A Letter to the Church from an Introvert
I feel I have been lied to.
Now, a lie takes many forms and phrases. The wording may not be exact but the message itself remained consistent. And since I believed the lie, I doubted my Christianity more than I ever had confidence in it.
I’m glad I’m different now. I am glad I have been granted the grace of perspective. But I fear that many are out there, like me, whose doubt outweighs their confidence, because they too have been told the lie and believed it.
It comes in many forms, but this one is my favorite, “If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then you don’t love Jesus at all.”
- “You can scream at a football game but you don’t scream at church? What type of Christian are you?”
- “If you don’t attend every program/home group/activity, then you just aren’t that committed to Christ”
- “Jesus was always surrounded by people, pointing them to God, you should, too!”
These statements simply are not true. They can be descriptive of the condition of a person’s spiritual health. They are far from absolutes though. They also ignore that Jesus spent many hours by himself in prayer and solitude. They also don’t take into consideration that 35-50% of the American population gain energy from practices of solitude, reading, writing, and contemplation.
The lies weren’t malicious lies intended to hurt people, they just were absolutes derived from limited perspective. The rise of extroverted leadership through corporate and religious America during the 20th century is fascinating (For more information check out Susan Cain’s Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking).
Gregarious extroverts took center stage. They are great leaders for sure. I’m not knocking them at all. But as they were propelled to center stage their habits and lifestyles became the supposed norm of all Christian behavior. To be clear here, we shouldn’t expect anything less. Preachers preach from the journey that God takes them on. This is not a fault of the preachers but of the church culture that it culminated.
When I speak of church culture I undoubtedly speak of influence. Culture is created through books and music and communication, among other things as well. Especially in the Church world it seems it is those who have the loudest voice are the ones who get to make the rules that we all follow. If you get a big crowd (extroverts are better at that), then book publishers will back your book because of the large number of copies it is guaranteed to sell. This begets the spreading of a church culture phenomenon. Now all pastors think they have to do it the way Pastor So-and-so does it. Music runs the same path. If Hillsong were a 20 person congregation, you think they would have ever been discovered? Highly unlikely.
Listen please, I don’t highlight these occurrences to decry the Pastors and song leaders. They are obedient servants living out their faith in the way that God has wired them to do so. I bring them to attention because this is how some of the blessed rituals of the church have been pushed to the background and extroverted policies have been pushed into the foreground. It is more important to have greeters at the doors of the church than having 10 minutes carved out of the service for contemplation and prayer. Why? Because of the spread of church culture that is more economically based.
A Practical Problem
I am, admittedly, an introvert. I love carving out quiet time for reading, writing, thinking, and mediating. I often find it laborious to have to “shake my neighbors hand” in a crowded room. Not that I don’t like people and not because I don’t see the value, but because I am already tiring by all the stimuli that has been happening since I arrived on campus. When I get mentally tired I can’t focus on worshiping God or listening to the message.
Because I believed the lie that I had to act a certain type of faith I often felt I was a bad Christian because it was hard to focus on the worship service.
I couldn’t remember what the pastor said. Often times the only thing I could remember was the opening song because one line had peaked my interest and I sat trying to contemplate the depths of its meaning whilst trudging through the jungle of announcements, videos, music, offertories, and whatever else was there. If I only had ten minutes to contemplate and think and recharge…
Maybe I could get more out of it.
A Practical Solution
My friend told me of a church that has an intermission. During the intermission, people were free to present their offerings, take communion, sit quietly in prayer, or greet their neighbor. It sounds chaotic but I sure do wish this was an available option at more churches. I would love for a respite from the constant flow of communication. Maybe to just have the chance to hear from God in a way that doesn’t include a loud speaker.
I have never been in a pastoral position to make these changes but I am confident that one day, if I am ever granted the grace to make such decisions, I aim to try this out. Maybe, just maybe, I’m not alone in desiring some space to find God in the solitude and silence.