I would rather be the pastor of 50 spiritually curious people than 500 who go through all the (church) motions most Sundays.
One of my colleagues and I were discussing this the other day and we agreed that looking out from a pulpit at listless people can flatten any sermon – even those written with great inspiration. I can tell when wandering minds are pondering existential things as opposed to wandering minds who just want to get out of there. Many churchgoers are just that: churchgoers.
In many places in the United States, there is still an expectation that Good People Go To Church. Maybe it’s a self-imposed expectation, but it’s soul-killing either way. The result has been that many people know how to be Church People but we don’t know how to be God’s People.
In other words, we know the lingo (pulpit, font, bulletin) and we know the particular congregational expectations (how to dress, what not to do in the sanctuary- i.e. bring a coffee cup, nurse a baby, talk about personal unpleasantries) and if we – Church People – fail to abide by these expectations, it becomes fodder for gossip or shunning.
Such things are not worth our time if we are spiritually curious.
I remember being asked by young adult parishioners in my former congregation if I would teach them to do Hebrew and Greek exegesis online so that their personal Bible study might be more in depth. True story. Maybe they wanted to grapple with life from a spiritual perspective because they had not grown up in the Church. Their spiritual sensibilities had not been tainted by years of meetings about carpet colors and Guidelines for Arranging Sanctuary Flowers.
Maybe we are so beaten up by life that it’s simply easier to come and go without much spiritual effort. It’s easier to focus on the unimportant stuff and so that’s what we do. But imagine using those beaten-up-by-life moments to grapple with God. Unfortunately, Church is not the community that some people think of when life is falling apart. #KeepingUpAppearances #NotSafe
Can spiritual leaders be blamed when we are more excited about talking about Big Life Questions with spiritually curious people than serving among people who seem to have forgotten why we are here? One of the exciting features of 21st Century Church is that there are still people out there who still wonder Why Are We Here? What is God Doing? How Can I Find Meaning in the Throes of Chaos?
I love those questions. And I love the harder ones: How Can I Possibly Be Friends With People Whose Politics I Find Abhorrent? How Can I Forgive the One Who Tried to Destroy Me? How Can I Live With ___? How Can I Live Without ___?
Spiritually curious people are a joy to be Church with. They are the ones who get that life is not ultimately about them. They are the ones I’m seeking out.
I agree but also acknowledge that this is a radical change in thinking in Presbyworld. Can you imagine what might have happened to a candidate for ordination in a Charlotte area presbytery 100 or so years ago who admitted to being spiritually curious?
Thanks. I would hope that we would all say we continue to be spiritually curious (within the context of our tradition) and taking continuing education seriously speaks to this, I think. Maybe my terminology needs to be tweaked!
I’m grateful to be in a church where we ask the big questions – Mt. Auburn Presbyterian in Cincinnati.
I AbSOULutely love this!!!!