Do We Have an Extrovert Ideal? (RJS)

Do We Have an Extrovert Ideal? (RJS) May 24, 2012

Tuesday morning Scot linked an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education Screening Out Introverts by William Pannapacker. The article is a comment on a new book by Susan Cain Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking. From the publisher’s description:

Taking the reader on a journey from Dale Carnegie’s birthplace to Harvard Business School, from a Tony Robbins seminar to an evangelical megachurch, Susan Cain charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal in the twentieth century and explores its far-reaching effects. … She questions the dominant values of American business culture, where forced collaboration can stand in the way of innovation, and where the leadership potential of introverts is often overlooked.

The megachurch Cain refers to in her book is Saddleback, founded and led by Rick Warren. Ch. 2 The Myth of Charismatic Leadership begins with a discussion of Tony Robbins followed by a section on The Harvard Business School and the pros and cons of quick, assertive, charismatic leadership vs quiet methodical decision making. In the last section of the chapter Cain recounts a visit to Saddleback accompanied by Adam McHugh author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture.

Since services are just about to start, there is little time to chat. … We head to the main Worship Center where Pastor Warren is about to preach.

… I can’t help but think of Tony Robbins’s “Unleash the Power Within” seminar. Did Tony base his program on megachurches like Saddleback, I wonder, or is it the other way around?

“Good morning, everybody!” beams Skip, who then urges us to greet those seated near us.(p. 67-68)

The megachurch culture, worship form, and values sets up an extroverted atmosphere. Leaders must be extroverts, there is little place for contemplation, conversation (not small talk – real conversation), and deep thinking. Everything is smiles and pleasantries and generalities with a vague avoidance of anything that may get too familiar. It is something like a cross between a trip to Disney World and your local shopping mall.

Is extroversion a virtue or merely a personality trait?

Should extroversion be a trait we value in church leadership?

Susan Cain goes on and relates more of her visit to Saddleback:

Like Tony Robbins, Pastor Warren seems truly well-meaning: he’s created this vast Saddleback ecosystem out of nothing, and he’s done good works around the world. But at the same time I can see how hard it must be, inside this world of Luau worship and Jumbotron prayer, for Saddleback’s introverts to feel good about themselves. As the service wears on, I feel the same sense of alienation that McHugh has described. Events like this don’t give me the sense of oneness others seem to enjoy.  … (p. 68)

Cain describes how McHugh expresses admiration for Saddleback, the many of good things they have done – including reaching out and bringing people into the church. But continues on quoting him:

“It sets up an extroverted atmosphere that can be difficult for introverts like me,” he explains. “Sometimes I feel like I’m going through the motions. The outward enthusiasm and passion that seems to be part and parcel of Saddleback’s culture doesn’t feel natural. Not that introverts can’t be eager and enthusiastic, but were not as overtly expressive as extroverts.” (p. 69)

The extroverted atmosphere isn’t limited to hand-shaking and coffee shops, but permeates the very structure of the service itself – “there was no emphasis on quiet, liturgy, ritual, things that give you space for contemplation.” There is also no emphasis on connection, belonging, family, or community within the worship service.  The “myth of charismatic leadership” (Cain’s term) and the success (as measured by attendance) of this culture within the evangelicalism has given rise to a tidal wave of change within the evangelical church. Surely God must be behind the success mustn’t he be? Cain is pretty blunt:

Saddleback also has one more thing in common with Harvard Business School: its debt to – and propagation of – the Culture of Personality. (p. 64)

Cain uses Saddleback as an example of a larger trend as she discusses the influence of the Extrovert Ideal in  American society in general. Saddleback is not unique within evangelicalism. She could have chosen any of a number of other churches of a range of sizes. This not the place to bash Warren or Saddleback. God has worked through Warren and Saddleback and the other megachurches that have arisen in the last 30 years or so (Willow Creek, North Point, The Village Church and many more). The gospel is preached and taught in these churches as it is preached and taught in smaller churches and other forms of church.

But it does lead to some questions. The fingers of the Extrovert Ideal and the Culture of Personality permeate our society deeply … and these are seen in many places in many ways. Pannapacker, in his article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, concludes:

Should academe be concerned that it loses many of its introverted graduate students? Do they not have something to contribute? Does selecting for extroverts favor a cult of charismatic leadership: a star system? Is Cain correct in her view that a profession that sorts out introverts selects for unwarranted enthusiasms for, say, the latest theories, technologies, and institutional practices without considering the consequences? Does it foster a winner-take-all system in which compassion and sensitivity have no place?

