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!

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!