For my class on Trinitarian theology for Northern Seminary, I am reflecting on the ways that introverts are included in the life of the Trinity and the church.
For some introverts, it is hard to see themselves as part of the life of the Church, let alone see themselves as included in God’s life. In my last post, I addressed our ontological reality as people included by the Spirit into the life of God. In this next post, I want to look at the ways which introverts specifically image God in the world.
It seems to me that a lot of churches and ministries value extroversion far beyond introversion. As I work alongside a college ministry for the second time, it’s growing more apparent which types of Christians are desired. And why not? Don’t Christians have a duty to evangelize? Don’t Christians in college have an obligation to go and speak to every classmate they have? These thoughts are good to wrestle with, but shouldn’t be answered with universalizing principles. We default think that Christians should be boisterously outgoing, constantly social, and hospitable to no extent. Scripture seems to call us to these things, doesn’t it? This question is a good primer to examine your own basies toward extroverts and introverts, and ecclessiology more broadly, as I have been doing over the past four years. But unfortunately, as the church essentially confesses a preference toward extroversion, introverted Christians are hurt again and again.
In light of this, I think it is important to talk about the ways that introverts model God to the world. I hope this discussion both teaches extroverts how to value introverts and their role in the church and teaches introverts how valuable they are in the Church’s mission to the world. Remember, when the Bible teaches that we are made in the image of God, it means we have a special role in the world. If you walked into a temple and wanted to see a representation of the god the temple housed, you would look at the temple. If you wanted to know what Mars was like, you would look at his Greek idols. Because the Church and the world are God’s temple (to differing extents, but compare Ephesians 2:11ff with Genesis 1), we stand as God’s representatives. In this, everyone joined with Christ reflects him to the world.
If we are images wanting to look like Jesus, we might think that our personality type should match his. I think most would imagine that Jesus, because he is the Last Adam and true human, firstborn of the new creation, would be a perfect 50/50 balance between introverted and extroverted. Wouldn’t that be an awesome way to be “programmed”? Either way, Jesus participated in disciplines that introverts probably already model, or could do well by learning from him.
One such discipline is Jesus’ times of private prayer. I struggle with the concept of corporate prayer in church. (Yes, they are commanded in Scripture – in that, I still participate in them, and by the grace of God, I am learning to love it.) Jesus shows us that there is a lot of value in private prayer in that he frequently went on his own to pray by himself. This came, by the way, at times when he was surrounded by crowds. Jesus shows that it’s okay and important to take time away from everyone and spend time with the Lord in private. Introverts always function fairly well on their own, recharging their batteries alone – by modelling private prayer, we show a bit of the life of Jesus to our church.
Jesus also intentionally spent time with three of his twelve disciples: Peter, James, and John. Notice that Jesus had different spheres of ministry: there were the crowds, and then the seventy, the Twelve, and then this inner circle. (Just like David had with the Mighty Men!) This reminds us that it isn’t a sin to spend intentional one-on-one time with a handful of people. In fact, it’s how the Lord himself saw as a valuable means by which the gospel of the Kingdom would be spread! In my undergraduate career, I met with over 30 people over the course of four times on a weekly basis. I didn’t do this for attention, but both to follow Christ’s model of personal discipleship and also because it suited my personality far better than group discipling.
So take heart! We as introverts are not unable to model the life of God to the world. In fact, Jesus has gone before us and has given us disciplines we can follow to more closely image him to the world.