Categories

Archives

Introverts In The Church – An Interview

Previous Post – Defending Orphans


More than 10 years ago a good friend and fellow missionary scolded me for being a “recluse”, for being “selfish with my time” and “too inside” my head.  Faced with this kind of harsh critique from a friend and brother in Christ in the past, I would have been crushed, either forcing myself to be “more social” or retreating deeper into solitude.  However, neither happened because at that same time in my life I discovered the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) which helped me understand my own temperament.  Not only did it affirm those things which were not flaws, but God-created characteristics, it helped me develop those traits in healthy ways.  This was most true when it came to understanding what it meant to be an introvert.  I have since used this tool to help people in spiritual, missional and community formation with great success.  (For the curious, I am an INTJ).

That is why I was so thrilled when I saw the IVP was set to publish “Introverts In The Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture” by Adam S. McHugh.  I received an advanced copy a few days ago and have already consumed most of it.  This book is one of the most critically needed works for the Church in our culture.  McHugh manages to confront the extroverted bias in church culture without denigrating extroverts while encouraging introverts without letting them off the hook of their own responsibilities.  Incredibly practical, deeply pastoral and a significant key for becoming truly missional people, this book is a prophetic message of hopeful correction and direction.

Rather than do a typical review, I wanted to interact with Adam on some of the material in the book to give you a taste of what it has to offer.  Releasing later this year, it is currently available for pre-order here through Amazon.com (and Amazon.ca & Amazon.co.uk).  I cannot more highly endorse this book. We are ordering a copy for all of our staff here, as well as making it available for many in our church.  Also, check out Adam’s great website “Introverted Church”.  Enjoy the interview and weigh in with thoughts and questions in the comment section below:

Jamie Arpin-Ricci: One of the early chapters in your book is called “Finding Healing”.  Why was that so important so early in the book?

Adam McHugh: Over the course of 3 years, I talked with and interviewed my fellow introverts, and I was saddened by how wounded many of us are from our experiences in Christian community and from life in our extroverted society in general.  Our wounds have been inflicted both from without and within.  Others misunderstand us or mislabel us as antisocial, loners, arrogant, unloving, or passive.  Many of us have absorbed those criticisms and we are convinced that something is deeply wrong with us. Many introverts feel confused and ashamed of who they are, and with alarming frequency, struggle with despair and depression.  I am convinced that until we find some level of healing and self-acceptance, as we pursue our identity as introverts in Christ, we won’t be able to live authentically in Christian community and to practice our faith as ourselves.

JAR: I have sometimes seen introverts use their temperament as an excuse, as though their choices are inevitable results of their introversion.  What responsibilities do we have to develop our temperament?

AM: Introversion is never an excuse for sin, fear, lack of love, or an enduring victimization.  We must always remember that our fundamental identity is in relationship to Jesus, not in our introversion.  If we say that we don’t practice evangelism or don’t participate in Christian community because we are introverts, then our version of introversion is out of step with the abundant life Jesus came to give us.  Too many times I have seen introverts define themselves by what they are not, rather than what they are and what they have to offer others.  In the book I say that we must move both deeper and wider in our discipleship. We must go inwards and discover who we are and the gifts we have to offer others, but we must always move outwards into arenas of relationships, actions, and mission. A healthy introvert will both engage with others and retreat into solitude to rediscover ourselves and to hear the whispers of God.

JAR: This book is clearly not just for introverts, but for the whole Church.  What do you most want extroverts to gain from reading it?

AM: I actually did write the book first and foremost for introverted Christians, because I felt my introverted brothers and sisters were long overdue for a resource like this.  I have much love and hope for them.  That being said, I definitely want extroverts to read it as well!  My hope is that the book will serve as a mediator between them and the introverts in their lives and communities.  I hope that it helps them understand introverts better and also reveals to them how they have conceptualized the Christian life and Christian community according to an extroverted mold.  I want them to understand that there are different, and equally viable and valuable, ways of following Jesus.

JAR: You are clear that introverts are not exempt from the call to leadership.  How might introverts lead differently?  How can they be encouraged to step out in these ways?

