Three Things That Are Probably Making Introverts Like Me Nervous About Your Church

November 19, 2014

I have a confession to make.worship_by_knilvrie

I have spent my life in church. A preacher’s kid, then a seminary grad. Now, after seven years of house church ministry, my wife and I are embarking on a new chapter. We don’t even know what the chapter is. There is no invitation to another church, no greener pasture that we are making a break for. We have done this thing longer than the average pastor stays at a full time church ministry.

What we do know is that making a transition, finding a new place is going to be hard. We both feel like we have some odd angles, some characteristics that make it challenging for us to settle into a new place. She is a raving introvert, while I am an introvert who can act like an extrovert…sort of.

And what we find to be the case is that church is a decidedly extroverted place. A bunch of extroverts usually stand up front. By and large, modern worship, church life and leadership values extrovertism over characteristics, such as contemplativeness.

And so, as we prepare to embark on a transition we are both kind of dreading, it makes me think of all of the churches I have visited, all of the places I have worshiped (or at least tried to worship.) It makes me think of all the reasons that two pretty introverted people have kind of a tough time with church, even though we love it.

Three Things That Make Me Excessively Nervous In Church (In Order of How Nervous they Make Me)

Raising My Hands

This sounds so innocuous, perhaps it even sounds absurd to you, and yes, there are plenty of hand-raisers and many non-hand-raisers. But the gold standard of interactive Christian worship, the “hand raise” is something that has never come easily to me. Now I raised my hands thousands of times in school, often with passion and pleading for the teacher’s attention. But raising my hands in front of a group of adults at church still feels hard. I don’t want to draw that kind of attention to myself. But then, who is looking my way, wondering why I’m not raising my hands like everyone else.

I’ve got to be really relaxed to put my hand up for a couple of minutes during a song, so please don’t think I’m being a party pooper. Little social cues like hand-raising make worship really hard for introverts like me. I probably will not do it if I’m a first time visitor.

Praying Aloud

Raising hands during singing is not that big a deal, but this is where the cold sweat starts to break out on my neck. And I know, if an aversion to hand raising is odd, then this is anathema. How can a pastor be uncomfortable praying out loud?

The thing is, I have no problem praying when I am supposed to pray, when I am expected to pray, when I am the designated prayer leader. When I am supposed to pray, I can do so on the spot, the only problem being that I have probably been running one or two really good prayer lines through my head beforehand so I can sound good for everyone else, but then that begs the question: did I already pray in my head, and if so, what am I saying out loud?

Yes, I can pray on cue. But when you put me in a group and we pray “as the Spirit leads,” suddenly I tense up. I wait for the Spirit to move someone else. I pray that someone will go ahead and pray and break this dreadful silence. (Silence is the most socially awkward form of prayer, isn’t it?) And the longer I wait, the harder it is to go ahead and speak up.

Oh, and forget the small group intercessory prayer. I dropped in on a church one Sunday night where unbeknownst to me, they break into twos and threes and pray for each other. I am somewhat ashamed to admit that I avoided eye contact and quietly made my way to the door.

“Doing Life Together”

Didn’t we used to call “doing life together” just “being friends?” I cannot think of a more obtuse or grammatically dumb-sounding church phrase that is in greater need of being stricken from our vocabulary.

For one thing, what does this even mean? It conjures up in my mind thoughts of people living in a commune. At the very least, it gives me visions of never having quiet time or privacy because we have to “do life” with other people. At the very least, it insinuates that life is some kind of task that must be done or an expectation that must be met. I thought life was something that was lived.

I do sincerely understand that we Americans are socially deprived compared to other cultures where fifty people might live in a couple of huts. But there is one person whom I have committed to “doing life” with, and that’s my wife.

The problem with modern church life is that so much stuff, so many of the social cues and values are external. We judge peoples’ souls by their social involvement. We judge the sincerity of their worship by what their bodies are doing. We live in a show-off generation of church-going. And until we change that, introverts like me are going to continue to get really nervous on Sunday mornings.

