By Barnabas Piper
Humans are unique. God did not make anything else in His image. No other mammal is an image bearer. Even the angels are not even made in God’s image.
Author Joe Rigney explains the most significant implication this way: “Being made in God’s image is a vocation, something that we are called by God to do and to be.” A vocation, a calling, a work we are to dedicate out lives to. That means it is on purpose and with a purpose, not just a state of being. Our vocation will not be done by accident or with passivity any more than your to-do list at work will complete itself while you take a nap or your infant will feed himself while you watch TV. We must reflect God intentionally each day.
The Curious Vocation of the Church
What this means for the Church, and for churches, is profound. We are a community of image-bearers, each uniquely gifted and tasked to reflect something particular of God. Curiosity is how we do this.
God is an eternal, infinite being with a nature and characteristics we can never emulate, but our reflection of God is not passive. Our echoing is not inactive. We do not echo like a canyon wall, still and static while noise bounces off of us. We echo like town criers, taking up the message and passing it along clearly and loudly. We reflect on purpose, with intention, by taking action.
One of those actions is discovery – about God Himself. In order to represent God to the world we must know Him, and to do that we must learn. We must search for truth about His nature, His character, and His work. We must explore both His Word and His world. We absolutely must be curious if we are Christians. Without it we cease to grow and we become incapable of fulfilling our purpose in life.
If we start by growing in this divine curiosity we will then be prepared to begin exploring and impacting this weird, complicated messy world. Together. As a church.
How Church Leaders Model Curiosity
For most Christians curiosity is either merely a nice concept or a frightening one, either nebulous or questionable. We need someone to teach us and show us what it means to live in godly curiosity. That is the job of church leaders.
It starts with being curious. Are you fascinated with the depths of God and the breadth of His world? Do the people you lead see you exploring big questions and significant relationships? Do they see you trying new things to grow in faith and to strengthen your ministry? Do you step outside the mundanity of your daily life to engage needs or encounter cultures and experiences other than your own? Are you modeling curiosity? After all, behaviors are caught much more than taught.
But this isn’t one of those “strong silent type” situations. You must teach curiosity and explain it. People will see what you model and will catch it, but you must teach them the why and the how. Teach them what you have discovered in your explorations of God and His world. Teach them what you have learned from your failings in relationships and crossing cultures. Teach them what is true and what the standard is for their curiosity – scripture. And give them a vision of where curiosity can take them – deeper into relationship with God and people and further than they ever imagined in knowledge and care for the world.
When church leaders model and teach curiosity, built on the profound truths of scripture, the culture of an entire local church can change. When the culture changes, even subtly, the impact of that church changes too.
A Curious Church and Its World
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 than 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 about His character and person and work and word. They would be seeking truth, reality as God intends it to be.
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.
The fruit of godly curiosity is a bold, bright, clear image of God shown to the world. It is visible in individuals and unmistakable in a body of believers. Curiosity is not a mere trait that some quirky people have but rather the fuel that should drive spiritual disciplines, relationships, mission, and all forms of ministry. It brings vivacity to spiritual life and that makes our lives attractive to the world around us, inviting them to find out more about this infinite, majestic object of our curiosity.
Barnabas Piper serves as Marketing Manager for B&H Academic and Wordsearch and is a Christian writer exploring the connections between ideas, faith, and people.