Pastoral ministry requires a person to be curious and genuinely curious about other people. Over the years, I’ve found that ministry required me to be curious about people, and early on in my ministry, I noticed I was genuinely uncurious, arrogant and proud.
A mentor pointed this out to me. It was hard to hear, but it was the best thing he could’ve done for me at the time. I went with him on a weekend retreat where he was the speaker. On our way there, he said to me, "You interrupt people all the time."
I was shocked. He said I had interrupted his wife at dinner at least a dozen times. They were looking at each other, thinking, “Who is this guy; what is he doing?” He offered to observe me over the weekend and let me know what he noticed by the end of our time ministering together.
At the end of the weekend, he told me he felt I cared more about myself, and what I wanted to say, than about other people and what was on their minds.
This hurt to hear, but it was so eye opening. I realized I needed to overhaul my pride, and my lack of curiosity. I needed to flex my selflessness muscles and genuinely begin caring about people’s souls, interests, passions and needs. James, the brother of Jesus, has this wise advice for us: When we’re tempted to speak first in any situation, we need to choose first to listen, understand and ask questions.
Are you curious, or are you self-important, arrogant, and proud? Here are a few ways to discern where you need to grow:
1. Do you come into groups of people and begin immediately to talk about yourself or what's happening to you?
2. Do you, like me, interrupt people when they’re in the middle of a sentence or thought? Do you rush to interject your opinion, tell a story about yourself, or somehow promote yourself?
3. Do you ask questions of people? Do you seek to get to know people beyond surface level?
4. Have people ever made these types of comments to you: “you talk too much,” “you interrupted me,” or “you’re not listening”?
5. Do people seem to pull away from you after a while, even people you had considered a friend?
In order to become deeply caring and curious people, we need to be transformed by Jesus. For me it is happening as I submit myself to the direction of the Holy Spirit. My wife has also sharpened me; she knows my struggles and challenges me. "You aren't listening," "you’re interrupting," she will graciously point out.
We can also grow by asking other people who are close to us: "Do you feel listened to by me?" "Do I have any blind spots in my character?" Our culture is head over heels for celebrities, starved for information about the rich and the famous, but our Christ call us to minister to the poor, marginalized, hurting, unpopular, and unfamous. Christ is calling his church to be genuinely curious about those that cannot repay you or return the favor:
“(Jesus) said also to the man who had invited him, ‘When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just’” (Luke 14:12-14).
Let us with fresh vision obey the words of Jesus, and with great curiosity, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, “and you will be blessed.”