20 Jul 2009

Introverts and the Mission of God

Submitted by Paul Brown

One thing that I have struggled with for the last—well, for as long as I've been serious about following Jesus—has been how to engage in evangelism. With the new emphasis that I've tuned into over the last couple years on being "missional", I have set my sights on the first stepping stone: connecting with people so as to build new friendships. It seem to me that talking about my faith is relatively easy within the context of a significant friendship. Building that relationship, though, is what I find difficult.

As I was thinking about this a bit last night and this morning, I got to wondering if this is a common problem for "introverts" like me. We are committed to the idea of living in such a way as to display the gospel and open doors for the proclamation of Christ, but we have great difficulty putting that commitment into practice by meeting new people and building new relationships, falling well short of our objective of demonstrating the gospel in love and proclaiming the excellencies of him who called us out of darkness and into his marvelous light.

A little searching on Google this morning revealed that I am not alone in dealing with this issue. One of the first pages I came across was "Are Introverts The Sugar In the Kingdom's Missional Gas Tank?" by Anthony Bradley. I don't know Anthony and only happened upon his blog because of the results that Google threw at me, so I don't know if his post is as condescending as it would seem to be on the face of it or if he is intentionally kicking up some dust to provoke thought and discussion. To be generous, let's assume the latter. :)

Here is Bradley's key statement: "Introverts do not typically live missional lives because they would rather read theology books than talk to non-Christians about the gospel or engage local culture with the Kingdom...."

This, I think, is both true and untrue. It is certainly true that I would rather read than talk to non-Christians in certain circumstances, but I don't have a problem with talking to a non-Christian per se. I have a few good friends who are not believers, and we get along great and are able to talk about all sorts of things, including Jesus and faith. Nonetheless, when it comes to cold-calling on my neighbors or walking around downtown and talking to random people, I will probably not do it of my own initiative, and if I do it at all, it's probably because I couldn't think of any other idea for how to connect to these people.

If those of us who can generally be described as introverted yield to our natural inclinations, I think we do end up staying within our comfortable circle of existing friends (Christians in most cases) and sticking to social situations that feel safe. And that safe, insular behavior would, indeed, be the metaphorical "sugar in the kingdom's missional gas tank". However—and this is a big however—if we are able through the gospel to both embrace who we are as the image of God with our own unique personality and its attendant strengths and weaknesses and embrace the mission to which God has called us as ministers of reconciliation, then I think we can play a significant part in God's kingdom work.

Where does that leave me? That leaves me keenly aware of my need for grace to cover my many sins of omission and desparately needy for the power of the Holy Spirit to work in my weakness, using who he has made me to be in Christ (not in the sinful nature!) to pursue God's mission and his glory.

Additional Reading:
Introverted Church (Soon to publish a book)
What can God do with an Introvert?
Can Introverts Plant Churches? (Part 1, Part 2)
Introverts: You Can Evangelize
Does Mission have an Extroverted Bias?
An Introvert at Church
Top 10 Ways to Market to Introverts

Comments

Thanks for the link, and more importantly, the discussion. I challenged the guy who wrote that, shall we say "indelicate"?, article about introverts as "sugar in the missional gas tank" to read my book when it comes out and see if it changes his perceptions about the role of introverts in mission. I definitely believe that introverts are capable of evangelism, but we may need some new images and methods for evangelism if we're going to be successful.

I devote chapter 8 of my book to introverts in evangelism, so hopefully you'll permit a link to its page:

http://www.ivpress.com/cgi-ivpress/book.pl/code=3702

Hi...thanks for the link....I've jsut moved to a new host...here' sthe up to date link for my introvert post...

http://www.michellegeorge.net/2009/03/16/into-introversion-4-what-can-god-do-with-an-introvert/

thanks!

Thanks! I updated the link in my post.