An Introvert’s Guide to Christianity, Part 1: Street Cred
Who here has a stack of books on their shelves that they haven’t read, but intend to very soon? For a bonus point, who here has implemented a self-imposed ban on buying new books until you read down your stack? I ban the purchase of new books at least once a month. It’s a great discipline for those days when you don’t have any particular book in mind that you “need” to read anyway.
This week, I’m on one of those, “I’m going to read all these books right now!” kicks. I find these seasons very helpful for reading one-third of 20 books in a pretty short stretch. In the process, I’ve finally delved into Susan Cain’s, Quiet. I basically love everything about this book and believe every single leader, pastor, teacher, parent – everyone who knows more than one person in the world – should read this book. Don’t put it on your, “I’m going to read it soon,” list or your wish list. Put it in your hands and start turning pages.
The second chapter of Quiet includes some poignant discussion of the cult of personality and the powerful effect it has had on evangelicalism. As both an introvert and an evangelical, this section made me simultaneously want to cheer and cry because of the great and awful truths in it. I’m not going to summarize it here, but trust me, Cain nails it. Inspired by the truth and tragedy of it all, I thought I’d spend a few posts taking a light-hearted look at a few of staples of evangelicalism, pretty much all of which were invented with the extrovert-ideal in mind.
Before I get into specific topics, allow me give you a glimpse into my Introvert Evangelical (let’s go with IE from now on) résumé. After all, I want you to know that I am an expert in both fields.
- My parents were converted to Christianity when I was three years old. I have literally no memory a time when I didn’t go to church on Sundays.
- I used to ride the Joy Bus to church (my dad was the driver).
- I can sing “Amazing Grace” to about 47 different tunes.
- I have spent about 60 weeks of my life at Bible camp (that’s a real number…I stopped counting several years back after I was certain it was more than 52).
- At various times in my life you could have seen a WWJD bracelet on my wrist, a fish emblem on my car, and cross jewelry.
- My undergrad college experience included social clubs (not fraternities), dancing prohibitions, expulsion for drinking, 11pm curfew, and dorms in which females were not allowed at any time.
- Speaking of college, I have 5 degrees from 4 evangelical universities. One is a Bible degree. Two others have the word “ministry” baked right into the title. One is from Wheaton College, which is pretty much like a computer guy saying, “Yeah, I was trained at Google”.
- I have several tattoos that feature dead languages of the Bible. Also, the fact that I have tattoos at all puts me in the “edgy” category according to a great many people I know.
- I have Max Lucado, Gabe Lyons, and Tim Keller on speed dial (well, they’re on my Kindle app anyway).
You get the idea. I’m a legit evangelical. Not only that, but having lived on the west coast, the southwest and the upper Midwest and interacted with a huge variety of evangelical traditions, I like to think of myself as a kind of evangelical man-of-the-people. I can speak Restoration Movement, Southern Baptist and Evangelical Free with nearly equal fluency.
If you think that’s impressive, let me tell you about my...
- Meyers Briggs: INFJ (Introverting, iNtuiting, Feeling, Judging). They describe my introvertedness as, "Focused on inner life and energized by solitary activities." That sounds about right.
But, even more fun...
- DiSC profile:
Yeah. Check out that "i"!
We did the DiSC with our elder board and ministry staff shortly after I came to Naperville. One of the elders (whose “i" is the exact opposite of mine) said half-jokingly-I-hope, “If I’d known this before now, we never would’ve hired you!” My response was something to the effect of, “It’s not like I hate people. They just kept asking questions like, ‘Would you rather go to a party or read a book by the ocean?’ So what was I supposed to say?”
The five key words the DiSC folks used to describe my “i” dimension are:
pessimistic, aloof, withdrawn, self-conscious, and reticent.
Now, the descriptions of these characteristics are not quite as negative as the words may sound, but I don’t really agree with them on a lot of levels anyway. I mean, c’mon, you can’t judge me for not wanting to go to parties. Who goes to parties? What is this high school?
I didn’t go to parties in high school.
I do love people. I love ministry. I’ve been in student ministry for nearly 20 years and in and out of every other form of church ministry in the process. I’m excited to see everyone on Sunday mornings, I just need a nap in the afternoon to have energy for Sunday night with our teens – which I also love!
I've been thinking about parts of church life that could only have come from the minds of extroverts. Understand, I totally get most of these things. I do some of these things. I even like some of them in proper doses. They all (most) have their place. But clearly, they were designed by extroverts, for extroverts. Here's my list so far.
Christiany Ideas That Extroverts Surely Invented
- Roses that you attach to your lapel, stickers, welcome bags…anything that physically marks a visitor as a “target” for members to “seek out” on Sunday morning.
- "Give it up for Jesus!" (the thing where the person at the mic decides it's time for raucous applause for Jesus, so he knows for sure that we care about him, because if we don't yell really loud he might not know)
- The “Stand up and take 5 minutes to introduce yourself to someone around you that you’ve never met” thing at the beginning of worship services. This is when I pretend my youngest child needs to go to the restroom.
- Public invitations/responses/alter calls. "Come tell Jesus, and the other 500 people in the room, all about your sins and shortcomings."
- Parking lot attendants. I’m still getting my mind ready for people as I’m walking in…give me some space!
- Children’s Church and VBS. So. Very. Loud.
- Church camp. Traveling, eating, playing, studying, worshipping, sleeping with people next to you all the time. All. The. Time. (you may recall, I’ve done this over 60 weeks of my life – it’s kind of a love-hate relationship)
- Potlucks and other forms food-centric-mingling events, especially the ones that happen right after worship service.
- Evangelism. I see the irony here. Believe me, I’m fully onboard with the evangelism on principal. What drives me nuts are the “evangelism coaches” out there who offer a five-point strategy for “reaching the lost” that inevitably starts with some version of, “Just walk across the room,” or “All you have to do is start a conversation,” or “Just find some way to bring up Jesus.” For half the audience, that sounds reasonable. For the rest of us, that sounds like the equivalent of, “Simply remove your fingernails one-by-one and Jesus will handle the rest.” I’ll do it. I’ll remove my fingernails if Jesus wants me to. But, let’s not act like it’s a matter of laziness or lack of desire
My fellow introverts, what else belongs on this list? I’d love to hear your ideas.
I’m running out the door to hop on the youth bus, spend the weekend with 13,000 teens in Gatlinburg, TN and give 8, 30-minute presentations to youth leaders on what to do when one of your teens tells you they identify as gay.
Monday I’ll be in an introvert coma.
Tuesday, I’ll be excited about your additions to the list :).