Missional Extrovert: Strengths What's good about being an extrovert when trying to follow Jesus in the real world?

What strengths does a missional extrovert have?  Are there advantages to needing to draw energy from social connections with others for a follower of Jesus?  And what are some practical ways that a missional extrovert can deploy his or her strengths for the benefit of Jesus, his mission, and his gospel?

The twentieth century saw the meteoric rise of personality testing.  One test in particular has grown especially popular — the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator®.  The popularity of the MBTI® can be seen in the proliferation of people self-identifying as one of the Myers-Briggs personality combinations on social media.

Here are a few examples from Twitter:

And there are thousands and thousands and thousands of other posts like these!

And some of the time people on social media and in real life like to pit their personality type over against others, especially with regard to that first Myers-Briggs category: Extroversion vs. Introversion.  This is something that I know first hand since my wife is an extreme extrovert and I’m a slight introvert.  Periodically we like to compare notes about why being an extrovert or introvert is awesome, while clearly hinting that the other side of the equation isn’t quite as good.

Which is better?  Well, in my humble opinion, extroverts had their time in the sun for years and years and years.  Think about it, an extrovert tends to let you know about how awesome s/he is, while an introvert hopes you figure it out on your own.

But introversion has become a hot topic these days.  With the popular book (which I highly recommend!) and TED talk (go watch it now…but come back!) by Susan Crain, introversion has become sexier and sexier.  I’ve even written about the strengths of being an missional introvert.

So, it’s time that we let the extroverts shine again.  Sure, being a missional extrovert comes with some challenges but I want to explore a few ways that being an extrovert helps someone follow Jesus in the real world.

Strengths of a Missional Extrovert

  1. Outgoing — A major part of being missional is interacting with other human beings.  And this is something that a missional extrovert is great at!  Since extroverts gain energy from being with other people, it only makes sense that they can use this for the benefit of the kingdom.  While many of us may have to find internal motivation to connect with people in a way that points them to Jesus, an extrovert may not need the same kind of internal pep talk.
  2. Deeply relational — Being communal is a must for those who seek to follow Jesus in the real world.  Why?  Because it’s hard out there!  And it’s hard within our missional communities too!  We need extroverts to use their natural relational abilities to help us navigate these waters well.  In fact, extroverts can really lead the way in helping us connect well with one another.  And connecting well is essential if we are to make disciples the way that we see Jesus doing it in the Gospels.
  3. Naturally develops others Leadership development is a key for discipleship to work properly.  Why?  Well think about it like this: If we don’t develop leaders as part of our disciple-making endeavors, then we won’t get past one generation.  If we only focus on helping people start the journey of being a disciple, then how will those folks make disciples themselves?  This is where we need extroverts since they are often good at helping others grow.  This is the case because leadership development is a relational animal and extroverts tend to be great at relationships!
  4. Usually great at communicating — In order to follow Jesus well in the real world we need to communicate well.  And a missional extrovert can really help a lot here.  All the extroverts that I know are good at communicating in one form or another.  Some are great at teaching.  Some are great at preaching.  Some are great at one-on-one talks.  And many are great at sharing the gospel with their words.  This is not to say that introverts aren’t good at communicating also but extroverts tend to be excellent communicators thanks to their relational natures.
  5. Working in teams is second-nature — Introverts tend to excel in all things that require solitude (and there are many!).  But a missional extrovert often finds great success working in teams.  They are good at communicating.  They’re great at relationships.  And they usually loved group projects and study cohorts in school.  So teams come pretty naturally to extroverts.  And teams are really at the heart of being missional.  We need to follow Jesus together.  We need to engage in evangelism together.  And we need to make disciples together.
  6. Generally pretty convincing — Business leaders often claim that extroverts tend to outsell their introvert counterparts, though not always, of course.  How many people explain this is that extroverts are not only more natural communicators, they are also better at convincing people of new ideas.  Now don’t get me wrong, evangelism is not about convincing anyone of something logically but it is about convincing someone of something relationally and experientially.  And extroverts have these ways of convincing down in spades!
  7. Often good at motivating others — Seeing that extroverts have spent more time relating with others than introverts, they tend to be quite good at helping others become more motivated.  Also, all that experience in relationships can help a missional extrovert put him/herself in the shoes of others, which is a huge help when trying to be encouraging.  And, if we’re all honest, following Jesus in the real world can be tiring and we all need a little motivation from time to time!
  8. Good at literally talking about the gospel — Extroverts have fears just like everyone else but often when it comes to talking to people about Jesus, the fears of extroverts are a little more surmountable than those of introverts.  The experience that extroverts have in speaking with others in many other contexts can be generalized to evangelism-specific situations as well.  It should be noted that not all extroverts are the best listeners, which is an important aspect of evangelism, but they generally have the speaking part down pat!
  9. Tend to be good with new people — For an introvert, there’s little that’s more awkward than trying to get to know someone new.  What do you talk about?  At what pace?  Where do you stand in reference to the new person?  What do you do with your hands?  For most extroverts, these questions don’t even make sense!  They very naturally have a knack for doing things just so in order to help a new person feel at ease.  So as a missional community makes disciples and folds new people into the mix, it will be imperative to have some a missional extrovert or two around to hep put the new folks at ease.
  10. Often excel in chaotic environments — While it’s not always true that introverts prefer controlled environments and that extroverts prefer a bit more potential disorder, it is true that the more relationships someone is entangled with, the more chaotic her/his life tends to be.  And it’s this entangled chaos that provides many extroverts with a perfect platform for them to continue to connect well with others.  And when following Jesus in the real world there is a ton of chaos to contend with.  Thus it follows that an extrovert may be able to manage that chaos a bit better than an introvert.

