being an introvert in an extroverted church

In Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: the Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking, there is a thought provoking chapter titled Does God Love Introverts? An Evangelical’s Dilemma.

During a visit to Saddleback Church, one of the largest evangelical churches in the U.S.A., Susan met with a local evangelical pastor, Adam McHugh; an “avowed introvert”. The leader of Saddleback is Rick Warren, the charismatic author of The Purpose Driven Life. The church boasts a weekly attendance of 22,000. People are drawn to its high energy style of worship, which made the conversation between the two introverts all the more interesting.

Pastor McHugh described his struggles being an introvert within the evangelical tradition,

The evangelical culture ties together faithfulness with extroversion. The emphasis is on community, on participating in more and more programs and events, on meeting more and more people. It’s a constant tension for many introverts that they’re not living that out. And in a religious world, there’s more at stake when you feel that tension. It doesn’t feel like ‘I’m not doing as well as I’d like.” It feels like ‘God isn’t pleased with me.’ (p.66)

McHugh began to connect with other introverted souls. His blog turned into a book, Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. He is now promoting the importance of listening, silence and mystery in religious worship, contemplative prayer as well as community socialization.

I attended a rousing praise and worship service several years ago. I loved the lively music and energy of the worshipers…for the first five minutes. Then I began to feel squirmy. This wasn’t my style. I felt uncomfortable rising to my feet to join in the hand clapping and swaying. To be fair, I feel awkward doing this even at a Bon Jovi concert. I’m the old fart that would just like to sit in my seat and enjoy the music.

One thing that I did feel at both the praise and worship service and the concert was envy. Envy for those spirited souls who can let loose and really enjoy the moment.

For so many years, I thought that I was just being a stick in the mud. Now I’m realizing that it’s just my introverted nature. And that’s okay.

(Next: introverts and extroverts in the catholic church)

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