Before you get too excited, I can’t claim to know comprehensively what J. I. Packer dreams about. 1 But I can relay to you something he specifically said he dreams about (in either a daydream sort of way, or a metaphorical way).
In Renewing The Evangelical Mission, he co-authors an article with Gary A. Parrett titled “The Return of Catechesis: Lesson From the Great Tradition.” It is a sort of Cliff Notes on their full length book Grounded in The Gospel: Building Believers The Old-Fashioned Way. In the middle of the article, Packer begins to articulate his vision for catechesis in the local church:
What I dream of is ongoing catechesis in the local church through an ongoing series of courses, short of long, and at different levels, but all analyzing, illuminating, vindicating, and apply items contained in the following archetypal sequence of themes which together, so I submit, constitute basic Christianity (116).
Just what are those themes you wonder? Well, here they are:
- The authority of Scripture
- The sovereignty of God
- The truth of the Trinity
- The holiness of God’s law
- The sinfulness of Sin
- The centrality of Jesus Christ
- The graciousness of salvation
- The power of the Holy Spirit
- The circuitry of communion
- The truth about the church
- The promised hope
- The glory of God
Packer explains each of these themes briefly with a “practical, relational slant,” and the article is well worth your time (as is the book as a whole generally speaking). Packer’s preliminary conclusion to the article (which is followed by a Parrett postscript) that pulls together the threads of discussion and summarizes what he dreams about looks like this (124):
- Ongoing catechetical discipling of all age groups in our churches, evangelical churches as much as any, is urgently needed today, and will be needed for the foreseeable future
- Joining a congregation should involve an explicit commitment to accept catechetical discipling
- Ongoing catechesis should always be planned into the pattern of ongoing programs in local congregations
- As surveys of the professedly evangelical West, such as that of David Wells, make evident, there is really no hope of a fruitful evangelical future unless these changes are made.
I really resonated with Packer’s thoughts as I read them, and would love to spend more time working to see that vision achieved. What I’m wrestling with is how much I can contribute to this vision outside of a staff position. I taught the doctrine class at our church last spring, but beyond that, our church doesn’t do anything in this vein beyond the 3 week membership class (it’s technically 4, but the final week is interviews). I wish we did, and maybe someday we will. I would love to take a staff position at a church heading this kind of thing up, but it seems many churches don’t devote a staff member to overseeing this, but instead make it part of an existing position. I think it’s a fulltime gig, but maybe that’s just me.
What about you, thoughts on this? Does your church do this? Would you like them to? Is it a full-time staff position?
- That would be super creepy, and even if I could, I probably wouldn’t share it ↩