Sometimes as an introvert I feel I am swimming in a pool of sharks. They control the water. Don't get me wrong - I love extroverts - I live with four of them! But my world is mostly designed for extroverts. I struggle to find ways to function in such a way that I am not running for the nearest exit or the quietest corner of the room (or let's be honest - the nearest closet to hide!).
A few months ago my friend Brad (also an introvert!) let me borrow a book he had read. I am only one third of the way in, but I want to share a few thoughts.
A few quotes:
Former-evangelical-turned-Catholic-priest Thomas Howard explains a difference between Catholic practice and evangelical practice: "Emotionally, one would have to say that evangelicalism is a much more 'up front' form of piety, and very talkative." Whereas in some church traditions you enter a sanctuary in a spirit of reverence, in evangelical churches you walk into what feels like a nonalcoholic cocktail party. There is a chatty, mingling informality to evangelicalism, where words flow like wine."
Wow! Now, I would have never said "nonalcoholic cocktail party," but the point he makes is an interesting one. And for me, how can I begin to engage my heart to worship and hear the Word of God at church? I have always felt guilty about enjoying a little quiet time before a church service, which means ignoring the room full of people. This book has given me a new perspective. It isn't that my way is the wrong way. It is the way that seems more comfortable and honest and authentic to me. And that is good! I feel a freedom to be me and freedom to let others talk away!!
Mr. McHugh continues ... Sometimes our value for community life can become a substitute for relationship with God. Psychology professor Richard Beck says that for some churches spirituality is equated with socialibility. The mark of a progressing faith is familiarity with a growing number of people and participation in an increasing number of activities.
Again, something to think on. Obviously, as Christ followers we are designed to be in community. To be with other people. But this is no substitute for a spiritual, one-on-one relationship with God. A church that is completely focused on social activities is no better than a church solely focused on quiet reflection. Obviously, these two above quotes are very broad in their context. I want a church that gives glory to God and is a safe place to introduce others to Jesus. But it is interesting to think about how the standard church service is designed to make the extrovert comfortable. I look forward to finishing the rest of the book.
The most important discussion on ANY church culture should include the reason that we have church in the first place: to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ. God created man. Man revolted and chose to defy God - to sin against God. God's justice demanded payment for that sin. He graciously sent Jesus, His perfect Son, to live a perfect life. Jesus died on the cross as a payment for the penalty of our sin. 2 Corinthians 5:21 says that Jesus became sin for us that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. This is the Gospel. This is why we gather as a church. This church is a community of people who have been redeemed and called to live life together - introverts and extroverts alike!