Introverts and Extroverts
“If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole body were hearing, where would the sense of smell be?” – 1 Corinthians 12:14-26
I am convinced Jesus was an introvert. After all, he was a pastor who was always running away from his congregation. His ministry was characterized by intense engagement with people in rhythm with time alone or with a few close friends.
By contrast, clearly the garrulous Paul was an extrovert. Some of his letters have the quality of someone thinking out loud, a telltale characteristic of an extrovert (see, for instance, 2 Corinthians 11). One can imagine Paul spending time alone only when he was thrown in jail, and even then he would be attempting to convert the person in the next cell with the incessancy of an extrovert.
The generative pairing of Jesus and Paul reminds us that introverts and extroverts can collaborate fruitfully and it might even be said that we need each other.
A congregation benefits from having both introverts and extroverts, particularly if they understand each other—or, at least, understand enough to keep from driving each other nuts. The different clusters of character traits associated with introverts and extroverts are not to be moderated, but to be drawn upon, much as spiritual gifts are, for the betterment of the community. If Paul were aware of the typology, he might have reminded the Corinthians, “If all were extroverts, where would be the practice of careful listening? If all were introverts, who would greet the newcomers at the fellowship hour?”
God, today at least, I do not ask that you give us extroverts the gift of silent prayer. Rather, give us enhanced appreciation of those for whom silent prayer is a particular gift.
Martin B. Copenhaver is President of Andover Newton Theological School. His newest book is Room to Grow: Meditations on Trying to Live as a Christian. Follow Martin on Twitter @mbcopenhaver.