September 23, 2014

Introverts in the Church

I have to say I was a little disappointed in this book.
  
And I struggled with the decision on whether or not I should write about it.
  
Back in July I included this book on my '5 books on my future reading list' post and it got a great response.

There's a lot of us introverts out there. : )

So I've decided to share a few of my thoughts and concerns.


By the title of this book, I was lead to believe it would be mostly about introverts in the church. When in actuality it was more about being an introverted pastor or leader in the church. Since I'm neither, these parts didn't speak to me. (which was 2/3 of the book) Though he did make some great points for those who are.

What also disappointed me in these latter chapters, was the overall feeling that introverts need to be dealt with by pastors and leaders in the church. (Ex. have spiritual classes just for them) This is exactly what we don't want...to be singled out. As an introvert this made me sad. This is the one thing about being an introvert, that has been the most painful in my life...

Being misunderstood.

Having others put words in my mouth before I could gather my thoughts and share them, and therefore being judged by their misunderstandings.

Introverts just want to be treated as fellow human beings with a brain that works differently than extroverts, and respected that our lives are lived in a quieter way. We don't need to be dealt with or have 'special' classes.

The book 'Quiet'  by Susan Cain, was much more sensitive to this and I recommend it over this particular book in understanding the mind of an introvert. You can read my thoughts on it HERE

Also, I recently read this blog post by Holly Gerth, which was spot on and very encouraging. Here's the link: 7 ways you can love an introvert


There were also several things that made me uncomfortable reading this book. I felt the author stereo-typed introverts into a certain type of spirituality. 

One of these was contemplative spirituality or apophatic spirituality, also referred to as via negativa (the negative way). A practice of emptying your mind through speaking repetitive words.

The author says it's:

"...to seek to move beyond our senses."

And here he quotes Otto Kroeger and Roy Oswald:

"In this prayer form, we move in silence to quiet the mind and focus on a sacred word or phrase. Apophatic prayer tries to rid the mind of all images and forms so as to be open to encounter directly the Mysterious One. It is the desire of the mediator to listen to God, rather than talk to God."

*Before I continue, I want to make it clear this type of practice described above, by this author, is very different then the Biblical practice of meditating on the Lord and his Word.

'My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.' Psalm 119:148


Does this verse not suggest that we be conscious while meditating on His Word?

Many things disturb me about this kind of contemplative prayer practice. Firstly, I believe that if God wants us to hear Him speak, we will  hear Him speak. Whether we are in a place of darkness and far from God, like Saul of Taurus was, or whether we are in close communion with Him, like Daniel was.

God is in control of who will hear Him, not us.

We can not manipulate God into speaking to us through any kind of practice.

As a Christian I believe in being still before God, being quiet, but this is not the same thing. In the stillness and quiet time with the Lord we sit in His presences and rest. We meditate on Him and His Word.

Shouldn't we rather rest in Him and wait for His time and place to speak? And doesn't He have our best interest at heart to speak to us in His perfect time? And does He not speak already to us through His living Word?

I love that when I'm troubled, I can rest in Him. When I am stressed, I can rest in Him, When I am overwhelmed, I can rest in Him.

'Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him' Psalm 37:7

I recently read a book called 'Jesus > Religion' by Jefferson Bethke, (I'll be sharing about it soon), and this quote encouraged me so much while writing up this post.

"Religion is man searching for God, Jesus is God searching for man."

You don't' have to empty your mind to find God, He has already come! He has already spoken! And He wants a relationship with you. Just rest and wait on Him.

'Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!'  Psalm 27:14


(If you need encouragement and understanding in resting in God, I highly recommend 'The True Vine' by Andrew Murray, which is a deeper study into John chapter 15)


What troubles me the most about this kind of prayer is that you do not need Christ as mediator. You can be a Buddhist, a Hindu or a New Ager. No belief in Christ is required to practice it.

But the Bible teaches otherwise:

"...there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Timothy 2:5

We need a mediator, and it's not us, it's Jesus.

I thought I'd leave you with a passage from John Piper's book 'Finally Alive.'

He's first talking about how we are saved through hearing the word and then continues about how mantra's (A practice of emptying your mind through speaking repetitive words) don't work.

"...'hearing with faith' is what happens when we are 'born again through the living and abiding word of God.' The gospel - the news about Jesus Christ - is preached, we hear it, and through it we are born again. Faith is brought into being. 'Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth' (James 1:18).