The same questions can be asked about the church. The evangelical church has changed dramatically, or so it seems to me, over the last 30 years. The values for leadership have changed, the meaning of the local church has changed, and the form of worship has changed. The Extrovert Ideal is a good descriptor for many of these changes – even true when the leader does not identify as an extrovert.

Does selecting for extroverts favor a cult of charismatic leadership: a star system?

Should we be concerned that we lose thoughtful introverted leadership?

Is there pressure on pastors to live up to the Extrovert Ideal?

If you wish to contact me directly you may do so at rjs4mail[at]

If interested you can subscribe to a full text feed of my posts at Musings on Science and Theology.

Note that the extroverted atmosphere isn’t limited to hand-shaking and coffee shops, but permeates the very structure of the service itself – “there was no room
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  • phil_style

    RJS, just to clarify (and not to be a pedant) are we talking about extroversion here? Or are we talking about gregariousness and/or sociability?

  • Rick

    It is interesting that some of these same church leaders are introverts. Andy Stanley comes to mind.

  • RJS

    phil_style – no not just gregariousness and sociability, it goes beyond this. There is a structure and outlook that shapes the form of the church or business or what have you.

  • RJS


    That may be – and introvert/extrovert is a bit too simplistic a dichotomy. The structure of NorthPoint, though, looks like this Extrovert Ideal.

  • RJS

    And, of course, it is always appropriate to argue that Cain is wrong in her analysis – that would be an interesting discussion.

  • Paul

    It is probably unfair to chategorize Saddleback (or any megachurch) solely on the experience of the Sunday worship service. My guess is their “liturgy” for the service was created because they are a megachurch and it fits what they are trying to do (greeting is needed to get to know people around you and try to not make everything simply a “show” for example). I know that Saddleback does encourage spiritual disciplines and more contemplative actions for believers in their own lives (especially for members), not to mention small house church groups, etc.

    Also, we should be careful to assume that all leaders upfront are extroverts (the original article by Scot mentioned a teacher who was introverted but still taught in front of people). We should also be careful to assume that there are no introverted leaders leading “behind the scenes.”

  • Rick


    “and introvert/extrovert is a bit too simplistic a dichotomy.”

    I totally agree. At the very least, there is a scale of introversion/extroversion. But we need to keep in mind that a person can be great on stage, or in person, but for an introvert that will mean some alone time to recharge.

    I also think there is a difference between an extroversion culture, and a cult of personality. The “Leadership” industry seems to be geared towards a personality type.

    Finally, I imagine that introverts can be drawn in by personality as well. A question may be whether they are drawn in by the same type of personalities as extroverts.

  • Dana

    Well, my church lost my efforts at the “leader” level. I’m definitely an introvert with an interest in spiritual formation/discipleship/teaching. Every church meeting I attended for laypeople like me was just another customer service training. “Smile, chat, think of how the room looks, make sure they (attenders) get the announcements, invite more people, invite their friends, open up your home, etc.” Blarg. I know these things have to get done and I am willing to do my part, but if that is all I’m going to hear at a meeting, I will not continue to participate and they will have to find someone else that wants to work the customer service department.

    On the other hand, I am now involved in an ecumenical parachurch organization. We’re about half Catholic, a quarter mainline and a quarter something else. I’m the only evangelical. I’m amazed that when we show up for a meeting we all just take our seats and smile at one another with barely any chatting. Once the conversation starts, however, no one is shy about expressing their thoughts. What a relief to have almost all conversation and hardly any small talk.

    Yes – most (maybe not all) evangelical churches have an extroverted ideal. Of course they do.

  • Matt Miles

    I’m spitballing here, but as an introvert who gets frequently frustrated with trying to have a conversation in the digital age I wonder if the problem is a fusion of extroversion and the affects of social media on our attention spans. Extroverts tend to process out loud, and technology has been proven to make us more impatient. Could the two factors combine to make all of us (not just extroverts) more inclined to push out half-thoughts before we lose everyone’s attention? It surprises me how I’ll share an article on facebook and get perceptions of it that don’t match what the author said. Impatience seems to be a factor.

