Posted by: Philip Rushton | October 29, 2012

Introverts In The Church: Celebrating the diversity within our community

I recently read Adam McHugh’s book, Introverts in the Church: Finding our place in an extroverted culture. Statistically about 50% of the population is introverted; however, McHugh argues that our contemporary Christian culture sometimes expects us all to be extroverts.

Psychologist Richard Beck, for example, argues that we often gauge spirituality by our sociability. Often the expectation is that if we are really committed to God we will be involved in more church activities and events. Other times we are told that mature Christians should be able to be outgoing evangelists that are able to strike up conversations with strangers. If you are an introvert like me, this can cause a bit of uneasiness and maybe even some guilt.

The good news is that God loves diversity. In scripture we see God working with people who have different types of personalities. For example, while Peter was outgoing and confident, Jacob is described as a “quiet man” (Gen 25:27). As Paul sums up in 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, “God works in different ways, but it is the same God who does the work in all of us.”

McHugh’s book encourages us to see the contribution introverts can have in the church. Introverts are often great listeners and thoughtful contemplatives. Introverts can even make great evangelists. Spiritual seekers usually do not need an awkward religious sales pitch; they need a humble companion who is willing to mutually explore the mysteries of God.

At the same time, there are pitfalls to any personality style. As an introvert I need extroverts in my life who pull me back into the realm of relationship. A personality label cannot be used as an excuse to avoid the need for community. Community is a central part of biblical spirituality. Right from the beginning God says, “it is not good for man to be alone (Gen 2:18).” McHugh emphasizes the need for introverts to create space for community. Since introverts are highly introspective, it is important for them to receive insight and encouragement from others.

Since the bible celebrates diversity within the body of Christ, I think it is important for our church to reflect that diversity. This means that we need to recognize that people learn, serve, and worship in different ways. This is one of the reasons why we have started hosting our Taize style contemplative prayer services. If you are like me, I sometimes need place where I can be silent and have space to encounter God.

If you are an introvert in the church, I highly recommend McHugh’s book. Reading it was healing and affirming as well as challenging to me as an introvert.

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