Saturday, August 11, 2012

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

The introduction begins with the question, "Can introverts thrive in the church?"

Why would he ask such a thing? The same reason I've found myself asking it. Our Evangelical Church culture is easily described as extroverted in nature. For someone who isn't naturally outgoing, fitting in can be awkward to say the least. Our culture tells us that extroverted is the way to be. It's an attribute shared by great leaders and successful people alike. Lacking in this area is a sure sign of diminished potential. This assessment may not be all that noticeable to some, but to an introvert, it's overwhelmingly clear.

Adam McHugh is one such introvert. He has documented his struggles in his book Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. The book has basically two themes that intertwine. The first is understanding introversion and learning to live and worship as one. The other is over Adam's struggle with learning to lead in the church as an introvert.

First, let me say that it is so reassuring to know that you are not alone. As Adam describes his personality, interactions with others, and the affect these have on him physically, mentally, and spiritually, I could have sworn he was talking about me. The need to think things over, the slowness to respond because of this, the exhaustion that comes from social interaction, are just some of the ways I can personally relate.

One thing I appreciate most about this book, is that it doesn't simply try to glamorize introversion. One of my biggest concerns was that books on this subject would go one of two ways, either that introversion was bad and thus needed to be changed, or on the opposite end that it was a wonderful gift that should only be celebrated. I knew neither extreme was right.

McHugh takes a psychological and a biblical look at introversion. He calls it like it is. Some characteristics are neither go or bad. To these he suggest planning your time around your individual needs. Helpful tips such as knowing what part of the day you generally have the most energy and scheduling those things that require the most social interaction at that time. Also knowing when you will need a break to recharge, before you completely run out of juice.

Now to the part he does painfully well. Knowing how best to live comfortably as an introvert is great, but we shouldn't make ourselves too comfortable. There is a need to push ourselves into those areas where we need the most work. We shouldn't limit ourselves simply to those activities that come easy. We may not be the best at the after sermon meet and greet, but we still need to be there. Introversion should never be used an excuse to avoid what we are commanded to do. Our strength for serving ultimately comes from the Lord, and so we must not limit ourselves to only what comes naturally.

About half of the book deals more specifically with leadership. He tells of his doubts and fears over his ability to go into ministry. How can someone who easily tires when dealing with people and prefers to spend their time alone, lead a congregation? Pastors have to be the outspoken, charismatic type, don't they? Adam shares his struggle to overcome his fears, utilize his strengths, and lean on the Lord to succeed. He provides many practical points and much encouragement.

I highly recommend Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, not only to fellow introverts but also to those who may want to understand us better. Adam McHugh has written an excellent book that is sure to help and encourage many.
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