  • Gary Lyn

    Personally, it sounds like these two authors are discussing a gregariousness and socialibility that does not go beyond the surface level.
    “there was no emphasis on quiet, liturgy, ritual, things that give you space for contemplation.” I don’t believe this lack of emphasis has anything to do with extraversion or introversion. Every person who has a contemplative practice, enjoys quiet, liturgy, and ritual is not an introvert. In my work as a spiritual director, both extraverts and introverts seek the contemplative path; they may look a little different, but not that much. I think the authors have identified and are wrestling with an important issue, but it has nothing to do with introversiona/extraversion; in fact, it seems to be using a distorted understanding of those concepts.

  • phil_style

    @ RJS, thanks.

    I would pick up on what Rick says at comment #7. Introverts can be just as outgoing/ gregarious as extroverts. I’m just trying to understand what definition of “extrovert” the author is using.

    Extroversion/ introversion is about what one does when one need to “recover”/ de-stress.
    For extroverts this time is more favorably spent in the group environment. For introverts this time is more favorably spent in solace.
    The ability to be outgoing/ gregarious/ sociable has little to do with extroversion/ introversion. But it seems the author here is using the “pop” definition of extroversion – which is otherwise known as “outgoing”….

  • phil_style

    @ Gary, #10.
    I agree. It seems to me the author has misunderstood the term “extrovert”.

  • Kristin

    It is a farce to suggest that small groups are the introvert solution to big, showy Sunday mornings. Small groups are usually worse-that’s where the extroverted bent of group dynamics flourish and it’s just one big competition of who can control the conversation. Cain talks extensively about group dynamics in other parts of her book and how the group naturally follows the most dynamic speaker, regardless if they have good ideas or noy. I imagine anyone with any experience in evangelical small groups can relate to the scenario of the extrovert group member who talks without thinking and leads the group down stray theological paths. This is equally a symptom of extrovert ideal and I fear it has penetrated the church much deeper than we’d like to think.

  • Rebekah

    When I first started attending my (mega)church, I was surprised to discover how many introverted people I ran into there. Anytime a people group falls in the minority, there can be challenges to overcome and stereotypes to refute. As an introverted, 31-year old, single working woman who likes to teach the Bible and is a thinker far more than a feeler, I’m defying some of the generic expectations out there. It’s good for me to still feel free to be myself and it’s good for the people around me! Personally, I have found that wrestling with ‘being different’ has increased my care, compassion, and appreciation for others who might also be thinking ‘I don’t fit in.’

  • phil_style

    “there is little place for contemplation, conversation (not small talk – real conversation), and deep thinking. Everything is smiles and pleasantries and generalities with a vague avoidance of anything that may get too familiar. It is something like a cross between a trip to Disney World and your local shopping mall”

    This is not a description of extroversion. This is a description of shallow social interaction. Which is not necessarily bad, it has its place.

    I’m happy to adopt a new term “Extrovert Ideal” to describe this environment, but I think the term is too easily confused with “extroversion”, which applies more at the individual level and has specific descriptors which do not align well with the above. Should we not utilise another term? the “high social metabolism”or something similar?

  • Kim

    Cain’s book was one of my spring break beach reads this March. As a mild introvert, her words resonated within me and led to several aha moments. In particular, Cain’s observation of a cultural shift from an emphasis on character to personality.
    In my seminary classes I often catch myself thinking the well-spoken extrovert will make a great pastor and wondering how the person usually seen alone will enjoy being in ministry. The cultural shift has had an impact on me!
    My takeaway from the I/E discussion is the recognition that God has created us with differences, not liabilities, and one challenge of being in community and leadership is learning how to involve, challenge and equip all personality tendencies.
    I/E is a topic which I hope has greatet impact than a Twitter trend. I hope it leads to greater empathy and understanding within the body, and to less adoration of the extrovert personality.

  • RJS


    I don’t think the author has misunderstood the term extrovert. There are things one can criticize about her analysis – but this isn’t one of them. She identifies herself as an introvert, but sells her book – even has a TED talk ( ) out there with her ideas.

