Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gifts to offer

My chapter on helping introverts find healing is moving a little slow, as all the Christmas social events are taking away from my writing time and my motivation is waning as we draw closer to the long Christmas weekend.

But I'm particularly excited about the section in this chapter that looks at the gifts that introverts have to offer others. I'm not going to go into detail about these gifts, since I still want you to read my book, but here are some of the gifts I'm talking about:

1. Compassion
2. Insight into the lives of others
3. Giving "space" and listening to others
4. Peacefulness/restfulness
5. Loyalty
6. Creativity/imagination
7. Helping others slow down
8. Servant-minded

Monday, December 10, 2007

Introverted Pastors

I've been having a hard time finding introverted pastors who work in churches. I'm surrounded by introverted chaplains, introverted elders, introverted parachurch workers, but introverted church pastors have been more elusive. I know they're out there! If you know an introverted pastor, preferably one who lives in the Los Angeles/Orange County/Inland Empire area, who you think might have some insight into my topic, could you email me? I will be very careful and discreet with the information you give me. To email me, go to the main page on my blog, and click on "View my complete profile" in the right column. Under my name will be a link to my email address.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Introverted Gifts

Having finished a chapter on introverted spirituality, I'm now moving on (or actually moving backwards) to a chapter on helping introverts find healing and self-acceptance. The last part of this chapter will be an enumeration of the gifts/qualities that introverts bring to their communities.

What are the gifts that you think introverts bring to others?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Four down, six to go

After a solid month of writing and rewriting (not to mention about 8 months of research and reflection and outlining), I have finished chapter 4 of my book, entitled "Introverted Spirituality." I think I like it.

Writing a book is more challenging and humbling and personally revealing than I ever imagined.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I'm going to fill all the empty spaces that my words have left behind with turkey.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Technology and shyness

Here is a short article that discusses the research of someone from Harvard Business School, who says that all of our "gadgets" have made the world a "shyer place." What's your opinion?

Friday, November 16, 2007

The Holidays

Someone from Milwaukee stumbled onto this blog recently by googling "Holidays Introverts," which makes a lot of sense to me because the holidays are a time of large family gatherings. These can be especially taxing on introverts when we are spending time with extended family, interactions that require a good deal of small talk. As an introvert, what do you dread about the holidays? What are your secrets to successful holidays with family?

Monday, November 12, 2007

Question of the Day

Have there been any books/passages of the Bible that have been particularly challenging or comforting to you as an introvert?

I talked to a friend yesterday who said that the gospel of John had been particularly profound in her introverted Christian experience. In contrast to a gospel like Mark, which moves quickly and has a lot of action, the gospel of John moves slower and pushes deeper into concepts and ideas.

What about you?

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Labor pains

"Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing."

~Normal Mailer

Monday, November 5, 2007

Question of the day

How comfortable are you with public speaking? Are there certain settings where you feel more comfortable than others?

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Introverted Questions

Questions of the Day:

How have you, as an introvert, felt excluded or included in your church? Has the church done anything to minister to/encourage introverts? Do you have any stories of feeling particularly included or excluded?

This question issues from a conversation I had a with co-worker last week. She regularly attended a Sunday night emerging-worship type service at a large mainline church. She is on the fence between introvert/extrovert on the Meyers Brigg. She said that the last three rows of the church were taken up by the introverts or shy folks, and they would sit with at least one seat in between. Everyone else, in the front 2/3 of the church, would sit in groups of friends. She said she had a particularly painful experience one night when they tried to do communion in a creative way. They invited people to come up to the front in groups, that the people chose themselves, to take communion together. She didn't know many people, and so rather than facing the awkwardness of introducing herself to strangers, she turned and left! And keep in mind she is an ordained minister!

Monday, October 29, 2007

Do you relate?

In my research on the nature and characteristics of introverts, I have found much that I agree with but also a few things I do not resonate with at all. Here is a description of introversion I found this weekend:

"Introverts fear failure in public and experience deep humiliation because of it. If the teacher grabs you for a demonstration of a new skill or your spouse puts you on the spot to put a bicycle together it can be extremely stressful."


Do you other introverts relate to this? Is this a genuine description of introversion or is this a distortion of it, rooted in insecurity? I can relate to feeling uncomfortable when put on the spot to give my opinion, but only because I prefer to prepare for something like that. But I don't have a big fear of public failure and I certainly don't relate to the example of a "spouse putting you on the spot to put a bicycle together."

