Monday, May 31, 2010

Good prices

Wanted to let you know about some good prices I've seen for Introverts in the Church.  On Buy.com you can get it for the cheapest price I've seen - $10.10 - and over at the Book Depository, the price is $11.49 but it has free shipping for everything.  The Book Depository ships from the UK, so it might take a little while to arrive.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Introverts and Creativity: Natalie Nicole Gilbert

There have been some insightful comments on this blog and over on the Facebook page for my book about introversion and creativity.  I am convinced that one of the gifts that introverts bring to the church is creativity, and I think there's more to it than just the fact that we enjoy time to ourselves, which lends itself towards music and art and writing. There is something about a rich interior life that sparks the imagination and fuels the creative process. 

I want to talk more about this, and therefore I enlisted the help of songwriter and musician, and radio talent, Natalie Nicole Gilbert.  You can find information about her, a discography, and some videos of her in concert over on her website. And yes, she wrote a song in tribute to Carlisle Cullen, the vampire patriarch of the Twilight series (and I'm a little embarrassed that I didn't have to look up who he was).

Here's my interview with Natalie:

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Adam:  You're pretty vocal (on twitter anyway) about your introversion and seem pretty comfortable with your temperament.  Has this always been the case? If so, why?  If not, how have you found this level of peace with your introversion?

Natalie: Since I grew up with a *very* extroverted mother (also a performer), I didn't really have the opportunity to discover I was an introvert until my 20's.  Mom always introduced me to EVERYone she knew, showing me off like a picture in her wallet.  It frustrated me to no end, but I thought it was because of our 40 year age difference, or the way her friends would dote on me and ask me all the silly kid questions upon introduction (ie. What's your favorite school subject? Do you play piano like your mother? How old are you now?) Once I took the Myers Briggs and got that beloved 'I' at the front of my results, I was able to look back at how draining all those social situations had been and say 'Oooooh. That's why.'  I wish I'd taken the assessment as a child so I could have better verbalized that I needed more alone time.  While I still would've had to attend those Mother's Day banquets, at least I could have singled out the other introverts and huddled with them in the corner.

I find now that openly stating I'm an introvert keeps friends and acquaintances in the know.  If they get to know me one on one, working on a project especially, it's easy for people to think I'm an extrovert. Mentioning that I'm an introvert helps them understand why I'm slower to return phone calls, may wait until the 3rd invite to show up at parties, and generally don't indulge in small talk.  I've also found it's even an asset at networking events to put my introversion on the table. Inevitably, there are other introverts in the room who also find it draining to be there, though they know they should attend, and we can find relief together connecting and empowering one another.

Adam: Is it your experience that introverts thrive in music and the arts? Do you encounter more introverts than extroverts? 

Natalie: In my experience, it depends greatly on their genre or audience.  I find that many introverts wind up in the singer/songwriter genre, where their pensiveness and perception yield much reception with their thoughtful and perceptive audience.  I also find that introverts who thrive with much alone time may find it easier to devote themselves to long hours of research, composition, and/or practice that might seem more draining for extroverts who need more constant interaction with people.  So, the more 'sensational' artists that enjoy the sequins and spotlights are more likely to be extroverts, while the introverts are more likely to be the guys and gals in jeans who make relevant conversation between songs.

Adam: 
How do you think your introversion factors into the creative process? Is it simply that, as an introvert, you work well in solitude, or is there a deeper link between introversion and creativity?

Natalie: On a deeper level, I think it's also that creativity and music have become a best friend.  Because we're pickier about our lifelong friends than extroverts, it's also possible that we regard more of our habits and belongings as friends. If I'm going through some dark night of the soul and I'm only getting voicemail when I reach out to a few friends, I'm given to turning to my art for respite.  That relationship makes it more of a sanctuary, and may also give me some opportunities to create or express with music what I might never verbalize in conversations.  The piano always listens, and I always listen back.  

Adam: What is the hardest part about being an introverted artist?

Natalie: For me, the hardest part is that many assume that because I'm an artist I'm thirsty for any spotlight or opportunity for fame. For the introverted artist, this couldn't be farther from the truth. (Perhaps it's also not true of the extroverted segment, but I can only speak from my side of the fence.)  I enjoy meaningful opportunities to perform, but large audience numbers or high amounts of attention are a deterrent to me, not an attraction.  I'm a pro, and I grew up performing, so performing for 14,000 for me isn't daunting or nerve wracking, but neither is it something I seek out - because the numbers, to me, don't reflect success or impact *necessarily*. I'd rather have a strong impact on 200 or 2,000 fans than a profitable but empty impact on 20,000. 

