Mention the word catechism and most imagine a rather boring statement of belief, organized in a systematic way, and often arranged in the form of question and answer. Many will imagine rows of Catholic parochial students, reciting by rote, the call-and-response answers of the infamous Baltimore Catechism.

While the words Catholic and catechism seem to go hand in hand, many Protestant religious movements have written and taught their own central statements of belief as well. These “Protestant catechisms” include the venerable Heidelberg Catechism and Augsburg Confession. Luther had a catechism. Even conservative bastion Bob Jones University supplies a catechism to private and homeschool venues.

Catechism was wildly effective when used by the Early Church to form the faith of followers. Click To Tweet

The term catechism comes from the word catechesis, out the Greek verb katēcheō. It is a general word for teaching or instruction in the New Testament. The word catechism carries with it the idea “to echo.” The Early Church chose the word catechism as being the best word to best represent the act of handing the teachings of Jesus and the faith of the church on to new believers.

Early catechism teachers became known as catechists, or literally echoers. Over time, catechesis developed into an intentional form of Christian formation based on personal and verbal instruction with the goal of mastering and internalizing essential information of the faith.

In its most basic form, catachesis needs only a teacher, a student, and transferable content.


PRACTICE:  If you could only use 5 ideas/beliefs to describe Christianity to someone who had never heard of it, which would you choose?

Kevin holds a Doctor of Ministry in Semiotics and Future Studies from Portland Seminary, where his work on Early Church spiritual formation passed with the rare honor of exemplary distinction. He is also a graduate of Cedarville University and Dallas Theological Seminary, holding degrees in Biblical Studies, Visual Communications, and Church Educational Leadership. Kevin has served on ministry staffs in some of the largest churches across the United States and is currently the Senior Minister of JupiterFIRST Church in Jupiter, Florida. His most important role, though, is husband to Sally and dad to four of Generation Z’s youngest members: Libbie, Lucy, Harris, and Matthew.