So being an extrovert doesn’t have to be a bad thing if someone is seeking to become more missional.  In fact, being extroverted can be greatly helpful for those who are seeking to follow Jesus in the real world.  However, it must be stated clearly here at the end, this blog is not intended to say that extroverts are the best at being missional or that they are inherently better than introverts.  Not at all!  Both extroverts and introverts are needed for the mission of Jesus to move forward effectively!

What do you think?  Did I miss any strengths that a missional extrovert might have?  If so, let me know in the comments below!

Haters Gonna Hate Giving answers to our detractors

Haters were a major part of Jesus’ life.  How did he deal with them?  Did he focus on them?  Did he ignore them?  Did he let the haters get in the way of what he was doing?  Or did he try to appease them by softening his message?

Let’s find out!

Jesus and Some Haters

Since Jesus had a knack for valuing people over rules created by people, he healed a man on the Sabbath in John 5.  This caused the haters to come out of the woodwork!

Jesus told the man he healed to pick up his mat and walk.  When the man did, some Jewish leaders, probably a few vocal Pharisees, told him that carrying one’s mat was considered work and that he shouldn’t do that on the Sabbath.  The healed man told them that he was doing as he was told by the man who healed him.

After a little while Jesus saw the man again at the Temple and checked in on him.  After he did so the healed man went right over to tell the Jewish leaders (AKA the haters), who it was that healed him.

This caused the haters to go into action again.  It appears that they were angry that Jesus was healing on the Sabbath, which they must have considered a “work.”

Jesus’ response infuriated them even further.  He said, “My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working” (John 5.17).  They were really mad that Jesus was healing on the Sabbath and that he called God his Father, which they interpreted as claiming equality with God.  So they decided all the more that they would try to kill Jesus.  These haters really overreacted to Jesus’ statement BIG TIME!

So how did Jesus respond?  Did he run away with his tail between his legs?  Did he promise never to do the things that angered them again?  Did he try to put the blame on someone else, like Peter, John, or even Judas?

Nope.  He did none of those things.

Jesus’ Response to the Haters

So what did Jesus do?

From John 5.19-47 Jesus give a long speech.  Here are some highlights from just the beginning of the speech:

  • Jesus said that he sees what God is doing and does likewise (vv. 19-20)
  • Jesus claims that he can give life like the Father does (v. 21)
  • Jesus says that the Father has given the Son all judgment (v. 22)
  • Jesus says that whoever honors him honors the Father and whoever dishonors him dishonors the Father (v.23)
  • Jesus says that whoever hears his word and believes in him will have eternal life (v. 24)
  • Etc., etc., etc.

Jesus’ response to the haters was strong, bold, and direct.  He didn’t soften any language.  He didn’t try any avoidance tactics.  And he didn’t run away.

In fact, a really strong case could be made that Jesus used the hatred of his enemies as an opportunity to teach his disciples and ultimately to bring his Father glory.  In other words, these haters didn’t derail Jesus from the mission he was on — a mission to make disciples and honor his Father.

When Haters Attack!

But what are we to do when we face haters?  None of us is Jesus.  None of us has the kind of confidence that he did.  None of us has the same kind of fortitude that he possessed.

Well, we can learn a thing or two from Jesus here.

  1. Face Haters with Friends — Jesus wasn’t alone here.  We can assume that he was with his disciples.  I think so often when we face opposition of any sort we’re tempted to do so alone.  We must think that this makes us look tougher, more perfect, or something.  But Jesus faced all of his trials with people who loved him around.  Jesus even had community surrounding him as he died on the cross!  So when we face haters, let’s not do so alone.  Let’s lean on our community to help us, to give us strength, and to encourage us.
  2. Stick to the Truth — When Jesus faced his opponents here he didn’t create lies about them to make himself look better.  And he didn’t embellish his own story either.  Instead he simply told the truth about himself and his relationship to his Father.  When we face haters we may be tempted to trump ourselves up or beat them down, even twisting the truth to do so.  Instead, let’s just focus on what’s true: we’re God’s children, saved by grace, set free to serve the King.
  3. Don’t Be Deterred — It would have been really easy for Jesus to get sidetracked by his opponents.  They were plotting to kill him after all!  But he didn’t.  In fact, he used their rude interjection into his life as a way to further his mission of making disciples and honoring the Father.  So when we face opposition, persecution, and the like, how can we allow God to use it to further his mission in the world?  We can start by praying that God be with us in these difficult moments through his Spirit.  And in so doing we will demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, which will always help us stay on mission with Jesus and bring God glory!

