Soon at Foundation Church we shall be embarking on a new venture together – the New City Catechism. The catechism is a teaching tool that crystallises the foundational beliefs of the Christian faith and enables us to embed them in our hearts and minds through memorisation and discussion, both in our homes and together as we gather.
Catechisms are an age-old teaching technique but they have largely fallen out of use in contemporary church circles, perhaps because they were seen as dry and irrelevant or even that they were abandoned in favour of practices deemed to produce more immediate results.
Christians are called to ‘guard the deposit of truth’ and to ‘contend for the faith once delivered to the saints’. In order to do this we must know what we believe and why we believe it. This is where the catechism comes in.
The New City Catechism consists of 52 questions and answers. Together at Foundation we will commit to reading, memorising and discussing one question and answer per week. We have a copy of the New City Catechism book available for each family, couple or individual but it is also available as a smartphone app via the usual sources.
Each page contains the question, the answer (both in child-friendly and adult forms), a supporting scripture passage and some handy visual icons to aid memorisation (view here).
Here’s how to do it
- Pick a moment when you are together as a family in one place – after a meal for example (even if you are doing the NCC as an individual, find a friend who will commit to learning it with you)
- Read, read and read again
- Try to commit the answer to memory – breaking it into chunks is helpful
- Write the question and answer down and stick it in an obvious spot – even get your kids to decorate it or have them design a poster themselves if that helps
- There is even a New City Catechism album of kids songs available through the app or on Youtube
- Test yourselves the following day at the same time using the book; also test yourselves during each day
- Talk not just about the words themselves but the foundational truths they represent – what do they mean? what difference do they make?
- Listen out on social media, at church each Sunday, or during our prayer gatherings as we remind each other of the Q/A for the week
Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly (Colossians 3:16)
Expository preaching isn’t just a mark of a healthy church, it’s the first mark of a healthy church – the mark that lays the groundwork for all the rest.
What is expository preaching? Simply put, it is making the meaning and point of a particular bible passage the meaning and point of the sermon. In other words, what God says through a particular passage, the preacher says and applies to the church. That way the church can be confident that they are hearing God speak through the Bible rather than the latest thoughts from the preacher’s own mind.
In his book What is a Healthy Church Member, Thabiti Anyabwile introduces the concept of ‘expository listening’ and gives the following six pointers to getting the most out of a Sunday sermon:
- Meditate – on the bible passage that will form the sermon during the week, study it, pray over it;
- Invest – in a good set of commentaries to help understand the passage better;
- Talk and pray with friends – interact about the sermon you all heard during the week that follows;
- Listen to and act on the sermon during the week – commit to applying the teaching to your own life;
- Address any questions – follow up with the pastor if any questions arose in response to the sermon
- Cultivate humility – allow yourself to be transformed by God’s word, not merely a professional sermon critic.
This week we began our new teaching series, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church, continuing on from our launch Sunday: Christ is the Foundation.
Building a church is one thing; building a church that is healthy – one that stands up to the test of time – is quite another. As St. Paul teaches, it is possible to build a church with all kinds of materials: wood, hay, straw, gold, silver and precious stones; but not all will build a structure that lasts.
And so over the next nine weeks, we will be examining nine essential materials (marks) for building healthy churches:
- Expository Preaching
- Biblical Theology
- The Gospel
- Church Membership
- Church Discipline
- Biblical Church Leadership
This is by no means an exhaustive list of all the things church should or even could be doing. But they are important building blocks that need to be in place so that all church activities are placed within a healthy framework, allowing a church to flourish along any number of directions.
What we dream of is more healthy local churches planted in Belfast and throughout the world!