Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture
Adam S. McHugh
Downers Grove, IL: Intervarsity Press, 2009
Rating: 9 out of 10
Quick Summary: My wife actually started reading this book because she thought that she was an introvert, but after a few chapters, she said to me, “He’s describing you perfectly.” Once she finished reading it, I had to read this book, especially since it was talking about me!
The author, Adam McHugh, is an ordained Presbyterian minister and introverted personality. He has an M.Div and Th.M from Princeton and has served in various pastoral and chaplaincy ministries. He says, “My hope is that, through this book, God will begin or continue a process of healing introverts – helping them find freedom in their identities and confidence to their faith in ways that feel natural and life-giving, the way that God intended…Further, I hope that God will unlock in introverts the tremendous gifts that they have to bring to the church” (13). As an introvert, I have to say, “AMEN!”
McHugh makes his case that the outgoing, extroverted personality type is valued more in our culture and the church, and imposed upon those who are introverts. This has created the need for healing for introverts. From my own experience, I agree with him. One of his best chapters is on introverted spirituality. It provides many helpful hints for introverts to develop in their relationship to God.
Also, he considers several difficult issues for introverts such as: community, leadership, and evangelism and gives suggestions for finding healthy expressions of these in introverted ways. In the revivalistic tradition in which I was raised, these are all geared toward extroversion as he has described them. It was good to read about these from an introverted perspective.
Evangelical Assessment: McHugh has presented a biblically informed, practical, and personal work on introverts in the church. He is a mainline evangelical and accurately describes three evangelical distinctives (personal relationship to God, centrality of the Bible, and personal evangelism) that are most often expressed in extroverted ways, but he does not excuse introverts from these. He gives more relevant expressions of these for introverts.
McHugh freely admits that personality types are not of biblical origin and that his biblical examples are based on the information that we have from Scripture, but with the understanding that Scripture was not written with these in mind. I appreciated his very thoughtful and careful handling of Scripture in relation to this topic.
Admittedly, I greatly identified with this book. I was an introverted pastor, who burned-out in his first full-time church due to being forced into many extroverted expectations. I knew that there was a deep problem for me at the core of my being, but at the time, I simply could not fully identify it. I left that church, and full-time ministry, feeling wounded and continuing to be very self-protective in multiple part-time pastorates after that experience, which was unhealthy and limiting.
This work has given definition to my woundedness and has helped me to begin the process of healing as well as understanding my personality, gifts, and church involvement. Many of the things that McHugh describes, I found myself doing, but did not understand why? This book can help introverts to understand this and function as you are created too.
Who might this book interest? Christians, who suspect that they have an introverted personality, should definitely read this book! It may save you from a lot of hurt and frustration, or help you to heal from it. Also, this book should be read by church leaders, whether extrovert or introvert. They need to understand the introverted personality and how to minister to them, especially since they are probably half of their congregations!