THE INTROVERTED EVANGELIST – SETH MCBEE
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord;
make his paths straight.’ ”
Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. – Matthew 3:1–6
For most of us this is what we think of when we think of an evangelist: the semi-crazy person that we admire for their zeal. We are impressed with their courage, but we know that if that is what we are called to do, we could never pull it off.
When we train in evangelism, this is the picture most either point to or think of. Which is one of the major reasons evangelism and evangelist have such a negative connotation for both the believer and non-believer. Essentially, we train folks to fit into a specific personality type and call it evangelism training. We are training people to be extrovert evangelists.
THE EXTROVERTED EVANGELIST
Extrovert evangelists are the people we see constantly interacting with strangers. They are the life of the party, and they love being around people in general. We’ve seen them doing everything from street evangelism to getting into gospel conversations with someone while riding in an elevator with them. This is not only a joy for them, but comes very natural to them. These folks are the “evangelists.”
When I felt the call to tell others about Jesus, I thought this is who I was supposed to be so I went out door to door, handing out bibles, went to community events and handed out tracts, etc. thinking that this is how one is deemed an evangelist and “have beautiful feet by preaching good news.”
The issue for me was this never seemed natural for me. It never felt like this is how God made me. I chalked it up as this was what it meant for me to be a living sacrifice. The problem was it didn’t stop at me, but I preached that others should be doing the same, or they didn’t understand the call to be an evangelist.
However, in the body of Christ, not everyone fits this extrovert mold, yet people think this is how all followers of Jesus must be and live. We must stop calling everyone to be an extrovert evangelist and allow people, specifically introverts, to live out the identity of evangelist and missionary in the way God has made them.
ROUND PEG, SQUARE HOLE
I find it interesting that we have looked past how God has made us, and gone directly to our actions to prove who we are. We should always start with who God has made us to be and out of that find direction for our actions. Even biologically this makes sense. We don’t ask a dude to get pregnant. But, sadly, this is as silly as asking an introvert to be a John the Baptist.
We need to go back to see how the Scriptures speak to us, found in Psalm 139:12-15:
For you formed my inward parts;
you knitted me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.
Wonderful are your works;
my soul knows it very well.
My frame was not hidden from you,
when I was being made in secret,
intricately woven in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed substance;
in your book were written, every one of them,
the days that were formed for me,
when as yet there was none of them.
God has designed each one of us exactly how he wants us. Not only that, but he will use his design of us to reach out and show his glory to the ends of the earth.
Once I realized who God made me, and how he was going to use me, it transformed my thought process on my life and how I lead others on mission.
What I have come to realize is that I am a functional extrovert. Many see me and think I am an extrovert, but in reality, my wife used to call me a hermit because of how much I avoided people.
What this means for me is that I will force myself into situations to meet new people and share stories, but it is not natural for me. I am basically in the middle of the introvert and the extrovert. Because of this, I think I have a unique perspective on how to lead and be an introverted evangelist.
SOME THINGS TO THINK THROUGH
- Being an introvert and staying an introvert is not a sin. Many put this on others and in return introverts can feel very alienated and burdened to do what others (read extroverts or functional extroverts) are doing. Allow the introvert to be exactly who God has made them to be, an introvert.
- Do not try to make an introvert an extrovert. This is not your calling. Your calling is not to make everyone in your church look like you or act like you. If this was the case, everyone else on the planet could die and you could take over as king of the world. God has made his body different on purpose, including introverts and extroverts.
- Having introverts in your church is not the same as having immature believers or wolves in sheep’s clothing. It seems as though most of us have treated introverts as though they were a disease that needed a cure, instead of image bearers of God created by him for his purpose. Know God’s creation is beautiful, purposeful, and should be celebrated not degraded.
- Being an introvert does not exclude them from the mission. Do not allow introverts to use their design as a crutch. Instead, shed light into how God is going to use them. Allow them to, and lead them into, what it might look like to be on mission as an introvert.
WHAT DOES MISSION LOOK LIKE AS AN INTROVERTED EVANGELIST?