AM: Not only do I think that introverts are not exempt from leadership, I think that those introverts who are called into leadership can be tremendously effective leaders.  Much of our understanding of leadership is shaped by those people we have seen in leadership and the ways they have led.  Many of us are accustomed to extroverted leaders and so we think we could never do what they do.  Some of us, though, are fortunate enough to have seen introverted models of leadership.  The most effective introverted leaders I know all know how to lead out of their strengths and to minimize their weaknesses.  They are all experts in self-care and know how to save and restore their energy for ministry and relationships.  Many of them follow the model of Jesus in focusing on the “few” – they can walk in larger circles but they relish opportunities to invest deeply in a small group of people and to pour into them their love and wisdom.  They become a contemplative presence in whatever setting they are in – they listen carefully not only to the words that are said but to what is unsaid and the assumptions that lie underneath them.  Many introverts find that spiritual direction is a ministry that suits them particularly well, or that the disciplines involved in spiritual direction – listening, prayerful silence, giving space to others -  shape much of their ministry.

As far as how introverts can be encouraged to step out into leadership, I think they need to be convinced that they do have leadership qualities and gifts and their temperament does not automatically exclude them from leadership.  That’s what chapter 6 in my book is about – dispelling the leadership myths and “ideals” that our culture subscribes to.  And then secondly, they need to learn how to lead in ways that are genuine and life-giving, which is what chapter 7 is about. Nothing will kill an introverts’ sense of call like trying to lead like an extrovert.  We just don’t have the energy or social capacity to do so, and thus we need to find the most effective, fruitful channels for our relational energy.

JAR: Your book is a prophetic call to the Church to wholeness.  In that process, what do introverts need to be most careful of in respect to honouring and understanding extroverts?

AM: I love that you spelled “honouring” with a “u.”  <JAR: I am Canadian, after all> One of my greatest fears surrounding this topic is that introverts, as they read the book and appraise their religious communities and traditions, will adopt a victim mentality.  Already I have run into a number of introverts who are angry and resentful and who have many grievances against extroverts.  What I want for them is to deal with their pain appropriately and constructively.  I do not want my book to be a springboard for greater division and conflict among the church, because the reality is, there are a LOT of introverts out there who haven’t often been advocated for.  Love must be our guide, and lashing out or vindictiveness is clearly not the way of Jesus.  Nor is blaming others for our issues in a way that allows us to remain exactly as we are.  We’re always called to growth in love, forgiveness, and compassion for others, regardless if we receive the same from the hands of others.  I want introverts to read my book and take positive steps towards resolving conflict with extroverts, initiate constructive dialogue in their communities, and demonstrate the profound gifts they have to offer others.  My hope is not that the scales will now be tipped in favor of introverts and introverted ways of thinking and acting, but that we can find a balance between introversion and extroversion so that our communities will show both the depth and breadth of God’s love.

JAR: What does it mean for introverts to be missional?  To engage in evangelism?  Do you have any examples to illustrate?

AM: I saw a blog post a while back that called introverts “sugar in the missional gas tank.”  I was surprised by the lack of nuance and thoughtfulness in that post, but even more so I was startled that many commentors actually agreed with the author.  Clearly, in many circles introverts are trying to dig themselves out of a deep hole, and maybe my book, if nothing else, will make a good shovel.  It is a false dichotomy to say that extroverts do the work of evangelism and outreach, and introverts do the work of spirituality and prayer.  It’s not a matter of different activities; it’s a matter of different ways of doing many of the same activities.  Introverts can do evangelism, introverts can engage in the missio Dei, and if we are not, we are missing out a key and vital part of our discipleship.  For introverts, the most important aspect of mission is context.  We will likely to be better in one-on-one contexts than we will be in large groups, and we will likely be better with the same people over time than we will be with encountering strangers.  If we center our strategies for evangelism and mission around our personal interests, then we will have more to say and we will find more energy from it. If we find ways to use our natural skills – listening, behind-the-scenes service, compassion, creativity and imagination – in our outreach, then we will be more successful.