Separate Note: I have added labels to this blog. See right column.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Toiling away

I have plans to improve this blog by adding categories and links/resources in the next few days. This weekend I am writing about 8 hours a day on my introverted spirituality chapter. I think this will end up being my favorite chapter, and it certainly is the one I have done the most thinking about over the past few months. A depth in spirituality may be the greatest gift that introverts bring to the church.

My wife is up in Sonoma with her girlfriends, enjoying the cool weather, color in the trees, wine, and great food, and I'm sitting here drinking french press and writing, while looking out my study window on the San Gabriel mountains. Honestly, I don't know who has the better weekend.

Cornball text message exchange:

My wife: The trees up here are red!
Me: So are the ones down here, because they're ON FIRE.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Youth Ministry

Here is a link to what I found to be an insightful, helpful, and well written article about an introverted youth pastor. Youth ministry seems to be a fortress of extroverted leaders, and so it's refreshing to read about an introvert who has learned how to minister to youth as an introvert.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Titles

IVP wants me to work on another title for my book. They think that "Introverted Church" does not convey what my book is actually about. When people asked me this week what my book is about, it was a little bit of a struggle. It's easier to say who it's for than what it's about. I would respond "It's for introverts trying to survive Christian community." I was surprised by how positive people were about my idea. I even met someone, who lives at a camp on an island, who reads my blog, through dial-up internet!

So I'm soliciting your help, gentle introverted readers, for book title suggestions. I would like it to either have introvert in the title or at least in the subtitle, so anyone who searches on introvert on amazon will access it easily.

For a reminder, here are my chapters descriptions:

1. Introduction - personal narrative as an introvert and introverted pastor in the Church
2. The Problem of the Extroverted Church - chapter exposing the extroverted bias of the Church (I'm mostly addressing evangelical churches in this book)
3. What is an introvert? Straightforward.
4. Introverted Healing - finding peace in who God created us to be and talking about the gifts that introverts bring to the Church
5. Introverted Spirituality - how do I experience the spiritual life as an introvert?
6. Introverted Community - how do I fit into Christian community as an introvert?
7. Introverted Leadership - first chapter, exposing the extroverted bias of Christian leadership and demonstrating how introverts are able to swim against this tide; second chapter, practicals about how to lead as an introvert
8. Introverted Evangelism - I think you get it.
9. Suggestions for churches - Ideas for being more welcoming of introverts

Any ideas? I don't need a book title for a few months, so if you can't come up with one now, maybe you can think of one later. Thank you!

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Retreating

I'm heading to Campus by the Sea, on Catalina Island, this afternoon, for a three day retreat to try and wrap my mind around writing a book this year. On Wednesday night we celebrated my new book deal and my mood was euphoric, at the culmination of three years of proposals. On Thursday I woke up and thought "Oh crap. I have to write a book!" I'm taking Thomas Merton's autobiography, Henri Nouwen's book on desert spirituality, and the Bible. And my IPOD, with lots of Rob Bell sermons on it. I'm hoping to come up with an outline and a game plan, because my deadline is July 31, 2008!

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Green Lights

My head is still spinning from the news, but today I received word that InterVarsity Press has agreed to publish my book on introverts in the church!!!

Thanks to all of you who have supported this project and given me feedback. I am going to continue to use this space as a place to bounce ideas off of fellow introverts (and extroverts), so please keep reading and commenting. Some of you I will be emailing to set up interviews with. Please email me with lengthier suggestions and feedback.

Monday, October 1, 2007

Spiritual Direction

On Wednesday I begin my training in spiritual direction, through the Archdiocese of Los Angeles.

Their website defines spiritual direction as "a contemplative process, carried out in the context of a helping relationship, in which one faith-filled person assists another to pay attention to God's action in the person's life and his/her response to this action."

It's a three year program, beginning with a couple of years of training about various strands of Christian spirituality and then some more practicum type settings in the last year. Last week my spiritual director asked me "What are your deepest longings?" And I responded that words like "spirituality" and "contemplation" speak to deep places of my soul. Spiritual direction training is a step towards satisfying this hunger.

