By Barnabas Piper
We don’t usually think of churches as “curious.” To be fair, we rarely think of anything as curious outside of children and the little monkey named George, who hangs out with the man in the yellow hat.
It’s just not a category we have for anything meaningful. But it should be.
We usually think of curiosity—if we think of it at all—as something trite. It’s a pursuit of hobbies or a brief dalliance with new information, nothing substantive or formative.
But at its best, curiosity is the pursuit of truth. It’s the search for reality as God intends it to be. It’s a lifestyle and a discipline leading us toward those things.
This discipline and these habits lead us deeper into a pursuit of God and into connection with other people. Curiosity multiplies itself because as we seek truth we find it, and when we find it we want more of it, so we seek further.
We seek in God’s Word and God’s world. We find it in both places, sometimes loudly and sometimes subtly.
With this definition in mind, can you begin to see how curiosity might be significant for churches? Not just significant—vital.
Think about your church or the church you grew up in. Now imagine if that church were full of truly curious people. What might be different?
Likely the church would be a more caring place, deeply aware of people’s needs and challenges. It would be a safe place for those struggling because people would take the time and ask the questions to understand their difficulties.
Tension and infighting would diminish because people would be curious enough to learn what others really said and really meant instead of construing meaning and creating drama or conflict.
It would move toward being more diverse racially, socioeconomically, and educationally because people would be deeply interested in those different from themselves instead of frightened of them or intimidated by them.
And more than anything it would be a church full of people in rich relationship with God because they would be searching and asking and looking for what more there is to know about His character, person, work, and Word.
They would be seeking truth, reality as God intends it to be.
Curiosity will inspire those in Bible studies and Sunday school classes to dig deeper, ask more pointed questions, and apply truth more intentionally.
A curious counseling ministry will dig deep into the pains and struggles of hurting people. It will not find the simplest solution but rather search for the best one.
Small group ministries will not just pattern groups the way they’ve always been done but rather seek to learn what style works best for this church’s culture and demographics.
And curious churches will seek out the best leaders, not just the available ones.
A curious outreach ministry will determine its efforts and priorities by the cultures and needs in and around the church, not just calendar and tradition.
It will find new ways to partner with community institutions—schools, police, Boys & Girls Clubs, other churches (yes, even other churches).
And a curious church will constantly evaluate its own efforts to see whether they are making a difference.
What kind of difference? The kind that reflects reality as God intends it to be: hearts renewed, lives changed, physical and financial needs met, and people meeting Jesus and growing in their relationship with Him.
A church like this one could transform a neighborhood.
Each Sunday its attendees would gather, worship together, and connect with one another before flooding into the surrounding city or town to their homes and jobs and lives where they would carry the impact of that curiosity with them.
People would want to visit a church like this because it has shown itself to care about people and it shows them something of God’s love and nature they have never seen.
Church members will connect with neighbors and co-workers by being genuinely curious about their lives, so those people will have a chance to see something of Jesus in their lives because of how they ask questions and learn and care.
People in that community might begin to see Christianity as a belief system that changes lives and loves deeply—not just old-time religion or bigoted conservatism—because it clings to and reflects a God who changes lives and loves deeply.
Throughout its community, a curious church will meet needs because people in the church know about them (since they’ve connected with people and organizations) and know they are part of a body of people who can help.
A curious church is aware of who in its midst has needs and who can meet which needs. Church members will be able to tell people of Jesus and His gospel in a manner that connects because they will know the mental state, the circumstances, and the background story of the person with whom they are conversing.
Over time a church full of curious people can root itself deeply in a community as a need-meeting, people-loving, Jesus-representing entity that effectively reflects and serves the community it loves so much.
If all this sounds grandiose, that’s because it is. It’s grandiose because curiosity pursues something grandiose—a better reality as defined by God in His Word.
We have settled for traditions and old patterns of ministry, relationship, outreach, and worship. Curiosity unsettles that.
It isn’t always comfortable. But it always pursues truth, that better reality. And isn’t that what we want our churches to reflect and to bring to our communities?