    I am also classified as introvert – INTP on the Myers-Briggs instrument if anyone cares – but have no problem teaching classes of 400+ or 20; giving lectures and leading discussions. Meet and greet at the beginning of a service has never bothered me … but there is an overall structure to church which has emerged that leads me to wondering. Perhaps it has little to do with what Cain identifies as the Extrovert Ideal, but I am not sure – I think she is on to something.

  • phil_style

    Thanks RJS… from the brief interaction with the material (here) I’m not sure I’m able to get the full diversity of Cain’s approach. Perhaps I need to get the book and read the definitions section first 😉

  • Adam

    As I mentioned in the post on Tuesday, I think we’re taking a problem and laying the blame at extroversion’s feet. The real problem is a fear of vulnerability and it exits across the whole spectrum of introversion/extroversion.

    This article is written in a way that says “I’m an introvert and can’t connect with people” while implying that the extroverts are connecting with people. I say that implication is wrong. Neither introverts or extroverts are connecting. I think it is also wrong to imply that extroversion = big showy experience. I have found the big showy experience to be preferred by many introverts because it masks the need to engage with other people.

  • RJS


    “I am an introvert and can’t connect with people” is, I think, a misread of the entire point. This isn’t about the ability to connect with people, or about vulnerability. These may be real problems in our church (and often are) – individualism and anonymity – and the desire for these exist, as you note, across the entire spectrum of introversion/extroversion. There is something more here, both in structure and style.

  • Kristin

    I think one point Cain is trying make here is correlation between the megachurch service and the culture of the “mighty likable fellow.” In the megachurch service, all the attention is drawn to a single person on stage, and that person is friendly and gregarious (or at least gives the persona.) Think superstar pastor and trendy worship leader. Instead of the church being the body of believers where everyone has equal value, and people being admired for their longstanding character, we now tend to view whoever is on stage as “more holy.” Stage persona is always gregarious so at some point we start to equate gregariousness as holiness. This is overgeneralized but hopefully you get the train of thought.

  • Kristin

    Would anyone disagree that more and more believers in general value the delivery style of the message as equally important if not moreso than the content of the message itself?

    The culture follows whoever sells their message the best, not who has the best message. Personality is what sells, and a certain type of personality at that.

    A few years ago a church I was attending let go of a pastor because people complained about him. I thought he gave the most thoughtful messages, but he was not dynamic like the other young guy who told jokes half of his sermon. Shame.

  • Jayflm

    While there is plenty of ammunition for the introvert/extrovert discussion in the megachurch movement, what Rick Warren has developed at Saddleback is based on his observations and convictions about drawing people from what he calls the “crowd” and toward the “committed”. His Purpose Driven Church material lays this out in greater detail, but the gist of it is that we can think of people’s relationship to the body of Christ with 5 concentric circles, starting with the world at large, then the crowd that can be drawn to a large event, and on inward to those who connect deeply with community and move into committed service. He clearly states in the Purpose Driven Church seminar and book that what Saddleback does on a Saturday night or Sunday morning is aimed at the crowd, who have no vested interest in being connected to anyone else gathered at the event. When I attended the seminar over 15 years ago I understood him to be saying that a major reason for doing things the way he did them was to give people who wanted to remain anonymous freedom to remain so, and let the Holy Spirit draw them to faith. In that sense, I’ve considered what he is doing ‘introvert-friendly’, even if those who lead the service are extroverted.

  • phil_style

    @ Kristin, ” more and more believers in general value the delivery style of the message as equally important if not moreso than the content of the message itself”

    I would tend to agree. Sunday needs to be “dynamic” so that people will bring their friends and “experience” the church that is “relevant” and “exciting”. The church growth model relies on this entertainment arena concept.
    Of course, those who are embedded in that culture would say that the message is not changed, just the delivery, so there is no harm. And that making church fun/ exciting/ entertaining is a good thing, a departure from the stereotype of boring church.

    But some things in our tradition are not entertaining, fun or exciting. They are slow, meticulous, tedious, restful, contemplative, disciplined, self effacing even. I fear these things are lost – no matter how much justification the entertainers come up with.

  • Rick

    Kristin #22-

    “Would anyone disagree that more and more believers in general value the delivery style of the message as equally important if not moreso than the content of the message itself? ”

    That is nothing new though, since we see Paul having to deal with that as well (ex. 1 Corinthians).