I will talk more about this type of ministry in the months to follow, but I anticipate that spiritual direction will be a great setting for an introvert. Spiritual direction involves depth, listening, silence, and contemplation, all in the format of ongoing one-on-one relationships.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Book update

I heard from my publisher last week, who had some positive news. They met as a committee and they like the book idea. Now what needs to happen is obtaining some numbers and reports on marketability, financial viability, and target audience, to see if it will work. I'll hear back in 3-4 weeks.

For those of you who are new to Introverted Church, I sent in a book proposal to a Christian publishing house back in June. Go here for the chapter outline of my idea. I always love feedback.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Partnering with extroverts

I've had the opportunity to work with many extroverts in the last five years of full time ministry, with varying degrees of success. When I worked in a church, I had a very specific job description, which was very helpful. People didn't expect me to be the guy who worked 60 hours a week, caring for the entire congregation or leading the charge in evangelism. My least favorite environment, personality-wise, was the parachurch ministry I took part in, in which the leadership mold was decidedly extroverted and I was expected to be the lead socializer and the lead evangelist. It didn't help that my immediate supervisor was the most extroverted person I have ever met. As much as we tried to work out a job description for me that would play to my strengths, I still felt like I was constantly having to act like an extrovert. If I had stayed in that ministry and taken on a more supervisory role, I think I could have been happier, but the guy-on-the-front-lines role was not right for me.

In my current position, I think I am developing a good partnership with the social worker on my team, who is definitely an extrovert. She has a great deal of energy and has much more output than I do on a weekly basis, but we have a mutual respect for what each other brings to the table. I'm the guy that can sit with a patient for two hours and listen to their life stories and help them discover a deeper sense of God and their own spirituality. She's more of the problem solver, who can refer them to any resources that they need. She is the person on the front lines who is great at introducing me to people who need chaplain visits.

In other partnerships with extroverts, I have felt this external pressure to be more like them and to do more and produce more. This is the first "secular" job I have ever had. I wonder how much of my struggles in other arenas is related to evangelical theology and practice. My spiritual director said that "in the evangelical world, it seems that after you become a Christian, a giant neon billboard appears outside your window." There is this urgency to evangelicalism, which becomes all the more unappealing the older I get.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Introverted Expectations

A while back, I discussed a Barna survey studying the level of job satisfaction in pastors. One of the findings of this study is that introverted pastors tend towards feeling unhappy and under-appreciated in their jobs. Here is an excerpt from my latest book proposal about this survey:

In a recent Barna survey which studied pastors and their level of happiness, 24% of the pastors identified themselves as introverts, matching the numbers of the general population. However, introverted pastors were far more likely to report that they felt under-appreciated and isolated. Several therapists I know who frequently work with pastors said that many of their introverted clients struggle to find balance in their lives and often wrestle with depression. They feel unable to meet the social demands placed on them by their congregations, and they frequently lack adequate boundaries to enable them to find rest and to recharge their introverted batteries.

As a pastor I am encouraged that the percentage of introverted pastors reflects the percentage of introverts in the population, but I am troubled to learn that many introverted pastors feel discouraged. I have found that many churches expect the pastor not only to be a competent preacher and administrator, but also what I call the “Lead Socializer” in the congregation. One friend who was part of a pastor nominating committee told me about a conversation that a denominational executive once had with the committee. The executive said “If the pastor’s personality does not start with an ‘E’ then you need to keep looking.” As dismaying as that conversation is, it is all too common. Too many churches expect their pastor to be the first one on the church patio after the service and the last one to leave, meeting newcomers and renewing acquaintances with church members. All the interviews I have conducted with introverted pastors have yielded one commonality: the coffee hour after worship is their least favorite hour of the week. They love their people, but after expending a tremendous amount of emotional energy to preach, they would prefer to disappear into their offices than mingle.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Introverted Links

Here are a few links that I have found particularly helpful in getting a grasp on introversion:

First, an introductory article from the Atlantic, which I appreciate mostly because it comes from such a reputable publication.

Then, a forum entitled Introverts in Ministry, which comes from the website of Marty Laney, the author of The Introvert Advantage.

Last, here's an article about introverted evangelism.

