I wish you were more curious. I wish we were more curious. I wish I were more curious.
Right now, the Gospel witness in America desperately needs churches, leaders and organizations that are curious. We need to be asking questions and exploring new insights. We need to confess our ignorance. We need to be humble and admit we have much to learn. To be curious is to acknowledge that we don’t know what we don’t know.
Instead, faith communities are often led by leaders that are over-confident, smug, callous and disinterested in new information. Churches are more afraid of new insights than they are curious. Organizations concretize around traditions and old-world thinking. Pastors and other faith leaders over-remember the past, want only the familiar and are paralyzed by the new.
Curiosity is a key ingredient in wisdom, insight and foresight. When someone is curious, it implies that they recognize that they do not have all the answers or know everything there is to know or that they need to know. Curiosity is a sign that the creative gene that God implanted in every human being is active and alive. For the Christian, curiosity implies that God’s Truth is far more expansive than our little corner of the truth.
“For the Christian, curiosity implies that God’s Truth is far more expansive than our little corner of the truth.”
Sadly, most of us simply aren’t curious. We have our minds made up and are detached from the wonder of the unknown. Many Christians no longer think, but settle for spouting sound bites and denouncing those who disagree with them. Too often our faith comes across to those around us as rigid, defensive, locked in and unmovable. We more nearly resemble the religious professionals that Jesus sparred with as he told parables designed to unlock their frozen curiosities.
Lately I’ve been curious about how language experts define the opposite of being curious. Some of the words that pop up as antonyms are bored, apathetic, unconcerned, disinterested, perfunctory, callous, smug, severe, passionless. Tragically, this is the recipe for a dying church, a toxic culture, a wasted life.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the epidemic of racism that are polarizing and paralyzing our nation call for more than the willful ignorance of a lazy mind. If churches and individuals expect to not only survive but thrive in the new world before us, we will need a healthy dose of active curiosity to well up within us and smother our natural inclination toward defensiveness and/or indifference.
Here are seven questions that I hope we will be curious about:
- What programs have our churches been doing that aren’t as important as we thought?
- What have we not been doing that is a great deal more important than we knew?
- Why is racism so pervasive and deeply rooted in our hearts and in our institutions?
- What will our church do differently as a result of what we have learned in the first half of 2020?
- Who do we need to pay more attention to – or less?
- What is God’s dream for our church’s relationship with all the people who live in our community?
- In what ways have we been reduced to conforming to our world rather than transforming it?
This list, of course, could go on. In fact, if you adopt a stance of curiosity rather than assuming you know all you need to know, you will find the possibilities that a curious mind opens to you to be endless.
I believe the current crises in our churches, our communities and our nation will only be transformed into avenues of blessing when we humbly adopt a commitment to cultivate a spirit of holy curiosity. When we do, we will discover in our wondering the imaginative power and vision of the Holy Spirit. It is in our curiosity that we will be inspired to dream dreams and see visions that are otherwise invisible to our closed minds.
As we pray fervently and work passionately for justice, healing and hope in our nation, I hope you will also take a few moments this week to pause and thoughtfully embrace holy curiosity – before it is too late.
Our world needs you. Your church needs you. Most importantly, God needs you to allow the Divine Dream for this world and its people to become your calling.