 

What do you think?  How should we respond to haters?  Let me know in the comments below!

People > Rules Jesus always chooses people over rules

“Rules were made to be broken.”

While this old adage is said a lot, it’s definitely not true!

It seems to me that in most cases rules are meant to protect us in one form or another.  And sometimes they are made to ensure that we follow best practices.

But almost without a single doubt, rules were not made to be broken.

However, are there times when they should be broken?  Are there cases in which the rule, which was intended to protect or direct toward best practices, isn’t the best option?

Well, in John 5 we see Jesus choosing something above following a rule.

Rules and Jesus

First things first, Jesus wasn’t against all rules.  In fact, when Jesus was asked what the best ones were, he didn’t say “There are no rules, just love people.”  Nope.  Instead he said, “Here is the best rule: Love God, and the second one is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22.36-40).  Then after he had died and been raised again, Jesus gave his followers a rule.  He told them that as they were going about that they must make disciples (I phrased this sentence this way so that the fact that the command in Greek is not “go” but “make disciples”) (Matthew 28.19-20).

So Jesus didn’t dislike rules.  But he clearly understood that too many rules muddied things up.  If there are a thousand things we are supposed to be doing or not doing, then we may spend all of our time thinking about those “dos and don’ts” instead of living the lives that God set out for us.  And Jesus consistently encountered people who did this — the Pharisees.

Rules and the Pharisees

The Pharisees were not all bad guys, despite how we tend to think of them.  There’s Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea.  And Gamiliel seems like a good guy too.  And Paul, who was a Pharisee, would eventually come around too.

But even the “bad” Pharisees weren’t setting out to be bad.  They were focused on performing the works of the law in order to worship God well.  They weren’t trying to be bad guys and they weren’t hoping to be exclusive and dogmatic.  Instead they were doing the best they could with the tradition in which they lived.

So in John 5 when Jesus encounters some uber-rule-loving Pharisees (called “Jewish leaders there), it’s easy to paint them in the worst possible light.  But that’s not fair.  Their insistence on not working on the Sabbath has biblical and cultural roots.  They weren’t pulling this rule out of thin air to attack Jesus.

However, they’re focus was wrong.

Rules Can Distract Our Focus

In the first part of John 5 Jesus heals a man who had been suffering for decades.  It just so happens that this healing happened on the Sabbath (John 5.9b).  When some of the Jewish leaders saw that this man was healed and was carrying his mat (which is considered work), they pounced!  Their rule-breaker lights went off and they went into action.

They first told this man that he shouldn’t be carrying his mat on the Sabbath.  The man says that the person who healed him told him to do so.  The Jewish leaders insisted on knowing who the healer was but the healed man didn’t know.  (He would eventually find out and tell the Jewish leaders, who then got super angry at Jesus!)

But here’s the point: The Jewish leaders’ focus on the rules didn’t allow them to see what was right in front of their faces.  They totally missed the fact that this man was healed!  Their focus was so narrowly aimed at the Sabbath rules, that they entirely missed an opportunity to praise God that he had healed this man!

 

This makes me wonder about what sorts of rules prevent us from seeing God do his thing in our day.  What are we focused on so much so that we miss out on what Jesus is doing through his Spirit?  Let me know what you think in the comments below.

 

But here’s the big idea from this post: Jesus put the man who needed healing above rules — in fact, Jesus almost always put people before rules.  Therefore, as we seek to follow Jesus in the real world, we too should put people and their well-being above rules, especially those rules that are not the focus of Jesus himself.

 

What do you think?  Are people always greater than rules?  What rules do we tend to focus on more than people?  And is doing it the way Jesus did it even possible or practical for us today?  Let me know in the comments below!

#Identity: New Wine Podcast #018 Ronda Rousey and Dealing with Loss

In what or whom should we find our identity and why?

Ronda Rousey’s latest interview on the Ellen Show has gotten me thinking about this.

I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!

Also, if you’d like to help support the creative process that helps bring this podcast to life, then please check out my Patreon page (http://patreon.com/JMatthewBarnes).  There are some fun rewards there for folks who pledge support although any level support will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

 

Here are a few links from this podcast:

FOX Sports article: http://www.foxsports.com/ufc/story/ufc-ronda-rousey-had-suicidal-thoughts-after-suffering-loss-to-holly-holm-021616

Ellen Appearance: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iwCdv9iR8P8

Intellectual Hospitality and Justice Scalia Making space for others, even those with whom we disagree

Recently a judge named Antonin Scalia on the United States’ Supreme Court died and, despite how he is sometimes portrayed, Justice Scalia was apparently a man who exhibited intellectual hospitality, even to those who did not agree with many if any of his positions.

