Introverts in the Church

October 29, 2010

Nothing better illustrates the differences between an introvert and an extravert than what happens on a typical Sunday evening at our house. We spend much of Sunday preparing our home for our church community to gather. I love Sunday evenings as we share a meal, words, and our lives with each other. After the final person leaves, the introvert and the extravert in our marriage come out in full force.

My wife is the extravert. For her, human interaction is something akin to speed. She is energized emotionally and ready to go, even if she is physically exhausted. Being the introvert, I’m done at that point. I’m ready to stare words on a page or the TV, drawing into reflection to find myself again. It’s not that I don’t love the time with our community. I do. It’s rich, meaningful, and the highlight of my week. But when that time is done, so am I!

North American Evangelicalism is arguably bent toward extraversion — a point that Adam McHugh argues well in Introverts in the Church. This is a thoughtful book that describes, from his introverted perspective, how differently introverts experience church compared to extraverts. Considering that a disproportionate amount of writers are probably introverts, I’m surprised a book like this hasn’t been written before.

I agree that there is a bias toward extraversion in our churches. It’s one that I’ve experienced as an introvert. And I also recognize that is it something I’ve perpetuated as a leader. What I like about McHugh’s book is that he is able to describe the fullness that introverted voices can bring to our churches experiences without diminishing what extraverts have to offer. As usual, when I blog about a book here, I think this is a book that anyone in church leadership of some kind will benefit from reading.

Here are a few of my many highlighted passages that I thought were worth sharing:

  • in most evangelical circles, there are three theological anchors-an intimate relationship with God through Jesus, the authority and centrality of the Bible, and active personal evangelism-that are often expressed in strikingly extroverted ways.
  • 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.
  • Introverts are energized by solitude. We are recharged from the inside out, from the forces of our internal world of ideas and feelings.
  • Some people misconstrue the introverted need for solitude as being antisocial. But it’s not that we don’t like people, it’s that time with other people in the external world has a draining effect on us.
  • One of the big mistakes Extraverts make is to assume that if someone is not engaged with another person, that individual is simply not busy. So, it’s okay to interrupt someone sitting and reading because that person is probably reading only because there’s no one else with whom she can talk.
  • Introversion and shyness are not synonymous. Introversion is a natural personality trait where we go inside ourselves to process our experiences. Shyness, on the other hand, is a condition marked by fear or extreme anxiety in social situations.
  • In an increasingly fragmented, fast-paced, chatter-filled world, I consider the greatest gift introverts bring to the world and the church to be a longing for depth.
  • The journey of introverts into a community, however, is better conceptualized as a spiral. They take steps into a community, but then spiral out of it in order to regain energy, to reflect on their experiences and to determine if they are comfortable in that community.
  • Mature introverted leaders have learned how to monitor their energy levels and are experts in knowing how to save and restore their energy.
  • introverts called into positions of leadership in Christian communities, especially in evangelical communities, will do much of our leading by speaking or writing. What this requires is a deliberate effort on our part to translate our reflections and inner processes into words.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

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