I’m playing around with a way of framing the work of a pastor – perhaps you’d be willing to help me out?
I suggest that a part of the role of the pastor is to serve as a “curator of inspiration”
Let’s break it down – starting with inspiration.
First, there is the theological sense of the word: God’s special revelation in scripture. Certainly, pastors have to correctly handle the word of truth. This is the primary aspect of the calling of the pastor.
However, there is another, more general sense of the word “inspiration.” It is that which stimulates us to action.
Note that inspiration is not merely that which catches your attention. Attention catching is the strategy of the lowest common denominator: it is reality television, pushy sales tactics, rude political operatives, and radio shock jocks. Attention catching grabs you with insults, brashness, and bravado. Yet there is little that is inspirational in the self-absorbed offerings of the clever, the outlandish and the fabulous. Mockery sells, but it never inspires.
Inspiration, on the other hand, comes in that moment of self-forgetfulness when we stand before something, consumed in the experience. Perhaps it is awe at the beauty of the Red River Gorge in Kentucky. Perhaps it is the feeling of being transported away by a lovely concert by the Symphony. Maybe we feel inspired by the storytelling of Garrison Keillor or in the ideas of a TED talk. Maybe we take inspiration from watching Michael Phelps shatter Olympic swimming records or from delighting in Tim Duncan’s masterful athleticism on the basketball courts.
The word “inspiration” comes from the Latin root spirare, meaning “breathe.” Inspiration is breathing in, taking in life giving oxygen for our hearts and minds. Inspiration is that which nourishes our spirit, that which feeds our creativity and our spark. Inspiration fuels our outlook, motivations, actions, and works.
Paul talks about this ordinary sense of inspiration in his letter to the church of Philippi: “…whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
Inspiration comes in many forms: natural wonders, life stories, works of art, accomplishments, and moments of joy. Inspiration can be all around us, if we but had eyes to see. Part of the task of artists, storytellers, journalists, teachers, poets, and pastors, is to help us see that inspiration where we had been unable to see it before.
Why a “curator” then?
Curators take care of a collection. A curator of an art museum oversees the entire collection, preserving it, becoming an expert in it. However the curator also arranges the collection in interesting ways. The curator selects pieces and arranges them in juxtaposition and with certain explanatory comments. The curator introduces us to inspiring things and challenges us to see how they are inspiring.
The curator helps us cultivate the ability to find inspiration in what is before us.
Pastors have access to a great collection: the richness of theology, church history, and Biblical studies. But we also have in our collection the faith stories of those in our flock. And we have in our collection all fruitfulness of human culture. And we have in our collection all the wonders of creation. “The heavens declare the glories of God, the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” (Ps 19:1) As my friend and mentor Steve Brown used to say, “everything is grist for the mill.”
And that’s how pastors are curators of inspiration. Our job is to help people see God’s glory.
What do you think?
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