I’ve been reading McHugh’s very helpful book, Introverts in the Church, and one of his several helpful insights is the way in which evangelical values on relationship and community are expressed in a extraverted way that is problematic for introverts. I could well resonate with him as he spoke about how we often measure people’s spiritual health or commitment to church by assessing what they’re involved in: groups, committees, meetings, etc.. That’s a mistake when it comes to introverts.
It caused me to think a bit more about the ‘Total Church’ “model”, and a question I should have asked Timmis or Chester when I had the chance. Their vision of gospel community sounds incredibly relationally-intense. When Timmis talks about spending most of his day with others, and jokes that often the only time he is alone is when he goes to sleep, sharing a bed only with his wife, his vision of gospel community begins to sound like an introvert’s nightmare.
How do we build a real and close-knit community, while respecting that introverts really do need time alone to recharge? On the one hand, we don’t want to just give introverts a pass-out card, as if their personality gives them the option to opt-out. At the same time, it would be a mistake, and a sinful one, simply to tell introverts to ‘toughen up’ and get on with sharing 17/7. Especially for introverts whose work-life is already people-centred. For those introverts, much of their relational energy will be drained by work itself, which means the rest of their time they’re probably looking to recharge. I imagine there would be nothing worse for an introvert than to spend 8 hours being emotionally drained working with people, and then come home to a house full of exuberant Christians who dropped by for a meal and prayer!
We need to do better on this.