    What does seem to be new is the emphasis on personality.

  • Tim Marsh

    As an introvert, I agree that the church culture is geared toward an atmosphere, worship and programming to reach extroverts. However, I think that this is a reaction to the fact that church culture had been dominated by introverts. Liturgical worship anyone? That is an introverts paradise and an extrovert’s nightmare.

    How can we be all things to all people at the same time?

  • phil_style

    @Tim, I don;t see how liturgical worship is an introverts paradise. It might suit them when they need to recharge and seek solace but how does it suit the introvert who wants to go out and sing loudly, and express their own individual creativity in the group environment?

  • Tim Marsh

    Phil, I am not sure what you mean. You described an introvert as one who wants to sing loudly and express individual creativity in a group environment. That sounds more like an extrovert.

    Liturgical worship is designed to be contemplative. Reflection on precisely crafted words, prayers, hymns, and sermons, with little or no emotion seems to fit an introvert perfectly – especially me!

    That was not meant to be a knock against introverts (since I am one), nor a knock against liturgical worship. It was merely an observation.

  • Elizabeth

    Just a little aside: Remember that many introverts are perfectly happy to get up in front of a large group of people and talk. Sometimes the best speakers/lecturers/preachers are introverts. What they may not find as easy is long sessions of interacting with a bunch of people. Public speaking (one-way) in front of a large group has very little to do with extroversion or introversion.

    I’m aware this isn’t the main point of the article but thought I’d throw it out there.

  • Rick

    Tim #28-

    Introverts can sing loud and work in a group. The difference is that an extrovert is recharged in those situations, where an introvert is recharged during time alone.

    What setting energizes you? What setting drains you? Those are the defining questions, not which ones can one participate in.

  • phil_style

    @Tim, “You described an introvert as one who wants to sing loudly and express individual creativity in a group environment. That sounds more like an extrovert”

    An extrovert is a person who recharges in the group environment, where an introvert recharges in solace.

    Both types are equally capable of social interaction, emotion, creativity, expression. It’s just that extroverts use the group environment to gain energy, whilst introverts use solitude to regain energy.

    This has been my question about the definition of these terms throughout the discussion. I’m still not sure we’re all talking about the same thing!

  • phil_style

    Here’s another way of thinking about it;

    I use my alone time in order to recharge my batteries, so that I can go out an meet people, and be sociable and contribute in group environments for an extended period of time. I am introvert.

    My brother goes out to meet his friends in order to recharge his batteries, so that he can then focus and concentrate for longer when he has to work alone. He is extrovert.

  • RJS

    Rick Warren planted and built Saddleback – they do some great things.
    The same for Bill Hybels and Andy Stanley and their respective churches. I have no real complaints with any of these churches. Anyone who comes to these churches does so because they appreciate them.

    I am less comfortable with the way this “Extrovert Ideal” – or what ever it really is (perhaps Cain is wrong in some of her analysis) – plays out in the rest of the church. Success is measured in this flavor and there is a great deal of pressure (or so it seems to me) for pastors over a broad range to immitate both the form and success of these churches and therefore to change and restructure their existing institutions in the same mold.

    Is this a problem? Is it merely the wave of the future?

  • Kristin

    @phil –

    I know those people mean well, trying to be relevant and all, but I think this is an unfair burden to place on pastors, and as #25 rightly pointed out the same as what Paul dealt with. The power of the gospel comes from the Holy Spirit, not charismatic preaching. We supposedly rely on our pastors and teachers to spend hours studying and preparing to preach the Word of God, but then don’t give them the time of day unless they also keep us entertained. This is where reflective, introverted types get pushed to the side to the church’s loss. Yes, many introverts have found ways to preach effectively, but it often takes energy away from something else. All in all, why should they have to put so much effort into being charismatic in the first place?

    On the flip side, I’ve often come out of services disillusioned how the pastor talked very enthusiastically for 45 minutes and basically said nothing. What’s the point of being a great public speaker if you don’t actually preach anything? Weird.

  • Rick


    “Anyone who comes to these churches does so because they appreciate them….”

    But are they to be appreciated? Are they being appreciated for the right reasons?

