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“Instructing Our Children” – 4
Catechizing and the Family Pew
XX. Texts that Transform
Every Christian parent wants nothing more than to see his/her children trusting in Christ and walking with Him. How then are we to lead them to Christ? The normal practice among Reformed Christians has been to baptize their children on the basis of the promises of the covenant (e.g. Gen 17:7; Acts 2:39).
Conversion for the church’s children would look more like a gradual process than a sudden crisis. As they progress from infancy to childhood, to adolescence, to adulthood, they would experience a dawning awareness of their identity as believers. Progressively they would grow in their knowledge of God, humanity, sin, Christ, salvation, and the Christian life. They might never know a day of unbelief, just
Yet we have also taught that the efficacy of baptism as a means of grace and the fulfillment of God’s promises to parents regarding their children’s salvation
an intimate and divinely established connection between the faith of parents and the salvation of their children; such a connection as authorizes them to plead God’s promises, and to expect with confidence, that through his blessing on their faithful efforts, their children will grow up the children of God.2
The marriage bed
How are we to provide that training? So far we’ve seen that we are to provide a “godly example,” apart from which all other means are doomed to failure. Then we commended family worship as a discipline that Scripture requires and provides a format for praying “with and for” our children and “teaching them the doctrines of our holy religion,” as indeed we promise to do in our baptismal vows. This brings us to the next means, that of catechizing.
My first exposure to catechizing took place the year of my internship at
At that time I knew little of the background of catechesis.
In the English speaking world, Thomas Cranmer provided a catechism in the first
When I was an elementary school student in the Los Angeles School District, the Roman Catholic students were dismissed at 2:30 on Wednesday
The Reformers rightly reconnected baptism with catechizing,
Matthew Henry, who in so many ways represents the apex of Reformed pastoral theology, not only provides the best treatment of family worship, but also the best treatment of catechizing with his “Sermon Concerning the Catechizing of Youth.”6
Follow the pattern of the sound words that you have heard from me, in the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.
What is gained by catechizing? First,
Second, they will learn
Capacity to memorize
Third, it takes advantage of
Catechizing is a time-tested method of passing on one’s faith to one’s children, utilizing a method used throughout the educational process. How do they learn their A-B-C’s? How do they learn the vowels, their numbers, their times-tables, vocabulary, dates, names, and so on? Through memorization. Comprehension comes later.
What does it mean to utilize “all the means of God’s appointment?” Primarily it means to bring them to church and under the public means of grace. Bring them to church, where Jesus promises to be (Mt 18: 20). Jesus
Among my earliest and warmest memories are those of sitting in church with my family. I recall sitting close to my father, his giant hand (comparatively) enveloping mine. I recall his finger
We found that the value of the family altar was closely related to the value of the family pew, and
The same can be said of prayer.
If every family were a praying family, public prayers would be the better joined with, more intelligently, and more affectionately; for the more we are used to
The church is meant to play a vital role in the Christian nurture of your children. Jesus gave to the church the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Mt 16:19). Typically those keys have been understood to be the ordinary means of grace: the word, sacraments, and prayer. Under the ordinary means souls are regenerated (1 Pet 1:23-25),
Consider, then, that to which children of the church are exposed during the first 18 years
Over the last 18 years we have read a chapter of Scripture in every service, a total of 62 books or almost the entire Bible. Your child will have heard that. During that same period, 28 books of the Bible have been preached in their entirety, 10 from the Old Testament (including 1 Kings – Job) and 18
Over an 18-year period your children, more or less, will have attended 936 Sunday School classes and 1872 worship services in which they will have enjoyed the fellowship of the saints
Do not underestimate the cumulative effect of all of this: the word read, preached, sung, prayed, and seen, in the context of the fellowship of
Afraid they might rebel if they are in church so much? So the solution to the problem of rebellious children is to have them sitting by their parents in church less? Reduce their exposure to the means of grace? Minimize the likelihood of waywardness by exposing them to less of the word read, preached, sung, prayed, and seen? Really? Parental attitude is crucial. “Tell them of the duty and privilege of going to the house of God, and joining in the prayers of the congregation,” Ryle counsels.15