Introvert? No Apology Required
- Monday, February 22, 2010
I think there are different methods and images for evangelism that are more suited for introverts. One of the things I suggest is that introverts, instead of radically stretching themselves to initiate with strangers in uncomfortable situations, should start with the people who are already in their lives and ask how God is already at work in them. Evangelism is always a response to what God is already doing in people, as he works on people's hearts in ways that transcend even the most profound words we can muster. We can come alongside of our friends and partner with God in teaching and embodying the gospel of Jesus. And we can use our gifts as introverts - especially listening and compassion - to demonstrate the love and the presence of God. By listening to people, and really giving them space to express their questions and doubts, we ensure that when we do speak we are addressing the real needs and concerns of a person.
Despite the prevailing opinions of most church planter evaluation committees, do you think an introvert could make a good church planter? How so? What advice would you give?
Sometimes I wonder whether any committee would choose someone like Moses or Timothy to plant a church. Moses claimed he was inarticulate and uncomfortable in the spotlight; Timothy was young and struggled with timidity. There is a disturbingly consistent trend in the scriptures that God chooses unlikely people to carry out his mission and lead his people. And it is clear that God's call is not contingent on personality type. If those responsible for planting churches do not allow that God will call introverts to plant churches, they are disregarding biblical patterns and missing out on many gifted and inspired leaders.
I know several introverts who are currently involved in planting churches, and they are tremendously gifted people who are seeing much fruit in their ministry. They are finding that their introversion, in many ways, is helping them. They are building relationships one at a time, asking the questions that are enabling them to understand the culture and the people they are trying to reach. They are eager learners, and through listening and observation and theological reflection, they have developed a compelling vision for their communities. They are investing deeply in the leaders God has brought to them. They are people of deep prayer and spiritual discipline, which restores them and gives them God's eyes for people.
It's important to stress that introverts can be wonderful communicators and have social skill and confidence; we're not necessarily shy or standoffish. The difference is that social interaction and life in the outside world drains us. So I think the key to church planting, and any leadership position in the church, is caring for your soul. My friend Chris, an introvert planting a church in Pittsburgh, says that Sabbath, maintaining his intellectual life, carefully balancing his schedule, and finding some sort of role that helps him to meet new people (for him it's serving as a tent-making barista at a local coffee shop), are critical to his success.
Don't extroverts suffer more when communal life fails to live up to expectations?
I don't find the discussion about whether introverts or extroverts suffer more in community to be a helpful one. It only promotes competition and victimization, two things that destroy community. One thing that's absolutely essential for the reader to know is that I wrote my book for introverts. Of course I want extroverts to read it but they must understand that they're listening in on a quiet conversation between introverts. If someone reads what I say about introverts and infers that I'm thereby saying the opposite thing about extroverts (e.g. Community can be hard for introverts, so therefore it's easy for extroverts), then they're not going to have a good reading experience. I tried to make that clear in the book. I wasn't saying that introverts are the only ones who experience misunderstanding or who struggle in community. Introverts certainly don't have a corner on suffering! My hope is that extroverts who read the book will develop understanding and compassion for the introverts in their lives and will help shape their churches into places that honor the gifts and rhythms of introverts.
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