Introversion & Faith

Happy Sunday, Ladies and Gents. If you’re like me, today you 1) went to church 2) relaxed around the house and 3) realized you have way too many chores to do before Monday comes around again. If you’re not like me, particularly in that first category, the rest of this post might be largely irrelevant to even the farthest passing thoughts in your head, but regardless, it’s here.

I’m not a big fan of over the top shows of music and lights at churches. I don’t think God needs people cheering and shouting in order to feel the love. I’ve stood in churches whose “worship set” feels like a concert and whose sermons are like motivational speeches. During college I taught  four year olds in our nursery while those sorts of things rumbled overhead in the large upstairs sanctuary. No, this wasn’t Rick Warren’s Saddleback and yes, it was still in Orange County. It’s my opinion that  megachurches were built for people who want some excitement in their Sundays, and my conviction that these churches make it really hard to obtain truly deep spiritual growth. Extroverts – feel free to let me know here if you’ve grown in your faith in these contexts; from this side, I just don’t get it.

Additionally, I’ve never really been comfortable “greeting the people around you” in church. It always has felt superficial and awkward. These people are rarely friends or even acquaintances, and taking even a short minute or two to shake hands has always left me feeling exposed somehow. When I’m in church, I’m there to soak up wisdom and encouragement, to examine my life and re-center on God. I believe that I need to be connected to the people there, but shaking the hands or hugging the people who just happen to be around me doesn’t really do anything to provide the connections I would seek. Same story for the “after church fellowship time” when people stand around talking. If I don’t already know you, I’m not going to get to know you while we stand around drinking coffee and eating cookies.

Introverts-in-the-churchI’ve appreciated what I see as a greater understanding of introversion emerge in the past few years, due in no small part to Susan Cain’s phenomenal book QuietRecently, I’ve turned my thoughts to the idea of introversion and faith, or more specifically, introversion and the modern American church. A friend’s sister and her husband recommended a book called Introverts in the Church: Finding Our place in an Extroverted Culture. Though the book was apparently referenced in Cain’s text, I didn’t pick it up until I got this recommendation. I spent the past few weeks working my way through it, and I feel like I finally understand why some aspects of modern churches haven’t meshed well with me over the years.

I feel like Adam McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church  actually gets it. As a pastor and an introvert, he holds a unique perspective on how the church, and the people in it, operate. He offers an explanation for introversion and explains how introverts can use their strength to participate in and challenge an extroverted-focused church culture. He offers –

“Too much time in social interaction, no matter how satisfying, is disruptive and disorienting for introverts, and they need to step back to rediscover a sense of identity. They can lose themselves in community and need to retreat into solitude in order to be restored into shape and to find the power to give themselves fully to others when they reengage.”

And

“God has always been about the business of shattering expectations, and in our culture, the standards of leadership are extroverted. It perfectly follows the biblical trend that God would choose the unexpected and the culturally “unfit”- like introverts – to lead his church for the sake of his greater glory.”

While not everything in his book is this profound, McHugh has a lot of great insight and has created a book well worth the read. 204 pages of text later, I feel encouraged. Maybe a church can feel like home. Maybe I can live through a few uncomfortable minutes each week and meet some people that I can go deep and grow with over time. Seems like I need some good time to sit and pray. And have those one-on-one conversations with other people of faith.

Ultimately, my identity is not tied to characteristics like introversion or extroversion. My identity is not tied to the color of my hair, the content of my character, or the net worth I declare to the IRS each year. I’m convinced that my identity is wrapped in the hope and promise of my faith, and the entire being that a benevolent Creator imagined for me before my parents had a clue I was on my way. Who I am doesn’t easily fit in to what this world values or how it operates, but that’s not going to keep me from living the life I’ve got. Who knows what surprises await me?

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