I have an introverted friend who is an amazing sculptor, and she told me that she views her art as a wordless way of communicating the gospel.  It’s not just that she hopes her art will become a conversation starter, but she prays what she sculpts will actually be a vehicle for mediating the presence of a creative, tender God.  She knows that evangelism requires words as well but that God transcends and is more mysterious than any of our verbal formulas and homilies we so often us to try to bring someone to faith.

JAR: Tell us something about yourself that is completely odd and random.

AM: I have this weird thing for cats.  I have 4 of them and I experience this odd resonance with them because cats are introverts.  Sometimes when the doorbell rings I fantasize about running and hiding under the bed with them.

JAR: Thanks Adam.

Remember to weigh in, ask questions and engage in the comment section.

34 Comments

  1. Thank you for this, Jamie! I shall put in an advance order for the book tomorrow – sounds like just what we’ve all been waiting for…

    Mike (INFP)

  2. Thanks Mike. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  3. Carrie

    Jamie!! I love this. INFJ here. It’s good to hear even more about how I work as a leader – it’s interesting because I just finished up leading camp and this helped me see into my own leadership.

  4. Glad it helped, Carrie. You should really get the book. It will help you and others. Well worth it. Drop me an email and let me know how camp was.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  5. Really interesting interview and book. I remember taking the Myers Briggs a few years ago and being ENFP with a medium to high E (don’t cower away), Ive taken it a couple of times since then and sometimes ended up INFP and or at least almost on the border of it. Ive noticed a tendency to pull my ‘E’ out when I need to lead something, but I am really interested in how to use my recently gained introversion tendencies to lead. Any ideas about how someone might try and do that from some more long term “I”s?

  6. Interesting interview, I’m another ENFP – although I’ve come out borderline E/I as well. I seem to fluctuate from extroversion to introversion…!

    I have a lot of introverted friends in church, and one of the things I’ve noticed is how they sometimes aren’t noticed and at times I think undervalued- it’s worried me at times. God made us all different for a reason.

    I’m really glad Adam has written this book, and would be interested to read it!

  7. Fellow introvert here. I’ve probably not had it as hard as you, as I work in a field that seems to have it’s fair share of us. Good points about leadership; it’s worth recognising that leadership is not the same thing as being the loud boisterous guy at the front; indeed, it’s not about always being the centre of attention. It’s interesting to me that many succesful corporate leaders have been introverts; Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Stephen Spielberg are some that are frequently mentioned.

    I agree that the church sometimes falls into the trap of preferring extroverts, though, just as she’s frequently more comfortable with cheery optimism and uncomfortable with introspection. I remember that Rick Warren explicitly states in his book that Saddleback rarely plays songs in a minor key; I think that’s indicative of a culture that doesn’t know how to cope with space, with silence or with reflection.

    Like Liam, I’d love to know more about what good introverted leadership looks like.

  8. Hey Liam,

    Glad it was helpful to you. Many ENFP’s find themselves in times where they are over-committed- too many social engagements, good causes, etc.- all to things they genuinely believe in and love. However, as the stress of over commitment kicks in, they will start to lean towards their introverted tendencies (as everyone has both). While I couldn’t say if this is the case with you without a lot more conversation, it is something to consider.

    If it is true for you, then one of the keys that you will need to develop is not becoming a “victim” of your own temperament. That is, learning the self-disciplines of boundaries, etc. as needed. ENFP’s who get caught in this pattern of over-commitment, followed by personal and social flight, often burn out in the end. They can find themselves moving away from their context just to get a fresh start, while only repeating the pattern elsewhere.

    Again, not knowing the dynamics with you, this might not be helpful. There is an excellent book called SoulTypes by Sandra Hirsch that I found VERY helpful in this respect.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  9. Hey BK,

    Be sure to check out my answer to Liam, as this is a common dynamic with ENFP’s. Interestingly, our church/ministry leadership is largely introverts (and almost all J’s), yet we draw a surprising number of ENFP’s.

    I would highly recommend the book. This book is not just for introverts, but for the whole church. Every pastor, elder, church board member, etc. should read it. Check it out!

