For the past few weeks, the people in my Core Group have been musing together about the fact that nearly all of us are introverts. None of us know why that’s happened. Perhaps, the fact that I’m the pastor of the church and the main speaker each Sunday in our worship gatherings makes it so that introverted people are less threatened by being in my group. Perhaps I do so much talking that introverts feel a group with me in it will mean they don’t have to do much talking! Perhaps it’s because I’m enough of an extrovert to “cover for” a roomful of introverts.
I’m not sure what it is, but I love the people in my Core Group. We are really wrestling with the ideas of what it means to be a community of people who don’t really like being around other people all that much; what it means to be a group of people called to minister to others when we don’t really like being around others all that much.
You see, much of church life seems to center around the extroverts or the moderate introverts. Churches do all kinds of things that seem to promote extroversion as a higher calling:
Traditional Church Stuff for Extroverts
- Gathering for worship with a crowd of people.
- Shaking hands with a stranger on Sunday.
- Working with other people’s kids on Sunday.
- Standing on stage to do announcements/music/teaching.
- Build friendships with all your neighbors and co-workers.
- Sharing your faith with others.
- Joining groups to build relationships with others.
Traditional Church Stuff for Introverts
- Devotions & Private Prayer
What about the Introverts?
That’s why last night in my Core Group, I was somewhat surprised, and truly blessed to hear one of our group members share that our church Commitment Statements sound like they are all geared toward extroverts.
Now, it’s really important that the topic came up because Sunday is our Commitment Sunday and we will be asking people to “re-up” for another year of commitment to live this life in the context of LCC. Last night, I tried to share that the heart behind the statements can be upheld by people anywhere on the extrovert-introvert spectrum, but I’m not sure I communicated that very well, so I thought I’d take a moment here to share what I mean for anyone else who might be feeling the same way.
Commitment Statements for Introverts
GOD IS MY AIR:
In every aspect of my life, God comes first. His Word is my only authority. His Son is my only Salvation. His glory is my greatest desire. I give him the first of my every opportunity. Matt 22:37-38 (Gen 2:7 :: Acts 17:28-31)
Specifically, I have given my life over to Jesus as my Savior and Lord, I have followed him in the waters of baptism. I will submit my life to the mandates of the Bible, stand up for God’s honor, and invest the first portion of my time, talent and treasures in the work of his Kingdom.
Baptism is perhaps the most threatening part of this statement for introverts, although I have known a number of introverts who are also doubtful that their “talent” is worth much of anything to the world around them. Feelings of inadequacy are not the privilege of the introvert alone. Everyone feels that way at times, so I consider that a separate issue. However, baptism and also “standing up for God’s honor” are potentially threatening for an introvert, because they both require the introvert to be in front of people somehow!
However, I see the situation differently. You see, these moments in the life of an introvert carry greater power. You see, I, as an extrovert, sometimes stand up for Apple products, or some other computer gadget, or my own honor, or God’s honor, and it all blurs together for people, but an introvert who rarely “speaks up” has far greater authority when he or she actually does. That’s exactly the kind of person we all need, when the time is right, to say the thing that has been burning in their heart with greater clarity than all the words that extroverts tend to throw around.
Likewise, I, as an extrovert, would be willing to get baptized 100 times if I had some good reason to do so, and I’d feel no embarrassment over it. But for an introvert, public baptism carries a weight of significance that just doesn’t compare to the baptism of an extrovert. I’m not saying that one baptism means more to God, but in many respects, it can mean much more to the people who know the introvert!
I can’t make these statements easier for an introvert, but I can recognize that when an introvert steps into a life like this, people truly notice, and since being noticed is the last thing an introvert wants, what people end up truly noticing is the Spirit of God at work in that person’s life.
Now, I want to say one more thing about the “Air” commitment. Even though some of the words in the commitment sound by nature extroverted, the entire commitment is far more suited for an introverted person. You see, extroverted people are always thinking about how they look in front of other people and what kind of influence they are having on other people and how they can have a greater impact on other people. Everything about the extroverted life really flutters around the idea of that person with other people, but to say that God is your Air is an intrinsically personal, even private, thing to say.
Extroverted people tend to talk so much they get out of breath, but the introverted are the ones who actually know how to breathe!
To claim God as your “Air” means that you take the time to be with Him. You seek his will before you consider the desires of the people around you. You are internally strong with him before you venture into the world around you.
Yes, in many respects, I feel like introverts have the upper hand in this commitment as well as the “Earth” commitment, so let’s turn to that now.
I AM GOD’S EARTH:
God is creating me. I started as dust, but I’m becoming like Jesus. I rejoice in trials and hardships because Christ suffered for me, and I am a living sacrifice transformed by the truths of God. Rom 8:29 (Rom 12:1-2 :: Gen 1:27, 2:7 :: 2 Cor 4:7-10)
Specifically, I will pursue opportunities for spiritual growth. I will root out sin in my life through regular self-examination and confession of sin both to God and to accountability partners, and in all areas of uncertainty, I will submit first to the clear teaching of the Bible, then to the leaders God has placed over me, and finally, after prayer, to my own conscience.