    As Ed Stetzer recently wrote:

    “In recent years, churches in the West have gone through various transformations in their focus and goals. Much has been said both positively and negatively about the Church Growth Movement, and I will publish some further thoughts on that in the coming weeks. While I do not totally jump on either bandwagon (love or hate), I think two important aspects to keep in mind are the goals of gospel fidelity and propagation. More importantly: Growth cannot be the final goal. While in many cases growth can be the byproduct of health and right focus, it is not always the best litmus test. I can think of very prominent, self-identified churches with tens of thousands of people coming each week who preach a loose gospel message of happiness, meeting personal needs, and positive-thinking. Some of those are growing quickly, yet I don’t think their growth is exclusively a sign of the favor of God.”

    The “happiness” and “positive thinking” aspect is interesting, and perhaps it is seen in extrovert leaning personalities. They are recharged in groups, so more people see this energy.

  • phil_style

    @ RJS “there is a great deal of pressure (or so it seems to me) for pastors over a broad range to immitate both the form and success of these churches”

    My experiences concur with your thoughts. This, contributed in the end, to driving me away from the evangelical church. I was in a worship team that was constantly fed growth strategy, relevance, marketing…it was intense. But it produced numbers. These numbers were read out each week at leadership conferences. When leaders went to conferences they compared numbers with each other. We all wanted to be part of the biggest/ fastest growing church. Growth was validation. Validation of our methods, validation of our belief, and perhaps fundamentally, validation of our faith. We could point to a “real” god if only we could point to church growth.

  • Kristin

    Rick #35 “But are they to be appreciated? Are they being appreciated for the right reasons?”

    This is the right question to ask. The whole premise of Cain’s book is that culturally we value leadership styles and a personality type that pits extroversion over introversion. So eventually we begin to subconsciously appreciate certain leaders because they are dynamic, not because they actually lead well or in the right direction. The same could be said for churches and preachers, etc.

    In today’s world, if you can’t egregiously engage your audience and communicate it effectively, then your ideas aren’t worth listening to. We might have to just deal with that in the corporate world, but that has NO place in the body of Christ.

  • Tim Marsh


    “Introverts can sing loud and work in a group. The difference is that an extrovert is recharged in those situations, where an introvert is recharged during time alone.

    What setting energizes you? What setting drains you? Those are the defining questions, not which ones can one participate in.”

    Point taken, yet I would also say that what drains and what energizes in some way affects regular participation in activities and the mood of the environment. Too, Introverts and Extroverts are not necessarily polar opposites, but part of a spectrum. (There is another personality profile that scores its results on a continuum, rather than declaring one to be either an introvert or extrovert). I think, too, the question should be for you, how much of an introvert are you? For example, I don’t spend time alone so that I can go to parties and have a good time “connecting”. I avoid parties all together – unless they are requirements for my job or family life.

    Which brings me back to the mega-church atmosphere. Is the atmosphere and activity of the mega-church specifically designed so that it attracts those who are energized by such an environment? I believe that this is the question that the author is getting at.

    Yes, Introverts can enjoy a crowd, if the reason for the gathering has something to do with an introvert’s passion. And, it may also be due to one’s placement on an introvert/extrovert spectrum.

    Great discussion and great article!

  • Paul

    I can say that as a teacher in a Christian school, loud and obnxious students are regularly called potential leaders (just currently misguided). Introverts are rarely refered to as potential leaders (and instead are given other titles like servants). This may be a symptom of what Cain is discussing above.

  • DRT

    I also believe there is an interaction here with Jonathan’s Haidt’s foundations of morality and conservatism in the church. A conservative group of folks are going to place a high value on being part of the group, and being part of the group is going to look like extraverts in many/most cases. So, the introvert is automatically an outcast and part of the out group because that person is not like the group that is visible.

  • phil_style

    @ Paul, #39.

    To my mind, gregarious people make better situation leaders. More inward focused people (analytics, if you like) tend to be better functional leaders.

    Pop culture leadership focuses on the “situational” leader. The hero who steps into the breech and inspires the crowd.

    The greatest leaders in history, to my mind, have been “functional” leaders. Able to see the importance of logistics, to allocate resources, to manage personalities and objectives. This is not glamorous leadership, but is is sustainable leadership.

