Educational Ministry of the Church - Lesson 7

What Must We Teach? (Part 1)

The Heidelberg Catechism provides essential elements for a Christian education curriculum.

Gary Parrett
Educational Ministry of the Church
Lesson 7
Watching Now
What Must We Teach? (Part 1)

Content: What must we teach?

Part 1

I.  The Heidelberg Catechism

A.  Outline of the Catechism

1.  Our Sinfulness--The Great Commandment

2.  Our Redemption in Christ

a.  The Creed

b.  The Sacraments

3.  Our Grateful Response

a.  The Ten Commandments

b.  The Lord's Prayer

B.  Omissions

1.  Introduction to Scripture

2.  The Great Commission

C.  Timely Emphasis

D.  Unity, Liberty, Charity

  • Seven questions that provide a framework for choosing and implementing curriculum.

  • Our misconceptions about Christian education can cause us to choose poor or inaccurate content and use ineffctive strategies.

  • The three essential tasks of the Church are worship, outreach and teaching.

  • Christian formation focuses on the process of becoming more like Christ.

  • Instructions for spiritual education from passages in the Old Testament and New Testament.

  • History of Christian education from the early church to modern Sunday school.

  • The Heidelberg Catechism provides essential elements for a Christian education curriculum.

  • The Torah contains the essence of what God wants us to know. Jesus clarifies and exemplifies the Torah.

  • A CORE curriculum should be Comprehensive, Orthodox, Reforming and focused on Essentials. Delivery systems may include bible studies, small groups, Sunday school and sermons.

  • The Ten Commandments are the basis for Old Testament Law and the core teaching of the New Testament.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • Tailoring curriculum by taking into peoples' physical and spiritual developmental stages can make teaching more effective.

  • A key element for effective education to take place is for teachers to know their students relationally.

  • Effective teachers know their audience and avoid attitudes and expressions that would create obstacles to communication.

  • Asking the right questions about the curriculum and the audience can help you identify what information to emphasize and how to present it effectively.

  • How you define teaching determines content and strategy.

  • Effective teaching engages the whole person.

  • When preparing curriculum, an effective teacher will take into account both the content and the audience.

  • Many people fill the role of teacher in your life at different times and in various ways.

  • Christian education involves recruiting, training, modeling, organizing and supporting people who volunteer to teach.

  • Being trained in skills for conflict resolution helps you to have realistic expectations and gives you the tools you need to effectively resolve situations as they arise.

Through this course, you will gain a deep understanding of the educational ministry of the church, its foundations, principles of teaching and learning, and the development of an effective educational ministry. You will also explore strategies for different age groups, including children, youth, and adults, and learn how to address contemporary issues such as cultural relevance, technology, media, and special needs inclusivity.

Educational Ministry of the Church 
Dr. Gary Parrett 
What Must We Teach? (Part 1) 
Lesson Transcript



Let's have a discussion for the next several minutes of the catechism. You pull it out. Unfortunately, I didn't bring my copy with me, so if I need reference, I'll borrow one of yours. No, I don't have it memorized. But here's what I want us to do with the Heidelberg Catechism. Once again, the idea of the reformers. Now, let's put into the hands of believers of a concise, something like a concise statement of what we believe. What What is the basic substance of the Christian life? I want to look, first of all, at the outline. Remember, we mentioned there's an outline in the Heidelberg Catechism. What's that outline? Somebody give it to me. How is how are the contents outlined? So the three fold outline of this catechism, man's sin and guilt, God's redemption or man experiences redemption of freedom to the grace of God and the man demonstrates gratitude and obedience through new life. Looks like kind of a nice gospel outline in some ways. But when I. When I send it to the catechism, remember I asked you not to look only for the outline, but see what's plugged into the outline. What did you find? Plugged in? Give me some summary of what you found. Is the contents here? What are the actual materials that are put under this outline? Mm hmm. There you go. Right on. You landed on it immediately. Where does the Apostles Creed show up here. Second part, The Apostles Creed becomes the vehicle through which our redemption and freedom, through Jesus Christ is explored. So it's placed under that head. That's exactly what I'm looking for here.