Justice Scalia’s reputation is pretty clear to most people.  He’s called “combative,” “tough,” and “fiery.”  And its his public perception that causes many to be surprised when it is revealed that he was not only willing to have Justices of other positions on the Court but that he welcomed it and even jockeyed for it.

After Justice Scalia’s passing, David Axelrod wrote an opinion piece on CNN.com that showed just that, namely that Justice Scalia tried to influence President Obama through a back channel to have a friend, now-Justice Elena Kagan, nominated despite the fact that she is more-or-less diametrically in opposition to all of his ideological positions.

Why would he want to do this?  Axelrod thinks that “if Scalia could not have a philosophical ally in the next court appointee, he had hoped, at least, for one with the heft to give him a good, honest fight.”

To put it more succinctly: Justice Scalia was a person who valued and demonstrated intellectual hospitality.

Intellectual Hospitality

What is intellectual hospitality?

My friend, colleague, and mentor Dr. Greg Waybright says this about intellectual honesty: it is show when we “speak to one another with 1) the grace to receive and consider differing positions and 2) the courage to challenge other positions with respect-filled questions.”  I love the twofold description, one in-coming (receiving other positions with grace) and one out-going (asking respectful questions).

And it appears that Justice Scalia had this kind of intellectual hospitality.  He was “best buddies” with Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, with whom he had major disagreements, and his friendship with Justice Kagan, with whom he also disagreed, grew to such an extent that they became hunting buddies.

I can’t imagine the conversations between these legal giants never ventured into ideological territory.  And when it did, they all must have demonstrated great intellectual hospitality in order to begin, foster, and deepen meaningful relationships.

This type of deference for “the other” is badly missing in the world.  (Full disclosure: I almost ended that last line with the word “today” but then I remembered that humans have been around this world for quite some time and, thus, there’s always been a great deal of need for others-focused ethics!)

Jesus and Intellectual Hospitality

Much more can be said about this topic than I’m going to say here.  But I want to make a similar point about Jesus that I made about Justice Scalia — namely, that Jesus was willing and able to interact meaningfully with people very different from him.

Think about the people that surrounded Jesus on the regular: Matthew (who was the mob-muscle kind of tax collector), Simon the Zealot (who may well have been part of a political terror group), and Judas Iscariot (who would betray Jesus, which Jesus knew from the beginning).

Then think about some of the people that Jesus went out of his way to spend time with: The Samaritan Woman (their conversation in John 4 is a great example of intellectual hospitality in action!), Nicodemus (who was a religious leader that may have been too ashamed and/or fearful to meet with Jesus in the light of day), Zacchaeus (who was the mob-boss kind of tax collector), and even the thief of the cross (who, unlike Jesus, earned his way to his capital punishment).

Jesus has no equals among any of us human beings and yet he chose to relate closely to all sorts of us when was incarnated here on earth.

And if we are to follow Jesus, then we too should exercise a bit more intellectual hospitality too.

Intellectual Hospitality: A Few Starting Points

So, how are we to manifest more intellectual hospitality in our lives?

Here are a few starting points:

  1. Interact with people who are different.  We are all deeply impacted by tribalism — we want to spend time with people just like us.  That’s simply not what Jesus did.  And beside the usual Jesus-did-it-this-way-and-so-should-we argument, being friends with an array of different sorts of people makes life much more meaningful and fulfilling.
  2. Show respect before acting on anger. If we interact with people different than us, then we are sure to come up against ideas that make us angry from time to time.  In those moments we have a choice to make — we can 1) lash out at the person espousing the offending idea(s) or 2) respectfully engage in conversation despite our anger.  Remember, we hold positions that make others angry too!  We don’t have a monopoly on indignation!
  3. Grow. There’s little that’s more narcissistic and ego-maniacal than refusing to grow.  Think about it, not wanting to grow communicates to the world that we don’t need to grow.  And we all know for a fact that we haven’t arrived — we all have miles and miles to go.  Therefore, in all our relationships we need to admit that we could learn something important and make space in order to do so.  And the best kind of space for growth is respectful conversation.
  4. Give others the same benefit of the doubt that we want given to us.  This is the golden rule of intellectual hospitality.  Would we want someone to belittle us for our ideas?  Would we want to be ostracized because of our beliefs?  Would we want someone to refuse to see the logic in our position?  Would we want our personal narratives to be disregarded without a second thought?
  5. Pray.  Intellectual hospitality can be difficult, whether we are just beginning to practice it or if we’ve been at it for decades.  And, if we’re honest, none of us can do this on our own.  We need the power of the Spirit within us to help us.  We need him, the Spirit of God, to develop in us his fruit — love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  And each aspect of the fruit of the Spirit is necessary for us to exhibit intellectual honesty.  So let’s pray for the Spirit to grow his fruit in us!

 

What do you think about intellectual hospitality?  Was Justice Scalia a good example of it?  What do we learn about it from Jesus?  How can we demonstrate it in our lives?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

**If you’re really into this idea of intellectual honesty, then check out this post.  In it Bob Trube makes a really strong case for having intellectual hospitality with those who differ from us greatly.  It’s a short but meaningful read!

