Catechism Preaching

I recently had the privilege of attending a series of seminars at Canadian Reformed Theological Seminary on preaching.  There was lots of thought-provoking stuff thrown our way.  But I wanted to especially share this little tidbit from Dr. Jason Van Vliet.  He presented a lecture on “Catechism Preaching: Keeping It Fresh and Relevant.”  Under the heading of “Why preach from the Catechism?” he suggested that we think of the relationship between regular Bible-text preaching and catechism preaching in terms of nouns, verbs, and adverbs.

The nouns are the same — if done properly, in both instances our subject material is the Word of God.

The verbs are the same — if done properly, in both instances we are preaching the Word of God.

The adverbs are different — in the first instance we are preaching from a single text of Scripture (in what I would call an expository manner); in the second instance we are preaching catechetically from a broader range of God’s revelation in Scripture.

I think that’s a helpful way to explain it, especially for those who still struggle with the idea of catechism preaching.  Still I am becoming increasingly convinced that it is unhelpful to describe the Catechism as our TEXT for the afternoon/evening sermon.  That terminology can and often does give the impression that the Catechism has replaced the Bible in the second service.  In the service I typically announce it something like this:  “This afternoon we’re considering the teachings of the Word of God as summarized and confessed by the church in Lord’s Day x.”   But I’m still trying to think of a better, yet still succinct, way of mentioning it in the order of worship in the bulletin.  Right now we still have “TEXT:”  I know some URCs have “Confessional Reading,” but that’s not really accurate either.  If anyone has a good suggestion, I’ll leave the comments open just for this one post.

About Wes Bredenhof

Pastor of the Free Reformed Church, Launceston, Tasmania. View all posts by Wes Bredenhof

8 responses to “Catechism Preaching

  • Daniel Kok

    Wes:

    Thank you for sharing Dr. Van Vliet’s thoughts on this important matter.

    I don’t know if this is helpful or not but our afternoon services at Grace look like this:

    Scripture Reading: ~
    Text: ~ ( Confessional reference here)

    The parentheses function as a reminder of the catechism’s subordinate authority to scripture. The reason for this is that I strive to preach from God’s Word or the text over the catechism but not against the catechism. As I have written elsewhere:

    “It is easy to abuse the privilege of using the Catechism as an aid to preaching doctrine by simply repeating what it says instead of examining the biblical evidence that confirms it…. what we must seek to do is demonstrate from the scriptures that the doctrine is biblically correct and that the Catechism is, therefore, biblical. The Catechism may be used as the template by which we present the doctrines of scripture but not the primary source of the doctrines. This could be done, for example, by choosing a biblical text that accurately reflects the doctrine of the assigned Lord’s Days or one it’s question and answers.”

  • George van Popta

    I usually say something like: “The catechism lesson for this afternoon is Lord’s Day…. and the text for the sermon is the word of God as it is summarized in this Lord`s Day.” I think that`s quite close to CO 52.

  • Tyler

    Our liturgy says

    Ministry of the Word as confessed in Lord’s Day 1

  • Pete Verhelst

    ‘Catechism preaching is administration of God’s Word in the full sense of the word. The many proof texts which a good edition of the catechism contains show that the contents have been taken from the Bible. The Catechism summarizes the doctrine of Holy Scripture and obeys the Apostle Paul’s command of 2 Timothy 2:2 that’ the sacred deposit” shall be passed on to the coming generations.’ from Decently and in good order, page 81 You see Pastor all this talk and practice of not using the Catechism as text has me on the edge of my seat. Are we back at a point in history where the Catechism is going to take a back seat. If not in the preaching then also in other aspects of life. I’m afraid that if pastors no longer want to use the Catechism as ‘Text’ then we are but one step away from loosing Catechism preaching altogether. Some ministers for example read the Catechism as their text but in the sermon never refer to it, but rather preach from their scripture reading! I’m rather concerned about the present trend. Pete Verhelst

  • Zac Wyse

    Our order of service says:
    Scripture Reading – ______
    Summary of Scripture – HC Lord’s Day ____

  • Jason Vander Horst

    Hi Wes,

    I’m interested to hear more about your thoughts on the label “Confessional Reading” and why that doesn’t do it for you… Thanks for the info from Dr. Van Vliet’s presentation.

    • Wes Bredenhof

      Jason,

      “Catechism lesson” better expresses the didactic nature of catechetical preaching, as well as the connection between what is read and what is preached. When I preach a catechism sermon, I’m not typically expositing the catechism (hence I don’t do exegesis on the catechism in my preparation — do we really need to study German in seminary now?), but I am teaching the doctrine taught in the catechism.

  • Pete

    Hi Wes, I would urge you to every so many years to actually ex-posit the catechism text, after all the older members of the congregation haven’t had a catechism class in years and a refresher course in the afternoon worship service would do them good!

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