Adam: How can churches encourage artists and musicians (especially introverted ones) to cultivate their gifts, both for their own sake and for the sake of Christ's body?  

Natalie: Approach us. Engage with us. Give us opportunities to teach as well as perform.  Invite us to host a group for other writers.  We may never think to offer or may not know you'd find benefit in such, but when I've served at churches that opened the door to collaborative or educational artistic experiences, the introverts were always given a place and a voice to let their talents and their hearts be known, and ultimately, to cultivate and hone those talents to reinvest in the church that invested in them.

Adam: Thanks for your time Natalie. For those of you want to hear more about Natalie and her music, you can also find her on www.Facebook.com/NatalieNicoleGilbert 
and www.iTunes.com/NatalieNicoleGilbert

Friday, May 21, 2010

Some Weekend Reading

I've run across a few posts this week about introverts in various venues, so here are some links if you have a few minutes this weekend:

1 Bruce Reyes-Chow, the moderator of the PCUSA (my denomination), and a prolific tweeter, posted a blog that has been picked up by the San Francisco Chronicle: Why Twitter is Great for Social Media Introverts

2. Here's a post about introverts attending conferences, with a great title: You're Just Not that into Me

3. A long post about public speaking: The Introvert's Guide to Speaking

On Monday I'm going to post my interview with introverted musician Natalie Nicole Gilbert, so be sure to check back!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Arts

Thus far I've done an interview with an introverted missionary, an introverted church-planter, an introverted Pentecostal pastor, and an introverted youth minister, but I still feel that someone is missing. An introvert in the arts. Therefore, I'm working on questions for an interview with introverted musician Natalie Nicole Gilbert that I will be posting in the next couple of weeks.

But for now I want to pose a couple of questions. Why do you think that introverts are so attracted to the arts? Pastors and leaders seem to tend towards the extroverted side of the spectrum, but musicians, actors, artists, and writers seem to go the other way. Is it simply because people in the arts tend to work in solitude, or is it more complicated than that?  What are your theories?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Introverted Pentecostals

I've been looking forward to this interview for a while. John Lathrop is an ordained minister with the International Fellowship of Christian Assemblies, and has served with them for the last 20 years. He has ministered internationally, in Zimbabwe and Indonesia, and has also done quite a bit of writing, including a book called Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors, and Teachers Then and Now. 

Every so often I get emails from introverted Pentecostals, which if we're honest, summons the word "oxymoron" pretty quickly, at least from a stereotypical point of view. I previewed this interview on the Facebook page of Introverts in the Church, and that was the first comment on the post.  Pentecostals are known for their expressive worship style, the active involvement of both the body and the emotions in their praise. Introverts, who of course may feel very deeply, are usually not as overt and demonstrative about it, and I can imagine an introvert may feel like a fish out of water in such a setting. I've been to a couple of Pentecostal churches in my life, and it was indeed a culturally, and temperamentally, displacing experience.

That's why I'm so eager for this conversation. Below is the entirety of my interview with John, and I would love to hear from more Pentecostals about the role of temperament in their churches.

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Adam: How does an introvert like yourself end up as a Pentecostal pastor?  Have you encountered many others?  Would you say that extroverts are more attracted to Pentecostal churches than introverts?

John: I grew up in a practicing Roman Catholic family.  We went to church every Sunday and we did our best to abide by the rules of the church. When I was in college, one of my classmates was involved in a charismatic group that met at a local Catholic church. He invited me to go to one of their prayer meetings. My girlfriend (who is now my wife) and I began to attend some of these meetings. During the course of our spiritual journey we encountered the charismatic movement not only in the Catholic Church but also in the Episcopal Church and the Advent Christian denomination (it seemed to be everywhere!). In the early 1980’s my wife and I finally joined a classical Pentecostal denomination. I had an interest in ministry from a very young age and I liked the atmosphere of the Pentecostal church so at this time it was natural for me to go into Pentecostal ministry. My wife and I have been part of the Pentecostal Movement ever since.

I have encountered a couple of other Pentecostal ministers that I would classify as introverts. I am sure that there are more but only a couple come immediately to mind.

When people think of Pentecostals they typically think of people who are loud and demonstrative in worship, characteristics that we would typically ascribe to extroverts. While this may be the stereotype I do not think that it truly represents the Pentecostal church as a whole. While people who are extroverts may enjoy being with other people who are extroverts I think that there are a significant number of introverts who also enjoy Pentecostal worship.
 

Adam: What is the best part of being an introverted Pentecostal? What are the gifts that you bring to your community as an introvert?

