Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Jesus and Meyers-Briggs

First, a question. Do you think Jesus was an introvert or an extrovert?

Here's an interesting little item with HUGE implications. I was in the Cokesbury store the other day (there are some distinct advantages to living in the buckle of the bible belt), a dangerous place for me to be allowed any kind of time for browsing, and this book jumped off the shelf and stared me down: Introverts in the Church, Finding our Place in an Extroverted Culture (Adam S. McHugh). Being an introvert I thought that it was written for me, of course. Somehow or other it found its way into my bag.

Heading off to give blood yesterday I grabbed the book to tuck into my pack. I only got to page 25 (I'm a slow reader), but already my mind is jumping, and the "a-HAs!" can't keep up with each other. There is a presumptive bias in the book that the author makes clear from the get-go. He paints evangelical churches as distinctly extroverted (said author also acknowledges that he does some broad stroke generalizing). As such they (read "the membership") are chatty and casual, and the preaching conversational. Since the place and authority of scripture is central to their faith it is one of the things about which they are chatty. Evangelizing, then, comes as naturally as breathing. I'm oversimplifying. He went on to make some other observations that led me to wonder off on my own. Hence:
In more catholic traditions there is this thing called The Mystery. The Mystery is mediated through sacraments, and by its very nature invites reflection and meditation. (I might go so far as to suggest that it is intuitive, but that's another conversation.) In the Episcopal Church we struggle with our identity as evangelists. By in large we shun the notion of taking the word out to the world--not in theory (we are 'piscies, after all!), but in practice. We're uncomfortable talking about our faith (that is a corporate we, not an individual "we").

I used to contend that a principle reason we weren't good evangelists is due to our ecclesial DNA: our roots are in a State Church, which did not need to evangelize. I still maintain that there is something to that theory, but now I add the introvert/extrovert argument. As a Mystery church we are an introverted church. We thrive on drinking it in, literally and figuratively, and mulling it all over. Wonder why newcomers don't want to come to coffee hour? Hello! Introverts in a crowd of strangers--lemme outta here!

I have already been given so much food for thought here I can hardly stand it, and this is just up to page 25. This book is a must read for anyone involved in evangelism, welcoming and incorporating people into the church. It is also extremely helpful in understanding how the church might use the gifts of its people more thoughtfully and with greater impact. At a church I once served the vestry took the Meyer's-Briggs test each year so that they could understand and appreciate the particular dispositions that each member brought to the table. Not a bad idea at all when dealing with a leadership team. It is also a reminder that in any corporate setting the same issues manifest themselves.

There is so much more that could be said on this topic, but already I've rambled enough this morning. As for Jesus, I don't know if he was and introvert or an extrovert, but to me he seems to be a healthy balance that reflects both. But of course!


The Bug said...

As an ISTP this is exactly why I was drawn to the Episcopal church - my Southern Baptist tradition was just too much for me. I was embarrassed by it.

Donna Henderson said...

Oh, that is so interesting. I have always thought he must have been quite an introspective man, yet with enough charisma to lead thousands. Good Lord, is it wrong to say that I can just imagine how totally in love with him was Mary Magdalene? He was probably by far the coolest guy she'd ever met! She probably just loved being able to hang out with him and his buddies. I would have, too.

drw@bainbridge.net said...

I'm thinking Jesus was an XNXX -- on the cusp between introvert (off to the wilderness) and extrovert (feeding the 5000), thinking and feeling, judging and perceiving, but off the scale intuitive...

Jayne said...

I think you hit the nail on the head in terms of why we feel so uncomfortable evangelizing in TEC. We are so "wherever you are in your journey is fine by us" and we certainly don't want to make anyone feel we expect them to believe any sort of doctrine. They have to get to that point themselves, and there are a myriad of ways along that path. Yes, we'd be miserable Baptists... lol.

Genie said...

And it doesn't help that the vast majority of Episcopal/Anglican clergy are introverts (this according to a long-ago study, the source of which I can't remember now, but I suspect it still holds true). Nor, I would posit, that so many Episcopalians/Anglicans believe their faith is private and don't want to discuss it with anyone else. I think you're absolutely right on with your theories -- and if we're intuitive too ... well then, we likely expect others to know the important 'stuff' already, like we do!

I can't remember the name of the book now, but there is a faith/spirituality correlation to MBTI that might be fun to compare and contrast with this book. This one sounds fascinating -- can't wait to hear more about it!

Jan said...

This is one of those coincidences--I've finally started working on a mini-workshop talk to be given twice on Saturday about spiritual paths. . . .and so much depends upon introversion and extroversion, this coming from an introvert!

Interesting to think about Jesus--I assume he was so "well rounded" that he was neither/both!

Jules said...

This is an interesting post my friend. I can remember our rather dignified minister in my childhood Methodist church retiring and being embarrassed by his replacement: a fire and brimstone, hallelujah shouting, revival tent man. I am not sure exactly what bothered me about someone who shouted his faith to the world and shared his beliefs in such a "listen to me" manner but it did. Perhaps i am more of an introvert than I would like to think as I have always considered my faith to be a private matter between me and my God. Good food for thought today...thanks,


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