During the summer months, I usually re-read the Psalms and the Proverbs. These collections comprise a part of the biblical literature known as “Wisdom Writings.”
In the introduction to the Proverbs, the wisdom writer gives a provocative apologetic for ongoing education. The writer proposes that these proverbs are given “for attaining wisdom and discipline; for understanding words of insight; for acquiring a disciplined and prudent life, doing what is right and just and fair; for giving prudence to the simple, knowledge and discretion to the young—let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance—for understanding proverbs and parables, the sayings of the wise and riddles of the wise” (Prov 1:1-6).
Education and discipleship are ongoing tasks in life. Perhaps true education is not the pursuit of a degree but the development of a lifelong discipline and disposition that promotes learning. Then, discipleship becomes a lifelong commitment to pursuing, processing and proclaiming truth and wisdom within a context of faith.
In his Discipleship Journal, author Bill Mowry offers the following suggestions on how to become a lifelong learner:
- Start with your attitude. Lifelong learning begins with a heart that desires change, wisdom and application.
- Ask questions. Learners ask good questions. They possess an insatiable curiosity—a longing to know, discover, and inquire. Ask questions that get below the surface.
- Join others. Collaborative learning—in classes, small groups, with friends and colleagues—allows us to benefit from diverse perspectives and approaches. People are a gold mine of learning that is tapped through conversation.
- Check out the other side. Take time to examine and understand another point of view, even if it radically contradicts yours. You may see things in a new light, or you may have your old convictions strengthened. Personal convictions that have never been tested remain flabby.
- Read broadly. Include a diversity of books, authors and topics. Resist the temptation to read only those books that reinforce what you already believe.
- Keep a journal. Recording what we learn captures our growth in wisdom.
- Experiment. Try new approaches and ideas. Age does not affect your ability to learn. An 80-year-old can learn to surf the net like an 18-year-old.
- Apply what you know. Our depth of understanding is often directly related to our ability to apply what we’ve learned. Application takes knowledge from the head to the heart.
Barry Howard is senior minister of First Baptist Church in Corbin, Ky.
Pastor at the Wieuca Road Baptist Church in Atlanta. He also serves as a leadership coach and columnist for the Center for Healthy Churches.