Every Church Needs an Adam (McHugh)

mitchell-hollander-281999

This is my foreword to the second edition of Adam McHugh’s Introverts in the Church.

I recommend this book for every pastor, especially for the extroverted types. No, every extroverted pastor must read this. Deacons or elders or the vestry need to read this too. 

The biggest and “successful” churches are designed by and appeal to extroverts. The smallest and least “successful” churches are designed by and appeal to introverts. I have no statistics for my claim but I’m a theologian, not a statistician. If I got your attention my exaggeration was worth it. My hunch, then, is that this is a worthy approximation of a singular truth made abundantly clear in Adam McHugh’s important and church-rattling book Introverts in the Church. The first edition was exceptional, the second edition even better – at least by half, perhaps more than that.

Who, for instance, designed the “Pass the Peace” moment in the church tradition? Surely not an introvert. Who suggested that we need to stand up, raise our hands and our voices, when we sing? Most importantly, who decided we need to do this in front of total strangers? Who on God’s green earth could have thought up the idea that we could stop a Sunday morning service, gather in three or four, and pray with one another? No one knows the exact moment when any of these were actually created but this is what we know: those in charge. Those in charge of church services are pastors but the path-creating among them tend to be extroverts. I know about this stuff because while I’m not a pastor I’m an extrovert. I know, too, because my wife, Kris, is an introvert. Over four decades of marriage, all of which have involved us in churches, she has at times opened up for me what was going on in a church. Psychologists, as I often say, see things but they don’t often say things.

The worst part of our church life has been going to a new church. Churches are cultures established over time and often the culture was shaped by those who are more extroverted than introverted. Here’s our story. We are at home and love our church, Church of the Redeemer, an Anglican Church. We began attending about four years ago. Sometime during the service our pastor/priest, Jay Greener, encourages us to participate in the “fellowship time” but it was Kris who divulged to me how difficult this can be for some of us. Like Adam, Kris isn’t interested in talking about the weather and – introverts just have little time for superficial conversation. Conversations sap their energies. Getting beyond superficial conversation is the trick for the introvert because they need to test the waters with some people to discover those with whom they really want to converse. After our services, because I’m a professor and an author and an extrovert, people ask me questions, and sometimes we talk about sports (the Cubs especially) and argue about some point in theology and I get in the car after a swirl of conversations. Kris begins to tell me about the one or two and sometimes three people she talked with, and over time Kris has a pastoral grasp of Church of the Redeemer that I envy.

What Adam McHugh’s Introverts in the Church did for me the first time was unmask the extroversion-shaped churches that we have and open up possibilities for how an introversion-sensitive church might conduct its business. Church of the Redeemer has attracted a fair number of introverts, and the result is that we know one another pretty well but we are not a bunch of loud and noisy worshipers. My pre-school granddaughter, Finley, for a season would get in the aisles and dance to the music, and everyone loved it – comfortably staying in their seats. The reason our church is sensitive to introverts is because our leaders have absorbed the insights of Adam’s Introverts in the Church and become one of those places of grace for introverts and extroverts. My friend and colleague, David Fitch, recently said that the best preachers are introverts who are on fire in the pulpit. That would not be me, but we’ve got such preachers and teachers in our church and they have made Church of the Redeemer doubly better, perhaps more. But I’m not a statistician.

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