Can an introvert plant a church? Or, better yet, can two introverts plant a church together? Contrary to at least one person out there, I believe we can. Adam McHugh has a great blog for introverts in the church (and is working on a book which I can’t wait to read), and he made room for some discussion about this on his blog a while ago. (Thanks, Adam, for linking me a while ago, too!)
Several reasons why I think an introverted personality is actually helpful for the specific new church development work we’ll be doing:
- The cultures represented in the neighborhood of our NCD require us to participate in interreligious dialogue. This requires a certain intellectual bent, for which an introverted personality is helpful.
- Introverts prefer serious conversation over small-talk, and in a well-educated neighborhood (right next to a major university), serious conversation won’t be hard to find.
- We don’t plan to become a mega-church. Instead, our vision is highly relational and discipleship-focused, which means that we value deep relationships over many shallow ones.
When Eileen and I travelled through Chicago on our vacation in June, we stopped to visit Nanette Sawyer, pastor of Wicker Park Grace, another Presbyterian NCD. As we talked about Wicker Park over lunch, she shared that she’s an introvert. Wicker Park is small, and thus intimately relational among its members. It’s not evangelically extroverted, but the Spirit is doing great things within the congregation. From what we saw when we were there, it seems Nanette is able to lead the congregation at Wicker Park precisely because her personality was compatible with the personality of the congregation: contemplative and intellectual. (Nanette, I hope this is a fair characterization – please correct me if I’m wrong!)
My hopeful (but as of yet untested) opinion is that the key to being an introvert in church-planting is finding that rhythm of contemplation and rest that recharges one’s batteries, in turn providing energy for the more labor-intensive times of needing to meet new people. It’s just the same on the congregational level. A new church has to be “outgoing” in order to survive, but it also needs time to contemplate in order to solidify its identity. This is why our vision statement includes “equipping” and “sending”. They aren’t stages in a process – they’re rhythms of being equipped and being sent which the whole congregation will need to live into every day. And if that rhythm is present, I believe that introverts can be very effective church-planters. Now please pray that I’m right.