It seems fairly obvious that being kingdom-minded must involve our minds in some way, but it’s surprising how many Christians are a little suspicious about education. They seem to fear that too much studying will quench the Spirit, somehow.
That’s not been my experience. I went to Harvard University from a Catholic background, earning a bachelor’s degree in political science and a master’s degree in international education. While there, I came to faith in a whole new way through a Foursquare church not far from the campus, which I later helped lead upon marrying Russ, the pastor.
During our years together in Boston, ministering in one of the bastions of intellectual achievement, we saw God grow a vibrant community of believers who embraced both a hunger for Him and a thirst for knowledge. It was a marriage of heart and mind we have continued to try to encourage since our ministry has taken us on, first to Living Word Fellowship (Oak Harbor II Foursquare Church) in Oak Harbor, Wash., and more recently to Bothell Eastside Foursquare Church in Bothell, Wash.
We don’t believe that formal education is for everyone, but we do encourage all of our people to develop themselves in the way that best suits them, to be curious about the world and those around them. Education is not meant to be elite.
One reason some people resist the idea of education is that it can be hard work and make you uncomfortable—whether that’s having to grapple with ideas you don’t agree with or reading textbooks and writing papers. But, just as with physical exercise, while being stretched may not always be much fun, it is good for you.
Education doesn’t have to be formal, of course. People have different learning styles. Some might thrive in a classroom, while others could do better simply checking books out of the library or even watching a TED Talk. Podcasts are a great on-the-go option.
Since leaving Harvard, most of my further study has been informal, other than some training I have undertaken for teaching English as a second language. But I continue to look for ways to further my understanding of issues and topics that are new to me.
Since our sixth child was born with Down syndrome, I have been learning all that I can about people with special needs and their families. Doing so has opened up new worlds for me, not only in terms of the human brain and how genetics works, but in connecting with people I never would have met before starting to explore this area.
The desire to develop our minds flows from the right heart-attitude. If we want to know more about God and the world He made, more about others and the ways in which we might reach them, we’ll want to learn all we can to be more available for the Spirit’s leading and empowering.
Actually, the idea that Christians don’t need to apply themselves to formal study because they can rely on God’s supernatural enabling is a fairly recent development in church history. There was a time when the church led the way in disciplines such as astronomy, mathematics and fine arts, and established higher education institutions.
Of course God can use anyone, learned or not. But discovering new things can increase our wonder of God, and as a result also heighten our desire to make Him known to others who are different. Learning then helps us understand them and the language—actual or cultural—to connect with them.
Having been part of Foursquare’s cabinet for the past two years, I have been aware how much work our national leaders have been putting into ensuring that our movement’s long-held value of lifelong learning is made more tangible. I welcome the way they are fostering a culture of ongoing personal development and providing different ways in which that can be embraced.
How might you more embrace Jesus’ call in Matthew 22:37 to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (NIV)?
By Ana Maria Schlecht as told to Andy Butcher, a freelance writer in Santa Rosa Beach, Fla.