Periodically, I post articles written by others. The following is a guest post that may serve as a good dose of medicine if you find the church to be a little overwhelming at times. Enjoy!
By: Meredith Cook
If you register “I” on the spectrum of “HANG OUT WITH ALL THE PEOPLE” to “give me solitude or give me death”, then you, like me, probably struggle with community in the church. As an introvert, the balance between needing alone time to recharge and not neglecting others is hard. It is easy to value that time so much you neglect what is a necessary and biblical part of the Christian life — the church. I am guilty of, and I have witnessed others, using my so-called introversion as an excuse to neglect the church.
While I think there is some validity to the extrovert/introvert spectrum and how we relate to people, it is also largely a Western concept bred out of individualism and our desire to dictate who/what/when/where we spend time with people. However, this is not how we see believers relating to each other in the Bible. Christian community is illustrated throughout the Bible and rarely, if ever, do we see an individual forsaking people to get their alone time.
There are numerous examples and commands regarding how we relate to other people. Christ, even though he himself regularly sought solitude, never sent away people who came to him during those times. The feeding of the 5000 in Matthew 14 begins with Christ seeking a solitary place. Can you imagine having your glorious solitude interrupted by over 5000 people? But Christ sacrificed his desire to be alone to spend that time with people. Acts 2 tells us that believers devoted themselves to fellowship and breaking of bread. Hebrews 10 commands us to stir one another up to love and good works and to not neglect meeting together. I could write pages on the centrality of the church in the New Testament. It is clear that the church is a vital part of the Christian life.
That is not to say that solitude is always wrong. As I said before, Christ himself sought solitude from time to time to pray and to rest. In the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 6, he taught his followers to pray in their room in secret. There are things we should do in solitude- reading Scripture, praying, etc. Donald Whitney in his book Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life even lists silence and solitude as a spiritual discipline. These things we do by ourselves help us grow in godliness. However, notice the things done in solitude are for the purpose of growing in godliness- not just for recharging and resting. We need to see our alone time as having a greater purpose.
So what does this all mean for those of us who have frequent moments of “I just cannot see or talk to another person today?”
First, we need to see the church as a necessary part of our life and growth as believers.
It is easy to mentally assent to the idea that the church is important, but it is another thing to change our actions. I see this in myself and fellow introverts: we may not be opposed to spending time with people as a rule, but we have a “safe” group that we prefer. These people are not too different than us; they know us and accept us in our introversion; they don’t wear us out. However, these people are not the only ones in our church that we need to spend time with. It is good to spend time with all kinds of people. The entire church is for the encouragement and building up of one another — not just the select “safe” group of people we tend to latch onto. There is much to learn from the whole body of believers. People have different strengths, talents, experiences and can encourage us in those disciplines I mentioned above- even the ones we do alone. So, force yourself to spend time with people in your church that you may not know well.
Second, the church is not just to serve and teach us- we are to serve the church.
Not only does that mean serving in hospitality, childcare, and whatever else arises on Sunday mornings, but it means spending time with those in your church during the week and sacrificing alone time to fellowship with those who may really need your company. We cannot value our alone time so much that we neglect the body of Christ. It is too easy to view the church as a group that serves us, but we have a responsibility to serve them. So make an effort to get together with those in your church. It does not have to be a huge group of people every time. We introverts do well in small group or one-on-one settings- so take advantage of that and invite someone for coffee or over to your house for a meal. We do not have to try to be a completely different person, but we can do community well despite those introverted tendencies.
Finally, introversion is not a pass for evangelism.
Although this post is mainly for how we as believers relate to other believers, it has implications for evangelism as well. If we struggle to spend time with fellow believers whose personalities may be a bit too different from ours, how can we expect to spend time with those who don’t share the most important thing in common with us- our salvation? The Bible does not say, “make disciples of all nations… unless you are introverted.” Making disciples necessitates spending time with people who may be very different than us. But perspective is key- God’s kingdom is far more important than our preference for solitude. So embrace the awkwardness and tiredness that comes with interactions with new people. Make the effort to get to know those around you who may not know Christ. The sacrifice is nothing compared to the value of sharing Christ’s love with those who need it.
Photo By Simon Powell