Tell me what you think, and share other links if you've got them!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Introverted Boundaries

It’s a crisp autumn day in Southern California (it’s actually 108 and humid and it feels like death – I blame Al Gore for this), and it’s time for a new season of blogging on Introverted Church. I have yet to hear anything positive or negative from my potential publisher about my book proposal, and so I didn’t do much writing over the summer. But I have a pronounced “hermeneutic of introversion,” and I find myself regularly interpreting experiences in light of my personality tendencies.

When I describe my current ministry to people, some of them envision me sitting on a porch swing, sipping lemonade, and chatting with pleasant and hospitable old people, who are reflecting gratefully on their younger days and weaving yarns about collecting rubber during the war. In truth, what I face about 80% of the time are people with anxiety, depression, anger, regret, and fear, feelings which are only compounded by parallel emotions in their family members who are watching them die.

For most people, to talk regularly with people undergoing these kind of intense emotions would be incredibly draining and even emotionally dehabilitating. Yet what I have found over the last few months is that I have a strong ability to keep appropriate distance from people while still entering far enough into their emotional worlds to help them feel that they are not alone. And while the job certainly gets to me and the stress levels that I feel manifest in certain ways, I find that I am able to keep a proper separation between my professional and personal lives. I am not certain how much of this ability owes to my introversion and how much of this is related to other personality features or gifts (or pathologies!).

In my conversations with other introverts and in my research, I have discovered that many introverts have gifts of compassion. My hypothesis is that the farther you probe into the depths of your own psyche, the more you are able to enter into the worlds of others. Because of this, there are a high number of introverts in the psychiatric profession. But I also wonder whether because, according to Carl Jung, introverts “find primary meaning within the self,” that we are better equipped to keep appropriate distance between ourselves and the emotional worlds of others who are suffering? If extroverts find energy and meaning outside of the self, does that make it harder for extroverts to separate their own internal worlds from the worlds of others?

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Bad ideas

I know I haven't been posting much recently, and I blame the southern California heat for this. I think I have reverse seasonal affective disorder - when it's sunny and hot for long stretches, I get depressed. Seriously.

But I plan to remedy this lack of posting by making this commitment: to celebrate the unofficial start of fall with labor day weekend, I will post every day from Monday to Friday of next week.

How exciting is that?!

Answer: very exciting.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Emerging churches and introverts

Two topics that never stray too far from my brain are, of course, introversion, and also the changing nature of the church in the western world, the so-called "emerging church." It has occurred to me recently that the direction of the church could potentially be advantageous for introverts trying to survive Christian culture. Here are some positive movements:

1) The movement towards ritual, symbolism, and art in Protestant churches. Typically, Protestant churches, especially in the reformed tradition, have shied away from these "Catholic" liturgical accouterments, for fear of idolatry and confining God. The new openness to these things in the emerging movement enables the expression of worship and devotion in wordless ways. Another liturgical element that has become more prominent is the role of silence in a worship service, and introverts everywhere can breathe sighs of relief in those moments not filled with endless chatter.

2) The emphasis on team leadership. It is becoming increasingly common for pastors/congregations to be united together in teams, each bringing his or her gifts and outlooks to the rest, and people working together to do far more than one person ever could. The old paradigm of pastor being at the center of the community and playing every conceivable leadership role - pastor, teacher, administrator, cheerleader, visionary - is slowly fading. The new paradigm frees up introverts to focus in and not to try to fill every role and please everyone. This enables us to conserve our energies and to give ourselves wholeheartedly to those things that God has called us to do.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Technology and introverted identity

I posted today on my other blog about the effects of handheld technology on our sense of personal identity. I think there is a great deal of relevance in this conversation for introverts, as we can experience the sort of disintegration that technology can produce even more acutely. What are your thoughts?

Read it here.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Need for extended refueling

There are times when an afternoon of reading in a coffee shop will recharge my introverted tank, and then there are times when I need an entire week of refueling. It's almost as if there are two tanks - the short term tank and the long term tank. The short term tank can be refueled quickly but the long term tank takes much longer to fill and is drained by extended periods of extending compassion to others. It's time for a vacation.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Forthcoming book

Recently I received an email from a woman who stumbled upon this blog after she googled "introverted Christian." Her name is Susan and she is writing a book (and unlike me, actually has a publisher signed on) which looks at the major institutions of American life - education, politics, religion, etc - and claims that our culture is decidedly biased towards extroverts. She then turns towards the strengths and contributions that introverts bring to this kind of culture that "can't stop talking." The book will be released in 2009, and I'm quite excited about Susan's project.