 

#Courage: New Wine Podcast #017

Why is courage vitally important for any missional endeavor?

I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!

Also, if you’d like to help support the creative process that helps bring this podcast to life, then please check out my Patreon page (http://patreon.com/JMatthewBarnes).  There are some fun rewards there for folks who pledge support although any level support will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!

Missional Introvert: Strengths What's good about being an introvert when trying to follow Jesus in the real world?

What strengths does a missional introvert have?  Are there advantages to needing to draw energy from being alone for a follower of Jesus?  And what are some practical ways that a missional introvert can deploy his or her strengths for the benefit of Jesus, his mission, and his gospel?

Introversion is a hot topic these days.  With the popular book (which I highly recommend!) and TED talk (go watch it now…but come back!) by Susan Crain, introversion became cool and more accepted.

This has not always been the case, however.  For a variety of reasons, extroverts tended to take center stage in the past.  This was especially so in the church.  The bombastic leader with the gift of gab and extreme charisma was the gold standard that everyone looked toward.  Full-time pastor-types tried to be that person, even if they were introverted, and most Christians who aren’t clergy seemed to find the extroverted type most interesting and appealing.

The challenges of being an introvert and trying to follow Jesus well in the real world weren’t always addressed well.  Introverts were told, explicitly or implicitly, that in order to be truly used by God, they needed to be more like those widely-lauded extrovert pastors.

Today, thankfully, things have changed, even with in the church.  Quiet and reflective voices are starting to be heard and respected.  Being loud and in front is still valued, but so is being thoughtful and in the background.

In fact, I think that it’s time that we let the missional introverts get a little shine.  With that in mind, here’s a top-ten list of the greatest strengths (in my opinion) of a missional introvert:

Strengths of a Missional Introvert

  1. Alone time to recharge — This is more-or-less the definition of an introvert and can be seen by many as a negative.  However, as we’ll see below, what one does with this alone time can be productive.  Here, however, I want to focus on the execute-retreat cycle that many people have found to be beneficial.  The basic gist is this: you give your all to something, expending lots of energy, then you retreat in order to recuperate and recharge.  Then, once you are ready, you go back at whatever it is with renewed gusto.  This cycle would be quite natural a missional introvert, who would need have some alone time after all the socially demanding parts of sharing the good news of Jesus and his kingdom.  In other words, there will be little need to convince an introvert to engage in some self-care during a socially-draining stretch; s/he will pursue it somewhat naturally.
  2. Don’t enjoy being the center of attention — Full disclosure, I’m an introvert and I love attention.  So this isn’t always the case for every introvert.  But most introverts are happy to let someone else take all the social limelight.  Thus, the basic ideas of putting Jesus first and focusing on the interests of others, may (and I stress may) be a bit easier for the missional introvert.  And this is important, of course, because there’s a really appealing temptation to put oneself at the center when trying to be missional.  The look-at-me syndrome can strike and strike hard.  But many introverts are naturally disinclined toward social attention of any sort.
  3. Limited interests which are explored deeply — Many times introverts only have a few things that they really pour their energies into.  It is typical or a missional introvert to be invested at work, in a personal relationship or two, and on mission with Jesus.  And that’s it.  This narrowing of interests helps the missional introvert divert less and less energy into things that don’t matter and more and more into the things that do.  And it’s that depth of attention that is a real benefit for an introvert.  It’s not just that s/he is focused on a narrow list of things, its that s/he is focused deeply.
  4. Tend to be deliberative and intentional  — It is normal as an introvert to be called thoughtful, reflective, and introspective.  But an introvert’s thinking is often directed outward as well.  In the case of a missional introvert, s/he can very carefully work through various options when seeking to follow Jesus well in the real world.  S/he often has a great capacity for weighing pros and cons against one another when making decisions.  And, often an introvert can exert a great amount of mental energy thinking about how to help encourage her or his friends and fellow missional practitioners.  Thus, many introverts are quite intentional, attempting to think three or four steps ahead at all points.
  5. Personal reflection is important — Related to #4 is inward-directed thinking, aka personal reflection.  This really is the hallmark of an introvert.  I mean, what does s/he do with all that alone time?  Well, many introverts spend that time evaluating themselves, their actions, and their motives.  A missional introvert can go over attempts to share and be the good new with a fine-tooth comb, painstakingly breaking down each detail.  This can be a good thing, helping the introvert make different and/or better choices in the future, so long as it is not overboard and unhealthy.
  6. Communicate best one-on-one — It’s not true that introverts hate people!  That can’t be said enough.  Introverts are simply emotionally and physically drained by too much social contact, especially if that social contact is with a large group.  Thus, missional introverts, like all introverts, communicate best one-on-one.  This is a great thing for someone seeking to share and be the good news.  It allows s/he to focus in on a single conversation and relationship, giving it ample attention and pouring into it lots of love and care.  Doing so can help someone feel loved, heard, and respected!
  7. Tend to think before speaking — Again, not all introverts are experts in thinking before speaking, but many are pretty good at it.  Why?  Well, mainly because one of the biggest fears for an introvert is to look stupid in a public setting.  And one of the most common ways to look stupid is by putting one’s foot in one’s mouth.  Thus, due to this fear and a general tendency toward being reflective, a missional introvert may do a slightly better job than others at not saying rude, offensive, and hurtful things.  This isn’t always the case, of course, but many introverts make concerted efforts to communicate well when engaged in socializing.
  8. Form a few deep attachments — Introverts don’t tend to spend their social capital in many places, instead investing in a few relationships (usually no more than three).  This is not dislike Jesus who while he was followed around be quite a few (100+), there was a smaller group he was close to (the Twelve), and an even more exclusive group he was closest to (Peter, James, and John).  Thus, the missional introvert can be a great benefit to any group of people seeking to follow Jesus in the real world together.  S/he can pour all their energies into the well-being of a few members of the group, bringing to them insight, accountability, and encouragement.
  9. Tend to listen well — Due to the fear of looking silly we talked about earlier, lots of introverts have learned the art of listening.  And the same is true for a missional introvert.  S/he would do his/her best always to listen more than s/he talked, especially as s/he engaged in sharing and being the good news.  In order to understand how best to expose someone to Jesus, we have to listen to the cues that they give us.  Introverts tend to do this well.
  10. Very observant — Lastly, introverts tend to be exceptionally observant.  This can really come in handy for the missional introvert.  S/he can see a need for the good news that others might miss.  On a prayer walk, a missional introvert might notice a detail about the neighborhood that everyone else missed.  And when engaged in strategic planning, a missional introvert can often see how all the various parts work together in ways that others miss.

