First and foremost, a person becomes a member of the kingdom of God through faith in Jesus Christ as his Savior and Lord. In other words, we become Christians by believing that Jesus has died on the cross for us and paid the full price for our sins. We do not teach that a person becomes a Christian through good works or simply by joining a church. When a person visits us who is not a believer and desires to learn what the Christian life is all about, or who wish to join our church, they are then invited to Adult Catechism.
Here at Our Redeemer and for Lutherans in general, infants are baptized in the name of the Father, +Son, and Holy Spirit. The child is then taught the Christian faith at home by his parents. Additionally, children are continually taught the faith through worship, Sunday School, First Communion, and Catechism. Older people who have not been baptized first make a profession of faith and then prepare for Holy Baptism through adult catechism.
Here at Our Redeemer Evangelical Lutheran Church we practice what is called Adult Catechesis. "Catechesis" is a word that means "to teach or instruct." When a person visits with us, and decides that they want to come back and pursue membership, they are assigned a sponsoring member or family. A sponsor is simply a friend who assists the new "inquirer(s)," making them familiar with the building, answers their questions, sits with them in worship, prays for them etc. We then have a Rite of Welcome in which the sponsor presents the inquirer(s) to the congregation and in a brief ceremony, are handed a Small Catechism.
Members of other Lutheran Church Missouri Synod congregations who have moved into our area request a transfer of membership from their home congregation. There is no need for Adult Catechism for transfers. We simply ask a transferring family to undergo one orientation session. Of course, if there is a desire to undergo instruction, this is certainly a welcome option. Transfers are assigned a sponsoring family (explained below).
The inquirers, typically about 12 people or so, then begin a class of instruction or catechism. These are taught by the pastor and some of the Elders of the congregation. Instruction centers around the following topics:
- Who is God?
- What is the Gospel of Jesus Christ?
- The Law (Ten Commandments)
- The Distinction between Law and Gospel
- The Life of Christ
- The Holy Spirit
- The Sacramental Life
- The Office of the Keys and Confession
- The Lord's Supper
- The Church Year and the liturgical life
- The Life of Martin Luther
- Membership issues and final matters
At the conclusion of Adult Catechism, if a person has not been baptized, they then are prepared for baptism by their profession of faith. If the timing is right, this is conducted at the Vigil of Easter each year. If a person has already been baptized, then they are reaffirming their faith in Christ and essentially renewing the faith that was begun at baptism. People who have been baptized in the name of the Holy Trinity are not re-baptized. Their baptism is renewed and affirmed through the above-described adult catechism.
After Catechism is completed, all members are encouraged to grow further in their Christian faith through Bible Study and faithful attendance at worship.