Category Archives: relationships

Review: Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh

Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture

Adam S. McHugh

InterVarsity Press: 2009

Church should be a refuge from the stress and anxiety of the world. Unfortunately for many, services are, from start to finish, a cause of anxiety. As my wife and I visited churches in the past in search of a place to worship, we came to dread certain things: the endless, almost suspicious questions from total strangers, the forced smiles and empty words during the ever hated “meet and greet,” the music leader’s insistence on clapping, raising hands, closing eyes, (or whatever that particular person considers to be a display of true worship), etc… While some see these things as signs of liberated, spiritual worship, others see them as shallow, frivolous torture.

If you’ve ever intentionally walked into church late in order to miss meet and greet, or left early to avoid “fellowship,” or been accused of not loving the church because you skipped the church super bowl party, then you’ll be thankful for Adam McHugh’s Introverts in the Church.

Not quite sure about the difference between introverts and extroverts? McHugh does a great job of explaining the two personalities, while correcting many of the misunderstandings. An introvert, he says, is not someone who is shy, anti-social, snobby, cold, or backward. Rather, an introvert is one who gains energy and strength from solitude and contemplation. Extroverts gain energy through social interaction, while social interaction drains the energy of introverts. Therefore, introverts need alone time to “recharge.” They also prefer to spend more time thinking than speaking (that’s not such a bad thing!), and they need more time to process thoughts. Most introverts can identify with McHugh’s own preferences: “If I could, I would spend hours every day in my study—thinking, reading, and writing.”

That’s not to say that relationships are not important. Relationships and leadership are really what this book is about.

Many leadership “experts” claim that an extroverted personality is essential to being an effective leader, but McHugh challenges that. Though lots of extroverts are great leaders, both in and out of the church, there is certainly a place for the introverts. Pastors, after all, need to feed themselves before they can feed the flock. We could benefit from more thoughtful, studious, and contemplative leadership:

“In an increasingly fragmented, fast-paced, chatter-filled world, I consider the greatest gift introverts bring to the world and the church to be a longing for depth. Spiritually mature introverts offer an alternative to our contemporary lifestyle, one that is thoughtful, imaginative, and slower,” pg 69.

“People who think before they act and listen before they talk can be very effective leaders. The reflective, thoughtful person may be able to learn, and encourage learning, in ways that people who can’t stop talking are not able to,” pg. 124.

And although McHugh jokes that introverts “write with a flourish, but speak with a thud,” he shows that many are great preachers. “One of the most unexpected findings of my research was that introverted pastors felt very comfortable preaching, irrespective of congregation size. Many of them actually considered it their biggest strength and favorite part of the job.”

I’ve often thought that because of my personality, I wouldn’t do well in church leadership, and that still may be true. But McHugh’s book has helped me see more clearly how aspects of my personality are strengths rather than weaknesses. His book also encourages me to build relationships, serve in the church, and engage in evangelism, even if the ways in which I do those things are different from how my brothers and sisters do them. Extroverts, especially pastors and other leaders, will also benefit from reading McHugh’s book. It may help them think of ways to include the introverts in their church, or at least ways to keep from driving them away.

Review: Friendships by Jeff Wickwire

Friendships: Avoiding the Ones That Hurt, Finding the Ones that Heal

Jeff Wickwire

Chosen Books: 2007

The Bible has a lot to say about friendships. According to Jeff Wickwire, “The words friend, friends, friendly, and friendship are found 107 times in twenty different books of the Bible.” God cares about our relationships, and so should we. “As your friendships go, so goes your spiritual life.” Wickwire, pastor of Turning Point Fellowship in Fort Worth, Texas, begins Friendships with quotes from Carol King, C.S. Lewis, and Winnie the Pooh; I knew right off that I was going to enjoy it, and I did.

The book, as he says, is not a how-to manual:

I do not deal, per se, with how to make friends, become more popular and so on. Rather, I have attempted to take an honest look at some of the pitfalls, disappointments, and heartbreaks of friendship, as well as the anatomy of true friendship, what it looks like, what it is comprised of and what the characteristics that make it endure are.

Friendships is divided into four parts, each consisting of three chapters. The four parts are:

  • Part 1: The Awesome Power of Friendship
  • Part 2: Deceivers
  • Part 3: Leavers
  • Part 4: Cleavers (cleaving, that is, like Ruth cleaved to Naomi. Not to be confused with “meat cleavers”)

Wickwire does an excellent job of covering his subject. Besides that, his book has two other important strengths. First, his writing style is enjoyable. I laughed out loud in a few places. It may be too casual or “cool” for some readers, but others will find it refreshing. The other strength is that the book is full of Scripture. Wickwire loves the Word of God and makes constant use of it. His translation of choice is The Message. I’m not usually a fan of paraphrases (in fact, I don’t like them at all), but in the context of this book it seemed to fit well.

Wickwire’s theology differs from mine in areas, some more important than others. But on some subjects he is excellent, particularly when discussing God’s sovereignty and His using trials and disasters for the good of the elect. Overall, I would recommend this book, particularly for those looking for valuable information on what it takes to be a friend. And with Wickwire’s love of Scripture mixed with his warm and humorous style, I wouldn’t hesitate to read him again.