So being an introvert doesn’t have to be a bad thing if someone is seeking to become more missional.  In fact, being introverted can be greatly helpful for those who are seeking to follow Jesus in the real world.  However, it must be stated clearly here at the end, this blog is not intended to say that introverts are the best at being missional or that they are inherently better than extroverts.  Not at all!  Both extroverts and introverts are needed for the mission of Jesus to move forward effectively!

 

What do you think?  Did I miss any strengths that a missional introvert might have?  If so, let me know in the comments below!

Probing Questions Jesus' Way of Helping People See

Jesus liked to ask probing questions.  This much is obvious from a quick reading of the Gospels.  But why?

I mean, if what we believe about Jesus is true (namely, that he’s the Second Person of the Trinity, fully divine and fully human), then why does he need to ask questions?  He already knows the answers!

In John 5 we see an example of Jesus’ propensity toward asking probing questions.  He asks a man who had been suffering for a very long time this question: “Do you want to get well?”

probing questions

Scott McLeod … MMM! Cookies!

Jesus’ Probing Questions

So let’s look at this story.  Here’s John 5.1-9a:

1 Some time later, Jesus went up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem near the Sheep Gate a pool, which in Aramaic is called Bethesda and which is surrounded by five covered colonnades. 3 Here a great number of disabled people used to lie—the blind, the lame, the paralyzed. [4]1 5 One who was there had been an invalid for thirty-eight years. 6 When Jesus saw him lying there and learned that he had been in this condition for a long time, he asked him, “Do you want to get well?”

7 “Sir,” the invalid replied, “I have no one to help me into the pool when the water is stirred. While I am trying to get in, someone else goes down ahead of me.”

8 Then Jesus said to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.” 9 At once the man was cured; he picked up his mat and walked.

As I’ve written about before, since Jesus was involved in organized religion, he made his way up to Jerusalem for one of the Jewish festivals.  While in Israel’s capital, Jesus encountered a man which John, the author of the Fourth Gospel, calls an “invalid.”  We don’t know what exactly was wrong with this man.  All we know is that his condition was persistent (it had afflicted him for 38 years according to verse 5) and that it made movement slow and difficult for him (we see this in verse 7).  He may have been paralyzed, lame, or extremely weak; we’re simply not sure.

But Jesus saw this man and learned that he had been in this sad state for a great length of time.  Think about this: the man that Jesus encounters here had been struck with this malady for longer than the entirety of many people’s lives in the Mediterranean world in the first century!  In other words, this man’s condition was deeply-rooted and wouldn’t be easily “fixed.”

However, this man was sitting next to a pool that supposedly had healing powers, so much so that, according to verse 3, many suffering people came to it for healing.  Why had this man not been healed?  How did he get to this pool each day?  It was likely that he would have lived elsewhere, perhaps even outside of the city walls.  So, how did a man who couldn’t muster up enough movement to get to the pool before others get himself to this location each day?

It’s in this context that Jesus asks one of his poignant, probing questions: “Do you want to get well?”

Isn’t this a cruel question?  Obviously this man wants to get well, right?  He drags himself to the pool each day after all!  But maybe Jesus had another reason for asking this question.

Here’s my theory, I think that Jesus wanted to have this man evaluate his own situation.  He wanted to hear this man’s reasoning for why he hasn’t gotten better.

And that’s exactly what Jesus got!

