As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!
As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!
The very first sentence of our 2018 Discipline states, “The doctrine and spirit of pure Bible Christianity have existed at different times and in different degrees in all branches of the church of Christ.” We in the Evangelical Methodist Church (EMC) understand that we are a single stream that flows out of the mighty river which is the Christian Faith. What distinguishes us is important, but what unites us is just as much so. Thus, we consider our spiritual heritage to be Historically orthodox in our Foundational doctrines, Wesleyan/Arminian in our Theology, Methodist in our Missional priorities, and Congregational-Connectional in our Ecclesiology.
The Historical statement and Constitution at the beginning of our 2018 Discipline (pp.1-131), flesh out these distinctives sufficiently. The reader is encouraged to study those passages in the Discipline as they consider whether the EMC is a denomination, they can join with in covenant membership. The purpose of this Family Catechism is to help you and your family learn about and understand the Biblical Foundation of the EMC.
A catechism is an ancient practice meant to aid in the Discipleship of those who are new to Following Jesus. Its purpose is to draw out the essential theology and ethics of the Christian Faith, what Luke refers to as “the Apostles’ Doctrine and Fellowship…” (cf. Acts 2:42). A catechism is not meant to replace personal Bible study, but rather, is a tool to help disciples understand the Bible in the light of how those Christians before us have understood it.
In this way, a catechism helps us to avoid the temptation of asking the wrong (perhaps even heretical) question–“How does God fit in my story?” Instead, by presenting the biblical worldview and narrative, we learn to ask, “How do I fit into God’s story?” It is only then, when we ask the right question, that we can truly experience the abundant life God intended for us.
Historically, not all catechisms are the same. We have developed this one as a multifaceted Family Catechism, designed to take you and your family through the large sweep of the biblical narrative: the Creation, the Corruption of the Fall, the Covenants, the Christ, and the Consummation of all things. Each section asks one main Question and provides one summary Answer. This is followed by Conversation Starters meant to guide the exploration of this main Question and Answer, and Access Points which are suggestions for ways to deepen the understanding of the main Question and Answer. These Conversation Starters and Access Points then build as you move from the first level (Kids) through the second (Students) to the third and final (Adults). Finally, at the end of the Adult portion of each section, there are more resources provided for those who want to Go Deeper.
Being a Family Catechism, there’s not a one-size-fits-all approach, but the following may help get you started.
(1) Pick a day of the week to set aside to go through the material in preparation for your family time.
Since each section is meant to draw from the Biblical text and provoke conversation about the Main ideas, you need to familiarize yourself with those texts ahead of time as well as the ways in which you can implement the Access Points that will work best for your family. Keep in mind the developmental readiness of of your family as well. The first level is focused on memorizing what the EMC teaches. The second level is focused on analyzing and evaluating what the EMC teaches within the larger context of Christian History and the many divergent streams of doctrinal thought so as to recognize what makes us distinct. The third level is focused on cultivating a passionate, articulate, and compelling message about what the EMC teaches, to share with others in their community. Set your expectations and prepare accordingly.
(2) Your family time will be enriched if you spend time daily reinforcing the material.
Structuring your daily family time around God, even without the content, does a lot to show His importance to our children. Additionally, if you want these Biblical concepts to become part of the mindset and worldview of your child, continued reinforcement is necessary. We forget so much so easily, that unless things are continually before us we will not retain them. Like learning a new language, a little practice every day goes the furthest.
(3) Remember that to be effective, family time should move to the rhythms of the home rather than against them.
Like a craftsman who carves with the grain of the wood rather than against it or the dancer who follows the rhythm of the song rather than ignoring it, so also must the family embrace the natural rhythm and flow of life rather than struggle against it. This concept can best be understood through the dynamic tension of story and ritual. Stories are internal in their essence, focused on shaping Identity and arising out of the natural order of things. Conversely, rituals are external in essence, focused on shaping behavior and superimposed on the natural order of things. Rituals are necessary, but they are not primary, and wherever they are made so they disrupt the family rather than support it. This can be seen with God’s People throughout time. The Jews were Family 1st and a Nation 2nd, when Ritual overtook Story, they lost their true identity (Isaiah 29:13-24). It is the Story of the Gospel that united the Jews and the Gentiles together in the early days of Christianity, while it was the old Rituals that divided them (Acts 15:1-29). Today this remains true when we consider the myriad of sects of Christianity, we are more often divided by our Expressions of Faith, than by what we fundamentally believe about the Faith. Thus, in the application of these things we see that our Family time should be primarily about the Story, not the Ritual. If we will allow it to work this way then we will find our family’s faith strengthened in the midst of the rhythms of life.
(4) Finally, feel free to supplement the material with other verses or commentary as you go, and if you find something that works really well please use the FEEDBACK tab to share it with us so we can improve this resource.