Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed

Friday is for Friends: Rick Evans

posted by Scot McKnight

Introverts, Extroverts, and the Jesus Creed.

On at least a couple of occasions, I have been asked whether I get energized (or re-energized) when I am alone, or when with others. It is a classic, yet simplistic indicator used to see if one is an introvert or an extrovert (or ambivert, for those closer to the middle):

The topic of introverts and extroverts, in relation to the Christian walk, has been brought to mind a few times recently. A recent post on the Jesus Creed discussion on the issue of leadership brought to mind a seminary professor (and minister) who described the impact of his introversion on his job. He discussed how draining certain aspects of his job, such as board meetings, were due to this personality trait. I have therefore wondered: do we expect our leaders to be extroverts?

Coincidentally, this introvert/extravert topic came up again just days later when listening to a GodPod broadcast (
A listener, an introvert, submitted a question about that trait in relation to the prospect of eternal community. He expressed concern about eternally being in a state of community, which seemed somewhat of a draining concept to him. The responses of the panelists to this concern brought up various additional aspects of introversion and extroversion in regards to the Christian life. These aspects included the potential impact on the practice of spiritual disciplines, and how on we read Scripture.

With these questions and issues in mind, I would like to hear how those in the Jesus Creed community think introversion and extroversion impacts their own journey, and that of the church as a whole.

  • Does introversion, extroversion, or ambiversion impact how you practice spiritual disciplines? (For example, do introverts focus more on practices done in solitude, while extroverts focus more on practices done in community?)
  • Do you put reasonable and healthy spiritual expectations on others, including in discipleship, with proper consideration of personality traits?
  • Does it impact how you read Scripture, including what portions you prefer to focus on?
  • Do you see some of these introvert and extrovert traits in some of the authors of Scripture?
  • Does it impact your theology in some way?
  • Does it impact how you live out the Jesus Creed (Love God…Love others)?
  •  Finally, is being either an introvert or an extrovert something that will eventually be erased as we are renewed through the power of God, or are they positive tools that can eternally benefit God’s Kingdom?

Rick Evans

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posted June 19, 2009 at 7:09 am

This is an interesting set of questions. I am definitely on the “introvert” side of the scale – social occasions are generally draining, not invigorating. We certainly expect our leaders – pastors at least – to be extroverts; or at least to act as though they are which can bring real stress.
But I don’t think that personality traits are distinctions that will be erased in the kingdom for a bland sameness.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 9:58 am

I don’t think my introversion really affects my theology or spirituality … with one exception.
I’ve been putting off and off joining the church we’ve been attending for the last year largely because Baptists think you should stand with the pastor and meet the entire church when you join. For an introvert it’s like visiting the fifth circle of hell.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 10:12 am

Hmmm…..certainly some of my walk in terms of loving
God and others in retro have been because of
extroversion. For example a personal choice to
teach rather than to do field work.
I have always felt that the Holy Spirit has been
working on my character. Have you heard “when
you smile when no one else is around, you really
mean it”. Us extroverts think at heart that this
is prejudice. I’m saying that a lot of my
character development has been the Spirit working
on me with psychic noise levels an introvert
couldn’t deal with. Today I’m truly happy compared to
my younger years, but it didn’t happen in quiet
times. You couldn’t cure my neuroses by placing me
in a pastural retreat. Being placed on earth with
6 billion others, technolgy exploding, and plural
worked for me.
God is not egalatarian in one respect. God can tailor
circumstances for each individual. Don’t the best
missionaries talk of being sensitive to how God is
working. But in my heart (with Peter) I know that
it is true that God does not show favoritism. It
definitely impacts theology.

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John L

posted June 19, 2009 at 10:16 am

Perhaps ambivert is the healthy expression of a balanced personality – in season out of season, all things to all people.. What’s interesting is that a disproportionate number of bloggers are introverts (see INTJ especially).

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posted June 19, 2009 at 11:17 am

My introversion made things hard during my 3-year term on Session (translating for non-Presbyterians, that’s a board of Elders that in principle governs the local church). In a group that is supposed to work as a body, slinking home alone after meetings while others were in conversation left me isolated.
I think many churches are unwelcoming environments for introverts. The typical Men’s Retreat is no place for a reflective introvert (I expect Promise Keepers would be worse, but I haven’t been). Or the common “take two minutes and greet your neighbors” at the beginning of a worship service is hard in a large church where you probably don’t know them. At one point my church did a “two-minute rule” where people were asked to only talk to people they didn’t know in the first 2 minutes after the service — I think the extroverted leader who pushed this had no clue what hell this would be for the introverts among us.
Maybe worst for me is the guilt of being so far from the picture one gets of the ideal Christian. The ideal Christian builds relationships with many neighbors and coworkers and tells them about Jesus. I seldom interact with my neighbors and am finally getting some comfort level in relationships with coworkers after 14 years at my current job. The ideal Christian is out serving the poor and marginalized, talking to some homeless person while sharing a meal. I tend to support those ministries in non-people-contact ways (financially and behind the scenes), but that doesn’t seem as much like following Jesus as direct contact.
While I think my introversion and reflectiveness has positive aspects that contribute to the body of Christ, I also wonder if there are aspects of my introversion that need to be overcome, that I should pray to be delivered from.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 11:59 am

