Peter C. Bender was ordained into the public ministry in 1987. Since 1991 he has served as the pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Sussex, WI. He is also the founder of the Concordia Catechetical Academy.
Chuck Huckaby, is the Minister of Congregational Life at First Protestant Church in New Braunfels, TX. His latest project is at PrayTheBible.net
One might be forgiven for assuming the “C” in “Peter C. Bender” stands for “Catechist”. As one of today’s leading practitioners in the field of “whole congregation catechesis”, his work “Lutheran Catechesis: Catechist’s Edition” is the most comprehensive manual available today for pastors who aspire to ground their congregations in the basics of the Christian faith. A Missouri Synod Lutheran in background, his masterpiece will be found both inspiring and useful by any pastor wishing to wisely link weekly worship with family devotion and develop an ongoing, year-long, life long pattern for ongoing spiritual formation.
As his biography notes, Pastor Bender has done extensive work in the area of Lutheran catechesis, which he defines as
“God’s way of teaching the new life in Christ and His forgiveness to sinners. Faithfully teaching the Word of God and passing on the language of our holy faith, so that the baptized learn how to receive God’s gifts in the Divine Service, how to pray, how to confess, and how to live where God has called them—in the freedom of the forgiveness of sins, with faith in Christ and love to the neighbor. The goal of all catechesis is faith in Christ.”
Bender’s magnum opus with 806 pages prepares the catechist to teach specialized classes on the catechism for youth or adult confirmation or in the day school. It also makes clear how to weave the catechism into the weekly life and daily devotion of the congregation, connecting the catechism to public and private devotion as well as the corporate liturgy and weekly lectionary. While – obviously – Bender is concerned to communicate Luther’s Small Catechism through his work, anyone caring one whit for the Apostles Creed, the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Sacraments cannot fail to find something helpful in every section.
Though many consider “confessional catechesis” to promote “doctrine” by way of disjointed, isolated proof text, Bender’s approach immerses the lifelong catechumen in the vast narrative content of scripture. No element of Creed, Commandment or Dominical Prayer is presented without attachment to Gospel or other narratives from wherein the principle taught is discerned. While this is not unique to classical catechesis in the Fathers or Luther, Bender’s contribution is an extensive “Bible Story Lectionary” that spans a three year time frame (and not to be confused with the three year “Revised Common Lectionary”). For Bender the student cannot properly read the exhortations of the prophets or epistles without first having mastered the narratives of the Torah and historical books of the Old Testament as well as the Gospels and Acts. These narratives then become the background for the prophetic and apostolic pronouncements (e.g. 1 Cor 10:1-13).
The instrument for transporting the catechism into the daily and weekly life of the congregation is “The Congregation at Prayer”. This easily reproduced technique allows a congregation to create a devotional context wherein pastor and people share the same life of prayer throughout the week. Most congregations could easily emulate it on a single sheet of paper weekly to complement the normal “bulletin.” Over time, all the people of God would have the opportunity to participate in ongoing formation.
This work was (and still is) originally published in a large hardback copy. Recently, the text has become available in electronic versions as well. While the electronic forms of the text contain the same, the visual and tactile impact of the hardback print version is lost. Simply hefting the hardback version and scanning its pages allows one to sense the depth and breadth of Bender’s work in a way no digital text will ever manage. For ready access, however, the digital version is preferred. Undoubtedly, the Concordia Catechetical Academy will be happy for users to purchase both editions!
Regardless of the version purchased, every pastor should use Bender’s text first as an opportunity to consider whether a congregation’s ministry of discipleship is available to the entire congregation, whether it encourages lifelong participation instead of having an artificial end date (e.g. after “confirmation”), and whether in the midst of teaching people how to “live” one has first taught them to find life in the repentance and faith that issue into a new obedience instead of in the false religion of moralistic therapeutic deism.
Concordia Catechetical Academy, 2013 (Hardback and Electronic, 806 pages)
Note: This review was originally published at Chuck Colson’s WorldViewChurch.org but is no longer available there. It is republished here by the author.