrates the joyous and powerful effect that the Small Catechism can have on our children.  When people remember the question “What does this mean?,” it is often in a nostalgic manner.  It’s a relic of their past when they went to confirmation class.  Perhaps it is something remembered fondly, but it doesn’t serve much use in the present, nor does it make them more faithful Christians.  But when we “say it” with our kids, this is something that is a part of them every day, something at the very fiber of their being.  When we “say it” with our kids, the Small Catechism becomes something which will actually form a worldview and serve us in our lives.  Children who can “say it” will be bright lights in this world because the very Word of God is actually written on their hearts.  And when they grow up, the Small Catechism will not be a relic of their past.  It will be a treasured possession, something they have always known, loved, and will never let go.

And so take this as a word of encouragement.  You can go to Lutherancatechism.com and find some easy schedules to use so you can “say it” together as a family.  These are very helpful if you’ve had good intentions about this but never had the support or resources to follow through.  It takes very little natural skill.  It does not even require much time or effort, only consistency.  And yet the rewards are enormous.  We learn our faith better.  We learn to love it more.  We learn a beautiful pattern of sound words which will serve us well in this world.  And we can raise up a new generation of children who love God and his Word, who love the Small Catechism and the Lutheran Church, and our lives will be better for it.

Help Drive Down this Fake #1 Ranking

Publishing is an interesting activity. Apparently, one of the publishing industry’s techniques is to try to hype something into reality.

Take as an example what distributors do with my slim little book, Catechetical Evangelism in the Newspaper. Smashwords released this as an eBook on January 14, 2014. As the Smashwords Style Guide says, that led to 15 minutes of fame.

Tip: Immediately after publishing your book at Smashwords, it’ll be featured on the Smashwords home page if it has a cover. Your home page feature typically lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending upon how quickly you roll off the page when others publish after you. Therefore, don’t upload your book to Smashwords until you have a good looking cover image because you want to take full advantage of your 15 minutes of fame. If you upload without a cover, the book will miss the home page feature, even if you upload the cover hours later.

While Smashwords distributes a .mobi edition of eBooks (along with other formats) that works on the Kindle eReader, Amazon itself does not pick up that edition and distribute it. So, an author must make an arrangement with Amazon itself, and must reformat the work according to Amazon’s style guide. So, I did that with Catechetical Evangelism in the Newspaper.

Then Amazon notifies me that this book also could be reformatted again into a paperback edition. I wondered why anyone would want to pay for a paperback edition of a book originally distributed as an eBook for free, but maybe there are some who prefer paper. Besides, I admit, I wanted to see how it would look. So I reformatted it again, and indeed, Amazon did release it as a paperback. At first, my cover design for the paperback was not very good, and I muffed the formatting of the title page. So I had to fix those things, and wait for the fixes to take effect.

Well, that took effect yesterday, and now already today, Amazon has tagged it as “#1 New Release in Catechism.” Do you believe that? I am skeptical. Seems more like trying to hype something into reality. I certainly hope it does not mean that so few books in the topic of Catechisms are purchased that this one really is the #1 new title in the topic. If that is true, we have work to do. Help me drive my book down in the rankings, by buying other great books in the topic of Catechisms on Amazon. Here is a starter list for you.

Martin Luther’s Catechisms: Forming the Faith, by Timothy J. Wengert.

Luther’s Large Catechism: With Study Questions, Paul T. McCain, Editor

Praying Luther’s Small Catechism, by John T. Pless

That I May Be His Own: An Overview of Luther’s Catechisms, by Charles Arand

Studying Luther’s Large Catechism: A Workbook for Christian Discipleship, by Ryan C. MacPherson

Teaching God’s Children His Teaching: A guide for the study of Luther’s Catechism, by Robert Kolb

How to Teach Luther’s Small Catechism, by H. J. Boettcher

What’s That Supposed To Mean?, by James A. Lucas

Teaching Luther’s Catechism, by Herbert Girgensohn

Teaching Luther’s Catechism II, by Herbert Girgensohn