She is even letting me in on her research. In May we did a phone interview and then in August she will be accompanying me on one of my patient visits, as well as attending a service at a church I am preaching at that month.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Slacking off

Even though I've been lax on posting recently, I'm getting more visitors than ever. I've noticed recently that a lot of people are coming from what looks like a page blogger links to after someone has posted. Where is this site appearing on blogger?

Thanks to those of you who have linked to this site. I already have more people linking here than to my other blog, which gets about 3 times the number of visitors on a daily basis.

You'll hear from me again soon.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Waiting...

This wait to hear from my publisher is killing me! I only sent my book proposal in a little over a month ago but already it feels like 6 months.

Sunday, July 1, 2007

Introverted Growth in Two Directions

I think that growth, and I'm thinking particularly about introverts but it's also applicable to everyone, involves movement in two directions. The first direction is inward and downward, and it involves learning how to embrace and refine your gifts and strengths. For introverts this might involve coming to terms with things like your need for solitude, the tendency to have deeper relationships with fewer people, and your reflective nature. Then it is a matter of learning how to utilize such tendencies better - perhaps learning how to use your reflective side in creative ways - such as writing, or in ways that draw you closer to God - like contemplative prayer, which is a style of prayer which allows God to determine the agenda.

The second direction is outwards, actually moving in the opposite direction that some of your natural tendencies would want you to go. I'm thinking here especially about the importance of community. As much as I would love to hole up in my study, reading, writing, and reflecting 8-12 hours a day, I can't find any mature Christian, of this age or previous ages, who says that you can be a truly mature person without bumping up against other people on a regular basis. Ronald Rollheiser, in The Shattered Lantern, says that one of the time-honored ways to find God in a culture that seeks success, money, and power is to "kiss the leper," to spend time with those who are outcasts in our culture. The poor, the dying, the sick, the alienated. When we are with those who on the outside of our culture peking order, we find a different set of values and moreover, we find God. So much of me wants to be lost in my grand ideas and reflections, away from the noise and urgency of other people, but I cannot escape the fact that growth for all humans involves the messiness of genuine human contact and the struggles of intimacy.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

The Way of the Heart

I've been a Henri Nouwen fan for years, but I've recently discovered a book of his that I had not previously heard of: The Way of the Heart. It's a look at the desert fathers and mothers and what their lives and writings have to contribute to contemporary ministry and spirituality. It's quickly becoming my favorite Nouwen book, which is saying a lot, considering The Return of the Prodigal Son and In the Name of Jesus have both been life-altering books for me. There is much about silence and solitude in its pages, two disciplines that I have been seeking to grow in and two disciplines that can be strengths for introverts. As I am working on my own chapter on "introverted spirituality," I will be posting the Nouwen quotes that I find helpful over the next couple of weeks:

"Solitude is the furnace of transformation. Without solitude we remain victims of our society and continue to be entangled in the illusions of the false self. Jesus himself entered into this furnace. There he was tempted with the three compulsions of the world: to be relevant ("turn stones into loaves"), to be spectacular ("throw yourself down"), and to be powerful ("I will give you all these kingdoms"). There he affirmed God as the only source of his identity ("You must worship the Lord your God and serve him alone"). Solitude is the place of the great struggle and the great encounter - the struggle against the compulsions of the false self, and the encounter with the loving God who offers himself as the substance of the new self" (p. 26).

Friday, June 8, 2007

Famous Introverts

Here is a link to a book list compiled by someone on Amazon.com. It's a list of books by or about famous introverts, like Dwight Eisenhower, Stephen Hawking, Albert Einstein, Gandhi, Mother Theresa, and Michael Jordan. It's not an exhaustive list, as it lacks some of my favorite introverts - Martin Luther King Jr and Jonathan Edwards but it's a good start.

Thursday, June 7, 2007

Submitted!

I sent in my latest book proposal to the publisher...now it's time to play the waiting game. It can take as much as 8-12 weeks to hear from them. Last time I sent the proposal in at the end of July and heard the first week of October, but I'm hoping it won't take as long this time. I'm going to take a short break from writing and then get to work on my chapter on introverted spirituality.

