Some of you know the feeling. You walk into the crowded room. You feel the suffocating social expectation to make small talk, but you want some time to size up the situation. So you hang to the perimeter and try to find one person who may also be hanging back or who may actually want to talk past the two-minute mark.
This is a picture of the introvert in most new social situations.
Roughly a quarter of the population has a preference toward introversion. These folks (and I am one of them) prefer to focus on the inner world of ideas and experiences, tend to direct energy inward and receive energy from reflecting on thoughts, ideas, feelings and memories. It was not so long ago this approach was prized in leadership and churches. Times, however, have changed for the introvert.
In the last century, especially here in the United States, we’ve morphed into a “culture of personality” that can’t stop talking. Those with a preference for extroversion—energized by and focused on people, activity and accomplishment—tend to be better understood by the world, progressing faster in organizations and relationships.
Both extroverts and introverts must do the work to see that those with the gift of introversion are a grace to God’s Church. In this sense, I have some considerations for my fellow introverted church members and the extroverts who love them.
Introverts have an ability to plumb the depths and intuit ideas and relationships. It is an extraordinary gift to the Church when an introverted member embraces his or her ability to help others see heart motives clearly through careful listening and biblical counsel. Introverts are natural burden bearers in this way.
The word of caution and need for redemption in this aspect: The introvert may become so dazzled or despaired by the depths that they never come up for air. This may lead to unhealthy, unbalanced relationships because of the tendency to empathize so much that you take on another’s problems to a selfish, sinful extent.
Introverts have an ability—and preference—to get alone and think. God has wired introverts with the preference to be more reserved, to listen carefully and prefer the solitude of thinking through and researching the deeper issues. For instance, if a weighty theological issue comes up in your Home Group, you can bet that one of your introverted members will likely enjoy studying and thinking about it.
The word of caution and need for redemption in this aspect: The introvert may prefer solitude to the point of neglecting community with other Christians. They may feel like they have better friends in books or being around people is just too exhausting, but there must be a constant dependency on the Holy Spirit and obedience to the Scriptures’ call to do life with other believers.
Introverts have the ability to slow down a culture of rapidity. An assertive introvert will often say to a new idea, “Let’s take time to think/pray about that.” Their approach recognizes that people often make decisions without enough prudent thought or prayerful consideration. An introverted church member may serve as a steadfast oasis of calm and consideration in the community of Christ.
The word of caution and need for redemption in this aspect: The introvert may become overly methodical and hesitant to take on new projects or make decisions. They must balance this tension so that they do not shirk godly responsibility.
Introverts have an ability to lead. They may never build a group with a million handshakes, but introverts have a special ability to pour into strategic leaders in whom they see potential. As an introverted leader, I intentionally surround myself with godly and gifted extroverts. That way, when I’m wearing out from too much social interaction, they’re just firing up. It’s a beautiful picture of complementary personality preferences playing in unison to the glory of God.
The word of caution and need for redemption in this aspect: The introvert may prefer titles, roles and authority rather than sacrificial, service-oriented leadership. They may also feel a pull to compare themselves to and covet extroverted leaders’ abilities instead of recognizing that God created them to lead through different strengths.
If you are an extrovert reading this, you most certainly have introverts in your life. Consider how you can be an understanding encourager to your introverted spouse, Home Group member or employee.
If you are an introvert reading this, be encouraged by how God has wired you and seek further understanding of it. The Church, “the dearest place on earth,” needs you to serve the body by being true to how God has shaped you. When you do, those lobbies and living rooms become a little warmer and a lot less scary.