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Introduction to Roots

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The document you are holding is a fresh take on an ancient practice. It is one piece in the process of discipleship. Consider trees. Trees can grow and change with time. Some bear fruit, some grow to incredible sizes, and some live for hundreds of years. But all trees have one thing in common: roots. Any tree is only as strong as its roots. Roots nourish the tree and anchor it into the ground. Without strong roots, the tree will either wither, fall, or have its growth stunted.

What you have before you are like spiritual roots. This document is meant to introduce you to the basic story and teachings of the Bible. A Christian will never outgrow these truths. These are the roots that will nourish and anchor you in this life so that you become a strong, fruit-bearing follower of Jesus.

But what exactly is a catechism? For some, the word is totally foreign. For others, it may bring back bad memories of dull repetition. But there is no need for confusion or dread; the concept is quite simple. The word “catechism” comes from a Greek word in the New Testament meaning to teach. Catechism simply means something that is taught. This document is a catechism—a collection of teachings about Jesus. But another related word is more important for us. That word is “catechesis.” Whereas a catechism is a collection of teaching, catechesis refers to the process of teaching. Here is why that matters.

Catechesis is a biblical practice. In Deuteronomy 6:6-9, God told His people to carefully remember His words and teach them to children. God’s Word was to be carefully passed down from one generation to the next. Children would memorize Scripture and be taught to meditate on it daily. In the New Testament, we also see that there was a body of teaching that circulated throughout the churches and was taught to new believers. In Luke 1:1-4, Luke says that he has written his gospel so that Theophilus can know the certainty of the things he was taught. “The things you have been taught” is from the Greek form of the word “catechism.” Romans 6:17 and 1 Timothy 6:20 also seem to refer to a group of teachings that had been passed on to early believers about Jesus. This makes sense because Jesus had told His disciples to “make disciples of all nations… teaching them to observe all that I had commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). How were they to make disciples? Presumably, the same way that Jesus had made them disciples. That involved learning a great deal of content, but it also involved practicing a new way of life that Jesus modeled. The goal was not to pass a test, but to learn to love God and serve Him in everyday life!

That is why the distinction between “catechism” and “catechesis” is important. We must be careful not to think that memorizing this document makes us faithful disciples of Jesus. A disciple is not defined by knowledge. Consider the analogy of a tree again. While a tree cannot survive without good roots, it is more than just roots. Roots without anything else are nothing more than a dead stump in the ground. A “Christian” who can accurately describe doctrine but who does not live a transformed life is spiritually dead. Our goal is not to memorize a catechism, but to go through catechesis, or, in other words, discipleship. We want to be disciples of Jesus, meaning that we are learning to live like Jesus. The content is necessary, but it only helps us if it grows our love for God and our neighbor.

Throughout its history, the church has practiced catechesis in a variety of ways. While the form changes, the substance does not. Catechesis is simply the process of more mature believers instructing new believers in the same biblical truths to bring those believers to maturity in Christ. The process of becoming a disciple never ends. We will always be students of Jesus. Catechesis is not meant to be the final step, but rather the first. Think of catechesis as a sort of onboarding process. It is how we give new believers the knowledge they need to continue growing in the Lord. 

Here is how you should use this catechism. You will find here 52 questions and answers. That is one question for each week of the year. Attached to each week are five passages of Scripture that complement the main idea of the question and answer. Each week, study the question and answer and try to memorize it. Think about it and how it may shape your everyday life and your understanding of God, yourself, and others. Read one passage of Scripture each day of the week. You will find reading for five days a week. You will have two days a week to read something else or to catch up if you fall behind. The questions and answers quickly and clearly define what we believe and will keep you in the truth. However, the Scriptures are God’s Word to us. Do not neglect reading them! They will change you in ways the catechism never could. You will notice that each week ends with a Psalm. The Psalms are prayers and songs that you can adopt as your own. They are included so that as you learn what God says to you, you also learn how to speak to God. To grow, you must pray! Remember to pray daily.

While this catechism may be a benefit for you to study alone, you will find it more beneficial to study with others. After all, Jesus had twelve disciples — not one! Try to find a small group of believers who will commit to studying this catechism with you weekly. Ask a mature believer to join you in this process. In a group, pray for one another, share insights, ask questions, and challenge one another to apply these truths to life. You will find it helpful to keep a journal of things worth mentioning in your meetings. After you read, write down a short note about what you read. This will help you remember to mention it in your group meetings.

If you have children, you may also find this as a helpful guide to family devotions. Teach it on a level that suits your child’s level of understanding. Read some of the Scriptures, pray together, and memorize the questions. While small children may not understand everything they memorize, you are filling their minds with truths that they will remember and understand later.

Remember the goal: to know and be like Jesus. Pray that God would change your heart and increase your love for Him and others. May God bless you and keep you, and may you know the riches of His goodness and love.

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