Ministry is an extroverted business. It requires prolonged periods of energy exertion. Whether you are the leader or the participant, the church is a community that thrives off of social interactions and connections. So if you’re an introverted person, church involvement can drain you, and quick. At such times, activities that are meant to be life giving and geared towards encouragement can become suffocating and cause social anxiety.
Introversion doesn’t mean shy or unfriendly or a person that doesn’t like people. In fact, many introverts are very social and can appear on the outside to be extroverts, because they enjoy people a lot. Introverts are people that draw energy from their inner lives, and so even though they have a good time socializing, they also need to withdraw and be alone for large spaces of time to refill the well. Such retreating from the world isn’t often understood or appreciated by church communities that like to sign on their members to every activity.
Being a pastor’s wife and having been a church planter’s wife, I understand deeply the concern for both numbers and wishing that church members would commit more time and energy to help grow and cultivate the church. My job description was to welcome strangers and make conversation. As much as I often ended up enjoying those conversations after getting over a deep struggle with many levels of anxiety, I would return home and plop down on the couch exhausted. I felt like a wet towel that had been squeezed out and left to dry.
Because my efforts never seemed good enough, and I never felt smart enough or accomplished enough to play my role, I decided to meditate on and memorize 2 Corinthians 3. It was a great comfort to me that Christ is my confidence and that my competence comes from being a minister of “a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit.” Being an introvert in an extroverted sphere often felt like losing my “self,” but it was a great encouragement to know that it was the Spirit creating and recreating and building and accomplishing the goal of the church and its community. “Truly, where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.” Not by my righteousness or righteous acts or trying to be the “right” person for the job, but through Christ’s righteousness, I could rest in my identity in Him. What freedom and comfort there is when “we, who with unveiled faces reflect the Lord’s glory, and are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.”