Saturday, June 2, 2007

Book outline

I have a goal that I'm really trying to hold to: send in my book proposal to the publisher by this coming Friday. The proposal requires three sample chapters, a book outline, and an introductory letter explaining the nature of the book, who might endorse it, what need it would fill, a list of competing/similar books, and when it will be finished. Here is a list of my chapters:

1) Introduction
2) The problem of the extroverted church
3) What is an introvert?
4) Healing for introverts
5) Introverted Spirituality
6) Introverted Community
7) Introverted Leadership, part I
8) Introverted Leadership, part II
9) Introverted Evangelism
10) Suggestions for Churches
11) Afterword

Monday, May 28, 2007

Technology and Introverts

Click here to read a paragraph from the latest introduction to my book, which is tentatively titled The Introverted Church.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Extroverted Jesus

A friend just pointed me to the Journal of Psychology and Theology (2004, Vol 1) where Susan Howell, a psychology professor in Kentucky, documented a study of how college students would characterize the personality type of Jesus according to the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator. For the most part, the students were divided and showed a tendency to describe Jesus' personality as similar to their own, but there was one remarkable statistic. Out of the 79 students surveyed, 77 of them described Jesus as an extrovert!!!!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Limitations

Here is a quote from The Introvert Advantage, by Marti Olsen Laney, that has helped me to reorient the way I think about my introverted limitations: (p.226)

Many of the people I interviewed for this book had come to terms with the fact that they will not have as many friends, be able to work as much, or do as many things as extroverts do. But their friendships are deeper, they do meaningful work, and they enjoy the smaller, quieter moments of life. The more you are able to appreciate the advantages of being an introvert, the more you will be able to accept the fact that you have limitations. This does not mean something is wrong with you. Having limitations is not the problem. It is the meaning we give limitations that causes so much pain.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Finding your rhythm

It's really important for introverts, especially those that have degrees of social interactions in their job, to learn their rhythms. They need to monitor and discover when they have high degrees of emotional and social energy and when they need to retreat for a while.

Now that I have been in my chaplain position for about three months, I am starting to learn how my energy rhythm and demands of the job intersect. In some ways, it's an ideal job for an introvert, because 1) Most of the interactions are one on one and 2) Because I visit people in their homes over a wide geographical area, I have solitude in my car between visits. That might explain why more than half of our chaplains are introverts.

I have learned that the bulk of my social energy comes in the afternoon, after I have had some solitude in the morning. So I try to book my appointments in the afternoons, and do other work in the mornings. When I am working in the office, I need to take a lunch break away from the office on my own in order to recharge. I also need to take a couple of breaks during the day, when I take a walk or go get coffee. I make sure to book appointments with about a half hour in between. I also need to get some time at home in the early evening, so that I can recharge before my wife gets home. And I try to make sure that at least one night a week, preferably right in the middle of the week, I get a night on my own as well. This way I can be ready for the last two days of the week without feeling totally exhausted.

Monday, April 30, 2007

Introverted Preaching

Preaching is my favorite part of the job. It's excruciatingly hard work and it takes more out of you emotionally and spiritually than most people know, but for me, it's a deeply rewarding role. Probably more than the actual preaching, I relish the preparation time. This is when the academic comes out of me: the research, the reading, the thinking, the writing, the re-writing.

I've always written out a full manuscript of my sermons. It helps me to think, but even more, I find that I need a manuscript when I stand up to preach, because I don't think on my feet very well. Even if I have a thorough outline, I feel off guard and far more nervous and I am more likely to stumble over my words or have bad transitions. This is a part of the introverted package. Introverts aren't generally skilled at speaking off the top of their heads. Sometimes I get frustrated that I'm bound to my manuscript and that I look down more often than others, but I also know this is my best strategy for preaching well.

Recently, I asked someone what they thought of a sermon they had just heard from another pastor, and the person said: "It was really good. He didn't really use any notes. He seemed like he was speaking from the heart." I have heard this on several occasions, and it drives me CRAZY!! As though the person who is able to speak off the top of his head is more genuine than the person who uses a manuscript. I am speaking "from the heart" just as much as the next guy, but my heart happens to best express itself in written words and paragraphs. This is where my evangelical background seems to really work against me, as people expect a very conversational, sit-down-and-have-coffee-with-the-pastor sort of dialogue, and many think that if the pastor happens to bring a text along, then he must be disingenuous.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Friends in high places

Given that introverts have limited social and emotional resources, before they need to reload, (we don't rebuild, we reload) we need to choose the best ways to expend our energies. In a church setting, introverts might desire to meet people, get more involved, and go deeper into the community, but we might not know how. It's intimidating because we don't want to waste our energy in less than purposeful interaction.

