Being an Actively Engaged Introvert in the Local Church
“Welcome to Feldmans!” my husband says, as he opens the door of our hometown restaurant for someone he has never met before. No, he does not work there…he just likes to engage (and joke) with the people around him, wherever he is. In the airport, the grocery store, or away on vacation, he strikes up conversation with anyone who is around. He definitely fits the definition of extrovert, and I often find myself relieved to walk into a social setting with him next to me because of his willingness to initiate conversation, admittedly, so that I don’t have to! It’s not that I dislike people, whatsoever; rather, I am simply more of an introvert. Many of you reading this probably are also.
Introverts generally enjoy solitude, process things internally, favor in depth conversation over small talk, and stay within their comfort zones, while extroverts are energized by the company of others, process thoughts externally, enjoy small talk, and adventure. People tend to lean toward one end or the other with regard to introversion/extroversion, yet neither set of characteristics is superior over the other. Differing personalities make life interesting and display how God has created us and gifted us all uniquely. But, for those of us who are not as gregarious as some, there may be temptations to withdraw from/not participate in church community and fellowship. In this post, we will examine ways to be active in the life of the church, even if you are more of an introvert.
The Importance of Church Community
Fellowship with other Christians is non-negotiable in the life of a believer. For some, that statement may sound wonderful, and for others it may initially sound anything but that; it may sound uncomfortable, inconvenient, or even completely undesirable, depending on one’s perspective of being close to others. However, when we recognize that church community brings about encouragement (1 Thessalonians 5:11), accountability (Colossians 3:16), relationship (Galatians 6:2), spiritual growth (Hebrews 10:24), opportunities for discipleship (to disciple and be discipled) (Hebrews 3:13; Ecclesiastes 4:9-12), and joy and laughter (Proverbs 17:22; Psalm 32:11; Romans 12:15), it ought to become something that we long for and prioritize in our lives as Christians. In the beginning of the book of Acts, we read about how the church was born:
“And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people.” Acts 2:42-47.
These first Christians shared meals frequently, observed communion together, helped one another financially, sat together under sound teaching, prayed together, and generally lived life alongside each other. The early church may have experienced a greater felt need for community with fellow believers due to the persecution and hardship they faced; however, we still need this interaction and commitment to one another today. So, what if the thought of all of this time with other people makes you feel a bit uneasy? Maybe you say, “Well, it’s just not my personality to be social…” This is where we have to remind ourselves that our identity is found in Christ, and we are not merely individuals living in isolation, but Christians who are called to “stand firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.” (Philippians 1:27, ESV) Since we know from scripture that community with other believers is where we experience God’s richest blessings, let us explore some practical ways to stay engaged in the local church, even if it does not come naturally:
1) Faithful church attendance
This may seem fairly obvious, but it can be commonplace to identify as a Christian while attending church sporadically with little to no commitment, particularly in the Bible Belt where going to a church occasionally is as normal as buying groceries. If you are an introvert, it may be even more difficult to bring yourself to come together with others in worship. Engaging in church fellowship begins with faithful church attendance (and membership, but that could be its own blog post). This is where we come together as believers to learn and worship, but also to fellowship with one another based on our commonality in Christ. Hebrews 10:24 (ESV) says, “And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
There was a time in my life when I went to church on many Sundays…and I sat out many Sundays or even just left after Sunday school. If I was up late the Saturday before, if I had a busy schedule that Sunday, or if I was out of town, I just opted out thinking it was insignificant because I am saved by grace and not works. Further justifying this logic was the fact that I naturally prefer solitude, or time alone with my family, over time with others. This attitude toward church attendance demonstrated a misunderstanding of the purpose of the church at that point in my life. The nourishment from the teaching of scripture, the opportunity to worship with other believers, and the time to get to know others who love Christ are just some of the reasons we should desire to be in attendance as often as possible – not to mention the admonition we receive from scripture to continually meet. This is by no means to assert that someone should never miss church for any reason, which would be legalistic. However, if you claim to be a Christian and church attendance is not a high priority in your life, particularly if it is due to a lack of desire, perhaps it is time to examine your heart and pray for the Lord to soften your attitude toward faithful attendance.
