Recently a well-known Christian author admitted that he doesn’t go to church very often. His reasoning was that he doesn’t learn through listening to “lectures” or “connect” through music (you can read more of his reasoning in a follow-up article here). As I read through his reasoning and the follow-up comments, both on his blog and in some minister groups I belong to on Facebook, there was something deeply unsettled within me. It took me several days of thinking on it to finally pinpoint what it was. While I agreed with some of the comments pertaining to “Church” not being about us, I believe they were just short of the mark. The Church is not about us, this is true, but it is for us. In other words, God doesn’t need the Church (if He did, He would be a very small god indeed). So the Church exists not for His benefit, but for ours, and if the Church exists for our benefit, then it would behoove us to get involved with a local body of believers, even if it’s not always geared to our personal learning style or preference.
Being An Introvert in An Extroverted Church Culture
I know all about not always “connecting” in church. As an introvert, there were (and still are) many things that either didn’t connect with me, or flat out made me uncomfortable. Shaking hands (or heaven forbid, giving a hug) to a total stranger to this day will cause palpitations. Anything that smacked of manipulation (“can I get an ‘amen’?”). As an introvert, I prefer speaking when I truly have something to say and have had time to think about it. Singing out loud used to make me squeamish, and still does if I’m not familiar with the song. Anything involving audience participation that goes beyond raising my hand is sure to make my sweat glands start working overtime. Add to this the drive to always “connect” people to other people and/or small groups, the emphasis on “community”, the small-talk that often goes hand in hand with “fellowship”, and the dreaded question directed specifically to you in a Sunday School class and church can be a nightmare for an introvert. To this day, I come home from church drained and exhausted.
So why do I go? Because, I need the Church. I need a community of believers that I meet with on a regular basis. I need them to hold me accountable, to encourage me, to rebuke me, and yes, to draw me out of my shell. And the crazy thing is, they need me too! Extroverts think and process information out loud. They gain their energy from others. They force us introverts to step out of our comfort zones and experience life rather than just think about it all day. Introverts, on the other hand, process information internally. Our energy is gained from times of solitude. We force extroverts to step out of their comfort zones so that they can be still and hear what God is trying to say to their heart. In other words, we need each other, which is exactly how God designed Church to work.
It’s Not About Going to Church. It’s About Being the Church.
Now to be fair, Church and community can be interpreted in a lot of different ways. There are house churches where a dozen or so people meet, share a meal, and do a very interactive sharing of God’s Word together. There are traditional churches where a hundred or so people gather to sing, pray, break bread and listen to a sermon together. There are mega-churches where thousands gather and sing upbeat praise songs, listen to an interactive sermon and/or testimonials. And there’s dozens more styles of “church” that are neither right nor wrong, but each style attracts a different type of person. But the key is, we need the Church, in whatever form it meets. And the Church needs us, and our funny quirks. There are gifts only you can offer and only you have. To deprive the body of your gift is to cripple the Body of Christ.
And we need to be made uncomfortable from time to time. We need to be stretched in order to reach our full potential. So even if singing’s not your thing, you can meditate on the words while others sing. If you don’t learn via “lecture”, then find a ministry to plug in where you can learn, and if there isn’t, maybe the onus is upon you to start one yourself. If you’re an extrovert, learn from the introvert next to you and meditate for a few minutes. If you’re an introvert, take a cue from the extrovert and join the conversation.
The bottom line is this: I need the Church, and so do you. I need you to be Jesus to me once in a while. There will be times I need you to show me grace. There will be other times I need you to show me the error of my ways. There will be times you need me to teach you God’s Word. There will be times when you need me to show you God’s love. This is Church: it’s not about going as much as it is about being. That’s what was missing from both articles and the comments. When I cease to be the Church, I cease being what God has called and saved me to be. When I cease being the Church, I am no longer showing Jesus as effectively as I should be to others. When I cease being the Church, I deprive the world of a more accurate and more robust picture of God’s relationship with man.
So don’t just go to Church this weekend. Be the Church; not just on Sunday, but every day.
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Thank you for this article. I am an introvert too. I love church. I love the sermons, the music, the worship… but when church is over, I got to get to the door as soon as possible. There’s a huge solid wall inside of me, and I’m so afraid of attending a small group or a social event. I’m afraid of small talk, looking stupid, or any number of things. All fears are silly really, but it really makes it hard. My husband tries to convince me to join a group, but I can’t. Your article was nice to read, to know I’m not the only one who is an introvert. I will just need to spend some time with God and pray about it… and try to stretch myself more. I don’t want to miss out on all church has to offer.