    Peace,
    Jamie

  10. Thanks Trevor! I should note that Adam is reposting each question of the interview over at his blog over the next few weeks, going into more detail in the comments with readers. His blog is http://www.introvertedchurch.com

    Peace,
    Jamie

  11. This is another response to Liam.

    I scored a 10 for 10 for an I on the Keirsey Temperament Sorter (my full type is INTP).

    The main advantage that introverts have over extraverts is that we process information internally before acting or speaking. We develop theory and strategy, and sometimes use our insights on a one-on-one basis. We prefer to let others implement our strategies on a large scale. Also we are good listeners. If someone comes to me with deep problems, I give them time and space to completely unload before I respond.

    I might recommend Please Understand Me II by David Keirsey. It’s a dense read but understandable and worth the effort. In this book, Dr. Keirsey describes the four temperaments – the Artisans (Sanguine), the Guardians (Melancholic), the Idealists (Choleric), and the Rationals (Phlegmatic). Each temperament has four role variants which correspond to the Myers-Briggs types so that there are two introverts in each temperament.

    Your particular type as you described seems to alternate between ENFP and INFP. In Keirsey’s typology, you are an Idealist, one who is concerned with discovering who you are and promoting social justice. Keirsey calls the ENFP a Champion – one who publicly promotes a cause he feels strongly about (like Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.). The INFP is a Healer – one who has a calming presence and brings peace of mind and spirit to individuals (like Jesus Christ).

  12. Thanks for the input, Paul. It is good to point out some of the specific strengths of introverts. Of course, this is not to say that extroverts can’t be good listeners, but rather that it will be more an expression of discipline and development than natural temperament. In the same way, we introverts can face the danger in some situations of being too hesitant, needing both the strengths of extroverts and our commitment to develop those aspects of our temperament that are not natural.

    I am thinking of putting together a reading list on MBTI, as there are many great books (and many not so great ones too!). Thanks for recommending Please Understand Me II. If you click the MBTI link in the post above, it will lead you to the Amazon listing for the book.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  13. Yep. This is great. Thank you. – INFP Clergy

  14. No worries, Tripp. Glad you enjoyed it.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  15. Wow, both Great responses Jamie and Paul. Jamie, I think there is definately some truth in your reading of the ENFP type, A year or so ago I was working 30 hours for a church, working full time at a company which was a 1hr30 commute in each direction, doing an MA in Theology, doing up a house and preparing a wedding. In retrospect I have no idea how I manage to do it all (Grace), and since being married (1 year) I’ve really stepped back from Church work, finished my degree and moved closer to the 9-5 and being a husband. I also think my introversion has been developed by learning how to study and read, and finding real enjoyment in those things, whereas before I was ‘recharged’ by social gatherings. Ive also learnt the value of peace, and creating space for listening. I will certainly be cautious about taking on too much volume of stuff as we go into YWAM later this year. Very helpful Jamie thanks. Paul, your last paragraph resonates with me especially, thanks for your thoughts.

  16. Great to hear, Liam. Thanks!

    Peace,
    Jamie

  17. Hey Jamie,
    Good interview. Its interesting that I came across a book a few years back that discussed the introvert-bias in spirituality, claiming that most books written in realm of theology and spirituality would be written by introverts. Hearing about an extrovert bias in Church is suprising if most of the books are written by the people on the short end of the stick in terms of being understood. I wonder if perhaps both groups have gravitated toward their own niches in the body of Christ.
    Todd
    INFJ

  18. Hey Todd,

    Actually, the book explains this dynamic pretty well too. Introverts tend to be drawn (generally speaking) to scholarish, study, etc. thus wrote a great deal of the books on theology & spirituality. However, books on ecclesiology, mission and evangelism were leaning in the other direction. This dynamic played a part in the anti-intellectualism of some of Evangelicalism.

    While I think some gravitate to their own niches in this respect, I think both sides lose out as a result. Again, the book very helpfully engages these issues very fairly.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  19. Hey Todd,

    I always found that interesting as well. All the good theology seemed to be written by introverts. Of course, to be a successful writer, one has to spend hours alone away from distractions.

