Monday, June 13, 2016

MitchWords 16.3

Ever get the feeling Evangelical churches might as well have signs posted out front that read “Introverts need not apply”?

I know that sounds counter-intuitive. Evangelicals are all about the, you know, evangelism. They spread the Gospel. They enact the Great Commission. It is kind of their thing.

But must it be an extroverts-only church? Can not introverts, those quiet ones, also spread the Good News without feeling completely out of place?

Now, now, it's good to get out of your comfort zone and witness to random people, embarking on mission trips and retreats. But it's funny that the people advocating such ventures are the ones comfortable stirring up conversation with new people. Sitting down, shutting up, and listening to someone else for a while might be way out of their comfort zones.

This might not seem like a big deal to some. “Just be more outgoing,” they say. “It's easy.” But it's not always easy, especially, for some reason, in church settings. Why should trying to serve God go against all my inclinations and tendencies? Can I not serve God in a way that appeals to my strengths? I honestly used to think that I was defective as a Christian and even as a person. A youth pastor once even called me anti-social. That did wonders for the self-esteem and confidence of my already significantly awkward teenage years.

If I am supposed to be so gung-ho about being outgoing for Christ, why did God create me with a personality contrary to that? Did God make a mistake? Did God create me wrong?

Or is the streamlined, propositional way of modern Christian life at fault? What if, and I know this is crazy, what if there is more than one way to serve God? What if there is more than one way to preach the Gospel? What if there is more than one way to worship?

I do honestly enjoy upbeat, enthusiastic worship. But just because I'm not jumping up and down with my hands in the air doesn't mean I’m not engaged in a worshipful experience. Perhaps your insistence that I need to take my hands out of my pockets and lift them to the sky has actually disrupted a tender moment between me and the Divine found in a minute of personal solitude in the midst of exuberant music, strobe lights, and, for some bewildering reason, bloody fog machines.

As John Reuben so eloquently opined, “Do not tell me what I can and cannot do when I rock.”

So maybe instead of striving to be a charming, silver-tongued cult of personality, remaining hunched over this keyboard typing away about comic books (of all things) is a perfectly valid expression of faith and implementation of the Great Commission.

But Mitch, the voices still say, you still must step out of your comfort zone! Bro, I reply, have you not been reading anything I write? It's all out of my comfort zone. What is more uncomfortable than constantly doubting my own beliefs?

But how does doubt and comic books make converts? How does any of this save people and get them to say the “sinner's prayer?” I don't really have any interest in doing that. Scandalous! I am much more interested in simply having a dialogue without trying to “win” anything.

But Mitch! We must lead them to Christ! For Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. Sure. But, remember, that's Jesus and not your particular brand of Christianity or your particular type of evangelism. And as for that “sinner's prayer,” well, let's just say I'm of the mind that salvation is not attained by reciting some magic spell. I believe it's all far more nuanced than that, which makes it far less easy to strike another notch in your “souls saved” belt. I'm not saying extroversion in evangelism is bad, I'm saying it has its place, as does introversion, and we need to do better accepting and accommodating both.

Does this all sound cynical to you? Is it full of spite and sarcasm to your ears? If so, then I do apologize. To me, this is a writing of hope, both for me and for any other quiet, reserved, introverts out there. It took me a long time to realize that I am not a bad Christian simply because I score INTP on the Myers-Briggs test. There are plenty of other valid reasons for why I'm a bad Christian, but it's not because of my introversion.

After all, God created me this way for a reason, right? Maybe that reason is writing about comic books.

Is that so wrong?

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