In verse 7 we learn two exceedingly sad facts: 1) This man was under the impression that only the first person into the pool would be healed, thus leaving him at a distinct disadvantage considering his condition; and 2) This man was alone, he didn’t have anyone to help him.

In other words, he not only suffered physically but he was defeated and alone.

And suffering, defeated, and alone people are Jesus’ specialty!  He consistently reaches out to those in his society who are hurting the most, who are most alone, and who are most downtrodden.  And when he does, he shows them love.

So how does Jesus help here?  We’re not told why Jesus did what he did, but we can assume that it was out of love and concern for this man.  He says to him, “Get up! Pick up your mat and walk.”

What happens next is mind-boggling.

At once the man is cured!  This was no gradual healing!  He can walk freely for the first time in 38 years!

Then, out of obedience to Jesus’ request, this man picks up his mat and walks.  Why are these little details important?  Picking up the mat was a sign that this man had been healed to such an extent that he could not only walk, but that he could carry his own bedding.  Jesus was giving this man an opportunity to show himself and everyone else that he had been healed completely!

How amazing!  The entire world was open to him again!

And this whole scene started with Jesus trademark probing questions!

So What?

What does all of this mean for us?  What are some things we can take away from this story as we go about following Jesus in the real world today?

  1. Jesus still asks probing questions — Most of us won’t hear the audible voice of Jesus asking us probing questions, but we can still hear him in the Scriptures, through prayer, in our experiences, within our communities, and in any other ways that he so chooses.  Our duty in those moments is to respond to Jesus’ probing questions with honesty and candor, just as we see in the Gospels.  When we do so, we open ourselves up to whatever Jesus might have for us!
  2. Let’s ask probing questions too! — Now it’s not always appropriate to ask questions all the time but doing so often comes in handy.  Asking probing questions can be disarming and they can let the person answering the question share on their own terms instead of ours.  I’ve recently been reading a book that explores this idea from a leadership perspective and I highly recommend it!  It’s called Curious: The Unexpected Power of a Question-Led Life  and it’s written by Tom Hughes, the co-lead senior pastor at Christian Assembly in Eagle Rock, CA (a city near where I live).
  3. As we are involved in organized religion, let’s keep our eyes open — Jesus went to Jerusalem to participate in a Jewish festival.  He could have kept his head down and his mouth shut, doing his religious duties as quickly and quietly as possible.  But he didn’t do that, did he?  Instead he used his trip to Jerusalem as an opportunity to put the interests of a suffering person before his own.  As followers of Jesus, this is our calling too.  As we engage in the good things associated with organized religion (Bible reading and study, prayer, small groups, gathered worship, etc.), let’s not miss the divine appointments that God sets up for us to see, hear, care for, and love those who are marginalized, voiceless, downtrodden, and forgotten.

What do you think about the fact that Jesus asks probing questions?  Why does he do this?  And what can we learn from it?  Let me know in the comments below.

Cure for Fear What's the solution to our fear problem?

Is there anything more debilitating than fear?  I don’t think there is.  And, friends, we need to find a cure for fear and fast!

Fear can stop us in our tracks physically, causing us to freeze up like a deer in the headlights.  Fear can cause us to loop into unhelpful cycles of thinking and feeling that keep us from reaching our potentials.  And fear can kill us spiritually by preventing us from fully accepting the love of God.

And perhaps most importantly, fear can prevent us from obeying the Greatest Commandment(s) (to love God and others) and the Great Commission (making disciples) by causing us to discount and judge people before we ever get to know them.

So what’s the answer?  What’s the cure for fear?

The Causes of Fear

Before we can talk about a cure for fear, we have to wrap our minds around the things that cause us fear in the first place.  What’s so scary out there?

A recent blog on Psychology Today’s website highlights the five fears that we all have.  Here they are:

  1. Extinction – This is the fear of death an it’s like a program that runs in the background of our minds.  When we get a little too close to something that could possibly cause us to die, this fear alerts us.  Most of us have a pretty reasonable threshold.  While it’s true that there’s a chance (however small) that germs on a door handle could kill us, most of us don’t run away from door handles kicking and screaming!  Others of us have a much lower threshold for this kind of fear.  We fear almost everything that could potentially harm us, including people (and especially people different than us whom we have a hard time understanding and identifying with).
  2. Mutilation – This is the fear of serious but not deadly bodily harm.  Here’s a great example: when my wife was young, her brother broke his arm while riding his bike.  Since this caused her great fear, she put off learning to ride a bike until she was in her 30s!  This fear of mutilation can immobilize us altogether because there’s always something or someone that could harm us, especially when we are surrounded by places, things, and people that are new and different.
  3. Loss of Autonomy – This fear rests on the natural human desire to be in control.  And the loss of autonomy here could be physical (such as becoming paralyzed) or non-physical (such as being demoted from a position with freedoms at work to one without them).  This fear can cause us to be defensive and very selective about what we do and who we surround ourselves with.  We begin to view everything and everyone as a threat to our freedoms, and more so if we are unfamiliar with them.
  4. Separation – This is the fear that we’ll lose contact with the people and things (but especially people) that we love.  We’re scared that they’ll die and we’ll be left alone.  We’re afraid that they’ll find out our deepest, darkest secrets and hate us for them.  We’re afraid that they’ll find people who are better than us and leave us for them.  This can cause us to try too hard to keep the people and things we love, turning us into Scrooges.  Or, rather sadly, this fear can cause us to prematurely push everyone and everything away so that we are the ones who control the separation and it doesn’t come as a surprise.  And, this fear can cause us to shelter people whom we love from others because we don’t want them to get hurt (which can be especially true with regard to our children and spouses).
  5. Ego-death – Lastly is the fear of shame and humiliation.  This is the fear that who we are on the inside, in the most secret place, will be snuffed out through the bullying of others, our own self doubts and depression, or the guilt and pain that we carry into our present from the past.  We’re scared that we’ll lose who we are, our identity.  Maybe we’ll get subsumed into someone else.  Maybe will get squashed.  Maybe we’ll be found out.  Pick your poison, the result is the same — this fear can cause us to become shells of who we’re meant to be!