So that's one of the major content pieces. Question and answer through the Creed. What else? The Ten Commandments come down here as part of gratitude and obedience. Very good. Yeah. Where do they come in? The Sacraments. Lord's Supper and Baptism. What? What? Heading part two. Okay, so we have the sacraments under here that also relate symbolically to our redemption and our freedom in Christ. Christ's one Sacrament is a symbol of our initiation into the faith relationship with Christ. One sacrament is a symbol of our ongoing communion with Christ. Was there any content? I know point one was very short here, but give me a brief synopsis of the content that's plugged in. Another point one something about the nature and anything else, or how is the sin nature demonstrating? The law shows up here, and particularly in what form? It's brief, but I think there is reference to maybe we could call it the double commandment, the great commandment, Love the Lord your God, heart, soul, mind the strength to love your neighbor as yourself. So in this point, we have we have notice. We have law down here, and we have law up here as well. But the law up here is used very briefly and for the purpose of showing us our sinfulness. And then it's used down here more specifically to show us something else. Show us the path of obedience. Okay. Before we go on and talk about why these pieces are there, I want to ask the question, what did you find missing? I asked you to wrestle with the thought of What do we need to teach? What did you find this? Of course, to read this document and understand it. One of the things that's very important is to try to think historically about about this document.


So who is this document written to? Well, it was written to a Christian community. That was the idea. And it was written to a Christian community that was apparently living within a larger Christian community or living within Christian Europe, where it really wasn't up for grabs, whether or not the Bible was authoritative. People just accepted that. And in a sense, their the debate would be between Protestants and Catholics about the authority of Scripture, but written into a Protestant community. It wouldn't have been it wasn't a controversial point for sure. So Bible intro kind of materials, including the authority of Scripture and the use of Scripture. If I were to write a catechism today, I might see that as a pretty important component because we're not written, we're not writing to a Christian world at this time. Let's use the head here. Bible Intro. A lot of stuff about introductory materials to the Bible missing there that I think would have you would agree. How about another big omission? Yeah, the Great Commission. This idea is touched on and then left. And the whole idea of the Christian's responsibility to evangelize the rest of the world now. Why would this be? Why might this be missing? Same reason that this was missing. The idea is that this is. This is basically Christian Europe. Misunderstood. Understood. So we don't. We don't. Have that sense. So in some ways we see omissions that I think you can link to historical things. There are other omissions that we could see as maybe points of emphasis that we would see differently, but these are probably historical things. On the opposite side, what are some historical emphases that are there that maybe we wouldn't have had? It's pretty there's a pretty strong anti Papist anti papist stream here, and that is just as much a historical feature of the catechism.


I think think about this now in a historical sense, because of the world that we would be writing to say in North America today, we would definitely feel a need for this and we would definitely feel a need for this because we have no assumption about this being Christian, North America. So we're going to train people in the Great Commission, we're going to train them by the Scriptures, the Word of God. But instead of an emphasis on an anti Papist kind of approach, maybe we would find it necessary. What's being done in this catechism is contrasting right comparison contrast between this reformed faith and the faith of the camp of the Roman Catholics. What might be an interesting kind of comparison contrast to present today? What do you think might be a more suitable sort of compare and contrast then? Protestant? Catholic? All right. Yeah. Let's put down some thoughts like secularism or postmodernism. We would probably find ourselves, if we want to not necessarily notice the way that these anti Catholic statements show up in the thing. It's not that they've come up with brand new something to say. They weren't going to say this at all, but now let's say it, we weren't going to address the sacraments, but now we'll address them. It's rather how the sacraments are addressed in the same way. There are some topics that we consider the basics of our faith that we might present them today. And as soon as we present them, we know that out there. What the world says about that in contradistinction to what we say about that, and then we have to confront that. So I would call this this kind of statement in the catechism. I'm going to call that a timely emphasis or a timely nuance.


