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.