Sunday, January 26, 2014

The polarized church part 3: more examples from scripture

In our last post, we established how scripture acknowledges the introvert/extrovert dynamic. However, we have not yet established whether scripture favors one side over the other as the America and the church seems to. While in the case of Jacob and Esau, the introvert inherited the promise of Abraham, but let’s not assume that this one instance is a constant throughout scripture. 

For example, King David, who was called a man after God’s own heart, was a man of action. He was comfortable on the battlefield; he danced exuberantly before the Lord. He also wrote such expressive Psalms of praise and worship that illustrated many external forms of declaration. Clearly David was an extrovert. Yet, David’s son Solomon was a deep thinker who was committed studying and understanding, wrote much of the wisdom literature part of scripture. Clearly Solomon was more of an introvert. So obviously both sides of the spectrum contributed to the Old Testament. 

What about The New Testament? Well John the Baptist is described as a wild man, an outspoken and bold speaker; the sign of an extrovert. Where Paul is described this way in scripture. 

For some say, “His letters are weighty and forceful, but in person he is unimpressive and his speaking amounts to nothing.” -2 Corinthians 10:10

Introverts often come off better, and prefer to express themselves in writing, for it grants them the time to orchestrate their words at their pace. All his time in prison would have limited his ministry to letter writing and only a few visitors at a time. In a way, it’s an ideal set up for an introvert that would truly capitalize upon his strengths. 

What about Jesus himself, the ultimate model for holiness. While he often taught in a very social way, and wasn’t afraid to say it as it is; like a bold extrovert even. Yet, he also valued his solitude, and often went off alone in private to meditate and pray like an introvert. So it would seem that Jesus was a true ambivert, someone who falls right in the middle of the spectrum. 

Obviously, God recognizes the strengths of both sides of the spectrum, and expects both to contribute to the body of Christ. The churches would do well to do the same, for it has failed to offer that balance for much of its history. 

The Visual PARABLEist

a whitewashed person offering a colorful person whitewash
Conditional acceptance

Saturday, January 18, 2014

The polarized church part 2: example from scripture

We even see a rather obvious example of the introvert-extrovert dynamic in scripture. You have probably read over this verse many times without giving it much thought at all. Yet, it acknowledges a powerful truth about humanity. 

The boys grew up, and Esau became a skillful hunter, a man of the open country, while Jacob was content to stay at home among the tents. -Genesis 25:27

Despite the fact that they were twins, these brothers were like night and day. Clearly Esau the elder twin was an active extrovert, while Jacob was more of a home body introvert. Even the famous story where Jacob steals Esau’s birthright reenforces this tendency, but it may not be readily obvious how.

Once when Jacob was cooking some stew, Esau came in from the open country, famished. He said to Jacob, “Quick, let me have some of that red stew! I’m famished!” (That is why he was also called Edom.)
Jacob replied, “First sell me your birthright.”
“Look, I am about to die,” Esau said. “What good is the birthright to me?”
But Jacob said, “Swear to me first.” 
So he swore an oath to him, selling his birthright to Jacob. Then Jacob gave Esau some bread and some lentil stew. He ate and drank, and then got up and left. So Esau despised his birthright. 
- Genesis 25:29-34

First, how does Jacob steal his brother’s birthright? Not through force like an extrovert, but through strategy as introverts do. The strategy he uses is actually using Esau’s extrovert tendencies against him. If you will recall in our last post, we had spontaneous listed as one of the extrovert traits. At least that is what we call it when it turns out well, when it doesn’t we call it impetuous. Which is what Esau was in this story, and exactly what Jacob exploits. Psychologists have studied and confirmed this obvious difference between introverts and extroverts and can sum it up by this example. When offered ten dollars right now, or twenty dollars in two weeks. The introverts are typically patient enough to wait for the higher reward. Where extroverts have a hard time delaying gratification and go for whats before them in the moment.  

The Visual PARABLEist

two people having a very diverse perception of the same thing

Saturday, January 11, 2014

The polarized church part 1: defining the spectrum

While the terminology of extrovert-introvert originated with the psychologist Carl Jung. These temperaments have been observed by philosophers, doctors, and theologians long before that. Our tendency towards one side verses the other can have a profound influence on how we think, feel, act, and learn. 

Introvert- Extrovert
listener- talker
quiet - gregarious 
thinker - doer
reflective - experience
strategist - spontaneous

One of the biggest things that separates the introvert and extrovert is how they interact with others. The extrovert feels energized by social interaction, and feels drained by solitude. Where Introverts are the exact opposite. Keep in mind, nobody is a pure introvert or extrovert. It is a spectrum, and we are all capable of all of this. It’s like being left or right handed, we can use both hands, but most of us are most comfortable and most productive with our dominant hand. Even if we are successful at becoming switch hitters so to speak that will never change what energizes and depletes us. So we can never switch sides absolutely, no matter how much we push ourselves or others. We must allow ourselves, and others to recharge according to ones own temperament, rather than force one to live a one size fits all sort of life. People are naturally more diverse than that, and scripture recognizes that people have diverse needs. 

The eye cannot say to the hand, “I don’t need you!” And the head cannot say to the feet, “I don’t need you!” On the contrary, those parts of the body that seem to be weaker are indispensable, and the parts that we think are less honorable we treat with special honor. And the parts that are unpresentable are treated with special modesty, while our presentable parts need no special treatment. But God has put the body together, giving greater honor to the parts that lacked it, so that there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it. 
- 1 Corinthians 12:21-26

The Visual PARABLEist

a lone girl standing in a ball of lightning
The Introvert

Saturday, January 4, 2014

The Polarized Church: intro

There is a church in my community that a relative of mine goes to, and they recently did a poll of it’s attendees to get an idea of what people want out of worship. They were given two lists and to pick a preference on each point. Although the lists were not labeled it was obvious that it was divided between traditional and contemporary. However, I noticed another dynamic in them; that being the introvert-extrovert spectrum. A concept I have been reading a lot about lately.  While some of the points may be neutral or had easy crossovers, for the most part, the only true anomaly that seemed as if it should be inverted that I found, was how we treat guests. In a way this patten made sense, since in the past worship centered around liturgy; a quiet meditative and introvert friendly style of worship. While some denominations have held firmly to the past. Others have let liturgy fall out of favor over the decades, and those churches have taken on a more extroverted style of worship in its place. Such cultural shifts are rarely of a one to one ratio, meaning many variables have lead us to where we are at. The real question is, is there reason to favor one of these bias’ or not. Or is this just another example of how we have let the sinful nature of the flesh faction off the church further in defiance of the intended diversity of the body of Christ. I think it’s a question we should take a long hard look at in detail here.  

Traditional service (introvert skewed) - Contemporary worship (extrovert skewed)
quiet & reverence upon entering church - visiting upon entering church
hymn and gospel songs - praise songs and melodies
expository sermons (lecture) - how to sermons (conversational)
ministers leading the prayers - various people praying
guests recognized in some fashion - guests allowed to remain anonymous
organ and piano - guitars and drums
dressing up - casual dress
Tradition with a capital T - tradition with a lower case t
focus on doctrine and theology - focus on experience with God
focus on God’s remote majesty - focus on God’s intimate nearness
low energy singing - high energy singing
emphasis on predictability - emphasis on variety
responsive readings - no responsive readings
no video or multimedia - video and multimedia

a person trying to choose between bigger or flashier
Decisions, decisions