It's not a brand new category of teaching. It's a timely emphasis. And in a similar sort of way, if we're going to do catechesis today, we will certainly find that we have to do some timely emphasis from here to there. This was this is always so in the case of catechesis, in the earliest days of catechesis, when people are coming from pagan backgrounds, their pagan backgrounds were challenged. Now, this is the morality that you were used to. Paul does it in in the Corinthians and the Corinthians and the Thessalonians. He does the same thing teach, teach the basic truth of the faith. But you always have to make some reference to compare and contrast with what people have already been indoctrinated in. So if your society has been indoctrinating you that sexual freedom is the way to go as you're becoming a Christian, I need to tell you that that very clearly is contradicted by the faith that you're coming into. In this catechism. The reformers felt really compelled. They just have to think a little history here. Where was this out? What was going on? What was happening? They felt compelled to say, this is who we are as opposed to this belief system over here. One of the things which I would love to see if I were going to add something to a catechism, if I were going to piece together the catechism today. One other thing related to that that I would love to see would be a statement about unity, liberty, charity. Some of you will recognize this, an ancient saying in the church that in things essential, we demand unity. Or we could say instead of essential, we can say primary doctrines. We demand unity in things non-essential or perhaps better in secondary issues.


We allow liberty and in all things we speak and think and act with charity, which is just the King James word for agape. So I would love to see something like this in any kind of significant catechesis today. I would want what let me translate this in practical terms. I would want to teach people to say these are the things that make us Christian. These are the things that set us apart as Christian. And these are the most important things. These are the things that make us Baptist or Methodist or Presbyterian, and they are important. That's why we call ourselves the Presbyterian Church. But they're not as important as these things. And though you may be a Baptist and I may be a Presbyterian, these things are more important and they unite our hearts and we're willing to be identifying one another as brothers and sisters in Christ here. These things, we reach our convictions. We hold our convictions firmly, but we don't let them overshadow the importance of the things that unite us. And above all, whenever we speak of matters of the faith, we better speak the truth and love. That's where we are on faith. And I would love to see this as part of any kind of catechesis today. In fact, I'd love to see a class at the seminary called Unity, Liberty and Charity, if we can identify this clearly. These are these are the things which unite Christians in this holy Catholic Church. To borrow the line from the creed and just a Christian education note here. When I run across a word like Catholic in the Apostles Creed, of course there's always somebody in the church. You cringes at that. Wait a second. I thought it said Presbyterian outside as a Christian educator.


My my thought is this is not the time to say, oh, well, people won't understand the word, so let's throw it out. As a Christian educator, I think this is the time to say no. This is a rich, beautiful word. Catholic here doesn't mean Roman Catholic. This is a word that's part of the historic life of the church. And it means that you're a part of something much bigger than just you and me right here and right now. This is the Church of God across the globe and throughout the ages. So rather than just saying, well, they'll never understand it, let's replace it. This is a teachable moment that we have to see. Another example of this kind of thing. You read a hymn, beautiful hymn, like Come Thou Fount of every Blessing. And you get to the second or third verse and it says, Here, I raise my Ebenezer, either by that grace a common. Now you go to the hymnal, and instead of Ebenezer, Ebenezer is gone. He went on vacation somewhere. And so it says hither, By thy grace, you are here. I'm up to now. Your love has guided me or something. What's the thinking of? Nobody knows Ebenezer any more or less. Or now there's a word for this kind of thinking. There's a phrase for this is called dumbing down, and we don't profit from this. This is not from an educational standpoint. So I say keep those kind of words. If you think they're important, they're biblical, if they're rich, or if they're theologically or historically important, and then teach your people don't just run from this. Anyway, that's my little sermon. But back to your question. I think this is it. This is big part of the puzzle.


