Category Archives: Crisis

Mission and the Small Catechism: Aspects of the Connection, and Realities to Face

The connection between mission and the Small Catechism has a number of aspects. Some of them are:

  • state of catechesis
  • marriage
  • family
  • congregation
  • community
  • generations

Some realities we need to face are that:

  • The state of catechesis is poor.
  • We are suffering a death rate among our own offspring who, after being confirmed, depart the faith. This is death by apostasy.
  • The strength of outreach depends on the strength of inreach.
  • Because we are vague and faint on the Catechism, our outreach is weak.
  • We need to strengthen catechetical inreach in marriage, the family, and the congregation for their own sakes, and then also for the sake of outreach to the community.
  • The Small Catechism teaches what needs to be presented in evangelism and outreach. It contains the six chief parts of Christian doctrine. Do we think something else is what outreach should present?

I have been writing a series of articles that make initial rough sketches of these aspects and realities.

State of Catechesis

Marriage

Family and Congregation

Community

Generations

I welcome your feedback, ideas, suggestions, evidences, and experiences in these areas. Please use the contact form to write to me.

Crisis of Catechesis — “Churches are full of activity, but may often fail to ensure quality teaching,” David Rueter

In the Preface of his Large Catechism, Luther states substantive reasons why the Christian faithful should continually use the catechism. Both the weighty reasons and the urgency remain today, Luther was concerned with the lack of teaching of the faith that he saw in the churches of his day. I believe that we face a similar crisis today. Churches are full of activity, but may often fail to ensure quality teaching, especially for the young. The Church continues to struggle against the prevailing winds of the culture …. While the culture pushes toward a conception of faith lacking in distinctions, faithful Lutheran pastors, DCEs, teachers, and, most importantly, parents seek with much prayer to impart the unique claims of the Christian faith into the hearts and minds of young people. … Catechesis is an educational practice of the Church that provides a portion of the pushing back against the tide of our culture. Through the sounding again of the truths of Scripture, one generation bequeaths to the next the essential core of Christianity.

David Rueter, Teaching the Faith at Home, p. 10 (St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, 2010).

 

The Quiet Crisis of Catechesis, Part 3, Published on Brothers of John the Steadfast

Brothers of John the Steadfast has published Part 3 in its serialization of William E. Thompson, “Catechesis: The Quiet CrisisConcordia Theological Quarterly 56  (1992) No. 2-3: 99-121. This serialization is published with the kind permission gladly given by the editor of Concordia Theological Quarterly .

Part 3 identifies the causes of the crisis. The late Rev. Thompson sets out the following:

Part 3 II. Causes of the Crisis
A. A Disrespectful Attitude
B. A Lack of Faith in the Means of Grace
C. The Adoption of Legalistic Goals
D. A Search for ShortcutsE. A Confusion in Ecclesiology

Head on over to Brothers of John the Steadfast to see this important discussion

“Many pastors would rather have a boil lanced than teach seventh and eighth graders the catechism”

Pastors, do you relate to these statements by Rev. Terry Cripe, president of the LCMS Ohio District? What are your thoughts when you read this?

If parents have found themselves inadequate, pastors have not been the best equipped teachers either. When I was in seminary, I had one course in parish education. I did not learn how to teach anything from that one course, except why the then new Mission: Life curriculum was deeply flawed. From the number of conversations I have had over the years, I have learned that many pastors would rather have a boil lanced than teach seventh and eighth graders the catechism. We have rationalized that it must be the age; we should teach them when they are in 10th or 11th grade instead. We have said it must be because the children are distracted by a plethora of after-school activities, Saturday sporting events or the onrush of hormones. Or else it is that they are raised by uncommitted parents. We have convinced ourselves that divorced families are the culprit. We have tried Concordia Publishing House (CPH) materials, Australian curricula, Don Ginkle or Abdon workbooks and who knows who else. Perhaps we have tried to write suitable materials ourselves when, like the fabled princess and the pea, we couldn’t get comfortable with anyone else’s materials.

Finally, in a fit of desperation, we have even tried to rationalize the children’s boredom by comforting ourselves with the theology of the cross. If the children find learning the catechism challenging or exciting, the pastor must be doing something wrong. The children are supposed to suffer through it, an attitude often reinforced by parental remembrances of their own catechism experiences.

The Rev. Terry Cripe is president of the LCMS Ohio District, “Challenges to Teaching the Faith as a Component of Mission Strategy,” Journal of Lutheran Mission, March 19, 2014.

Catechesis: The Quiet Crisis, in Three Parts, at Brothers of John the Steadfast

Brothers of John the Steadfast, aaka (also affectionately known as) Steadfast Lutherans and BJS, is publishing an important article by the late Rev. William E. Thompson, “Catechesis: The Quiet Crisis” Concordia Theological Quarterly 56 (1992) No. 2-3: 99-121. The series will be published in 3 parts. The first installment is here.

Part 1 is the Introduction to the article. There, the young Pastor Thompson suffered shock and disappointment concerning the state of catechesis in the congregation:

To my shock, only two out of a group of about twenty-five had been catechized with the Small Catechism. The common reference-point which I naively assumed would be there in any congregation to which I was called was not there.

Part 1 is a short read. Take about 60 seconds to sense his plunging surprise at the crisis, and wonder, how many more pastors today are we plunging into this crisis. Read Part 1 here.

Catechesis: The Quiet Crisis

A valuable article by the late Rev. William E. Thompson, “Catechesis: The Quiet Crisis,” Concordia Theological Quarterly, Volume: 56 Number: 2 in 1992, p. 99-122. He begins:

Like many young pastors upon their ordination and installation, I had a firm confessional resolve and a definite direction for ministry which were mandated by my ordination vows. Because of this confessional resolve, I chose to begin my Sunday-morning Bible class with a study of the Augsburg Confession. I felt that it would offer an opportunity to deepen the understanding of the faith which was known through Luther’s Small Catechism as well as expose the congregation to another of our church’s confessions. It did not take long for me to realize that the faithful members of this study-group did not have Luther’s Catechism as a basis on which to stand. They had either forgotten through disuse what they had learned of the Catechism or they had simply never been taught the Catechism in the first place. I then asked for a show of hands by those members of the class who had learned the Catechism before confirmation. To my shock, only two out of a group of about twenty-five had been catechized with the Small Catechism. The common reference-point which I naively assumed would be there in any congregation to which I was called was not there.

Since that time I have struggled to answer why this state of catechesis exists in our church. …