Paul and Introverted Pastors

“Do not go beyond what is written…” Paul says this in regard to assessing servants of Christ.  He tells us that he cares very little if he is judged by the Corinthian church, or even himself. His conscience is clear but even that doesn’t matter because ultimately it is the Lord who judges the motives of men’s hearts.

Through ought this letter (but especially 2nd Corinthians) Paul finds himself defending himself against the accusations and judgments of this church. He isn’t charismatic enough, he isn’t a polished orator, he isn’t a brilliant philosopher, he isn’t a beautiful man…. Paul was a man of “middling size, and his hair was scanty, and his legs were a little crooked, and his knees were projecting, and he had large eyes and his, eyebrows met, and his nose was somewhat long….”

Basically Paul looked like a hobbit with a unibrow.

He wasn’t pleasing on the eyes, and according to the Corinthians his teachings weren’t pleasing on the ears either.

But notice what Paul says…. “Do not go beyond what is written.” We are not to judge God’s servants according to criteria beyond what is written in scriptures. We don’t know their motives, we don’t know their hearts, we don’t know whether they are being faithful to God’s call. We don’t have access to their internal life, but what we do have access to is their ministry in light of God’s revealed word. That is what ought to be basis of our judgement.

A lot of blogs and magazine articles has been written about introverted pastors in the past year, and for good reason. Our celebrity pastors have created a false image of what a pastor ought to be like (interestingly enough most of these pastors are actually heavy introverts, but their stage personas don’t reveal this).

These pastors have become the standard by which we judge the work of God’s servants.

We have gone “beyond what is written” when we do this. I will be the first to admit, I have succumbed to this as well. I judge other pastors based off the personality and “success” of these other pastors. In fact I judge my own ministry as a college director based of these super pastor’s personality and success. It’s a real struggle…. I feel inadequate because I don’t have the gift of gab. I feel inadequate because hanging out for long periods of time tires me out. I feel inadequate because some people in my congregation perceive me as cold or as a jerk because I am not friendly (and because I don’t hug people…. What can I say, I’m not a huge fan of affection). However If you ever catch me preaching, you would never be able to tell that I am an introvert. All this to say, being an introverted pastor can be difficult in our day of podcasts and books where the we only have access to celebrity pastor’s public persona.

However congregations have real needs. They need to feel loved. And for a lot of people feeling loved will require stepping out of our introverted shells and treating people a certain way. So for those of you who are introverted pastors/community group leaders/Life Group Leaders/servants I present to you Thom Rainer’s 7 tips for introverted pastors (note: the following was written by Thom Rainer for his own blog):

  1. You just have to mingle sometimes. I really don’t like small talk. When you mingle before or after a worship service or some other church event, you hear a lot of small talk. My temptation was always to avoid mingling so I could avoid such conversations. Unfortunately, pastors are perceived to be unfriendly and uncaring if they don’t mingle. Force yourself to get out among the members frequently for short periods of time.
  2. You just have to counsel people sometimes. I avoided counseling for more than one reason. First, I never felt like I was equipped or trained to counsel. Second, I am task oriented with the temptation to advise someone on three easy steps to get their lives in orders. Third, my introversion pushes me away from conversations with people I don’t know well. But pastors can’t avoid all counseling. My counseling load tended to diminish over time because people left our sessions feeling worse than when they arrived.
  3. You just have to attend a few social events. I’m probably wearing out the introverted pastor with these first three tips. But pastors who avoid all mingling, all counseling, and all social events tend to be viewed as impersonal and uncaring. While an introvert should never plan too much interaction, that pastor must be involved to some level.
  4. Be transparent about your introversion. Church members will understand you better. Many will be more forgiving about some of the introvert’s more annoying traits. Some will identify with you and be glad you were willing to address your introversion publicly.
  5. Use the power of social media to be your voice. Introverts don’t like small talk conversation, but they typically don’t mind writing. The more people can “see” you on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, or a blog, the more they will feel like they know you, even though you don’t have one-on-one interaction with them.
  6. Be accountable to an extrovert. I still am today, even though I no longer serve as a pastor. He reminds me of when I am sinking into extreme introversion. He sees me when I don’t see myself. He tells me how my actions or lack of actions may be perceived.
  7. Book time on your calendar to recover. If you have been expending lots of energy mingling, counseling, or socializing, you need some down time to recover. Put it on your calendar so you can be intentional about it. And for an hour or so, go to a place by yourself. Read, relax, or do nothing.  No one is there to talk to you for those minutes. Enjoy your blessed aloneness for a brief season.

 

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One thought on “Paul and Introverted Pastors”

  1. In seminary, when I tested off-the-scale Introvert on the Myers-Briggs, I thought they were going to advise me to find another career. Instead, I was told, “Introverts often make the best pastors. People tend to trust them more.” Who would’ve thunk it?

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