In a previous article we stated that it is the specific task of the Church to indoctrinate its covenant seed. And when we speak of indoctrination by the Church, we mean indoctrination in the Protestant Reformed truth. And we concluded by stating that the Church must and does indoctrinate ‘the man of God’ through the office of the ministry of the Word. And this, we said, leads us to the subject of the preaching of the Word and the catechizing of the covenant youth.
The last sentence implies that the undersigned believes that the church indoctrinates the man of God’ by a two-fold means: preaching and teaching or catechizing.
Let us begin with the official preaching of the Word as understood in its usual meaning. Preaching of the Word takes place in our divine worship as Church of God, particularly as we are gathered on the Sabbath day. We believe, on the basis of Scripture, that it pleases the King of the Church to bless, instruct, exhort, comfort His people by means of the preaching of the Word in a manner as is not possible, under ordinary circumstances, in any other way. This is a very important point to remember. As people of God we do not come together on the Lord’s day to be entertained, or to hear a nice speech, but we come together to worship Him in the fellowship of the saints and hear the official proclamation and declaration of the Word of God. Scripture itself clearly teaches us that God has instituted the preaching of the Word and calls the preachers to proclaim that Word, and that through this preaching of the God ordained preacher we hear not only of Christ, but Christ Himself. This is very plain from, where we read: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him whom (not of whom, J. D.) they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written: How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!”
Now this preaching of the Word to the Church as gathered in the fellowship of the saints is not merely for adults but also for the covenant seed of the Church, for children, for the youth. And it is also a powerful means to indoctrinate the ‘man of God’. For the preaching of necessity implies indoctrination. If preaching has deteriorated into ‘story telling’ or ‘discussion of various subjects’ as seems to be the case in many a ‘church’ of our day and in our land, you can hardly call it preaching anymore. But even so such ‘preaching’ is still indoctrination, although it is the wrong kind of indoctrination. However, sound Reformed preaching is always indoctrination in the true and proper sense of the word because it is the expounding of the truth of the Word of God. Hence, would you have your children indoctrinated, by all means take them to Church. Not only because thus they acquire the good habit of church going, not only because they belong there, not only because thus you are certain that they’ll be on time for Sunday School, but because they are also through the preaching of the Word indoctrinated.
Does the foregoing imply that our children, especial- the younger ones, understand and grasp everything that is preached ? Not at all, and we could not expect such a thing. But gradually they understand more and more of the preaching, till in due time they practically understand everything. (Provided of course they are of average intelligence, well versed in Scripture, taught the doctrine of the Church, and themselves interested in the Word of God),
However, knowing that especially the young element in the Church does not and cannot understand all of the preaching, and the small children very little, would it not be better to have what has been called ‘youth or children’s services?’ Not at all. That would make a sort of a church in a church, tear the church apart, and such a method of doing things could not possibly serve and good purpose. But I do believe that the preacher must reckon with the intellectual and mental capacity of his audience. That does not mean at all that he must always be on the lowest level, he certainly would ‘kill’ the church that way and general superficiality would be the result. Neither does it mean that in every sermon he must have something ‘special’ for the little ones and the less advanced in the church. But it does not imply either, in case the preacher happens to be a brilliant scholar and a great exegete, that he must preach exclusively for the brightest minds in the church. That also is wrong and thus the children, the youth and the less brilliant minds in the church are estranged from the preacher and may easily lose interest in the preaching and say: ‘I can, never get anything out of it anyhow.’ The little ones and the less brilliant minds should not sit under the preaching of the Word every Sunday as has been apply described by a Holland poet (somewhat freely changed by the undersigned): (DUTCH REMOVED).
No, but the servant of God must preach to the whole Church. He must feed the flock of Christ, and in that flock of Christ are also lambs. Indeed, the congregation must endeavor to come up to the preacher’s level and always strive to understand more fully and deeper the Word of God, but the preacher must also come down to the level of the congregation. He must preach, indoctrinate his hearers according to their needs and capacity. And there are not a few that have needs, but they all have needs, young and old, great and small. The preacher preaches to the Church, not to a few exceptionally bright people.
