Many years ago someone pointed out to me that one of the principal values of a catechism is to teach us to ask the right questions. Since the 17th century, the Westminster Shorter Catechism has taught believers to ask the right questions about the Bible, the Trinity, the person and work of Christ, man’s duty to God, the way of salvation, and the means of grace (the preaching of the word, sacraments, and prayer).
The book’s 43 brief chapters, each in question and answer format, are divided into four sections:
- The Glory of God and the Greatness of Preaching
- Jesus for Preachers
- Loving the Word
- Preaching with Conviction
Hardworking pastors, frequently weary and discouraged, and who easily lose sight of what is most important in ministry, will find this book a treasure.
A sampling of its riches:
“What is God’s chief end in preaching? God’s chief end in preaching is to glorify his name.” “What is your heartbeat? Do you love to preach, or do you love the One you preach? Do you love to prep your sermons, enjoying the hard mental and spiritual work, or do you love the One you are discovering more about? . . . Our challenge as preachers is to remain lovers, to refuse to let our calling, however important and exciting, obscure our primary calling to be captivated ourselves by God’s love in Jesus Christ.”
“Surely we preachers don’t have to suffer, do we?” We have no choice but every help as we follow the Jesus who chose to suffer.” “Endure hardship. Not because it is good for you, like a diet or exercise, but because Jesus did, and our calling is to be transformed into the image of his holiness. Quoting Warfield: “Self-sacrifice brought Christ into the world. And self-sacrifice will lead us, his followers, not away from but into the midst of men. Wherever men suffer, there will we be to comfort. Wherever men strive, there will we be to help. Wherever men fail, there will we be to uplift. Wherever men succeed, there will we be to rejoice. The path of self-sacrifice is the path to glory.”
“What does the fifth commandment teach us? You shall honor those who preached the Word of God to you, and obey what they taught you.” “Rather than waiting to be respected (which is never taught in the Bible), preachers need to work out how to give honor as they should. . . . All of us have been deeply influenced by other preachers. Some are now in glory, many of whom, known to us only through their books, have been there for centuries; and others we will never meet though their ministries continue to bless us through the sermons we download. . . . Honor them. . . . Honor the preachers who are in your life, too. The best and most godly preachers seek out others who share their calling. There’s no competition or jockeying for attention. Godly preachers serve each other with support and advice when requested. Preachers who avoid local brothers engaged in the same work show an integrity gap: who wouldn’t want to support and be supported by brother preachers? Where is the honoring in avoidance?”
“What happens when preachers actually believe in Jesus? A preacher living close to the cross and relying on grace is a fearsome weapon in the hands of God.” “Be a man of the cross. We are never more in awe of the work of Christ for us, and then able to serve our hears that when we are on our knees, confessing our need of forgiving grace in repentance. The gospel we preach must be the gospel we consciously rely on. And what we rely on, we love.”
Asking the right questions is indispensable to a fruitful and enduring ministry. The Preacher’s Catechism supplies just the right questions.