We all so desperately want to be known and understood. Even more, we want to be fully loved for who we are (maybe even in spite of it). We were made to be in perfect relationship with one another, perfectly known and loved, different though we may be.
But we live in a broken world. And so people will not know and love us perfectly. Instead, we will be misunderstood, misjudged, overlooked, underappreciated. This is just as true within the church as it is outside it, which is why I’m unsurprised to see Relevant.com’s recently trending piece, What Introverts Wish the Church Understood About Them, touching a nerve with so many.
Contributing writer Julia Howell hits on a common, sensitive topic amongst introverts. “With all the extroverts seemingly running the show, where does an introvert like me fit in,” she wonders. “Do we even have a place at church?” And with that question on her heart, here are 4 things she wants the Church to understand about her personality type:
1. Introverts are not anti-social. “It has come to take on a meaning of anti-social, which is not the case,” Julia says. “We can deal with people—we have no problem with that, but in general, we recharge by ourselves.”
2. Introverts Can Serve in All Sorts of Roles. “Introverts shouldn’t feel pressured to do what is socially acceptable—such as pretending to be outgoing if they don’t want to be,” writes Julia. “Conversely, introverts shouldn’t feel tied to the stereotype of solitude if they really enjoy talking with people.”
3. Introverts Aren’t Shy. “Introverts, though not always outgoing in social situations, usually have other talents that are important when working with people,” Julia says. “These can be deep thinking skills, listening or respect for others.”
4. Introverts Can be Effective Leaders. “The Church needs all kinds of personalities to function,” says Julia. “Introverts (as well as extroverts) are necessary to the Church Body. Ministry requires a variety of positions in which introverts and extroverts can feel comfortable.”
Adam McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, had this to say about introverts and leadership in within the church walls:
Too often we define introversion by what's it's not, rather than what it is. I would really like to start defining it by its assets, not its liabilities. I have worked in a number of different ministry settings—in the church, in college campus ministry, and in hospital and hospice chaplaincy—and being an introvert has helped me in all of those roles. My listening abilities as an introvert are probably the greatest gift that I have to offer people. In our culture people so rarely have the experience of being truly listened to- having their words, feelings, and experiences taken seriously. I have developed the skill of listening to what's unsaid - the doubts, questions, and feelings that lie underneath what someone is saying. It's amazing how transformative it can be for a person to simply be listened to, even when no problems are solved or no advice is dispensed.
Of course, introverts are not flawless, nor are they any better than extroverts when it comes to living out their faith. Tim Challies, an (introverted) blogger and pastor, has this to say about personality types:
Both introverts and extroverts will face particular temptations to sin. My temptation as an introvert is to run away from people instead of serve people. It is to be selfish instead of giving… introversion is what I am, not who I am. And this is where the discussion of introversion and extroversion often seems to go wrong. We elevate these traits too high and use them to justify selfishness instead of selflessness. I have to be slow to define myself in a-biblical categories. This is not to say that it is wrong to say that I am an introvert, but that this is a distinction the Bible does not make. With this being the case, I don’t want to allow introversion to define me or to dictate my behavior. Introversion is a useful description, but a poor definition.
Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, I guarantee at some point you’ll be misunderstood or overlooked. And you’ll face temptations to sin under the pretense of “that’s just my personality,” or “I can’t help who I am.” When we look to our personalities to define us, we’ll undoubtedly fall short. Personalities are not sacred things, incapable of being sanctified. Rather, we should all strive to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ, who exemplifies all the best things about both personality types.
And when we’re misunderstood, overlooked, underappreciated? We can look to the One who understands us, knows us, sees us and loves us perfectly (often in spite of ourselves). When we are filled and confident in Christ’s great love for us, we can serve our churches confidently, extroverted and introverted alike.
Kelly Givens is the editor of iBelieve.com.