Incorporating the New City Catechism

I am sure you noticed something different in our order of worship on Sunday morning. We try to make sure that our Sunday Liturgy (Order of Worship) is simple and consistent, but hopefully robust, biblical, and historical. But this past Sunday, we did make an addition that will continue on from here on out.

This past Sunday we incorporated a catechism question from the New City Catechism into the beginning portion of our service. The New City Catechism is 52 questions and answers developed and adapted from the Reformation catechisms (Calvin's Geneva Catechsim, Westminster Catechism, Heidelburg Catechism, etc.). This is for the purpose of adding a confessional element to our worship service. The act of confession is to teach the church core Christian doctrines and incorporating it to memorization. Historically churches have recited an early church creed as a congregation. So after we opened the service in prayer, the congregation was asked, "What is our only hope in life and death?" To which we responded, "That we are not our own but belong, body and soul, both in life and death, to God and to our Savior Jesus Christ." We also read Romans 14:7-8. Next Sunday, we will be asked the second question of the catechism, and we will continue this pattern for a total of 52 weeks until we complete it. (Hint: We will then start again at question 1 next year)

Now since this is a new practice, it needs some explanation. We don't want to confuse anyone or give the impression that this was a rash decision. We certainly are open to your questions or concerns about this practice. But first, read this definition and some of the reasons we decided to start this practice now.

1. What is a Catechism?

In 1 Corinthians 14:19 Paul says, "In the church I would rather speak five words with my mind, in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue." In Galatians 6:6 he says, "Let him who is taught the word share all good things with him who teaches." Acts 18:25 says that Apollos "has been instructed in the way of the Lord."

In each of these verses the Greek word for "instruct" or "teach" is katecheo. From this word we get our English word "catechize". It simply means to teach Biblical truth in an orderly way. Generally this is done with questions and answers accompanied by Biblical support and explanation[1].

First, we would like to correct any misconceptions with the word catechism. Recently, there have been some misunderstandings that Catechisms are only practiced by the Roman Catholic Church. Here at The Reborn Church of Phoenix, we confess that The Roman Catholic Church is a false church and we desire for people to leave that church and come to believe the true gospel that salvation is by grace alone, in faith alone, through Christ alone. Therefore, we are not copying the Roman Catholic Church when we participate in learning a catechism. A catechism is best defined as a summary of instructions through a series of questions and answers, prepared in book form, containing instruction on the theology and doctrine of a Christian church. Catholic catechism is not biblical and, in fact, contradicts the Scriptures in many aspects.[2] A catechism is only true as it is supported by the Scriptures. Protestants have used catechisms to disciple their church and families throughout church history.

2. Sound Doctrine

Second, this practice will further train us as a congregation in sound doctrine, morality, and devotion. The questions we will be asked and then answer each Sunday are rich theologically, drawing on the historic catechisms of the Christian faith, but aimed at our current historical and cultural context. Each moment and place faces its own temptations and trials, and so while the historic catechisms are rich, some of the content and certainly the language is not best suited for today. The New City Catechism was written as a collaborative project by many of the Reformed Evangelical leaders we learn from at The Reborn Church of Phoenix.

3. Discipling our Children

Third, this practice introduces our church to yet another resource to teach the Christian faith to our children. The call to make disciples of all nations begins at home. We each have a responsibility to God and to our children to saturate our childrens' imaginations with the Christian story of creation, fall, and redemption and with the doctrines that flow from that story. We hope that by using this catechism in our service, parents in our church will begin using this tool with their children over the dinner table, at bedtime, or in the car. The New City Catechism has an app and an online website which provides scripture references, songs to learn with your kids, video explanations, commentary, and learning tools to make the tool more effective.

4. Doctrinal Context for Sermon

Fourth, this practice will also provide further doctrinal context to the preaching of the word each week. One of the reasons we will recite the catechism question each week is to provide a confessional background to our preaching. While Scripture alone is normative (it is the final authority and standard), creeds, confessions, and catechism outline what we as Christians have understood the Scriptures to teach. So they guard us against novel and unorthodox interpretations.

There are many other biblical, historical, and practical reasons we could give for why we are beginning this practice, but we hope that these give you something to hold on to until you can talk more in depth with one of the elders. We are excited to begin using this catechism together as a church, and we hope you will begin exploring the New City Catechism online. The Reborn Kids Ministry will be doing this every Sunday before they begin their lesson.

Download the app, check out the website, and incorporate this into your family worship at home.


Introducing the New City Catechism


Why We Should Catechize our Children

[1] John Piper. 1986.