6 responses to Three Things That Are Probably Making Introverts Like Me Nervous About Your Church

  1. Good luck on finding a church. That can be a tough journey. And, for the record, as an extrovert, I also usually feel uncomfortable raising my hands…

    I am in a time of transition myself right now. (I’m sure I will write about it more once I’m a little past where I am now.) In the midst of it, I have been reminded of the progression that happens in Genesis 1. Life does not happen until day 3. First there is chaos and darkness. Then God calls light forth from the darkness and creates space. Then, in the space, new life comes. Transition to me often feels like those first moments, scary and dark, but in it, there is also hope that new life is coming.

    If only we could control God’s timeline on when we get there…
    Stephanie Spencer recently posted..Find Your Ladder

  2. Come and try somewhere in the Central-to-Catholic realm of Anglicanism. You’ll be right at home. The fastest growing type of church in England? Cathedral Choral Evensong on weekday evenings, where congregations have tripled since the turn of the century.

  3. Amen, brother. This is SO me. What I really can’t stand is when the worship leader tries to convince us that it’s okay to worship our hands. Seriously, this has happened. Like raising our hands is a sign that we’re worshipping – because closing my eyes and singing quietly and thinking about Jesus can’t possibly be worshipping.

    And, oh my gosh, “as the Spirit leads you to pray” is the worst. I start getting neurotic and analytical. Here’s what goes through my head…Spirit, are you leading me to say something? Should I be praying something? I can’t think of anything? Does that make me not spiritual? Are we not connected? WHY CAN’T I THINK OF ANYTHING? WHY AREN’T YOU LEADING ME, SPIRIT? You’re leading everyone else, why not me? Everyone here thinks I’m not spiritual or I’m a weenie.

    “Doing life together” doesn’t bother me so much, but it is kind of a nebulous buzz phrase.

    Great post!
    Kate Hall recently posted..I Really Thought They Were MY French Fries

  4. Hey Matt,

    I stumbled across your blog and really enjoyed reading your past post “The Reason You Haven’t Figured Out God’s Plan For Your Life.” Great post! I also really liked this post about finding a worship environment that works for you and your family.

    I want to wish you the best in your search for a church that meets your spiritual needs and helps you draw closer to our Savior, Jesus Christ. I believe that this is the purpose of church. It should be a place where we feel comfortable, and are able to worship Christ and feel the presence of the Holy Spirit.

    One reason that I am a member of my church (the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints) is that I believe it is the original church of Christ restored or brought back to earth. We believe God has again spoken to a prophet and that important teachings about where we came from, what our purpose is, and how we can return to God have been revealed again to mankind.

    In our worship meetings, the most important part of the meeting occurs when we partake of the Sacrament (Communion). As commanded in 1 Corinthians 11:24-25, we do this to remember the sacrifice of Jesus Christ: His Atonement, Crucifixion, and Resurrection. While the congregation is taking the sacrament, it is a quiet time of personal reflection when people look inwardly and think about how they can be better disciples of Jesus Christ. We re-commit to ourselves and to God that we will be better.

    Another way that we draw closer to Jesus Christ in church is by teaching each other His Gospel. Regular members of the congregation take turns teaching church classes based upon the teachings of Jesus Christ as taught in the Bible, the Book of Mormon, and the teachings of the modern prophets. Reading the scriptures with others and discussing the principles that Jesus taught such as love, faith, repentance, obedience, and sacrifice helps us learn and increase in faith. We support each other and help each other by sharing personal experiences of living the teachings of Jesus Christ.

    If you are interested in learning more about our meetings or what we believe, check out this video or visit mormon.org
    http://youtu.be/IUaHacwLxao?list=PLAYgY8SPtEWGZ5P0ONt_wYfaaKJQ-xods

    God bless you and your family in your search!

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