As I’ve written on my blog before, I’m an introvert. It’s something I’ve come to terms with and something I’ve struggled to understand my entire life. For a majority of my life I didn’t realize there was such a thing as an “introvert” or an “extrovert” personality type and that they were actually the way God created us. Growing up I saw all of the people who were the “life of the party” type of people and thought there was something wrong with me. I’ve always enjoyed solitude and easily get stressed out in the noise and crowds.
I know people have often thought of me as aloof and somewhat arrogant. I don’t enjoy making “small talk” and in fact find it really boring. I have a hard time chatting about the weather and similar things. However, I’ve always enjoyed deeper conversation and when I’m paired off with someone of similar interests as mine I tend to dominate the conversation because I enjoy talking about certain subjects so much.
In other words, because I’ve never been a “life of the party” type of person; I’ve been told much of my life that I’m anti-social. To some extent this is true because social situations give me anxiety, but when in smaller more intimate conversational settings I enjoy myself, which is far from “anti-social”. I just never will be the guy dancing on a table at an office party.
I recently finished reading a book by the name of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. The book is an in-depth look at the differences between introverts and extroverts and focuses on the traits of extroverts. The writer, Susan Cain, describes in-depth what she calles the “Secret Power of Introverts”. The quietness of an introvert allows for creativity, thoughtfulness, and introspection. Most, but not all, of the worlds greatest minds were introverts. People who literally changed the world. People like Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, Martin Luther, and the like were all introverts.
Quite interestingly, the book has a section dedicated entirely to extrovertism in the American church and it’s effect on mainstream Evangelicalism. Susan Cain, in my understanding, is from a Jewish background and isn’t a professing Christian. Of all places she chose to use as an example of an American church that idolizes extrovertism, she chose Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church in Southern California.
In the section of the book mentioned above, Susan Cain met with a man who was a Presbyterian minister for an interview at Saddleback. They attended a service there in order to get the look and feel of what a service was like at Saddleback church. The basic gist of the interview centered around how “extrovertism” has gripped the popular American Evangelical church culture and how church services of quiet contemplation, prayer, and scripture reading are no longer a part of most of the American church.
In order to draw the multitudes into the American Evangelical church of today there has to be plenty of excitement and programs to keep people interested in attending church. Saddleback church and Rick Warren with his Purpose Driven Life method of doing church has arguably had the largest impact on the latest church culture of “extrovert” idealism.
As I said earlier, I’m an introvert. I enjoy reading and quiet. Although I’ve struggled with thinking there was something wrong with me all of my life, I now no longer do. I’ve come to understand there’s a place for solitude, prayer, and Bible study in God’s church.
However, for many years I attended an Assemblies of God church that had fully implemented Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven Life “seeker sensitive” church growth model. As time went on, I was considered “odd” and was cast aside. I enjoyed Sunday School. It was cancelled. I enjoyed Sunday night services. They were cancelled. I enjoyed Wednesday night Bible study service. It was cancelled. Once a month prayer rallies were cancelled in lieu of bi-yearly “praise rallies”.
In other words, all of the things than an “introvert” would enjoy about church, things like learning, Bible study, close relationships with a tight-knit group, suddenly vanished. In their place came large social events and activities designed to “pump” the congregation and build excitement with the church. Things to cause “seekers” to want to come to church. Programs to make it fun for the kids but little in the way of teaching them the Word.
I now know that God created me with the gifts he gave me. I know that I am a member of the Body of Christ. I may not be a hand or a mouth in His body, but I am a member nevertheless. I also know there are many others like me (my oldest daughter, for instance) who have become weary of the “rah rah rah” of the American church. We worship God with all of our minds, bodies, and strengths. We love to serve behind the scenes without much fanfare. We long to share insights into God’s word with others. We want to give without others knowing.
Today’s American churches make very little room for this. Much of the American Evangelical churches are geared more like high school pep rallies where the “cheerleaders” and the “band” are worshiped. The quiet and the contemplative and the faithful are increasingly moved aside for the new, the excited, and the vocal. The quiet ones are now looked at with suspicion as having some sort of spiritual issue because they aren’t “on fire for the Lord”.
I know this is the way it is, because I lived it for 2 years while looking for a home church. My family and I visited many churches across many denominations and to find one that actually was centrally on the Word, prayer, and music with sound doctrine was virtually impossible to find. And there are over 60 churches within a few miles of my home…….Hey, I live in Texas, you know.
Next Sunday, look around. Has your church become a social club? Is there room within the congregation for the quiet among you to serve and worship? Is there a balance between “excitement” and “reverence, awe, and solitude” before the Lord as a congregation or is it all “celebration. all the time”. Is your fellowship actually a true “body” of Christ that makes way for all parts or are only the “mouths” esteemed?