September 23, 2014
Introverts in the Church
And I struggled with the decision on whether or not I should write about it.
Back in July I included this book on my '5 books on my future reading list' post and it got a great response.
There's a lot of us introverts out there. : )
So I've decided to share a few of my thoughts and concerns.
By the title of this book, I was lead to believe it would be mostly about introverts in the church. When in actuality it was more about being an introverted pastor or leader in the church. Since I'm neither, these parts didn't speak to me. (which was 2/3 of the book) Though he did make some great points for those who are.
What also disappointed me in these latter chapters, was the overall feeling that introverts need to be dealt with by pastors and leaders in the church. (Ex. have spiritual classes just for them) This is exactly what we don't want...to be singled out. As an introvert this made me sad. This is the one thing about being an introvert, that has been the most painful in my life...
Having others put words in my mouth before I could gather my thoughts and share them, and therefore being judged by their misunderstandings.
Introverts just want to be treated as fellow human beings with a brain that works differently than extroverts, and respected that our lives are lived in a quieter way. We don't need to be dealt with or have 'special' classes.
The book 'Quiet' by Susan Cain, was much more sensitive to this and I recommend it over this particular book in understanding the mind of an introvert. You can read my thoughts on it HERE
Also, I recently read this blog post by Holly Gerth, which was spot on and very encouraging. Here's the link: 7 ways you can love an introvert
There were also several things that made me uncomfortable reading this book. I felt the author stereo-typed introverts into a certain type of spirituality.
One of these was contemplative spirituality or apophatic spirituality, also referred to as via negativa (the negative way). A practice of emptying your mind through speaking repetitive words.
The author says it's:
"...to seek to move beyond our senses."
And here he quotes Otto Kroeger and Roy Oswald:
"In this prayer form, we move in silence to quiet the mind and focus on a sacred word or phrase. Apophatic prayer tries to rid the mind of all images and forms so as to be open to encounter directly the Mysterious One. It is the desire of the mediator to listen to God, rather than talk to God."
*Before I continue, I want to make it clear this type of practice described above, by this author, is very different then the Biblical practice of meditating on the Lord and his Word.
'My eyes are awake through the night watches,
That I may meditate on Your word.' Psalm 119:148
Does this verse not suggest that we be conscious while meditating on His Word?
Many things disturb me about this kind of contemplative prayer practice. Firstly, I believe that if God wants us to hear Him speak, we will hear Him speak. Whether we are in a place of darkness and far from God, like Saul of Taurus was, or whether we are in close communion with Him, like Daniel was.
God is in control of who will hear Him, not us.
We can not manipulate God into speaking to us through any kind of practice.
As a Christian I believe in being still before God, being quiet, but this is not the same thing. In the stillness and quiet time with the Lord we sit in His presences and rest. We meditate on Him and His Word.
Shouldn't we rather rest in Him and wait for His time and place to speak? And doesn't He have our best interest at heart to speak to us in His perfect time? And does He not speak already to us through His living Word?
I love that when I'm troubled, I can rest in Him. When I am stressed, I can rest in Him, When I am overwhelmed, I can rest in Him.
'Rest in the LORD, and wait patiently for Him' Psalm 37:7
I recently read a book called 'Jesus > Religion' by Jefferson Bethke, (I'll be sharing about it soon), and this quote encouraged me so much while writing up this post.
"Religion is man searching for God, Jesus is God searching for man."
You don't' have to empty your mind to find God, He has already come! He has already spoken! And He wants a relationship with you. Just rest and wait on Him.
'Wait on the LORD;
Be of good courage,
And He shall strengthen your heart;
Wait, I say, on the LORD!' Psalm 27:14
(If you need encouragement and understanding in resting in God, I highly recommend 'The True Vine' by Andrew Murray, which is a deeper study into John chapter 15)
What troubles me the most about this kind of prayer is that you do not need Christ as mediator. You can be a Buddhist, a Hindu or a New Ager. No belief in Christ is required to practice it.
But the Bible teaches otherwise:
"...there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time." 1 Timothy 2:5
We need a mediator, and it's not us, it's Jesus.
I thought I'd leave you with a passage from John Piper's book 'Finally Alive.'
He's first talking about how we are saved through hearing the word and then continues about how mantra's (A practice of emptying your mind through speaking repetitive words) don't work.
"...'hearing with faith' is what happens when we are 'born again through the living and abiding word of God.' The gospel - the news about Jesus Christ - is preached, we hear it, and through it we are born again. Faith is brought into being. 'Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth' (James 1:18).
This truth, this living and abiding word, this gospel, is not a mantra.
And it doesn't work like a mantra. It doesn't work through the repetition of sacred sounds. It works because it is the intelligible truth about what really happened when Jesus died and rose again, and because God means for his Son to be glorified by our knowing and believing who his Son really is and what he really did to save sinners.
What we learn from 1 Peter 1:23 is that the whole worldview supporting the mantra is misguided and mistaken.
"having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever,
“All flesh is as grass,
And all the glory of man as the flower of the grass.
The grass withers,
And its flower falls away,
But the word of the LORD endures forever.”
Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you." 1 Peter 1:23
It (the mantra) isn't rooted in history.
It isn't rooted in Jesus Christ.
It isn't rooted in the intelligibility of historical narrative.
It isn't rooted in the responsibility of the human mind to construe meaning from the preaching of Christ.
It isn't rooted in the duty of the soul to see and believe the gospel of Christ crucified and risen."
I want to be rooted in Jesus Christ. How about you? : )