How has your week been? Did you get a chance to enjoy Memorial Day (for those in the US)? Up north, we’ve had some lovely weather and the promise of summer. Recently, I was able to take one of our cats out in her stroller and she loved that (though she has a funny way of showing her gratitude as she often tries to bite me). Also, evening walks on the public trail have been pleasant, and I am so grateful that we have something like that right next to our home.
For today’s article, I’d like to start out by confessing that I am an introvert (for those who don’t know me). While I may not seem so, trust me, I really am. I have always been shy around people, I hate (with a capital “h”) approaching strangers, and I often feel awkward in social gatherings. I don’t really like joining groups and I often don’t engage with groups in person because it makes me uncomfortable.
If any of this sounds familiar, keep reading!
The “Introvert Excuse”
As an introvert, it has often taken me a while to integrate into a new church (which has happened a couple times as we’ve done church-searching). I generally keep to myself and am reluctant to go to youth groups, Bible study groups, etc. I’ve often skipped participation in church activities and so forth. But why?
Because it is uncomfortable, I don’t want to be the “new person”, going means having to talk to and interact with people, awkwardness, and/or I prefer to stay quietly at home. This is okay “because I am an introvert and that’s just how I am.”
This is a mistake.
First, let me clarify. I believe that using the “introvert excuse” is wrong when it disconnects us from the church and our service for God. I’m not saying we should all go through a personality make-over and force ourselves to participate in every church group/activity, and that not doing so qualifies as a sin. Instead, what is problematic is when we use this excuse to avoid engaging with our church family and do not participate.
We decide to be on our own.
When we join a church, we are a part of it, and we should not use introversion as an excuse to only go to church, but not participate.
All Christians are Called to be Active and Unified in the Church
We are members of the Body and, in the context of the whole Church, Scripture clearly states that each of us have a function. Yes, we introverted teens have roles! I can honestly tell you that God never creates an extra, unusable part. Each one of us has something to offer, but it is our choice to use it.
As such, we have a responsibility to fulfill those tasks with diligence.
For just as the body is one and has many members, and all the members of the body, though many, are one body, so it is with Christ. For in one Spirit we were all baptized into one body—Jews or Greeks, slaves or free—and all were made to drink of one Spirit. For the body does not consist of one member but of many. If the foot should say, “Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body. And if the ear should say, “Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body,” that would not make it any less a part of the body… (1 Corinthians 12:12-31).
For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another (Roman 12:4-5).
From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16).
Likewise, we also need to be serving Christ in unity–not disconnected from our Christian brothers and sisters. As we are a part of our church, we should be working together toward the glorification of Jesus Christ and the spread of the gospel. Throughout his letters, Paul stresses the importance of harmony within the church.
May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ (Romans 15:5-6).
I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism (Ephesians 4:4-6).
So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves (Philippians 2:1-3).
While the apostle often addressed conflicts between members (on a number of subjects), I think this could also apply to the importance of church members working together and not ‘doing their own thing’.
Our churches can accomplish so much more working together and with the same mindset of unity.
How the “Introvert Excuse” Hurts the Introvert
Not only are we called to be involved and to be unified with church family, but not doing so can actually harm the introvert in several ways:
- On our own (any Christian actually) we miss out on fellowship and support from our spiritual family. The church is supposed to help each other and it can’t do that if we go out on our own. We were made for fellowship. When we are in dark places or need help, we shouldn’t face it alone. Moreover, the church needs to be made up of Christians who can depend on one another (Heb. 10:23-25).
- Disconnection to our church can lessen our impact. While not everything we do to serve Christ will be connected to our church, working with our church offers opportunities that we might not get on our own. For example, let’s say I really want to be involved in children’s ministry. While I may be able to accomplish this to a degree on my own, would I not have a bigger impact or more opportunities if I took part in my church’s VBS program/ministry outreach? Working with my church allows me to have a greater impact and I will most likely have more opportunities to serve. Alone, we will likely accomplish less than what we could do working with our church.
- Missed opportunities for spiritual growth.While learning and growth may often come through private reflection, good conversation with other Christians helps us to grow too! Bible study groups or youth groups are just basic examples of great ways in which we can grow as Christians as we interact with each other and the Word. While we should have personal studying, we can also really benefit by learning alongside like-minded Christians as we challenge each other to grow (Prov. 27:17).
So what should we do? While we might be tempted to shrug, “Sure. Yea, I’ll try to make it to the next youth group or church activity”, this won’t do. We have to be intentional about it. I know as well as any introvert how hard it can be to connect or even want to connect. I understand it’s often much more comfortable to stay home and do things on our own, which is why we have to work at it.
Like anything important, it takes hard work and commitment. Since this probably lies outside the circle of comfort for many introverts (me included) we have to purposely get out there and connect. We have to make a decision to not just be in the church, but to participate and truly be a part of it.
The “Introvert Excuse” is harmful when it disconnects us from the church and our service to Christ. All Christians are called to live in unity in the church and to participate. Additionally, disconnection from our church can lead to a variety of lost opportunities and benefits.
While it may be difficult, it is worth it to be unified with the church. We can benefit so much more as a connected member, than on our own. We can allow ourselves to be empowered by our church, or we can face the hardships by ourselves.
I know this is especially a challenge for me, and I know that this is harder with social distancing. But, we can still find ways to do this, and the pandemic will not last forever! It basically boils down to our decision–to step out or not.
What will you do?