And through the preaching much indoctrination takes place. Every exposition of Scripture is based upon doctrine and many texts deal directly with doctrine. And particularly in our churches where we have regular preaching based upon our Catechism (even though our Catechism treats the doctrine from a subjective point of view) there is of necessity much what we can call ‘doctrinal’ preaching. And that doctrinal preaching is for the whole church, and by it also the seed of the church is not only admonished, comforted, but no less instructed and indoctrinated.
However, the indoctrination of the man of God’ takes particularly place through the ministry of the Word in the catechizing of the covenant seed. And catechizing is official teaching by the Church through the office of the ministry. And in catechism the Church teaches her seed the doctrines of Scripture, the doctrines as formulated, believed and confessed by the Church. Our fathers always considered catechism a very important means for the indoctrination of the covenant seed, and history has proven them to be right. It is basic. It is all important. It is absolutely necessary. Why is it so necessary? For various reasons, a few of which we will enumerate.
Catechizing is necessary in order that the man of God may receive a fuller and more comprehensive knowledge of the contents of Scripture. And knowledge of Scripture is basic to understand more clearly and fully the doctrine of Scripture. Factual knowledge of Scripture is positively necessary, although this in itself is not sufficient. Personally I believe that our Christian Schools have a wonderful opportunity here in supplying our children with factual knowledge of the Bible. And of course the home also enters in here. In fact the home is always basic, and without its cooperation and active support both School and Church are very much handicapped. For supplying the child with factual knowledge of Scripture the Sunday School can also have its value, much depending upon the caliber of the teacher.—But all these means do not take away the fact that the Church through its catechizing must supply ‘the man of God’ with a fuller and more comprehensive knowledge of the contents of Scripture. We are sometimes afraid of a little overlapping. This is not bad at all, because constant repetition is necessary for our children if they are to assimilate and remember the contents of Scripture.
However, I do believe that it is first of all the task of the Church to indoctrinate ‘the man of God’, and that this is her more specific task.
Let us mention a second reason why this indoctrination is so necessary. It is necessary in order that the covenant seed may be able to gradually more and better understand the preaching of the Word. It is a proven fact that excellent and well trained and taught catechumens can sooner understand the preaching than those who are lax and woefully weak in this respect.
A third reason for indoctrination is that ‘the man of God’ may grow to spiritual maturity in the Church. Understand his covenant obligation and be able to make public profession of faith in the midst of the Church. And how can one ever make confession of faith unless he knows what he confesses and what is the main and basic teaching of the Word?
Indoctrination is also necessary in order that the child of the Church may more and more become specific in his knowledge and appreciation of the particular truth, confession and doctrine of the Church of which he is a member. As our children grow older they must not only attend our church services, but they must also know what, is Protestant Reformed, why they themselves are Protestant Reformed, and they must be able to defend themselves over against all those who oppose and gainsay the Reformed truth. It is indeed a pity if sons and daughters of the Church grow up in the Church but remain ‘little children’ as far as their knowledge of the truth is concerned. And, alas, this happens but too often. How can a strong Church ever grow out of weak material? How can a Church ever remain distinctive if its members cannot defend its truth hut are led astray by every wind of doctrine? To ask these questions is to answer them.
Finally, it is not only necessary for our own spiritual benefit to be indoctrinated, but it is also compulsory as far as our God is concerned. The honor and glory of (His Name demands it. The more and the better we know the doctrine of Scripture, the more and better we are equipped to fight the spiritual battle of faith. Soundness in life and walk is inseparably connected with soundness in doctrine. And the more we walk consistently as children of light in the midst of this world the more our God is praised and glorified by us in word and deed.
For all these reasons, and we might add others, it is so absolutely necessary that ‘the man of God be indoctrinated’. And this we saw is done by the Church through the preaching of the Word and the catechizing of its covenant youth. And the last is not the least means to indoctrinate the seed of the church.