If we would train people to say, wait, this is this is why we are Christian, how many any of you present last year at the chapel in the chapel that we had here? Oh, I'm sorry. Most of you missed it right in our own chapel here. We had a grapple and doctors, Davis and Kaiser and Bill debating three views of the millennium Millennium pre millennial millennial argument. To me, that was exactly the kind of thing that we need to see more of in the in the seminary, for example, and in the church at large where we bring these issues out. So you could walk away from that meeting and you could know, okay, this is where we're uniting. All these guys believe Christ is coming again, is coming physically, visibly is coming, and Glory is going to judge. The wicked is going to bring the righteous to himself forever and ever. Therein we stand. Come quickly, Lord Jesus. Amen. And yes, they have disagreement, but they clearly allowed. Some respect and liberty for each other, and they spoke to one another in an absolute tone of charity. They modeled for us very wonderfully how Christians can be united and divided in a sense at the same time. And that's what and unless we do this, what what the problem is like, the problem with the catechism is when you say, well, let's sweep this controversial stuff aside so that we can be united, the controversial stuff never really goes away. It's all there. And then it shows up. A little pocket of dispute there. In a pocket of dispute there. I think it's much better to bring it out into the light. These are the things which Christians have always been united around. These are things which separate us.


And let's talk about. Let's not pretend they don't exist in the name of unity, but let's acknowledge that they do exist. So. And this also points to the limits of unity that depending on what we mean by unity, there are certain limitations to it. You can be united here. But if we're talking about being united for ongoing worship, say, Sunday, by Sunday, we're going to be worshiping together. You can't probably achieve that unity if you have great debates about baptism, for example. So if I'm saying right now, sadly, we're not able to be together Sunday by Sunday for worship because our dispute over the sacraments. That's not to say that we don't believe we are united in a larger sense. Obviously, part of the tragedy here is the tragedy of the fact that we live in a fallen world. We don't have all the answers. Another interesting illustration of this, moving away from the theological divide to the ethnic divide. For example, Martin Luther King Jr said 11:00 Sunday morning, the most segregated hour in America. Well, unfortunately, the easy answers, the answers are not as easy as we would like them to be. You can't just go into a white pastor, can't just go into an ethnic community as they come on. Now get out of that and come on, join us and worship with us. It's not quite that easy because of socio cultural realities and we live in a fallen world. If I speak to if I speak to someone in an ethnic community in America, say an Asian-American person like my wife, I know what my wife would say. Right now, we're worshiping a church is predominantly white, but most of our years together, we were in a church that was predominantly Korean-American.


My wife would say, You know what? When, especially when she was working five or six days a week, I feel like nobody understands me. Nobody lets me be me, nobody. I have to put on I have to pretend to be somebody else and live in somebody else's value system or somebody else's culture. It's so good on Sunday to be with people who know me. I don't have to explain myself. I don't have to explain why they accept me for me. I don't have to wear anybody else's mask. It just to point to the fact that there are practical realities in a fallen world that make the full blown goal of unity a little bit difficult to attain doesn't mean that we don't aim on it, but we may not always attain to it perfectly here. But we can attain to unity in some sense. One last illustration and we'll break of that. When I pastored in the Korean church, when I pastored youth, we had a problem of unity in the one congregation because the youth all spoke English and the parents all spoke Korean. Not just language, but culture. They were totally different places. Parents raised in Korea. They think one way. Kids raised in America think ways very different. So every Sunday, we had a challenge of unity, and the youth worshiped over there and the adults worshiped over there. If we tried to come together every week, Sunday after Sunday after Sunday, it would have been just a lot of headaches for a lot of people. Translate every message, you know, twice as long and different value systems and preaching the message to different hearts. It would have been extremely challenging to pull off. So week by week we were separated. But on a number of occasions throughout the year, we came together to acknowledge our unity and to have a special celebration.


Maybe that points to what can be done at the ethnic church level, some of our ethnic divides. We'll talk more about this under conditions, by the way, and maybe also at the denominational divide. Maybe we can't be together week after week, but we can come together when Billy Graham comes to town or if we can come together for some Easter Sunrise service. Something like that. Statements of unity in the midst of diversity. In some ways, in an ironic sense, I think our unity is actually magnified when we acknowledge our diversity. When we when we say to the world, yeah, in fact we don't agree about this, this, that and the other thing, but here we are now standing together in the name of Christ. That magnifies unity more than dismissing diversity. Everyone.