Introverts in the Church: Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture, by Adam S. McHugh, 2009.
This book was recommended to me by a friend at church and the very subject was intriguing and wholly personal to my own demeanor. I have always known myself to be introverted, but didn’t fully realize how that really affected my identity. If McHugh is accurate in his discussion of what being introverted is, how they tick and what that means living in an extroverted culture, then I am profoundly introverted. Not every single little description fit me to the tee, but the larger picture that was painted described my understanding of my own personality quite vividly. Even putting words to things I have noticed and felt, but never could explain. It is comforting to see a subject that is so largely overlooked in our society today being tackled and applied to the church as well. I am introverted and the subject never came to my mind…must be comfortable (and resigned?) with the fact that we are living in an overly extroverted world, where quantitative words rule over qualitative silences.
Hi, my name is Blake. And I am an introvert.
McHugh covers a wide range of issues that surround the larger culture (and their subsequent manifestations in the American church) and how they exclude the introverted personality. Everything from formation of relationships, to group work, to speaking is analyzed with the introvert in view. What McHugh does well is point out the obvious lack of attention paid to those with the introverted personality and how it seems that the trajectory of the modern American society makes those of us who are not extroverted feel like something is wrong with us, like our personality is off, instead of just beautifully and divinely designed…differently. He does a great job of placing church, evangelism and discipleship in the language and voice of the introverted personality. I, personally, found his explanation of the introversion and our gifts to be encouraging and, instead of thinking myself weird or eccentric, I can view myself as just filling a need that is not found to be elemental to the extrovert.
As helpful as I think this book is, McHugh does, at times, seem to equate or turn the introverted mind and personality into some form of mystical Christianity. Now, I love reading Christian mystics and monks and find that they are often maligned because they don’t fit perfectly into a dogmatic mold that, especially Protestants, has a set theology and program, even though when we are at our most honest, we know that all of the teaching, training and schooling will lead us to nothing more than bended knee and trembling in the presence of a glorious Father. But, some of the ways he mentioned for churches to work towards including introverts, seem, to me, to be a bit of an over-correction. I, personally, may lean towards those practices and the liturgy of more traditional services, but I don’t necessarily find this to be mandatory in the space of the church life. But I did appreciate McHugh’s ideas about forming a church worship and experience around including elements that make both extroverts and introverts uncomfortable in order to stretch them in a beneficial way.
The only other problem I had with the book overall was the fact that I felt he didn’t address the issues inherent in being an introvert that could lead to sin and broken relationships. He covered a lot of those things throughout the book, but I think he would have been better off in devoting a whole chapter towards thoughtfully, honestly and compassionately laying out where the introvert goes wrong and where they desperately need the grace of God to come in and transform those elements of their personality that are not God-honoring. I know, in my own life, I can tell how being an introvert allows for sin to come up fairly naturally in my own life. And I know that as much as I love being the way I am, its probably not all good to be that way. I think his book would have done wonders if he had been a little more critical of the introvert’s personality—not to malign us or reinforce our feeling of second-class status—so that we may be both encourage and exhorted to depend on God who, both, made us with these distinct personalities, but wants us to be who we were truly meant to be in the economy of grace.
I highly recommend this book for all of the introverts, like me, out there, because it does encourage us to look for how we are to fit into a larger culture and into the whole of the body of believers.