Reviewed by Chris Smith.
Adam McHugh has tackled a little considered question in his new book Introverts in the Church: how can introverts exist in church cultures where they are often marginalized? As an introvert myself, albeit one feels a deep need to live life in community, I was intrigued by the idea of McHugh’s book. Introverts in the Church is a powerful reminder of the diversity of personalities with which God has gifted us. McHugh, an introvert himself, longs for the healing of introverts from the scars of being marginalized in church cultures that tend to favor extroverts. One of the book’s finest chapters is McHugh’s examination of how the church tends toward extroversion, and even in some cases Christian thinkers have painted introversion as a sin (One that he quotes says: “The extrovert God of John 3:16 does not beget an introvert people. There is a terrible tendency to make the gospel serve us, to use it as a protection against the realities of life as though Christ died to preserve the status quo” 29). McHugh – although he clearly recognizes community as a “given” – is frank about his own struggles with community, struggles that I imagine many of us introverts have faced. He offers much valuable advice grounded in his own experiences about how introverts can become more connected in their church communities, and also names specific areas that will be of challenge to introverts. The latter half of the book focuses on introverts in church leadership and McHugh makes a strong case that introverts offer a balanced perspective on faithfulness in the way of Jesus that is needed in many church communities. This is an excellent book that is destined to be the primary work on introversion in the church for many years to come. McHugh concludes this book with this well-crafted piece of wisdom that should be taken to heart by all in the church, and especially those of us who are introverts:
In order to find our place in the church we must make two movements. We go into the desert, into the depths and riches of solitude, to listen for the whispers of God who created us as introverts and to discover the gifts we have been given. Through Christ we die to false identities and put away inauthentic behaviors. We honor the rhythms and practice the disciplines that give us life, energy and joy. … The inward movement is not the end of the journey, though we will come back to it again and again. The other movement is toward others, toward community. We are not ultimately called to a life of self-fulfillment and comfort but to a life of love. We seek to love God and our neighbor as ourselves, knowing that genuine love comes out of who we are in Christ. We are to pass on the gifts we have been given. Sometimes we will use our words and other times we will model prayerful silence, reflective rest and compassionate listening. As we make this movement into community, we will find that it’s not merely about us finding a place for ourselves, but it’s about God showing us where we belong and the gifts we are to others.