The Intentionality of Catechizing
Intentionality is about the most awful word one can derive. But it serves its purpose in this context. After looking at the nature (natural ontology) of catechizing, it is imperative to look at being intentional in our catechizing. Since we can catechize without intentionality, it is essential for those in the church to take every thought captive. We need to be mindful of the people we are catechizing. We must be convinced of the manner we are catechizing. And we must be mindful of our hearts during catechizing. But those really are not the point I want to highlight.
Nevertheless, it is worth driving home this principal cultural issue. It seems much of western Christianity lacks intent. Now we may not recognize this because the leadership of western Christianity have intentions but those are always communicated downward. Many float through life presuming the Holy Spirit will blow wherever we ... I mean He wants. Instead, individuals, households, and local churches must return to intentional catechizing otherwise ensure faithlessness to Scripture and God. Since we catechize naturally, each individual, household, and church will catechize. But if they do so without intent, it is almost assuredly fleshy and non-spiritual catechizing.
The first element of intentional catechizing is to ensure it incorporates. Biblical catechizing is not a solo event. This is in fact implied by the question and answer format. It is a Biblical command of parents to children, church leaders to congregants, and the elder to the young. Therefore, necessary catechizing cannot be done by the lone wolf Christian. It must be done be incorporating believers into a fellowship centered around Jesus Christ. Thus catechizing is by necessity communal. It must be done in community. This isn't something a Christian can "decide to do" on their own not can they force someone to do it. This is not a "though none go with me" style of discipleship. We must be united to likeminded households, churches, and Christian leadership to be successful.
Groups that do not practice catechizing will then be more easily infiltrated by individuals who are not likeminded. In the Orthodox tradition, one is a catechumen before a communing member of the church. I'm not endorsing this procedural but I am promoting the essence of the practice. Many churches has focused their intentionality on evangelism leaving catechizing as a personal decision. This may be more common amongst traditions that relegate apostasy to a bottom rung reality. The church however is denying it communal nature when it relegates apostasy (the leaving out from us). Catechizing intentionally refocuses us incorporating people at different ages and at different stages of life. This isn't "fellowship groups" were a Biblical discussion might occur for 15 mins. This isn't "Sunday School discussions" were a thoroughly vetted Biblical viewpoint might eventually be spoken by someone. And this certainly isn't a children's wing focused on cute little stories with coloring books. This is intentional propagation of the Christian tradition at all levels. Existentialism feels good. Incorporation into the tradition and faith of the church through catechizing will be a maturation process that may sting but will eventually strengthen the church.
First, this is not a negation of the communal point stated above. Instead this is a reflection on the fringe points made above. Catechizing is not homogeneous. There are important differences between formal and organic catechizing. There are historical catechisms available as well as modern variations. These would be of the formal variety. Even at this level there is reason to approach people on an individual basis when deciding what catechism to use. A different catechism for younger children than adults. A different catechism for young believers versus older believers. There should be a concern for the individual(s) involved and where they are at spiritually. (Worth noting in passing, we have entered a time when many laymen don't know any part of any catechism let alone major elements of multiple. But we're somehow shocked about liberalism? Please.)
Formal aside, we must also approach each individuals with a unique bent on catechizing them intentionally. This means that we cater to their style and learning ability. The church should do this in its discipleship formats but household should do so as well. We formulate a method that suites them and brings them along in the covenant community. We don't get to chose what we catechize them but how. We must be faithful to the church tradition we find ourselves in and we must raise up covenant members of that community who understand and are familiar with our interpretation of the Scriptures.
Thoughtfulness is the summary. We need to incorporate. We need to extend ourselves to individuals. It needs to be intentional whether formal or informal. Churches and households need to take the time to evaluate what discipleship they're doing and how they're doing it. The church isn't called to perform discipleship in "their style" and let the chips fall where they may. No. Churches and households must seek to be servants in their accommodations.