I want to propose an idea: make friends in high places. If you are new to church, find a person who has two qualities: 1) Is well connected in the church and 2) Is hospitable to newcomers. These people aren't always easy to find, but a good place to look is to the evangelism committee, if you church has one. Generally these people will be extroverts who are eager to meet new people, but aren't always great at actually doing it. Other places you could look to are people who are involved in new members classes or to greeters or ushers.

Introduce yourself; tell that person that you want to get more involved but you're not sure how. If you feel comfortable invite that person to coffee or catch them at the right time when you can have a one-on-one interaction. Tell them about yourself and what you're interested in. Ask them if they would introduce you to some people.

As a pastor, it has not been difficult for me to meet the right people, because the right people search you out. As a parishioner, it's more difficult, but I think this strategy will help.

Monday, April 23, 2007

The Practicals

I've always been weak in the practicals. I'm the guy who finds the "ivory tower" designation to be somewhat complementary. If I could I would spend the majority of my time thinking, reading, and writing. But I realize that a lot of what introverted Christians are looking for are practical suggestions for things like how to turn their perceived weaknesses into strengths, how to get involved in a church in a way that's true to their nature, how to get their church to realize there are lots of introverts out there who aren't always comfortable with church culture and the ways values are presented, how to make friendships, how to recharge, etc.

I need to sharpen my thinking in this arena, especially if I'm going to be able to help fellow introverts find confidence in navigating extroverted church culture (incidentally, I met a woman the other day who is currently working on a large scale critique on the extroverted tendencies of American culture and institutions as a whole - how ambitious is that?!).

Let me throw this issue out to my readers, so we can start discussing these things together. What are the practical questions that you have about being an introvert in the Church? Where are you stuck? How have you found success? How have you failed?

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Question for my readers

I will resume posting my introverted narrative next week, but for now I interrupt this series with a question for my readers. Do you know of any books/articles/interviews/resources that describe the talkativeness of the evangelical culture? It has been my experience that many evangelicals use five words when one would suffice, and as I work on my book I am looking for resources to help substantiate my experience. I am also looking for resources that discuss the spirituality of silence and solitude. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Introverts in scripture?

I have gotten a few questions recently about whether there are any introverts in the Bible. I think people are eager to find biblical models that they can pattern themselves after, in order to learn how to be faithful to God as an introvert. I certainly commend the idea, but I quibble with the hermeneutic.

I think we're in danger when we take our hermeneutical grid - whether psychological or scientific or anything else - and superimpose it onto scripture. And yes, I'm very aware of the deconstructionist critique that says it is impossible to come to a text with a clean slate, but at the very least, when we know what our own bias is, we should try to set it aside as best we can. We must attend to the historical and literary context of scripture (what the original author intended for the original readers to understand) if we are even to come close to being good readers of scripture.

Therefore, I am unwilling to try and find introverts in scripture, because that is simply not part of the worldview of Paul or Luke or Isaiah. It would have never crossed their minds. Luke may have had Mark's gospel, his own independent source (L) and a source he shared with Matthew (Q) but he certainly did not have the Meyers Brigg Type Indicator on his desk. I know where I would be tempted to go- I would like to discover that Timothy's timidity was really uncomfortability with making small talk. Or that Moses' resistance to being God's mouthpiece was because when he stood up to speak in front of people his mind went blank because he hadn't time to internally process what God had just told him to say. Or that Jesus went away into the hills to pray in the morning, not because he was about to reform the tribes of Israel through the 12 called disciples, but because he needed time to recharge his introverted batteries.

I think that I can use characters such as Moses and Timothy to talk about facing our fears of leading others and speaking for God. Moses is in fact a very interesting character because he was terrified to speak in front of a crowd, because he was "slow of speech," but then he ends up becoming the spokesman to Pharaoh and Israel, overshadowing even his eloquent brother Aaron. And I can use Jesus' example to stress the significance of solitude, though as Christians we know there is never any true "solitude" because God is Immanuel.

What are some other biblical characters that we can point to to help introverts in their journey, without trying to impose our understanding of Jungian psychological types on the scriptures?

