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.