People look to their pastors for answers. Whether it be questions about faith, the Bible, or how to respond to the latest headline, pastors are often called upon to offer their insights and guidance.
This is especially true during uncertain times, as people search for solid answers to life’s most pressing questions. Because of their calling, faith, and theological training, pastors are well equipped to provide those answers.
That doesn’t mean that pastors know everything, though. Nor should they pretend to. In fact, the most effective pastors are often not the ones who know the most or can speak the most eloquently. Rather, one of the most important tools a pastor can have in his leadership tool belt is curiosity.
Curious pastors are better pastors. Conversely, a lack of curiosity can be a serious detriment.
Here are three pitfalls that pastors can more successfully avoid by focusing on cultivating curiosity in their lives.
In many ways, fundamentalism is the opposite of curiosity, the closing off of our minds and hearts to new ideas, lest they carry us away from our faith. Fundamentalists languish under the conviction that unless you hold to your faith in the very specific and particular way they do, then your salvation itself is in question. They then spend an inordinate amount of time trying to convince others of the same.
To be sure, there are fundamental Christian convictions that must be affirmed in order for a person or congregation to be uniquely Christian. It’s just that those borders are much wider than the fundamentalist often imagines.
But if all truth is God’s truth, then we need not be afraid of ideas or thoughts that are new or strange to us. If these things really are good and true, then we need not fear them. And if they aren’t, we also need not fear them, even as we do not adopt them.
Pastors who allow suspicion to guide their interactions with foreign ideas and practices not only cultivate a personal lifestyle marked by fundamentalism but an entire congregation that is.
While most pastors couldn’t be characterized as hardcore fundamentalists, many of them do have fundamentalistic tendencies that often arise from a lack of curiosity. This lack of curiosity sometimes springs from fear, because you can’t be fearful and curious at the same time. Your body just isn’t built that way. Fear causes us to protect, while curiosity causes us to explore.
Curiosity makes us more intellectually honest when it comes to our convictions. And in the end, that actually makes us far more credible when discussing our distinctly Christian beliefs with those who disagree with us. Curiosity makes us humble, empathetic, and ultimately more engaging to a world that needs Jesus.
We must be open to the idea that we can learn from followers of Jesus who are from faith traditions different than our own, whether that relates to their views on church polity, baptism, or the role of liturgy or church tradition.
Further, we must not also be afraid to learn from Christians or even non-Christians who have expertise in areas of study that fall outside the realm of what seminary covered. Certainly, we must be discerning. But discernment is a far cry from suspicion.