And these fears trip us up in any number of ways.  I’ve written about a few of those ways before, so I won’t do so here.  But suffice it to say that fear can really put a hamper on our ability to live well, to be meaningful people to others, and to follow Jesus well in the real world.  We need a cure for fear!

cure for fear

by: Saul Loeb / AFP/Getty Images; accessed at LATimes.com

A Cure for Fear

At his last National Prayer Breakfast, on February 4, 2016, President Barack Obama talked about how damaging fear can be and said this:

Fear does funny things. Fear can lead us to lash out against those who are different. Or lead us to try to get some sinister other under control. Faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear.  [SOURCE]

President Obama, like him or leave him, made a great point here.  Fear can cause us to do things we wouldn’t do otherwise.  Think about the types of fears we listed above.  Each one of them can lead us to hurt ourselves or others.  Each one of them cause us to distance ourselves from the “sinister other,” to quote the President.

The President’s words are self-evident.  All we have to do is look into our own lives and analyze, even briefly, some of the choices we’ve made.  Many times those choices have been heavily influenced by fear and as a result we and others were likely hurt.

And this need for a cure for fear is evident in our public discourse as well.  Think back to a little while ago when the Syrian refugee crisis first hit the news.  A little boy drowned as his family tried to escape their war-torn country and all of our hearts were ripped in two.

Then a little while after that fear took over.

Paris was attacked by a terror group and then San Bernadino, CA a short time after that.  The fear that these two terror attacks created made us lose our minds in the United States!  Our broken hearts over the little Syrian boy who drowned became dark with fear-induced hate, causing us to say all sorts of crazy and untrue things about the Syrian refugees.  I mean, just look at some of the comments on this post of mine on Facebook and judge for yourself!  The fearful hate is palpable.

Fear causes us all kinds of problems, including saying and doing hateful things to the very people God may be calling us to be and share the good news with!

We need a cure for fear!

I like how the President ended his quote above: “Faith is the great cure for fear. Jesus is a good cure for fear.”  While I agree in principle with him, I will quibble just a bit.  Here’s how I would say it:

Jesus and the ways of Jesus are the best cure for ear. While faith, generally speaking, is a good cure for fear.

What we need now, especially those of us who follow Jesus, is to emulate Jesus and his ways.  If we want a cure for fear, we have it!  It’s called love.  And not the love that we think we should share and to whom we think we should share it.  No!

It’s the love that Jesus had, a love that extended to the most vulnerable and to the privileged.  It’ the love that, as Paul puts it in Philippians 2, always puts the interest of the other before our own.

The cure for fear is Jesus and his ways.  And Jesus and his ways are best encapsulated by one word: LOVE.  1 John 4.18 says this:

There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

Love and fear are like oil and water, they just don’t mix well.

But let’s be honest for a second — we all still have fear and our fears cause us harm and move us to harm others.  This is a continual problem for us all.  Fear is something that will be with us until we shuffle off this mortal coil.

So what do we do?

Well, since we’ll always need the cure for fear, namely love as expressed by Jesus, then we’ll always need to reapply this cure for fear by constantly re-exposing ourselves to Jesus and his gospel.  I talk some more about this need for persistent exposure to the gospel in this the New Wine Podcast #016; give it a listen!

 

What do you think?  How big of a deal is fear?  And what’s the cure for fear?  Let me know in the comments below!

 

 

#Gospel: New Wine Podcast #016

What is the gospel, the good news, and why does it matter?

I answer this question in my latest podcast.  You can listen to it on the bottom of this post, on iTunes, or on Stitcher.

If you like it, would you please rate it and even leave a review on iTunes or Stitcher?  That would be super cool!

Also, if you’d like to help support the creative process that helps bring this podcast to life, then please check out my Patreon page (http://patreon.com/JMatthewBarnes).  There are some fun rewards there for folks who pledge support although any level support will be greatly appreciated!

Thanks!