- Introverts, by nature, have a tough time being around people they do not know. So, find an extrovert, or functional extrovert, that loves Jesus and understands introverts. Have the extrovert invite the introvert into their daily lives and functions. This will allow the introvert to be with those they know, yet still be with those they don’t know.
- Allow the introvert to serve at events, parties, activities, etc. in a way in which they are comfortable. We have an introvert in our missional community who started by taking out the garbage, cleaning, and making the food at our BBQs and breakfasts. It was pretty funny because he was like a silent cleaning assassin. People would ask, “who is that?” I’d let them know he was a friend of mine who was here to help, so I could spend more time getting to know my neighbors. Please tell me how that doesn’t speak to kingdom living! After a while, he started to build friendships and started to speak into them and felt very comfortable at our large events, because he knew everyone now. I wasn’t patient at first, but when I started to realize how God had made him and his love for Jesus, I allowed him to live out his identity. When we do this, we become a beautiful picture of the diverse body of Christ.
- Know that because introverts do not like being around people they don’t know or large groups, they will not be the ones who are planning parties, or are the life of the parties. Allow this; it’s okay! Do not force them to do things that they are not made to be. Of course, there is a balance to the call of mission, but at the same time, be patient. I’ve found that the more you allow the introvert time to be around extroverts, or just strangers in general…the more they get to know them and then desire to be around them.
- When an introvert speaks, listen. Introverts don’t want to bother people, because they don’t like to be bothered. But, after they get to know people, they will speak into their lives and their wisdom is usually spot on. First, they listen and watch. When they finally feel the need to speak, they usually hit the heart of the issues at hand. Do not gloss over what they say, but listen and encourage. If you ignore or talk over them, they are stubborn buggers and might never talk again.
- Introverts desire community, they just don’t know it. Most introverts think they want to be by themselves. The fact is, they just don’t want to be around others they don’t know. And it’s not something they need to just “get over”; it’s as real as trying to get an artist to put on a suit and sit behind a desk all day. It just isn’t going to work. So, you can tell when you have an introvert who is an evangelist because they start to gather with those they’ve developed relationships with. My wife is like this. She hates meeting new people; however, once she has developed relationships, she not only makes space for them, they make space for her.
- What is an evangelist anyways? An evangelist isn’t a personality type or a personality disorder, but an evangelist is one who brings good news, both in the proclamation with the mouth and their actions. If this is the case, where does it say that an evangelist is going to be an extrovert or introvert? What if God’s plan was for everyone to do the work of an evangelist? (2 Tim 4:5). Think of the power of the church if we empower both the extrovert and the introvert to be the representation of the good news in the way that God has made them? How many more people would be reached for the sake of Jesus?
A FINAL WARNING
Don’t let the introvert use their design as a crutch for mission. “God didn’t make me that way” is a crutch. Instead, show them what mission could look like. Find another introvert, or functional extrovert, that can aid them in steps of what mission might look like for them. Don’t just tell them; have someone model it. The introvert is an image bearer and desires to see disciples made; they just don’t know what it looks like for them. It’s not because they’re stupid, but because the church has historically modeled what it looks like to be an extrovert evangelist.
Don’t give up on the introvert. Just because they don’t live out the mission as you might, does not make them any less a child of God, nor does it make them any less of an evangelist. You’ll have to be patient with them, that’s okay, God has been patient with you your entire life and you still suck.
The point of this short article is that the introvert is designed by God, not by the lies of Satan. The lie of Satan is that we need to make other people like us, whomever “us” ends up being.
If you have introverts in your church, empower them in the ways God has made them.
If you are an introvert, live out the mission to make disciples in the way that God calls you based on who you are. Don’t use your design as a crutch, and don’t let anyone else use your design as a crutch.
Start small. Ask the Spirit “what’s next?” and he’ll give you exactly what you need to do in the way that he has designed you. It might be the smallest and dumbest thing you’ve heard of, but it’s a step. It could be to help pick up garbage at the next party–you could be the next cleaning assassin for Jesus.