Teach These Things: Days of Future Past

Luther-thumb-640xauto-5I recently added it up, and realized that it was five years ago when I first said to myself, “It would help me remember what I teach from year to year if I wrote some of this down.” The goal was to help my own teaching. It has. And as it developed and I saw others struggling, it seemed like it might help others as well. So, I began polishing it. I got ideas to improve on it. I added the Large Catechism Outlines. Eventually, I found and lost a publisher. Doing that led me to a graphic artist who is absolutely the best to work with. She made the words pretty, and then surrounded them with a book that’s pretty.

I didn’t realize how long it would take. And as the focus shifted from writing it down for my own use to actually publishing, I began studying catechesis in the church. I’ve been studying it for a long time, but I really picked up the pace. There are a lot of resources out there, scattered here and there. They are of inconsistent quality. Some are amazing. Some are quite weak. Some have good material buried within otherwise outdated resources. But none are exactly comprehensive regarding the history, theory and practice of instruction in the church for the 21st century.

Which brings us to the future. Now that Teach These Things has been released, and I’m finishing up with my “book tour”, I will resume work on the book tentatively titled “Catechetics: Fixing Confirmation”.

Oddly enough, I’m writing the how-to book before the book on the theory of doing it.  The former was already there, it just needed writing down. The other needed research, books ordered from the seminary library and returned and ordered and returned, etc. I’ve been borrowing from friends, downloading perhaps every catechetical book and article I can find online, pushing the ATLAS for Alumni server to it’s theoretical limits, and in general, making a nuisance of myself at circuit meetings. (Let’s just say that they long ago learned not to mention catechesis. Or anything from the catechism.)

On the last page of Teach These Things”, there is an ad for Catechetics. It says, “Coming late 2015.” Originally, it said “Coming Summer 2015.” I realized about ten minutes after I wrote it down that such a date was too optimistic. So I changed it to “Late 2015”. Then, I noticed that a section of Catechetics that I had slated for a couple of paragraphs needed to be expanded into its own chapter. That seems to happen a lot. I now have seven novel-length books to read. The next time it happens I will have seven more. Late 2015? Let’s just say that I’m still shooting for it. Eventually, if I keep picking dates, I will be on the money with one of them.

So why bother with all of this? A niche market usually has a niche to which it can market. There is a reason that the last full “Catechetics” was published almost 100 years ago. It’s just not the place where one is likely to make a pile of cash. Publishers aren’t interested. As a doctoral thesis, it would be considered too broad a topic, and not nearly academic enough. Without the experience of actually doing catechetics in a parish, an MDiv student would likely write a paper that is long on theory, short on helpful application (I have one or two of those in my files.)

So, here I am, with my hobby. I read, mark, learn and inwardly digest what it is to teach the faith. And then I write down what I have experienced and learned. And, sometime (hopefully within the next decade) I will make it available to you. But that is all process. It still doesn’t say why. Here’s why, and now we switch to the Master Catechist, The Blessed Reformer:

For inasmuch as God Himself is not ashamed to teach these things daily, as knowing nothing better to teach, and always keeps teaching the same thing, and does not take up anything new or different, and all the saints know nothing better or different to learn, and cannot finish learning this, are we not the finest of all fellows to imagine, if we have once read or heard it, that we know it all, and have no further need to read and learn, but can finish learning in one hour what God Himself cannot finish teaching, although He is engaged in teaching it from the beginning to the end of the world, and all prophets, together with all saints, have been occupied with learning it, and have ever remained pupils, and must continue to be such?

That’s why I am working on this. Because to do so is to do God’s Work in the church. It’s what the prophets and apostles did. It’s what pastors do. And it’s what this country parson spends his days and years trying to learn and then teach. Hopefully, those days and years culminate in a book that will help the church consider what we are doing, how we are doing it, and how best to accomplish the great task first stated by certain Greeks, who came to Philip and said, “Sir, we would see Jesus.”

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