As we looked yesterday at whether Jesus is an extrovert, we discovered that he is both and yet most people think he is an extrovert. This assumption can pass through to our pastors. We expect them to be extroverts, being sociable and caring for all our social needs, preaching on the Sunday and then going into coffee time full of energy and ready to listen to the needs of people. But if you’re an introvert these things can be draining and after a sermon you may just want to run and hide in your study. Now I am not a pastor but I do get opportunities to do some teaching in various contexts and I pour all my energy into it and so afterwards I am not always up for talking deeply with people, my conversational function has hit an all new zero. But it doesn’t mean I don’t care about people.
The author of the book, Adam Mchugh is an introvert and a pastor and he shares much of his struggles with the two and the expectations of people and the church. He also shares many stories of introverts in the church. But this doesn’t mean pastors must only be extroverts or otherwise you will lose something of depth that introverts bring. A lot of it is to do with expectations. If you know your pastor is more introverted then how will love them well? How will you not place burdens on their shoulders and expect them to fit into your extrovert character that you think all pastors should be?
But also, as introverts we can help ourselves too in church. Here are some ideas:
What not to do:
- Stop going to church. This is the worst idea in the world. The church is the bride of Christ, he loves her and has died for her. No church is perfect and you need to be going and supporting your local church.
- Grumble and complain. This will destroy you and the church. Its spreads like wild fire too.
- Avoid relationships. You were made to be in a relationship. Relationships are good and your default will be stronger and deeper relationships, which adds great value to the church.
What to do:
- Learn to plan time well and plan in time for rest and thinking. Planning in down time is important and how you do it – if you wait to the weekend and have a huge amount of downtime you may find you get bored and restless, when actually what you need is spurts of downtime in your week. Are you planning your week well?
- There is a word that we find hard to say: “no”… yes that word, it gets stuck on our tongue and never quite comes out. We have to learn to say no when we know that some situations will drain us or we mentally cannot do any more or see any more people.
- Encourage your church leaders, if they are naturally introverts – encourage them to rest and find time for thinking space.
- Serve in the church. Find a place you can serve well and doesn’t drain you.
- There will be times when we need to plan in “people time” and plan that well. Even if we connect with only one or two people, then that is good, it’s when we start thinking we need to connect with EVERYONE thats when the problems start. Building relationships is important and spending time with people is important too.
- Your identity is in Christ. This is most important because you will compare with others and how sociable they are and how they are well connected in the church. But the small things you do, the connections you make with people are seen by Jesus and have a lasting affect on the church even if no one realises to start with. Have heart, you are in Christ and nothing can remove you.
I mentioned serving in Church which I think it can feel hard, but we need to think of ways that complement our gifts and don’t drain us. If you put me in charge of hospitality for the whole church then I don’t think I could handle the constant social need, however if I was involved in planning, teaching or closer communities for homegroup/small activities etc, I think I would flourish.
In our day, I am convinced that introverts are an important ingredient in the antidote to what ails evangelicalism. Our slower pace of life, our thoughtfulness, our spiritual and intellectual depth, and our listening abilities are prophetic qualities for the evangelical community, calling us to a renewed understanding of God and a fresh reading on the abundant life Jesus came to give us. Yet because of the extroverted bias in many of our churches, introverts are leading double lives. We are masquerading as extroverts in order to find acceptance, yet we feel displaced and confused. We are weary of fighting our introversion, and we long to live faithfully as the people we were created to be. (p. 31)
There are ways that introverts can serve in the church that bring depth, vitality, thoughtfulness, gentleness, compassion, reflective time and deep personal relationships. Not to say that extroverts can’t do this, but I think introverts have particular gifts in those areas and the book speaks more about them, which is why its worth reading. But it’s when we start to think we need to fit into an extrovert mold that we begin to find trouble, we get confused and unhappy. We put pressure on ourselves to be something we are not. Are you doing that?
Final post tomorrow. The introverts I know and what they bring to the lives of other christians and the Church.