Both of my boys are on the same baseball team this year, and I’m one of the assistant coaches for this crazy group of 4-6 year olds. With these guys, we’re just trying to teach them the basics–things like where first base is, how many shortstops you can have at one time, and what the best Gatorade flavor is.
One thing I like about our league is that we pitch to the kids right from the start. After a few tries they get to hit from a tee if they need to, but you might as well show them the right way from the very beginning. It’s a ton of fun, and we try to teach the rules and proper techniques, though most of the parents and coaches are just happy if the kids show up and sort of pay attention.
I’m also going to begin a round of new member classes at Bethel soon, and I was reflecting on the parallels between the two. As a pastor, I have to confess that I’m sometimes happy if people just show up and sort of pay attention–even though I know there is much more that lies in store.
Are there ‘basics’, however, that every church member should know? Are there ‘fundamentals’ that should be reviewed again and again? Are there things you should teach right from the start, even if it takes them a while to connect? (pun intended)
I think the short answer is “yes”. Most of church history has pointed to the Apostles’ and/or Nicene Creed, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Ten Commandments as the fundamentals that believers need to know in form, content, and meaning. Many Reformed confessions and catechisms (e.g. the Heidelberg Catechism and Westminster Shorter and Longer Catechisms) expound these things in their introduction to basic Christian belief.
Additionally, I’d suggest that the Reformation solas (Scripture alone, grace alone, faith alone, Christ alone, glory to God alone) are things that must be taught and shared with believers of all ages. This is nothing more than letting people know where the ‘bases’ are and what the rudiments of the ‘game’ involve. No matter how mature your faith, you’ll never move past these fundamentals. Even the Red Sox run the bases in the same direction our kids do. (OK, most of the time at least…)
Obviously I don’t expect my boys to still play baseball at 14 and 16 the way they do now at 4 and 6. But it seems foolish to expect them to develop a more mature skill set if they aren’t shown it right from the start.
I pray that years from now (or months or weeks) the newer believers joining our church will be worshiping, serving, and walking with the Lord in more mature ways than they are now. For that matter, I pray the same thing for myself and for all of our congregation. But it seems foolish to expect that to happen if the content of the Christian faith isn’t set forth from the start.