2) Intentionally praying before church events/gatherings
For some, a church picnic, game night, breakfast, or service project may instill feelings of anxiety, disinterest, or even drudgery if one is introverted. 1 John 5:14-15 tells us that God answers anything we ask that is according to His will. These verses are profound because much of God’s will for us as Christians is revealed in His word, yet how often do we neglect to pray and ask for those things we know are His will for our lives? Therefore, we can be confident that when we go to the Lord in prayer and sincerely ask Him to bless our fellowship with other believers, give us love for our brothers and sisters in Christ, calm our nerves if need be, etc., He will answer.
One of my favorite resources for prayer, outside of the Bible and recommended by our pastor, is “A Way to Pray” by Matthew Henry. This book includes prayers for numerous occasions, with scripture to go with each prayer. It contains an entire section entitled “Prayers for Particular Occasions” that includes several prayers for your life in the church, which may help you to pray specifically prior to a church gathering. In short, let us not forget that when we feel inadequate to fully engage in the body of Christ, we need only to ask the Lord for his grace, and He will surely provide.
3) Commit to serve
There are opportunities to serve throughout the local church, and serving the body of Christ is commanded of us, if we are to be good stewards of God’s grace in our lives (1 Peter 4:10). One way to become more comfortable spending time in fellowship with other believers is to serve alongside them. It is helpful for relationship-building to spend time with others outside of the Sunday church service, through serving. Whether it is cleaning up and putting away tables after an event, volunteering to help with children’s ministry, participating in a church work day, or singing in the choir, service has a way of taking our thoughts off of ourselves and directing them toward others. Ultimately, as Christians, our purpose in everything is to bring glory to Christ, and serving others is one way that the introvert can shift the focus away from his/her discomfort and toward Christ.
4) Prioritize community with other believers during the week
The society in which we live makes the implementation of this principle difficult. We live in a time when work and extracurricular activities soak up nearly all of the time in our lives. Because of this, we may think that there is simply no time to spend with other believers outside of Sunday morning. There may even be a feeling that if you commit to spending any more time with church members, you will not have time with your own family, especially if you still have children in your household. However, what I have come to recognize more recently in my own life is that the church is my family, and making time for them is as important as making time for my own biological family.
If we find ourselves with no additional time for church community, or if finding that time leaves us with no time for our own families, it may be that we need to look at our commitments and priorities outside of family and church and begin to limit some of those things. All too often, and I include myself in this, we do all we can to be at every practice, game, social event, while not taking the time to commune with other Christians outside of church. Doing so is vital to the Christian life for so many of the reasons mentioned earlier. And for the introverts, it will inevitably help you to become more comfortable attending and serving in the church when you develop personal relationships outside of Sunday morning.
5) Practice hospitality
If you are a “home-body”, what better way to engage with your church than by inviting them into your home? Even if you simply invite someone for coffee and conversation, have them over for a meal, or take a meal to someone in their time of need, hospitality can go a long way in building relationships. Rosaria Butterfield delivered an excellent talk recently on the subject of hospitality, linked here, which I highly encourage anyone to listen to. The Bible is full of examples of hospitality (Acts 16:33; 1 Timothy 5:10), as well as exhortations to be hospitable (Leviticus 19:33-34; Luke 14:13; Romans 12:13). If becoming engaged in the local church initially makes you uncomfortable, perhaps start by reaching out to others of your own accord. Do not spend time worrying about unnecessary things such as the spotlessness of your house or the behavior of your toddler; most often, these things go overlooked when someone feels loved and is welcomed into your home or life.
These are just a few of the ways for those of us who are self-described introverts to become actively involved in fellowship with other believers. There are few things on earth as precious as having a community of believers who you spend time with regularly throughout the week, who encourage you, keep you accountable, laugh with you and cry with you, and spur you on toward becoming more like Christ. This is our eternal family. May we not define ourselves by a personality trait like introversion that could be debilitating to our life in the church; rather, let us always remind ourselves that we are part of the body of Christ (Romans 12:4-5). True church fellowship is more than a potluck supper in the fellowship hall. It is a common shared life with other believers – common because we are one in Jesus Christ.
Heather has been married to her husband Don Mark since 2005. They have three kids – 10, 8, and 1 yrs old. Having grown up in Canyon and attended West Texas A&M, Heather has a desire for the people of this community to know Christ. Recently, she started the venture of homeschooling her two oldest children. Heather has a Ph.D. in Agriculture from WT and operates a scientific writing business from home. In her spare time, she enjoys being outdoors with her family, having coffee with Mark, cooking, and reading.