By Stephen Altrogge
We Christians love to encourage people to get out of their comfort zones. In church we tell everyone to greet someone they don’t know. If someone is nervous about doing evangelism we become the Jesus version of a head coach, trying to get them psyched up and out of their comfort zones. Worship leaders are always exhorting people to get up and move and dance and clap and shout and be happy. If someone doesn’t like going to small group we slap them cheerily on the back and tell them it will be good for them.
How do I know these things? Because I’ve said and done them all. I’ve been the Jesus head coach and the worship cheerleader and the back slapper.
But lately I’ve been thinking that maybe we need to stop encouraging people to get out of their comfort zones. In fact, maybe we need to encourage people to operate within their comfort zones more. I realize that to some this may sound like selfish heresy so let me explain.
I’m an introvert. This doesn’t mean I don’t like people, but it does mean I am refreshed by solitude and drained by extended times with people. It also means I’m more prone to quiet reflection, wrestling with ideas, reading good books, and spending time with a few close friends. There is nothing morally superior or inferior about being introverted. My friends Erich and Dom are classic extroverts. They have a big capacity for people, are awesome about making everyone feel included and welcome, and are always cheerful. I love those guys.
There are some things in scripture that are crystal clear. God must be worshiped. Fellowship is a necessity. Evangelism must take place. These are non-negotiable principles. Every Christian must do these things. What is negotiable, however, is how these principles are practiced.
I would humbly suggest that many activities that take place in church tend to be biased toward extroverts. Talking to lots of people on a Sunday, cold contact evangelism with complete strangers, loud worship, and small groups are all activities that are much better suited for someone with an extroverted personality. And these things aren’t necessarily wrong but I think we need to make sure we don’t assume someone is more spiritual based on their participation in these things.
The beauty of the body of Christ is that it is made up of all sorts of people with all sorts of personalities. Introverted people and extroverted people both need to worship God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. An extroverted person may gravitate toward loud, outward expressions of worship while and introverted person may gravitate toward quiet, humble reverence. Both are appropriate, God-honoring, and necessary in the church. Both types of worship are commended in scripture.
Introverts and extroverts both need to evangelize. An extrovert may excel at sharing the gospel with lots of complete strangers while an introvert may excel at developing deep relationships with a few unbelievers and sharing the gospel with them over time. Both are good, God-honoring, and necessary in the church. Both types of evangelism are commended in scripture.
Introverts and extroverts both need fellowship. An extrovert can thrive in large group fellowship where everyone is speaking up, sharing their thoughts and prayer requests and needs. An introvert will probably thrive in small group fellowship with one or two other people. Both are good, God-honoring, and necessary in the church. Both types of fellowship are commended in scripture.
We need to encourage one another to pursue God within the boundaries of our God-given personalities. Extroverts, don’t assume that someone doesn’t love Jesus because they don’t jump and down in worship or give hugs to everyone they meet. Introverts, don’t assume someone doesn’t love Jesus because they don’t like solitude or reading.
Extroverts, don’t try to make everyone like you. Introverts, don’t try to make everyone like you. All of us have areas to grow but God isn’t interested in making millions of spiritual clones. Sometimes extroverts sing melody and introverts sing harmony, and vice versa. The differences in personality types point to our wonderfully creative God.
The power of the gospel is demonstrated when people of wildly different personality types come together to serve, worship, and honor the Lord. Let’s make room for everyone in the church.
Stephen Altrogge is author of the books Game Day For the Glory of God: A Guide For Athletes, Fans, and Wanabes and The Greener Grass Conspiracy: Finding Contentment on Your Side of the Fence. Stephen blogs at The Blazing Center.