Introverts in the Church: a Review

I am an introvert. I have been described as shy, backwards, a thinker, and quiet among other things. I have rarely, if ever, been accused of being a talker, outgoing, extroverted, or the like. I also suffer from some form of social anxiety like my father and grandfather and I often feel the need to retreat to the comfort of my home, my study, or my books,after an extended time of social interaction. I remember telling someone years ago that it took a couple of drinks for me to behave as a normal person does. Recently, I told my wife that my parents should have named me Awkward. It would be more than fitting. In short, I am a weirdo. What I have often found to be even more weird is that I have no trouble standing to preach before hundreds of people, but small talk with a single stranger I find extremely difficult and tiring. The formal structure of knowing what I am going to say is much easier for me than the arduous task of extemporaneous conversation. Like I said, weirdo. My wife and family members get a kick out of my backward personality. It is such a comfort to know that my lifelong struggle brings others so many smiles and laughs. </sarcasm>

I was delighted to see that a title had been written, not only on the subject of introversion (there are many volumes), but on introverts in the Church. Adam S. McHugh is an introvert who happens to be a Christian minister. In his 2009 release Introverts in the Church he shares his own experience as an introvert and offers help to introverted Christians who are struggling to fit into what he calls the “extroverted church.”

The book is well written and an easy read. It flows well and the style is of the sort that makes one want to keep reading. I  found the experiences of the author to be what I enjoyed most, and mostly because I could identify so well with many of them. McHugh is more than qualified to write a book on the subject. It is clear that his own experience/struggle has been coupled with an intense study of introversion. I found his knowledge particularly helpful. For instance, I never knew that introversion could be medically diagnosed or that my preference for formal and structured social interaction could be because my brain functions so that I don’t think well on my feet. Introverts, according to McHugh, are those who need to take information in and process it, whereas extroverts are better at thinking out loud. I also appreciated his challenging of the current paradigm of Church leadership that only type “A” personalities are fit to be leaders, giving several Biblical and practical examples of what may be called “the introvert advantage.”

However, I do have some major concerns regarding the book. McHugh is everything one might expect from an Evangelical Presbyterian. At times he speaks favorably of Emergent Church leaders, at others times he quotes John Calvin. He quotes from the Scriptures at points in the book and at others is entirely pragmatic. He affirms the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, and yet (as far as I am concerned) his understanding of spirituality wanders too far into mysticism. If I were grading the book, I would have to give it an “incomplete” and this is why. McHugh’s desire is to stretch the introvert and not change his/her personality (which I completely agree with). However, in doing so he does not give enough attention to the nature of sin in turning into one’s self. He also fails to mention how pride can play a role in both introverts and extroverts alike. Because McHugh’s view is wanting concerning the nature sin (at least in the book, I am not commenting on his personal understanding of sin), his solution is not grounded in the gospel. Rather, the introvert’s hope is that God made him/her a certain way and therefore we have certain traits and gifts to offer which others cannot. I do not disagree, but I was anticipating something that never came in the book; that God has freed  us to love and serve our neighbor in reaching outside of ourselves because we have been delivered from sin and self through the blood of Jesus Christ.

So, though I might recommend this book for introverts who would like to perhaps understand their own personality better and find practical steps to stretch themselves, I would not recommend it to someone who is not grounded firmly in the gospel of Jesus Christ. I would want to offer help through the cross and not by going around it. That being said, if anyone would like to take up the task of writing a cross focused (gospel centered is being so over used these days) book on introversion….

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