This statement is also threatening, but at least it’s threatening to everyone equally. To say that I rejoice in trials and hardships is an equal-opportunity difficulty!
Where the statement might threaten introverts is the idea of confession of sin to accountability partners. Well, the easy fix for that while still remaining biblical would be to remove the letter “s” off the word “partners.” Yes, I give introverts the permission to have just one person to whom they are willing to confess sin! Of course the reasoning behind that part of the commitment statement is James 5:16 which says we are to confess our sins to one another so that we may be healed.
Nevertheless, this statement again plays more into the hand of the introvert specifically because of the idea of “self-examination.” I have known a number of extroverts who couldn’t look inside themselves even with an X-Ray machine!
Therefore, as I see it, the “vertical” commitments in our membership covenant, the commitments about me and my individual relationship to God, are actually easier for the introvert to live out with integrity and power, and sadly, when an extrovert lives out these vertical commitments, it’s sometimes hard to tell if they are pretending or actually living it from the heart.
GOD’S FAMILY FUELS MY FIRE:
The Spirit dwells in me but his power is revealed in community. I intentionally prioritize Christian relationships because I have something to give and something to receive. Matt 22:39-40 (Acts 2:1-4 :: Gal 6:10 :: 1 Th 5:19 :: Eph 4)
Specifically, I affirm the presence of the Holy Spirit in my life and heed the guidance he gives through the counsel of others in this church. I will view this community as my spiritual family and offer my time, talent, and treasure here before serving or giving elsewhere. I will prioritize the weekly gatherings for worship and join a Core Group. I will pray for and support my leaders, love my fellow believers, and vigorously defend the unity of this church.
Here’s where things get really challenging for the introvert. An introverted person might think to themselves, “Why can’t I just have my personal relationship with God and let that be it?” In fact, many monks throughout the centuries have done exactly that. They have isolated themselves from society and have invested their whole lives into the “vertical” relationship they have with God.
However, that’s simply not the way God created humanity to work. He created us to be relational people, and even the most strongly introverted people I ever met would acknowledge how important their relationships are to them.
See, that’s once again where a statement that on the surface sounds extroverted (“make a lot of Christian friends”) is really more powerful when lived out by an introvert who chooses to have a few friends and go really deep with them. Of course, this statement is easier for an introvert… at least it’s easier for them to appear to be living this out, but the truth of the matter is that real authentic relationships are always hard work for everyone.
The extrovert temptation is to go too wide and never deep.
The introvert temptation is to go really deep with too few.
Where does the balance lie? I think every extrovert needs an introvert and vice versa!
That’s what it means when it says, “I intentionally prioritize Christian relationships because I have something to give and something to receive.”
Yes, it requires the introvert to maybe go a little wider at times than is comfortable, but it also requires the extrovert to go a little deeper.
How big? How deep? The Bible never gives us that kind of legalistic definition, but I’d say each person should have at minimum one friend close enough to offer challenge and encouragement, and one group large enough to feel like “family.”
THE WORLD NEEDS MY WATER:
I have the Living Water in me. Infinite refreshment is mine in Christ, and I unlock it in me when I give it to others. I eagerly risk embarrassment to offer others the Living Water of Jesus. Matt 28:19-20 (Prov 11:25 :: John 4:1-41 :: Matt 10:42)
Specifically, I employ everything I am and everything I have for the benefit of others beginning in this church and extending to the world around me. To help others find full life in Christ, I will work to serve them, befriend them, share my faith with them, invite them to join me in this church, and help them know the gospel so they too can experience the life I have been given. I will rely on God to refresh me as I strive to refresh others.
This is the most outgoing of all the statements: “I eagerly risk embarrassment to offer others the Living Water of Jesus.”
Well, since embarrassment comes in different forms to different people, I’d say this statement is equally challenging to both introverts and extroverts, but still, this commitment like the “Fire” Commitment is clearly one more tuned to the predispositions of the extrovert.
Nevertheless, I honestly can say that the introverts I have known are among the most giving and selfless people I have known albeit from behind the scenes. I know an introvert who is an exorbitantly generous tipper at restaurants. I know an introvert who lived in a nearly empty house because she was constantly giving away the stuff she had to people who needed it more. I know an introvert who weekly spends time in prayer for the people of our church.
These are people who, though introverted, are employing what they have for the benefit of others. They might not be inviting new people to church each week, but when the time is right, the invitation usually is given.
I’ll admit it: I am an extrovert.
I’ll also admit this: I’m the one who crafted the commitment statements.
So I’ll apologize now. My way of speaking or writing can sometimes communicate that being extroverted is somehow more noble than being introverted. It’s not. Jesus spent time alone, time with a small group of friends, and time with crowds. I have a hard time labeling him as either introverted or extroverted, and he is our model. He is our true authority, and his Word leads us to understand the different values of wide and deep in relationships and the different values of individual and corporate in our worship.
Each of us has our own unique sins, temptations, and problems.
Extroverts can be fake.
Introverts can be isolated.
We need each other.
You see, introverts keep me real. That’s why I married one!