Rev Susan Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
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NATIONAL BISHOP'S TURN
The Importance of Lifelong Learning
Think about how you can incorporate study into your spiritual practices.
By now you may be well into the program year in your congregation. However, I want to take a moment to talk about “Study,” one of the seven items that make up the Call to Spiritual Renewal initiative that we encourage in our church. I hope you have the list memorized: Pray, Read, Worship, Study, Serve, Give, Tell!
Talk to any educator and you will hear about the importance of lifelong learning. Even by the end of high school, none of us will have all the knowledge and skills we need to survive and thrive for the rest of our lives. The best we can hope for is that by graduation students will have learned some basics, most importantly how to learn.
It’s the same thing when you think about the Sunday school or confirmation programs in our church. By the time we “graduate” from these programs no one will have learned everything they need to know about faith to help them survive and thrive for the rest of their lives of faith. Although remembering, “Jesus loves me” can be an incredible comfort in times of need, it doesn’t give you the theological language to wrestle with questions of the existence of God or the enormity of life’s problems. C.S. Lewis wrote, “If you do not listen to theology, that will not mean that you have no ideas about God. It will mean that you have a lot of wrong ones.”
I still remember what a life-changing and time of growth in faith it was for me when I participated in my first book study while I was a university student. Reading and reflecting on Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s The Cost of Discipleship with my peers was probably one of the germinating factors that led me in the direction of ordained ministry. I know that I am very blessed that in my current role as bishop I get to participate in a variety of study opportunities as I meet with people across our church and with partners around the world. Most recently I had the chance to study with National Church Council as we read and reflected on The Lutheran World Federation’s Gender Justice Policy, studied scripture and prayed together.
One of the places you might start taking the discipline of study seriously is by thinking about the other spiritual disciplines. How do you pray and are there other ways to pray that might help you in your relationship with God? Do you know enough about the Bible to make daily reading of scripture meaningful? What could you learn that would enhance your experience at worship? What issues in the world—poverty, human trafficking, refugees, the environment—would you like to know more about from a faith perspective to motivate you in serving in your community? Do you know about the biblical concept of stewardship and how that calls us to be generous in our giving? What is your own faith story, and are you prepared to tell it to others?
I invite you to think about how you can incorporate study into your spiritual practices. Whether you do it alone or with a group, I know it will be an enriching experience for you, just like it is for me!
Here are a few other ideas for study from the Call to Spiritual Renewal resources available on our website (elcic.ca/csr):
- Make a weekly visit to the ELCIC’s national website (elcic.ca).
- Use The Lutheran World Federation study Give Us Today Our Daily Bread (lwf-assembly.org/explore/assembly-theme-resources).
- Consider adding a reference or history book to accompany your Bible reading.
- Form a theological book group. Read and discuss current or classic books on God, faith, the church, spirituality and spiritual practices.
- Read The Small Catechism by Martin Luther, Evangelical Lutheran Worship, pages 1160–1167.
- Sign up for a course at seminary (seminary.wlu.ca and usask.ca/stu/luther/) or at one of our schools (lcbi.sk.ca and luthercollege.edu).
- Look at the study on the Provision of Word and Sacrament Ministry currently underway in our church (elcic.ca/faithorderdoctrine).
Canada Lutheran, Oct/Nov 2014
Rev. Susan C. Johnson, National Bishop of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada writes a regular column for each issue of Canada Lutheran.
How is Jesus calling you to tell? Who is God calling
you to share your faith with? What do you need to assist
you in growing in your ability to share your faith? Share
your “tell” ideas on the ELCIC Facebook page at www.facebook.com/Canadian-Lutherans. God bless you as
you continue to deepen your discipleship!