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

An Introvert's Church Nightmare

I interviewed with a church a little while ago, and though it was clearly not a good fit for me, it was a memorable interview. It was so unforgettable that I wonder if God gave me that opportunity to encourage me to keep writing my book on introverted pastors, or at least to give me fodder for one of my chapters. Here are some of the things that were said about the church and about the specific ministry I would have been doing:

"This is a really high octane environment."
"We're looking for someone who is really high energy and really excitable."
"You have to be totally sold out to work here."
"You have to work full throttle."

Adam's translation: You have to be a hard core extrovert, who thrives in the presence of crowds, can't wait to meet new people, and who has limitless social energy.

Another way of putting it: An introvert's worst nightmare.

Barna on Introverted Pastors

The Barna group recently released a study on the self-confidence of pastors, which had some interesting things to say about introversion in the pulpit.

Despite the interpersonal demands of congregational ministry, one-quarter of the nation’s Senior Pastors describe themselves as introverts (24%). This is the same proportion as in the adult population (25%) and suggests that church work is not merely for those drawn to the limelight. Still, the research revealed that introverted leaders are more likely to feel under-appreciated in ministry and are more apt to feel relationally isolated. Those attending seminary, non-white pastors, mainline leaders, those in the Northeast, and leaders in their twenties and thirties were more likely than average to self-identify as introverted personality types.

I'm encouraged to see that the percentage of introverts in ministry reflects the percentage of introverts in the general population. I wonder, however, if the pastors self-identifying as introverts are using the precise Jungian/MBTI definitions of introversion or if they are associating introversion with "shyness." The commentary on ministry in the above paragraph is interesting to me. Lines like "despite the interpersonal demands of congregational ministry" and "church work is not merely for those drawn to the limelight" reveal cultural assumptions about ministry and those who are perceived to be most effective at it. Introverts in ministry seem to be the exception to the extroverted rule, that's for sure. These study results confirm many of my experiences and convictions as an introverted pastor: though we can do ministry, we have a tougher journey than many extroverts because of cultural and personal issues.

Another finding I thought was extremely interesting was that Buster (Gen-X) pastors are the most likely to self-identify as introverts. What are your theories about that? I have a couple, but I would like to hear from you.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Introverts are welcome here!

This blog is dedicated to people everywhere who have 2 defining characteristics: 1) They are followers of Jesus Christ and 2) They are introverts. A few years ago, through a process of honest self-exploration, I discovered that I was an introvert. I knew that I had always relished time to myself and found social interaction draining, but for most of my life I thought something was dreadfully wrong with me. It was incredibly relieving to discover that, though I did wrestle with deeper issues of insecurity that were not resolved by a personality test, I was in fact normal and that at least 1/4 of the population dealt with the same things that I do as an introvert. I was motivated to find freedom in my introversion and also to help fellow introverts do the same. I have even been motivated to do some writing on this topic, especially in relation to the experiences that introverts have in the American evangelical church, which I think is largely extroverted in its bent. My hope is that this website can become a starting point for conversation about this topic and a haven for Christian introverts to find healing, community, and suggestions for navigating the waters of the evangelical sub-culture. I greatly welcome your comments, experiences, advice, and critiques that you have of what I say in this space.

The title, Introverted Church, is a somewhat tongue in cheek reference to a critique I read recently of the Church when it is not fulfilling its mission as witness to Jesus Christ. The author said this:

An introverted church, turned in on itself, preoccupied with its own survival, has virtually forfeited the right to be a church, for it is denying a major part of its own being. As a planet which ceases to be in orbit is no longer a planet, so a church which ceases to be in mission is no longer a church. In order to qualify for the name "church" we must be a community deeply and constantly aware of our "sentness," and actively loyal to this part of our Christian identity.

This quotation, from the pen of a prominent evangelical theologian and preacher, reveals a common misunderstanding that says introversion is bad, self-centered, closed off, and pathological. The subsequent description of the church in that quotation would indeed be a distortion of what Jesus had in mind when he chartered the Church, but to call it "introverted" is only to reinforce the stereotypes that externally and internally plague people who are properly and healthily called introverts. When God "fearfully and wonderfully made" each person, he was pleased to create 1/4 of the population as introverts, and we have great gifts to bring to the Church and the world.