John: One of the things that I like about being a Pentecostal is the freedom or openness to the idea that God can intervene at any time in many ways. He can speak to and touch His people as He sees fit, He can move in almost any part of the service and He can use anyone He chooses to. There could be a prophecy that greatly encourages the congregation as a whole or ministers to an individual in a much deeper way than we could ever imagine or hope for.

I think that the gift that I bring to the church is that of teaching. Pentecostals have sometimes been labeled as those who have “full hearts but empty heads.” Sadly, there is some truth to this charge. There are people who have great zeal but little biblical knowledge. I am trying to change that. I think that all Christians, and in this case specifically Pentecostals, should be firmly rooted in Scripture. There is no contradiction between the Spirit and the Word.

Adam: What is the hardest part of being an introverted Pentecostal, especially a Pentecostal pastor?

John: I think that one of the more difficult things is dealing with people’s expectations that you should be an extrovert. This is particularly true with reference to expressions of worship. Pentecostals have sometimes criticized more traditional churches because of the formality of their services “Let us all stand, let us all kneel,” etc. The truth is that for all our talk of spontaneity and being open to the Spirit we, at times, have our own liturgy, “Everyone raise your hands, everyone shout Hallelujah.” As I stated earlier people respond to the Lord in different ways and I think that it is important to allow for that freedom of expression. I am fortunate that I am in a church that does not pressure me or anyone else to conform to doing specific things in worship. I have felt this pressure though in other places that I have visited.

One of the things that is difficult about being a Pentecostal pastor is addressing some of the non-biblical teachings that from time to time emerge in Pentecostal circles. Trying to correct aberrant teaching can be difficult because people have often received these teachings from prominent preachers. Because these preachers have big, impressive ministries people who have accepted their teachings may sometimes be resistant to adopting a more biblical view when it is presented to them.
 
Adam: What advice would you give for introverts currently preparing to lead in Pentecostal churches?

John: I would say be aware of the fact that though you may be in the minority in your particular setting, there are other introverts in the Pentecostal church. You are not alone, so take comfort in that. I would also say try to be comfortable with who you are, God made you this way. The culture of the Pentecostal church may exert some pressure on you to conform, but do the best you can at being yourself. I think that reading Introverts in the Church can also be a great help to you (no, Adam did not ask me to say that!). The church is a body made up of many different members, be the person that you were created to be. God created introverts and placed them in the church, even in the Pentecostal church!

Adam: Thanks John for sharing your insight and experiences with us! 
 

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Leading as an Introvert

Building Church Leaders, a resource of Christianity Today, has released a survival guide called Leading as an Introvert. It's a resource designed for introverted leaders in the church and for group study. The guide contains several articles, including four excerpts from Introverts in the Church. 


Here is their product overview:
American culture tends to favor extroverts over introverts. If you are quick to speak, assertive in groups, or energized by being around others, you will usually have a better chance to succeed. The same is often true in our churches. So what does that mean for introverted pastors and church leaders?

This 44-page resource offers a wealth of insights into how introverts who lead in the church can understand their own gifting and calling, how they can guard against fatigue and burnout, and how they can lead the people around them, extroverts and introverts alike.

Of course both introverts and extroverts are sinners, so these articles don't exalt one personality type or demonize another. Instead, they can help everyone be more sensitive to the way in which introverts are wired and how God might choose to use them.

NOTE: You have permission to make up to 1,000 copies of this resource to be distributed in a church or educational setting.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Odds and Ends

As of this weekend, I am a certified spiritual director. I just completed a three year program by leading a weekend retreat for another person. I've been doing some spiritual direction for a few years, but now I'm official. I've mentioned this before, but I think spiritual direction may be tailor-made for introverts, especially those who are attracted to contemplative forms of spirituality. It involves deep listening, asking probing questions, and also paying attention to what is happening in yourself. For a great introduction to the topic, check out David Benner's Sacred Companions.

When I tell people I'm a spiritual director, a lot of them get a puzzled look on their faces. I think they imagine some bizarre ethereal, mystical sort of relationship with no real grounding in the Bible or Christian theology. One person actually asked me, "Oh, so you're like an astrologer?" Seriously.  Because of these misnomers, and because I'd really like to see the evangelical community embrace the practice of spiritual direction, I'm going to be writing a few things about it over the next few months for the evangelical portal at Patheos.

Also, I'm just getting into a new book by Todd Hunter called Giving Church Another Chance.  I don't know much about the book, but I do know that Hunter used to be a pastor with The Vineyard and is now a priest in the Anglican church (!)  That's quite a transition.  IVP sent it to me, but only after I requested it. I'll likely talk about it more in the near future.

If you want an autographed copy of Introverts in the Church, you can buy it here and I'll send it out to you.