So if we know that introverts are not (always) self centered, aloof, jerks then what is the disconnect? Why are we even having this discussion?
I don’t know, ask the folk in the books. It seems silly to me, but there are a few reasons why this is even a thing. Some of it is historical, some societal, and some of it is because humans are messy.
If we look at relatively recent history (and that is key: relatively recently. This anti-introvert in the church bias is very young), we will find that there are pivotal points, much better outlined in the two books I am reading, The Introverted Charismatic and Introverts in the Church, that enabled a schism. During these periods of change in various denominations of the church, differing views of what a “good Christian looks like” came about. There are many reasons for this that are a bit more of a rabbit trail than I want to devote at the moment, but essentially, outgoing came to equal evangelistic. But is that fair?
Societally, America has gone through a pro-instinctive shift in which instinctive and active “gut” responses have become trusted over studious and sometimes inactive responses.
What I mean is that often it takes time to do things like study, to process, to wade through. Operating via instinct is a shared, open, quick activity. A church that is based on shared, open, raw experience is going to look askance at the introvert who is not raising his hands or being moved to tears. The introvert seems “closed off”, when actually the introvert might be screaming, crying, laughing on the inside or might be storing the moment to savor later.
Or, as often the case, the introvert is so incredibly overwhelmed by the power and emotion of the moment that he stays still, absorbs, and needs hours to process. But since the extroverted church can’t see the introvert an hour later, on his knees in prayer and weeping, the extroverted church may believe the introvert is cold and impartial.
Which brings me to my next point…
In the “humans are messy” category, we have the old saw of “What is different than I am is to be mistrusted.”.
Humans are social creatures. Churches are social situations. There is a camaraderie in the shared moment, in mimicking. That is why people love to do the wave, why we all stand for the national anthem, why the church will often encourage everyone to hug the people beside them or clap with a song. It is a visible, provable sign to others that someone is part of the group.
We like to see people prove themselves. That is why some denominations require immediate proofs of belonging to God instead of looking at fruit. Fruit takes a long time to develop.
Instead of looking at, say, how gracious the introvert was to the grouchy checkout clerk, those in the church will say “Did he speak in tongues today?” Instead of saying “Bob is quiet, but he is always there when you need him”, some in the church will say “Bob never sings in church. He must not be very spiritual.”.
This shows a great want of knowledge about the use of quiet, of introversion, of time.
Now, let me say here that I am speaking in huge generalities. Actually the bulk of the extroverts I know are the most wonderful lovely people. In fact, I rely heavily on my extroverts and trust them. There is a joke that introverts make friends when extroverts adopt them. I found this true in my case.
The extroverts I know are incredibly sensitive to the introverts I know. I am in awe of their perceptiveness (but they are also exceptional people, so it might be that my sample size is skewed toward “Fabulous people”). I am hard pressed to think of one extrovert brother or sister in Christ who is obnoxious, but apparently there is an introvert/extrovert schism in some churches. I do know it is hard for me to find a place to serve in my extremely extroverted church, but I do not think that is out of ill will, just the way it is being an introvert in an extroverted church.
However, there are going to be some who espouse the anti-introvert quotes in the two books I mentioned, and the church in general seems to have some problems knowing how to incorporate the introvert into the outreach.
In the next part, let’s explore problems and pitfalls of introversion (and extroversion).