I’ve read that one reason for pastoral burnout is that pastors tend to be introverts operating in a structure which requires extroversion.
One factoid from organizational behavior I remember is that Type B personalities (relaxed, patient and more introverted than Type A driven, focused, ambitious folks) actually end up ahead in business.
We tend to idolize the extroverted “gunslingers” but it is the quieter, more reflective types who people want to follow. At least in the corporate world – and perhaps in the church as well? Or not.

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Jeremy Berg

posted June 19, 2009 at 12:33 pm

Great topic!! Any other introverted youth pastors out there? My stereotype of youth pastors – i.e., crazy, hyper-active, goofy, video-gaming, slimy game planning, guitar hero playing folks with spiky colored hair – really deterred me from youth ministry for years. I’m a book-loving, quiet, one-on-one, deep thinking guy who hates slimy group mixers and video games…and I’m a high school pastor.
Fortunately, I put this stereotype to rest. I have had enough people tell how they connected with their youth pastor BECAUSE he was more reserved and easy going.
My thought: We need to be part of ministry TEAMS precisely because different minister types connect better with different people. This is kind of an obvious fact – but the church has still not rid itself of the idea that one pastor can minister to everyone. Our ministry is best when I am surrounding myself with a couple wild and crazy lay leaders who can fill the toilet with Mountain Dew and Baby Ruth bars at those Wednesday night gatherings.
Be who God made you to be, friends. Peace.

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Jeremy Berg

posted June 19, 2009 at 12:36 pm

Oh, and AHH (#5), I also struggle with some feelings of guilt and frustration around the topic of personal evangelism. I too wish I was more outgoing and extroverted in public (e.g., my weekly volleyball league at the bar) so I could more easily share my faith with others. Should I feel guilty? Am I wrong to justify my lack of personal faith sharing by concluding, “I don’t have the spiritual gift of evangelist?”
Oh, I also use my Scandanavian, Lutheran roots as another excuse for why I tend to keep my faith more to myself… =/

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posted June 19, 2009 at 12:59 pm
AHH (#5)
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. Very helpful and thought-provoking, as were the other comments as well. I am still pondering some the issues raised here.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 4:40 pm

As an introvert in church leadership, I have learned to come out of my shell more. While I do draw energy from being in solitude, I also know that being physically in community with others is good also. Too much of either one though, is not good and so we have to have balance. That’s the tricky part and something that I continue to work on.
I believe our personality can affect our practice of the disciplines. I tend to crave solitude and silence. I very seldom journal, although I have started blogging, which could be a form of journaling, I guess. I’m somewhat low on the service side if you count service outside of the church. My specific call is to the Church, so the bulk of my time is spent there which can be draining. I’m learning to take advantage of healthy outlets so that I’m not emotionally consumed by my duties. I think this is where extroverts have an advantage because they know how to just get up and go and do, while us introverts prefer to draw inward.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 6:53 pm

Introversion/extroversion are styles that reflect preferences, meaning there is no right or wrong way of being; however, 75% of the general population are on the extroversion side of the continuum. This often puts us introverts under suspicion and on the outs.
I think I’ll go climb back in my hole now.

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posted June 19, 2009 at 7:03 pm

I’m a true extrovert and I’m the lone extrovert on my church session. Our pastor were also introverted. Introverts need not always be un-social–but I’ve learned to not expect “off the top the head” responses and traditional brainstorming can be a lonely exercise.
but with the proper prep time to think we do get there–just takes longer than when I do come upon a group a extroverts–but in my neck of the woods that’s rare.

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Adam McHugh

posted July 14, 2009 at 6:39 pm

Hi everyone – Scot already knows about this, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve written a book about introverts in the church. You’ll remember the title because it’s called “Introverts in the Church.” InterVarsity Press is releasing it in October. I look at the Christian life and Christian community through the lens of introversion. I explore topics like spirituality, community, leadership, worship, and evangelism with my introverted perspective. The link will take you to the IVP page.

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Adam McHugh

posted July 14, 2009 at 6:41 pm

Hi everyone – Scot already knows about this, but I wanted to let you know that I’ve written a book about introverts in the church. You’ll remember the title because it’s called “Introverts in the Church.” InterVarsity Press is releasing it in October. I look at the Christian life and Christian community through the lens of introversion. I explore topics like spirituality, community, leadership, worship, and evangelism with my introverted perspective. The link will take you to the IVP page.

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