I recently read (devoured) Adam McHugh’s book The Introverted Church, which has been so very helpful. For my entire ministry as a pastor I have attempted to function as an extrovert, which has felt like trying to throw a baseball with my left hand. Nevertheless, I have always assumed that I should be an extrovert, as if introversion were some moral flaw. Yet in McHuge, I have found a friend and fellow introvert who has set me free to be an introverted pastor/church planter.
I knew that this book was for me when, on page 12, I read his confession:
“I… relished times of solitude, reflection and personal study. I enjoyed people, and found satisfaction in depth of relationship and conversation, but even when I spent time with people I liked, I looked forward to moments of privacy. I found crowds draining. I could stand up in front of hundreds of people and preach a sermon without nervousness, but I often stumbled through the greeting time afterward because my energy reserves were dry… I tried to beat and squeeze myself into [an extroverted] mold of leadership instead of becoming the kind of leader that God designed me to be.”
His book is about discovering how God designed me to be as an introverted follower of Jesus/church planter/husband/father. This post in some ways is the beginning of that journey.
Of course, a big issue is defining terms. For the extrovert, engaging with people and crowds is energizing. For the introvert, engaging with people and crowds is draining. It is as if the two kinds of people were given different batteries. The extroverts battery is rechared around people. The introvert’s battery is recharged in solitude. This does not mean that introverts are anti-social hermits. It simply means that our social battery has a limit before it needs to be recharged. In fact, when recharged, an introvert may appear to be an extrovert. It also means that introverts primary contribution in the church as pastors often will be a ministry of depth (of teaching and with relationships), as long as they have the time to invest in thinking, reflecting and processing in solitude.
In light of this new self-awareness, I am so grateful that I have a church family that deeply values depth and encourages me to invest most of my time in introverted activities such as study, writing and message preparation. Most churches with introverted lead pastors will soon discover that if they demand the pastor throw left-handed as an extrovert, his main contribution as a pastor will be severely compromised.
After reading Introverts in the Church, I feel like I am on the edge of a new horizon of a new and potentially fruitful ministry. I no longer have to apologize for being introverted. It’s exciting to consider the possibilities.