An Introverted Pastor
This started as a paragraph for my review of Adam S. McHugh’s “Introverts in the Church”, but I’ve taken it out and given it its own post.
As an introvert, a preacher and a candidate for ordained ministry people sometimes bring up my introversion in relation to my ministry. It has always been brought up as a problem. They wonder how I’ll survive as a pastor when I eventually do have my own church to pastor. During the interviews for the candidacy at Presby HQ in Belfast, I had to defend my introversion. I recently preached as a guest preacher at a church where, while I was introducing myself and sharing some thoughts on the subject of prayer, I mentioned that I was an introvert. After the service I stood at the door (which is a thing that preachers are expected to do) and a nice lady came up to me smiling and telling me that my sermon was very good. What she said was “I’m not so sure you’re an introvert – that was very good!” I’ve even had a dear friend say to me once that they didn’t think that I was actually an introvert because I “really love people”. The assumption is that it is an unfortunate thing to be an introvert, especially in ministry.
I do really love people (I’m a total softy and therefore a terrible book critic) and I am a capable preacher. This is not in spite of my introversion. God has used my introversion and has led me to be more contemplative, which has made me a better preacher and has given me a greater love for my neighbour. I have been blessed to be someone that people come to when they have deep questions and really want someone to listen to them and give them a thoughtful answer one-to-one. In quiet I have prayed with and counselled those who are hurting and confused. God has used my quietness to be a blessing to other people.
On Sundays I stand up and give my carefully prepared sermon, my thoughts on what God is saying and what that means for people today. I write it all out, I wrestle with the text, I pray and I think long and hard over what to say because I handle the word of God. Because I put so much into preparing the words that I will speak I can tell you the approximate speed of my preaching – about 150 words per minute.
My preaching and my pastoring is not hindered by my introversion, it is helped by it. What has hindered me is attitudes to introversion within a church that does not always seem to value listening and stillness as much as it values speaking and busyness. Dear church, please encourage and use your introverts as introverts, not as poor excuses for extroverts.