Learning new stuff / Developing a Learning Disposition

A weekly blog of Ideas for Leading Creative Worship

What’s in Your Toolbox?

This is the second of three Worship Outside the Box posts focussing on how to assess, acquire, nurture, and use your talents and skills when leading creative worship services.

Part 2 – Learning new stuff / Developing a Learning Disposition

In education circles there is a mantra about creating lifelong learners.

I’m 63 years old and nearly all of my learning has happened since I left the formal education system aged 17.  

I took Old Testament and New Testament papers by correspondence through EIDTS (Ecumenical Institute for Distance Theological Studies) while I was training to be a Lay Preacher. I passed, but am not a good student, and have not done any further formal study. I admire those who do.

So how and where do I learn new ideas and theology today?


There is something miraculous about a book. The author writes their words, which tell us a story or share new ideas with us. Sometime later - that year, 3 years later, 30 years later, 100 years later, 1,900 years later - we read their book. It is as if the writer is sitting next to us talking with us. From the author’s viewpoint their story and ideas reach many more people than they could ever meet and speak to personally.

I mentioned in the last post that I read a lot of books. Many are fiction - mysteries and thrillers. Even they have a value for us as worship leaders because when we immerse ourselves in a story, we are learning to see the world from another person’s point of view.

My theological reading has taken me on a 25 year journey so far. I started by asking myself a question: Did the miracles that Jesus performed as written in the Bible really happen?

So I started reading around this topic. I had some false starts. I find that the writing of some very good theological scholars doesn’t appeal to me, e.g. NT (Tom) Wright.

I eventually found that books by authors associated with The Jesus Seminar, or having similar views, rang true. I have binge read books by John Dominic Crossan, John Spong, Bart Ehrman, Diana Butler Bass and some by Marcus Borg, Richard Rohr and Brian McLaren. I consider myself to be a progressive Christian.

A couple of recent books have highlighted just how hard it is for people to change their theology and attitude to the Bible. We need to be respectful of others views and not expect them to change, just because we preached what we think was a great sermon.

Always remember there is more than one way to interpret the Bible and yours might not be the best, or you may be flat out wrong.


Podcasts are free audio recordings of interviews or presentations that you can download from the internet. I either copy the MP3 audio files of podcast episodes to my mobile (or listen direct to the podcast via an app) and listen to them while I am walking to the shops or doing the dishes.

A favourite theological podcast is Progressive Spirit: https://kboo.fm/program/progressive-spirit  I have often borrowed from the library, or bought, eBooks by authors I heard being interviewed on the podcast.

The BBC’s History Extra podcast https://www.historyextra.com/podcast/ is an excellent source of information on general history topics. They sometimes talk about church history and theology. I was intrigued by an interview with Irving Finkel about how a Babylonian clay tablet from c.1850 BC told a story very much like the Noah’s ark stories in the Bible. This led to a sermon on the topic of how Jewish people in exile in Babylon were influenced by Babylonian myths and stories.

 YouTube videos

We no longer watch broadcast TV and instead often play YouTube and other documentaries on our TV, which is linked to the internet via a computer. I have found that by freeing ourselves from broadcast TV news and other scheduled programming, we have access to a vast range of resources that we can watch whenever we wish to.

Online news sources

I have apps for The Guardian UK newspaper, Radio NZ, Google News and Flipboard on my Smartphone. I browse them often for stories that interest me. This keeps me up-to-date with current news and social trends. 


Our public library allows us to borrow audiobooks, which I listen to on my smartphone in the same way as podcasts.


I have 260 eBooks currently downloaded on my Kindle eReader and have bought 360 plus books from Amazon in total.

Generally eBooks are cheaper than print books, and they take up zero shelf space.

As I’m reading an eBook, I will highlight sentences that catch my eye and add a note, so I can quickly go back later and remember what interested me in the book. Helpful when preparing a sermon and I think, “Now what did Crossan have to say about this, in that book I read 6 months ago?”

And it is easy to re-read an eBook. I’m currently re-reading Spong’s commentary on John’s Gospel.

How do I learn new technical computing and multimedia skills?

I have been using computers since desktop PCs became widely available in the late 1980s. I use computers when preparing a service and to earn my living by publishing and selling books.

In the past, the main way to learn how to use software such as InDesign, Photoshop, Word or Excel was to read the large paperback manual that came in the box with the discs. Today that learning has moved online.

If I’m stuck, I will do a Google search for the topic/problem. Try a few of the links that come up and see if they provide the answer you need. Or go to YouTube and enter the topic or your problem in the search box and see what pops up. You will almost certainly find that someone has created a free tutorial video that will help you.


Ask yourself these questions:

  • How do I learn new stuff / ideas / skills?
  • What works best for me?
  • What new method of learning will I try next?

 11 April 2023

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