Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Church-planting Introverts

I've been asked quite a bit about introverts and church planting. It seems that many people are more convinced that introverts can pastor already established churches than they can succeed at planting a church. I find this surprising, given that 1. God's call is not limited by personality type 2. My conviction is that the success of introverts in church leadership pivots around the ability of a person to know and embrace their personal and social rhythms, and 3. Most new churches are planted by teams of people, not solitary individuals, and I think introverts and extroverts partnering together may be the ideal makeup for a new church.

Christianity.com and I did an extensive interview that is now up on their homepage. One of the questions they asked me was about introverts planting churches:

Christianity.com: Despite the prevailing opinions of most church planter evaluation committees, do you think an introvert could make a good church planter? How so? What advice would you give?

: Sometimes I wonder whether any committee would choose someone like Moses or Timothy to plant a church. Moses claimed he was inarticulate and uncomfortable in the spotlight; Timothy was young and struggled with timidity. There is a disturbingly consistent trend in the scriptures that God chooses unlikely people to carry out his mission and lead his people. And it is clear that God's call is not contingent on personality type. If those responsible for planting churches do not allow that God will call introverts to plant churches, they are disregarding biblical patterns and missing out on many gifted and inspired leaders.

I know several introverts who are currently involved in planting churches, and they are tremendously gifted people who are seeing much fruit in their ministry. They are finding that their introversion, in many ways, is helping them. They are building relationships one at a time, asking the questions that are enabling them to understand the culture and the people they are trying to reach. They are eager learners, and through listening and observation and theological reflection, they have developed a compelling vision for their communities. They are investing deeply in the leaders God has brought to them. They are people of deep prayer and spiritual discipline, which restores them and gives them God's eyes for people.

It's important to stress that introverts can be wonderful communicators and have social skill and confidence; we're not necessarily shy or standoffish. The difference is that social interaction and life in the outside world drains us. So I think the key to church planting, and any leadership position in the church, is caring for your soul. My friend Chris, an introvert planting a church in Pittsburgh, says that Sabbath, maintaining his intellectual life, carefully balancing his schedule, and finding some sort of role that helps him to meet new people (for him it's serving as a tent-making barista at a local coffee shop), are critical to his success.

What are your thoughts?  Can introverts be effective church planters?

You can read the entire interview, in which we talk about leadership, the bias towards extroversion in many churches, gifts of introverts, evangelism, and whether introverts or extroverts struggle more in community,  here:
Introvert? No Apology Required.  Christianity.com Interview with Adam McHugh