“Why are you reading this paragraph? It is not lettered A, B, or C, so it does not correspond with any of the answers. If you want to get the best out of a programme (or any other reading for that matter) you must watch out for clues that will help you skip material you do not need. Otherwise you will waste a lot of your time.”
Derek Rowntree drops this gem of insight early in his book Learn How to Study, that walks students through the very best of how to study. Much of the book is about organization and time management but this line is what I was sharing with my co-workers the last few days.
There are two of us who are going “back to school” here on the staff of Huguenot Memorial Church. We share funny class incidents and encourage one another as students. I showed her this quote yesterday and explained this was what my study methods have always lacked. I pulled a Church History book from the shelf and demonstrated my seminary conundrum.
This is from a book called The Rise of Christianity from the church historian WHC Frend. This book is 1022 pages long. If you combined all three Lord of the Rings books into one massive volume you would get 1178 pages. In other words, you can wander into Mount Doom with your gardener and back in about the same amount of pages. I was assigned to read Frend throughout the first half of my first semester of seminary. Needless to say, the inside joke amongst my classmates was that “Frend, was not our friend.”
Do you see all of that orange highlighter? Do you think I remembered all of that information at the end of the semester fifteen years ago? Do you think I remember it all now? Of course not! I was basically highlighting two-thirds of every page thinking that everything was important. Thank you Rowntree for cluing me in on the fact that there is material I need to “skip.”
Of equal value was the substantial recommended vocabulary list found later on page 98. I wonder how each of us scored on this vocabulary test. How many of us could spell these correctly if given only the word and part of speech, spelling bee style? “A wide vocabulary is essential, both for understanding other people’s ideas (whether in speech or writing) and for expressing your own.” This truism was touched on recently, especially in regards to the way people discuss their faith by writer Jonathon Merritt in this recent piece in the New York Times. Merritt shares that for “whatever the reason, for most of us in this majority-Christian nation, our conversations almost never address the spirituality we claim is important.” His premise is that it is because our own spiritual vocabularies are inadequate. Could it be because of the lack of proper faith “study” that Rowntree describes? How do we as faith leaders discuss our calls, positions, jobs, even our doctoral research with others?
 Derek Rowntree, Learn How to Study (London: Macdonald and Jane Publishers, 1978) viii.
 WHC Frend, The Rise of Christianity (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984) 234.
 Rowntree, 98.
 Rowntree, 99.
 Jonathon Merritt, “It’s Getting Harder to Talk About God,” The New York Times, October 13, 2018, final edition.