This is where the rubber hits the road as the final three chapters deal with the practical issue of how introverts best serve at church, encompassing both congregation and staff members. Chapter 7 contains much reflection on self-care, some of which I heartily endorse (prayer and Bible meditation), some of which I question (I'm not sure of the appropriateness of silent retreats to 'people of the word'.) McHugh's advice about ensuring that self-care moves in an outward direction is very helpful, and my initial fears about excessive introspection as a hallmark of introversion were certainly alleviated. By the end of the book this is challenged rather than excused. On the flip side, his suggestion that others could learn from the benefits of introspection, considering our choices and not being driven by external forces, was very helpful. There is certainly a great need for introverts to help us extroverts to be less hectic and more reflective!
As women we can be heartened by McHugh's observation that one to ones are the most comfortable ministry context for introverts. This had me reflecting that a few of the burdens of 'up front leadership' are actually removed from the job description of the average woman serving in ministry. Similarly, the conclusions reached about team leadership is reflective of the context in which most women will serve. To have not just male and female, but introverts and extroverts (a new category for Paul in Galatians 3?) on the team is a great bonus for well-rounded people work. McHugh's illustration of this from his own experience is instructive, and I have also seen this model work well on several occasions. There is a great need when building ministry teams to be aware of the varying personality types, as well as the gifts, that make up a team so we can serve together the most effectively. The reflections on page 165 about having a right view of difference were a bit of a rebuke to me. Perhaps my earlier impatience with introverts involved a certain amount of misunderstanding. Overall the book has been helpful for realising that introversion is more significant than I first thought. I've understood one of my closest friends much better now, and appreciated how far she's met me down the extroverted end of operating most of the time.
It's fantastic how McHugh challenges us in chapter 8 to see evangelism as non negotiable! And his observation that many of the prevailing methods are ill-suited to introverts is insightful. But I'm not sure his alternative method for evangelism is an accurate description of sharing the gospel - the Christian and the unbeliever being fellow explorers of the mysteries of God??? What about unbelievers being dead, blind, rebellious, and enslaved? While there's an element of truth to the fact that God is at work in those he's calling as he draws them to himself, that's not everyone we share the gospel with. Certainly the concept of evangelism being about responding to the way God is already at work in the people around me is liberating, but I'm not sure about the concept of listening evangelism. At the point where McHugh began to speak of experiencing God through sculpture, and quoting the famous St Francis of Assisi line, I'm once again finding myself in serious disagreement with him. Viewing the world sacramentally? I'd agree that if we're God-centred we can talk about him in relation to most activities but it's not an act of worship! Unfortunately these concepts continued into chapter 9. Page 192 makes me nervous, it's disturbing how certain elements of Catholicism seem to be re-entering the Protestant church in the name of Post Modernism. Enough said about that! By the end of the book I do like where McHugh lands his argument, challenging each of us to find our place to serve in church, but many of the stages of the journey weren't entirely helpful. A book like this does provoke more thought than one by a like-minded author, so it's not necessarily a bad thing. Would I recommend this book to most introverts I know? Probably not. But at least I know how to personally encourage them, having read it myself!
About this month's contributor, Alison Napier
Alison has been working in full-time ministry for a decade now, serving firstly with City Bible Forum, and then at St Andrew’s Cathedral. She has just started in a new role at the University of New South Wales serving with overseas students as part of the chaplaincy team, while also working as a consultant with Two Ways Ministries. Her favorite thing to do in ministry is to read the Bible with women who've never read it before, it's just so exciting to see them discover the wonderful things it says. Her current new interest is learning the joy of cycling to work - the combination of commuting and exercise appeals to her love of multi-tasking.