This truth, this living and abiding word, this gospel, is not a mantra. 

And it doesn't work like a mantra. It doesn't work through the repetition of sacred sounds. It works because it is the intelligible truth about what really happened when Jesus died and rose again, and because God means for his Son to be glorified by our knowing and believing who his Son really is and what he really did to save sinners.

What we learn from 1 Peter 1:23 is that the whole worldview supporting the mantra is misguided and mistaken.

"having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever, 

because

“All flesh is as grass,
And all
the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away, 

  
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you."                                                                                             1 Peter 1:23

It (the mantra) isn't rooted in history.

It isn't rooted in Jesus Christ. 

It isn't rooted in the intelligibility of historical narrative. 

It isn't rooted in  the responsibility of the human mind to construe meaning from the preaching of Christ. 

It isn't rooted in the duty of the soul to see and believe the gospel of Christ crucified and risen."


I want to be rooted in Jesus Christ. How about you? : )

16 comments:

  1. I enjoyed reading your thoughts, and agree with your points. You did a great job supporting your points.

    It can be hard to be introverted in church, especially when many people put a certain emphasis on certain kinds of outreach. Everyone has their own talents and gifts, that can be used in different ways.

    Thank you for giving such a great in depth review :)

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    1. Hi Faye, thanks for your encouraging comment!

      It's not fun or easy writing about a book I didn't enjoy. (that's why I rarely do it) : ) but this one promoted many spiritual practices that are not Biblical, and since I had mentioned it on earlier posts, I felt I should say something.

      So glad you stopped by!

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  2. Thank you for such an honest review. I'm an introvert, too, and will be picking up Quiet. I love the quote from Bethke. I'm not interested in religion but I am in Jesus. And there's a peace in knowing I can pray, knowing Jesus is my mediator. ~Pamela

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    1. Hi Pamela, you will really enjoy the book 'Quiet' as an introvert. It made me feel normal! Such a great book.

      Thanks for stopping by! : )

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  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. This book has been on my list a while now. I still may pick it up, as well as Quiet. Thanks!

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    1. Hi Jennifer, I would love to know what you think of it, if you decide to read it!

      Thanks for stopping by. : )

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  4. Thank you for writing a review that you didn't really want to write. I'm an introvert too, and I'm happy that now I'm aware of this book. I've been thinking of picking up "Quiet" by Susan Cain and other books on introverts, especially as it pertains to the church, so really, thanks for your review! Visiting you from Word Filled Wednesday.

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    1. Thank-you for stopping by Anna! I think you will really enjoy the book 'Quiet.' : )

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  5. Meditation always makes me nervous. Yes, there is a way to do it in a Christ-honoring manner (when you "meditate on the Law day and night") but people today get it so confused with other things, I don't even want to go there most of the time.

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    Replies
    1. Hi Brittany, whenever I come across these different and sometimes strange ways of prayer or meditation, I turn back to the simple words of Jesus.

      He says in Matthew 6:7

      “And when you pray, do not use vain repetitions as the heathen do. For they think that they will be heard for their many words."

      And when one of the disciples asked Him how to pray Jesus answered in Luke 11:2

      He said to them, “When you pray, say:

      Our Father in heaven,
      Hallowed be Your name.
      Your kingdom come.
      Your will be done
      On earth as it is in heaven.

      Give us day by day our daily bread.

      And forgive us our sins,
      For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us.
      And do not lead us into temptation,
      But deliver us from the evil one.”

      He always leads us in the right direction. : )

      Thanks for stopping by!

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  6. Very interesting post - I won't read the first book, but I believe leaders should read it.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by Robert. Appreciate your comment.

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  7. I just have to say this book is not without merit. The first 3 chapters were very good and very emotional for me, as well as Bible-based, but chapter 4 got into the contemplative spirituality and went down hill from there for me, as the rest of the book was geared to leaders and pastors. Some of his recommendations for leaders and pastors were disturbing because as I said before he stereo-typed introverts into a certain type of spirituality.

    If anyone decides to read this book or has read it all ready, I'd love to hear your thoughts.

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  8. I saw that book, thought I would like it and now think I'd better skip since I share your (Biblical!) view on apophatic prayer.

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and sharing Helene. : )

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  9. Thank you for sharing your candid thoughts on this book at Booknificent Thursday this week! Hope to see you again soon!
    Tina

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Feel free to leave your own thoughts in the comments. I try to respond to all of them by the end of the week. : )

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