Loving to Learn
In his latest dispatch of ‘Charles Mail’, that he sends out weekly to staff, Charles Hewlett shared a photo from his first Ministry Development Course in 2005. It so happens that I was in Charles’ first MDC, along with a teenage-looking Sam Kilpatrick. Once I’d recovered from the shock of the photo, I reflected on what I have learnt in the intervening twelve years. What have I learnt, and what would I say to my 28 year old self?
I would tell my 28-year-old self to love to learn. I was a slow starter to academic study. I grew up in a working-class household where we read very few books. I left school in the seventh form to become a mechanic because I wasn’t going to pass. Study and academia were the last things on my mind. My love for learning came with coming to Christ, and it was as a student at Carey that my love for learning was fuelled, funded and fertilised. In the pastorate, I tried to ensure I had time for non-sermonic study but the tyranny of the urgent took priority. I soon found my fuel gauge pointing towards empty and I needed to learn to receive and not just give. On that MDC course, Charles reminded me that whilst not all readers are good leaders, all good leaders are readers. I learnt to embrace the fact that part of who God has made me to be is a reader and it was through reading some of the great Christian theologians that I was refuelled in my love for God, the glory of the gospel and the joy of ministry. But not all learning is bookish.
Unitec have a great phrase about learning, which I wish Carey had come up with: “Everywhere is a classroom.” If I had the chance, I’d tell my 28-year-old self to learn that learning happens anywhere and everywhere if you love to learn. Loving to learn requires an openness, inquisitiveness and curiosity about life and faith. It assumes an eschatological perspective that none of us have arrived yet and God is renewing us through Christ and by Spirit. In pastoral ministry, God exposes us to a wide range of people and situations that are very precious, and it is through these precious people and situations that we learn and grow. Birth, death, baptisms, decision-making, BBQs, conflict, coffee and celebrations are all contexts for learning because everywhere is a classroom. This brings me to the most important thing I would tell my 28-year-old self: we must love to learn. Good learning requires the posture of love: love of God, love of people, love of the church and love of God’s world. May we love to learn.
MDC Class of 2005