The lightbulb went off for me the first time I visited Adam McHugh’s blog Introverted Church. I’d never seen those words side-by-side before, and all I could think was of course. I’d never seen anyone discuss the contemporary church from this perspective, which is surprising, given my MBTI fascination! I’ve been following McHugh’s blog ever since that first serendipitous discovery, and I’ve just finished his excellent book Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, in which he explores the subject in more detail.
McHugh discusses how many of our churches today–especially mainstream evangelical ones–have an extroverted bias, highly valuing attention-getting extroverted traits such as sociability, passion, and openness in sharing personal stories. This bias flavors the tone of church gatherings as well, which are often talkative and informal. I’d never pondered the personality of my church before, but McHugh’s description rang true. This shouldn’t be surprising, because I attend an evangelical megachurch.
I’m an introvert, and I nodded and laughed in recognition as I read McHugh’s descriptions of introvert behavior. I recognized the coping strategies I’ve been honing for years, like never entering the sanctuary more than 3 minutes before the service starts so I miss the loud buzz of pre-service chatter, or sitting in one particular section so that my attention won’t stray to what’s happening on the periphery.
There’s another problem with a church that adopts the extroverted bias of the culture: it tends to hold up extroverted qualities as the spiritual ideal. The mature Christian is portrayed as one whose faithfulness is evidenced by sharing the deep dark secrets of their heart in front of 9,000 people on the weekends, and sharing the gospel with their bank teller on weekdays.
These are wonderful things, but this is an incomplete version of the Christian life. God made extroverts and introverts, and the church needs both to be complete. McHugh explains what introverts bring to the table (like for starters, we’re really good listeners), and why the church needs their presence to be whole.
I enthusiastically recommend Introverts in the Church to all personality types: to the introverts, who may feel inferior or misunderstood in a culture that values extroversion, and to the extroverts, who will benefit from learning more about life on the other side of the personality divide.
As a parent, I do wish McHugh had tackled the subject of introverted children in the church. I have 4 children under age 9. Several are introverted; I believe one to be an orchid child. So what does a parent of introverted children do when faced with an extroverted children’s ministry?
What are your thoughts? Does this concept ring true to you? Do you think your church has a personality bias?