I finished “Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture” yesterday.
You know that moment when you’re reading a good book, and you write down several quotes so you can eat them later?
You know, like a squirrel.
Or an ant.
Well, I do not have any quotes written down from “Introverts in the Church”… because I would have had to copy the entire book line by line, and while that would undoubtedly be a worthwhile endeavor, it’s mighty time consuming.
I don’t have that kind of time, because I have a JOB, and libraries get awfully sensitive about people that don’t return their property in a timely fashion.
I shall be buying this book as soon as humanly (or financially… whichever) possible, because it’s the first book that has succinctly described my experiences as an introvert navigating the evangelical church atmosphere, but instead of this book being that friend who simply commiserates and never encourages, “Introverts in the Church” left me with a sense of hope for the future of an integrated church that reflects the extroverted and introverted nature of Jesus. Adam S. McHugh has a gift for both writing as that friend who’s been there and a mentor who won’t let you stay there, and this book is a literally pirate ship of treasures.
I don’t know why I went with pirate ship… let’s just say that it probably has something to do with Captain Hook and leave it at that, shall we?
The point of the book was not extrovert bashing (“Be kind, O introvert, to your knuckle dragging, loquacious, incessantly upbeat extrovert neighbor… the poor dumb things just can’t help it”) nor was it all introvert back scratching (“You are an uncut gem, though your worth remains unrecognized. You are a FLOWER! You a SNOWFLAKE! You are a SPARKLY, SPARKLY DIAMOND!!!”).
Sidebar: The one thing that will make my frontal lobes constrict is when a person ruthlessly mixes metaphors. Take care with your metaphors, people. Don’t wield them like a megalomaniac with a doomsday button.
The point was to learn about how churches can reach (and learn from) an untapped portion of their congregations… the ones who sit solitary in crowded sanctuaries, who avoid picnics and potlucks, who tend to blink owlishly when confronted with unexpected questions, and can be depended on to conclude a small talk session with, “Um. Well, then. Okay.”
As introverts, we can learn to lift our gazes from our own navels (despite the fact that, let’s just be honest, our navels are FASCINATING), and extroverts can learn to recognize the ability and strength buried beneath an introvert’s desire for solitude and reflection, and in combination, the Church can progress.
In the last two weeks, I have attended two… er, gatherings.
The lights remained low, the music remained slow, with powerful lyrics and the occasional violin (God bless the violin)… the speaker didn’t scream, bang on anything, or demand that anyone clap, shout, or embrace newcomers. At the end of the message, there was a time of quiet, individual worship, and following the conclusion, those present were invited to a restaurant or a party.
It occurred to me, as I was reading “Introverts in the Church”, that both the extrovert need for companionship and conversation and the introvert need for depth and low stimulation were available in such a setting. One of either could leave feeling a connection to the community without being ruthlessly pushed out of their boundaries of what their personality could tolerate.* It occurred to me that as long as churches are fixated on reaching those whom it believes are normal (high energy, high volume, high stimulation level Christians), those who are “abnormal” won’t have a place… but if the Church is deliberate is carving out spaces for both extroverts and introverts and giving both groups opportunities to contribute and lead, the community would not collapse in on itself for lack of outreach, nor would it pop like an overfilled balloon for lack of sober restraint and reflection.
All in all, I may be that annoying person who buys this book for anyone that I have regular conversation with, regardless of temperament, because we, as a Church, need to ingest this.
*Granted, I’ve only gone twice, and it could be that next month is “Screamo” month, followedby “Metal Machine” month, followed by “Mosh Pit and Hug Your Neighbor” month.