Years ago, I took a personality test online that was entitled something to the effect of, “Are You an Introvert or an Extrovert?” Now, I’ll admit that we can’t put a whole lot of faith in these online quizzes, but as someone who majored in psychology, they interest me. On a scale from 0 to 100, I scored exactly a 50!
That may sound like a cop-out answer on the part of the test, but I can identify with both sides of the introvert-extrovert continuum. My full-time job is in ministry, and I serve in the public eye often. I have to engage the congregation when I speak and when I lead worship, and I have to be “on” at any ministry event and ready to speak to anyone, regardless of my role. The extrovert in me can be gregarious, the life of the party.
On the other hand, I can identify with the introverted side of myself. I have to guard my time to ensure that I have opportunities to be by myself, and I often love nothing more than to spend an evening reading or writing. I think many artists and creatives have that introverted side, and mine ties in well with the creative instincts within me.
Whether we’re introverts or extroverts (or smack in the middle, like me), we all seek safety and security. At both campuses of our church this weekend, we talked about the refuge that God provides, and each campus heard the truth from two unique perspectives.
Brandon, the youth pastor at one of our campuses, explained the concept of the “city of refuge” from the book of Numbers, where someone in the nation of Israel who accidentally committed a crime (usually resulting in death) could go to escape revenge or vigilante justice. He reminded us that in our modern times, the church and its community serve as a city of refuge where we can receive forgiveness from our sins and experience hope, a place where our past doesn’t define our future.
At the campus where I attend and serve, our lead pastor was out of town, and another staff member spoke. Chad is an introvert, and he candidly and sensitively admitted that biblical community has saved him from retreating into sin and self-centeredness. He reminded us of the beautiful truth from the Psalms:
Whoever dwells in the shelter of the Most High will rest in the shadow of the Almighty. I will say of the Lord, “He is my refuge and my fortress, my God, in whom I trust.”
Psalm 91:1-2 (NIV)
The community of God’s people is an amazing place of refuge.
In my seven-plus years of paid ministry and the many, many years of volunteer ministry, I’ve heard one thing far too often. People—often introverts—say, “I can worship God on my own. I don’t have to go to church. I don’t have to be involved in community.” To borrow the ultimate slam from churchy language, that’s a lie from the pit of Hell! God created us to worship in community, to serve in community, to live in community.
The author of Hebrews put it beautifully and unequivocally:
Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching.
Hebrews 10:23-25 (NIV, emphasis mine)
It isn’t always easy. It may be a huge step out of your comfort zone. It may take every fiber of your being to get up and enter into community (heck, that may be the case even if you’re an extrovert). But know that it’s what God intended for every one of us. He expects us to fill the role that He intended for us—see 1 Corinthians 12—and to fulfill our God-ordained purpose is an act of obedience.
And trust me, the church isn’t perfect; any halfway honest person knows that and will freely admit it. The body of Christ is filled with sinners and hypocrites who need forgiveness and grace and hope, and you may be the one God calls to share that with someone. If the church you attend isn’t a truthful, life-giving community, pray and ask God to show you another congregation that fits. It may take some time to find the church that’s right for you, but don’t give up.
Take it from a sometimes-introvert: community is difficult, but it’s worthwhile. The benefits and the rewards of Biblical community make it worth the effort—every single time. And more than that, it’s the life that God calls each of us to live. Give it a try; it may be a struggle at first, but you won’t regret it.