Ministry will break you. It will break your self-reliance, your expectations, your emotional and mental balance, and it will break your heart, over and over again. And all of this is good. Ministry is never the making of you, if “you” is a successful, fruitful version of the sinner who started out in the pastorate.
With the recent success of The New City Catechism, catechisms appear to be back in style. Recent books like Mark Jones’s Faith. Hope. Love. have also been structured around the question-and-answer catechism format. New from Crossway is another kind of catechism, The Preacher’s Catechism, by British pastor Lewis Allen.
Allen’s book contains 43 questions, based on the Westminster Shorter Catechism, but reworded specifically for preachers. Question 1, for example, becomes, “What is God’s chief end in preaching?” (Answer: “God’s chief end in preaching is to glorify his name.”) The book’s concept seems like such a good idea that I’m surprised no one has done it before.
For preachers like me who are still relatively young, some of Allen’s counsel will function more as prophetic warning. But Allen writes with such realism that pastors will feel the call to preach as both a heavy burden and also a heartfelt blessing.
Let all who preach take up and read.
Your book seems to be part of a renewed interest in catechisms. Why do you think the catechism format is so helpful—not just for children, but for preachers, too?
Ours is the soundbite age, where we want the headlines and the need-to-knows, with minimal words and in the shortest time. Catechisms have a way of hooking biblical truth into our crowded minds.
Catechisms also serve modern Christians because many are rightly tired of the shallow, a-historical, and ghettoized nature of church today. Catechisms are our opportunity to peek into what others believe in different places, including in previous centuries.
For example, I’m a Reformed Baptist but have turned to the Westminster Shorter Catechism and the Heidelberg Catechism countless times for my own profit. One of the first things we did as a church plant was to take one question and answer from the Heidelberg to read and reflect on each Sunday. People were struck by the deep theology and memorable phrasing, and got to see how biblical, well-articulated theology feeds their souls.