Churches these days are seeking diversity in their congregations. “We need to be more diverse,” they say. Diversity is particularly sought among the racial makeup of the church. If a church has large numbers of African-Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians mixed together, it is considered a diverse church. If a church is mostly filled with Caucasians, (saying “whites” just sounds weird), then it’s suddenly not diverse. Some churches make accommodations to their services, (worship/teaching styles, decor, etc), to encourage diversity among their members. It’s a big deal these days.
I’ve got nothing wrong with the church being diverse. It’s biblical. Humanity, in Christ, becomes one body. “So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith…there is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus,”(Galatians 3:26-28). In Christ the curse of the Tower of Babel has been reversed. What once was divided can become united. So diversity is good. Yay diversity!
However, by the actions of some on Sunday morning, churches can actually be less inclusive, (a popular word these days), and are unconsciously hindering their desire to be diverse. Churches can unwittingly alienate a particular people group.
The group I speak of are introverts. Scoff if you want, but it’s true.
Introverts, (and to be fair, I’m one of them), are people who get their energy through quiet and reflection, where an extrovert is energized by socialization and stimulation. A person who is more extroverted would struggle to have to sit alone, read and contemplate, while a more introverted person would be energized by the same.
The trend among churches these days, more often than not, is to be geared towards the extrovert. Worship services usually include extremely loud music and other sensory stimulation, (smoke, spotlights, graphics, etc). Many churches, in an effort to “accommodate” introverts, hand out ear plugs, in effect saying, “I know we’re melting your eardrums, but maybe this will help,” (hint: it doesn’t), instead of just turning the volume down.
All of the sensory stimulation in a worship service makes it near impossible for an introvert to engage God in worship. We feel exhausted, overstimulated, and distracted. An extrovert might say, “Get over it,” but if they were forced to attend a more liturgical service involving creeds, traditional hymns, and quiet times of reflection, they would struggle to worship as well.
The thing is, the church needs both introverts and extroverts. We’re both made in the image of God. Introverts are prone to quiet, creative reflection, which is pretty much what quiet time is, right? Introverts are generally slower to make decisions, wanting to carefully think through an issue before deciding. We have a lot to offer the body of Christ. In the same way, extroverts wonderful people of passion and vision. Heck I even married an extrovert. My best friends have always been extroverts, (mostly because when I get around other introverts we don’t really talk to one another). The body of Christ is diverse and all parts of it are needed to function in the best way possible.
Am I saying we should all bow before Travis, (that’s me), and do the church service exactly how I want it done? Well now that you mention it…(just kidding). No, I’m not saying that. What I am suggesting is just a consideration for the other 1/2 to 1/3 of the population on the planet which naturally is energized differently and who worships God in a much different manner than extroverted folks.
The ironic thing about modern churches is that while they focus on diversification of ethnic group, social class, and age group, they are naturally alienating another group of people by their worship services. Loud, sensory filled services do not attract more introverted folks. (And lasers are definitely out, I’m just saying). Instead, they cause us to look for the door and a quiet place where we can recover, (see fish on the right). Most often, as introverts are used to being the odd balls of the group, we quietly take our beating in the service and move on. (Introverts are a long-suffering bunch, because what else are we going to do?) But, to quote an old phrase, why can’t we all just get along? Why not have services appropriately diverse for both extroverts and introverts? Why not have moments of silence or quieter hymns/songs, along with the loud choruses?
We introverts are not a picky bunch, (except Robert J. Smith; don’t get me started), but we would like to be considered. Just throw us a bone every now and then. That way we don’t have to go off on our own and start “The Quiet Bible Church”. We can all be together. We like people too, you know. We like being around our brothers and sisters in Christ, just in smaller amounts. We like music and worship, just in different ways.
So what do you say extroverts, worship leaders, modern church pastors? Can we be friends? Can we get along with one another? In your efforts to be diverse and reach out to all people, will you reach out to introverted folks as well?
Let me know what you think. I’m going off to hide in my bathroom so I can get a quiet moment away from my children. Don’t tell my wife.