A Charismatic introvert?
I would consider myself an introvert. And I would call myself a charismatic.
*WARNING brutal honesty to follow.
I’m part of a charismatic church. We have a worship band. We put our hands in the air. We pray in tongues. We get emotive and expressive when we pray. We believe that the gifts of the Holy Spirit are for the church of today.
I enjoy ‘me time’. I spend probably too much time either reading or watching movies. I am a thinker. I feel drained if I’ve spent too much time socialising. You’ll probably catching me saying “eugh…people!” every now and again.
There are definitely times when I feel a little lost at church, when I feel I’m not quite on the same wavelength as everyone else and when I feel inadequate as a leader and member of staff. Whether it’s at church, weekends away or summer conferences, it’s apparently always big personalities at the front. So often as a leader it’s tempting to measure congregational engagement but their observable contribution. Why do silences have to be awkward silences? Is it even possible to be bezzie mates with the whole congregation?
This obviously isn’t a situation unique to church, but it does make me feel a bit uneasy.
Fortunately, Mark Tanner, who spends his working life training vicars, has written a book on the subject: The Introvert Charismatic: The gift of introversion in a noisy church.
He observes that, rather than how it appears currently, historically charismatics have tended to be introverts. It was those who spend considered time alone in solitude and prayer who had the tangible and charismatic experience of God. Just consider some of the medieval saints who through devoted prayer lives recorded visions and encounters with God such as Hildegard of Bingen or Julian of Norwich.
Introverts bring an important contribution to a church, as do extroverts and so it is important for introverts to feel able to bring their contribution to a noisy church, just as much as the church must welcome all, no matter their personality or personal preference. Here are a few things all can learn from this:
1. Listening is a valuable gift
It’s definitely not true that all introverts are good listeners, but often it is. Because they tend to process internally, they find themselves listening more than speaking and this is a healthy thing for Christians. Christians need to listen to each other, and they need to listen to God. Those who are natural listeners therefore have a really important gift to share with the church. Let’s not be so busy talking that we don’t let those who listen first get a word in. For some people, words are cheap, but when an introvert does speak up, they go out of their way to do it, so value it.
2. Reflection and thoughtfulness cannot be overstated
Following on from this, the fact that introverts tend to process internally rather than externally (thinking rather than speaking it through) is an important gift to the church. It avoids reactive and impulsive decision making. It might take some time to get there, but an introvert’s answer to a problem or question will at least be well thought out. The spiritual gifts of wisdom and discernment might be often found in such people, who take time to wait, listen, and chew things over before acting.
In Psalm 46:10 we hear the words of God “Be still, and know that I am God; I will be exalted…” We can sometimes here these words as a gentle whisper but can all the same be heard as a strong rebuke. “Stop! Wait! Do you not know whom I am? I am above all and will be recognised as such!” Churches of all stripes can be busy places, places with lots going on, but we all need to learn the art of being still before God. Even for those who appear on the outside to be still, still find our minds busy with information, to-do lists and distractions.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once and a while, you could miss it.” Ferris Bueller
4. Protect your personal devotion
Many times in the gospels we’ll read something like this:
“Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed.” Mark 1:35
Jesus was a man in high demand, the crowds followed him where ever he went, but still he found time to be alone with his heavenly father. We too need this time in prayer, just us and God, it’s where we find strength for the day, and food for our faith. When was the last time you spent an hour just you and God?
5. Know yourself
Finally, whether you are an introvert, extrovert or whatever, know yourself. Know where you find your energy, know what drains you, know where you personally find it easiest to meet with God. But at the same time recognise that not everyone is like you. Be willing to try new things and worship and pray alongside others, who may do things differently to you.
God has given the church many gifts. Introverts and extroverts are all part of this so let’s work together to make sure all have a home here.