The decline in biblical literacy and the loss of a "faith culture" is no longer news, but it is somewhat shocking. Twelve years ago, New Testament professor Gary Burge reported the results of a survey given to students at Wheaton College, the premier evangelical higher education institution. He found that one-third of the students tested could not put the following in sequential order: Abraham, the Old Testament prophets, the death of Christ, and Pentecost. One-third could not identify the Book of Acts as the location of Paul's missionary travels; half did not know that the Christmas story was in Matthew.
Many studies since have only confirmed these findings. Combine this with increasing anxiety over the church's loss of the younger generation, and we can understand the church's growing need for fresh resources to disciple not just youth but Christians of all ages. To put it in terms that feel a little old-fashioned, at the core we have a growing sense that we need to learn again how to catechize.
I believe we need to resurrect this old word—catechesis—and the big idea it encapsulates. The word has too long been associated with the more formal and liturgical traditions, and has been more or less ignored by evangelicals. But according to the New Testament, to catechize is more than just a matter of passing along essential information about the good news of Jesus Christ. It is instruction in the "way of the Lord" (Acts 18:25). As suggested by J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett in their book on catechism, Grounded in the Gospel, this means aiming at "sound workmanship, thoroughness of construction, solidity, stability, and utility," producing the "living stones ...1
Already a CT subscriber? Log in for full digital access.
Have something to add about this? See something we missed? Share your feedback here.
Subscribe to Christianity Today and get access to this article plus 65+ years of archives.
- Home delivery of CT magazine
- Complete access to articles on ChristianityToday.com
- Over 120 years of magazine archives plus full access to all of CT’s online archives
- Learn more