[My good friend Jeremy is a gentleman and a scholar, and an introvert. I'm thrilled that he's sharing his words here in a guest post on being an introverted Christian.]
31 Days of Living the Kingdom at Home. How perfect for an introvert. That means I can sit on my couch with freshly-made coffee, a thick book, and a journal and be alone with my thoughts, right?
I’ll assume for a moment that you’re familiar with Apple Inc. Maker of iPhones, iPads, MacBooks, and Unicorns. You’re also probably familiar with their enigmatic and now deceased leader, Steve Jobs. What you may not know, and is actually more important to the company history, is the role of Steve Wozniak.
You’ve likely heard his name and seen his cherubic (albeit hairy) face on TV. Yet, he prefers to stay behind the scenes and away from the limelight. He likes it that way…primarily because he’s extremely introverted.
He had a dream as a kid of building a computer that all people could own and use. At the time, computers were as big as rooms, so it was quite a lofty dream. Woz, being an introvert, liked to stay in his room and fiddle with machines. In the mid-1970s, he became involved with the Homebrew Computer Club, a group of nerds who hung out to talk about and play with computers. Woz would attend these group meetings, and then go home with ideas and inspiration that eventually led to Apple’s first personal computer — the Apple I.
So, what’s important about this story?
There are two incredibly valuable takeaways from Steve Wozniak’s creation of the Apple I. First, although Woz was a loner, he needed the interaction and motivation of the Homebrew Computer Club. Without that group of people, he may not have been pushed to create something new. He may have just toiled along in his bedroom without ever really “making it.” Woz himself says that the first meeting he attended was one of the most important nights of his life — the real catalyst to his creative work. So, although he was an introvert, he needed some kind of social setting to catalyze his creative process. Lesson one.
Second, he needed to team up with the charismatic, outgoing, and extroverted Steve Jobs to really make his product a success. Jobs was a born salesman. He was confident in the Apple I and was the yang to Woz’s yin. I could write paragraphs on the importance of this, but to boil it down, introverts and extroverts need each other. That’s all there is to it. There’s a fine balance and synthesis that just cannot be achieved without both types of personalities present. Keep in mind that Jobs needed Wozniak as much as Wozniak needed Jobs. Without the great product that was built, Jobs would have had nothing to sell. In fact, you could easily argue that Jobs needed Woz even more than the other way around.
If I had my druthers, my agenda for most evenings would involve what I mentioned at the outset — books, coffee, time at home with my wife.
How does this play into the culture of the Church, though? There’s a high premium put on charisma and outgoing-ness for church leaders (and members/attenders as well). What if that’s just not my personality? What if I desire fewer, but deeper relationships, and still want to be a leader in my community? Is that possible?
Just a couple years ago, author Susan Cain wrote a book called Quiet. In a nutshell, it’s about how introverts can fully embrace who they are in a very loudmouth country. She even has a short section on intro-/extroversion in the church. A couple little nuggets that I felt worth sharing:
- “Contemporary evangelicalism says that every person you fail to meet and proselytize is another soul you might have saved. It also emphasizes building community among believers, with many churches encouraging (or even requiring) their members to join extra-curricular groups organized around every conceivable subject.”
- “Evangelicalism has taken the Extrovert Ideal to its logical extreme. If you don’t love Jesus out loud, then it must not be real love. It’s not enough to forge your own spiritual connection to the divine; it must be publicly displayed. Is it any wonder that introverts start to question their own hearts?”
No, it’s not.
In the Church, those that are quiet often get left out. And it’s not on purpose. I don’t mean to paint a negative picture towards extroverts, or the Church. It’s just the nature of human personality. What I want to say — to both introverts and extroverts — is that we need each other. Generally speaking, extroverts need to slow down a little and learn how to dwell in solitude. And introverts need to break out of their shell to spend time in community.
We host a supper group on Wednesdays at our home. We get between 8-12 people around our table and just socialize. There’s no Bible study. No prayer (except for grace). No “Christian” stuff. It’s just a time to hang out and be together. Every week it makes me a little uncomfortable. To open our home. To have to chit-chat for a couple hours. And to have to do it with people we’ve only known for a few weeks.
And yet, this is the important part, I deeply love it every single week. It’s that feeling of taking a deep breath in the cool and crisp fall air. It’s just so refreshing.Like the great Woz, my inner tendency is to spend time alone. But I need a catalyst — a computer club, a home supper group — to really remind me how much I need community. While it’s okay to enjoy solitude and embrace my personality, I realize the importance of opening up and finding ways to fully live the Kingdom here at home. If you look at the example of Jesus, he spent a lot of time in solitude, and a lot of time dining with friends. May we find balance in our lives, may we understand and love and accept the individuality that God gave us, and may we have the courage to treat our homes as places of both silence and laughter.
Jeremy Anderberg is a mountain man living in Denver, Colorado with his beautiful wife, Jane. During the day, he is Editor & Community Manager at The Art of Manliness. He is also a freelance editor for book manuscripts, blog posts, business articles, and more. Jeremy reads way too many books, drinks too much coffee, and enjoys a good craft beer at least four nights a week.
[If you’d like to subscribe by e-mail, enter your e-mail address in the space in the sidebar!]