    In Evangelical circles, as Jamie pointed out, extraversion is highly valued because of the mistaken assumption that Christian community must necessarily mean doing stuff together (a.k.a. “fellowship”). Things like church barbecues, Christmas parties and such. It is also assumed that extraverts are better gifted for evangelism because it involves talking to people. People in my church and college ministry never understood me because while they went door-to-door trying to sell God like a vacuum cleaner to the most people possible, I preferred talking one-on-one to curious individuals in a coffee shop.

    It seems to me that preference for introversion or extaversion varies by denomination. Catholic and mainline Protestant churches have a worship style that seems to be more comfortable to introverts – especially ones who highly value tradition. More congregational and freestyle worship gatherings tend to attract more extraverts.

    I probably have the ultimate personality/church mismatch – I’m an introverted Pentecostal!

  20. Hey Paul,

    An interesting side note is that I have found that many introverts are the most passionate about community, especially in respect to understanding what genuine community means. Scott Peck was an INTJ and a PASSIONATE community advocate and builder. His book “Different Drum” is excellent.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  21. Sounds great. I’ll have to check that out.

  22. It’s one of my favourites. You won’t be disappointed, I think.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  23. INTJ here. I’ve ordered the book.

  24. Debbie, from one INTJ to another, you won’t regret it. In fact, don’t be surprised if you are inspired to give some copies away!

    Peace,
    Jamie

  25. Clare Scott

    Jamie

    I found the first time I went through a MBTI workshop (about 20 years ago) to be an incredibly liberating experience, having been basically an extravert-in-introvert’s-clothing up to that point. In that workshop, which was run for people going to serve in short-term missions, we were told that most clergy/church leaders in Britain at the time were introverts (not sure which particular type), as were a lot of writers of books on spirituality. That made a lot of sense to me, having struggled with some of the spiritual epics that were almost required reading at the time.

    Do you have any statistics on MBTI types amongst church leaders here in the USA? Your interview seems to imply that church leaders are more likely to be extravert.

    Look forward to getting hold of a copy of the book – as an extravert in a church community that has acknowledge being made up predominantly of introverts.

  26. Hey Clare,

    Thanks for sharing your experience. I am note sure where you would find such statistics, but head over the Adam’s blog (linked above) and ask him. He has done some very thorough research and could probably answer these questions better than I could. Also, you will find the book explores in more details which aspects of the Church are more extroverted (and which are not). I don’t think you will be disappointed with the book.

    Peace,
    Jamie

  27. @Jamie – how terrible of me, this is me only reading your response now as I was trying to find this post again for another blog friend.

    That sounds VERY familiar, and luckily something that I realised a while ago now. I’m passionate about so many things and it’s tough to choose and prioritise. I think it’s only really the pregnancy crisis centre that has helped me focus as it’s been something I’ve been so deeply passionate and feel a real calling from God in and have done since I was a teenager. And it’s never gone away.

    I’ve found that my ENFP ways can also get me in trouble because I often ‘think outside the box’ and sometimes it takes everyone else a while to ‘get there’ if that makes any sense? It can be very frustrating.

  28. Hey BK,

    Not terrible at all. Better late than never, right? I have SO many ENFP’s in my life that I think I’ve studied that type more than my own! Challenges yes, but, wow, do you guys have so much to give! Feel free to email me if you have some questions.

    Peace,
    Jamie

Trackbacks for this post


    Warning: call_user_func() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, function 'si_list_pings' not found or invalid function name in /home/missiona/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1694

    Warning: call_user_func() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, function 'si_list_pings' not found or invalid function name in /home/missiona/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1694

    Warning: call_user_func() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, function 'si_list_pings' not found or invalid function name in /home/missiona/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1694

    Warning: call_user_func() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, function 'si_list_pings' not found or invalid function name in /home/missiona/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1694

    Warning: call_user_func() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, function 'si_list_pings' not found or invalid function name in /home/missiona/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1694

    Warning: call_user_func() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, function 'si_list_pings' not found or invalid function name in /home/missiona/public_html/wp-includes/comment-template.php on line 1694

Leave a Comment

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

© Jamie Arpin-Ricci. All rights reserved.