  • DRT

    The other tie in to Haidt’s research here is also interesting. In his research he says that it is much easier for the conservative to understand the morality of the liberal since the con is a superset. I believe the extroverts, in this case, are unable to understand what it is actually like to be an introvert, since they are primarily operating in a subset of the introvert lifestyle.

    This has strong implications because it sets up the dynamic of “once you go extrovert you don’t go back”

  • phil_style

    Of course I don’t think Jesus was a leader (in the functional/ situation sense). He was a servant, a fisher, a teacher… something else…

  • Jonathan Haidt’s published work on moral foundations described human behavior, and he uses it to describe divisions among people in the arenas of politics and religion. They are divided because they have sacralized their opinions so that they can’t be wrong. I agree that his definitions and explanations also apply very well to the foundations of words we use to describe attitudes and personalities in the church. But the fact that it is applicable indicates that the difference between approaches and personalities in Christian ministries and congregations are human differences — which means, out of the flesh. Is that bad? Not in itself, because God created it. But it is bad when that is the controlling factor instead of the Holy Spirit in the church. The fleshly control leads to competition and flag waving and look how good we are because of attendance or webinars or ….. The control of the Spirit leads to the celebration of diversity in the unity of Jesus whom we all serve. Defining differences has a purpose, the the real question is how do we put our multiple gifts and human differences together for the glory of Christ? When extroverts look at introverts and introverts look at extroverts, neither looks to Jesus. The body of Christ does not have strabismus.

  • Kristin

    DRT #42 –
    On a semi related note, I’ve had the opportunity to explain introversion/extroversion to many friends who were unfamiliar with the terms – without fail the introverts light up at the discussion and have AHA! moments as they learn a term to describe what they’ve intrinsically always known to be true. Extraverts, on the other hand, tend to be a mixture of surprised and confused, sometimes even defiant at the notion that it’s “normal, just different” to be introverted. Unless they have a close friend or spouse who is introverted, they have a hard time understanding it at all. That is just my personal experience.

  • This is a good question, imho: Does selecting for extroverts favor a cult of charismatic leadership: a star system?

    Might there be a correspondence between the continual networking-necessity among academics & professionals, the ever-escalating demands for higher and higher academic & professional credentialing, and this culture of extroversion? To surmount the hurdles which present to us, one after another, is exhausting for those who’d rather simply “do”, than be “on” to perform.

  • RJS

    Ann F-R,

    I am not sure if the credentialing push is part of this or not. I am inclined to think not. In fact in some spheres (like the church) the “Extrovert Ideal” seems to be opposed to this. Matt Chandler is on record for example noting that “there is a recent trend of really sharp, entrepreneurial, driven men skipping seminary all together and planting churches.” Most of these men have attended seminary – but it really isn’t seen as essential. The more important characteristics are sharp, entrepreneurial, driven. I tend to think this is part of the Extrovert Ideal … those who are talented simply do.

    In academia some level of credential is more important – but it is pretty standard, and beyond this we have some of the same characteristics of the Extrovert Ideal moving forward.

  • Rick


    “I tend to think this is part of the Extrovert Ideal … those who are talented simply do.”

    It is a sign of their “calling”, so some people may tell them.

  • RJS


    Yes – and I believe in calling. But I also think it is possible to misinterpret other factors as “calling.”

    Part of my interest in this topic has to do with the state of our church, but another part of it has to do with the science/faith discussion. Scot talked about pastors and theologians thinking with scientists in his post yesterday. Some aspects of this “Extrovert Ideal” tend to inhibit or work against this interaction. The blame is not all on pastors – the “star system” in academe and science also works against scientists, including Christian scientists, with the necessary sensitivity (thoughtfulness and tact) for the discussion.

  • DRT

    RJS, the tie in with the science debate is an excellent topic. It is quite clear that there would be a severe culture class between an introverted group and an extroverted group that actually believes it is bad to introverted. Bad probably is not strong enough. The extroverts, I believe, tend to generalize their extroverted approach to being a sign of caring for other people. If you do not share with other people to validate yourself, then you are, of course, self centered. What the heck is wrong with you??

    [aside, I want to shoot this mockingbird that sits in my tree off of my deck. Talk about an extrovert! Why can’t you shut up! Now back to my meek introverted Christian self]

    I would be interested in seeing a representative extrovert and introvert (not too versed in the nuance of the debate so they don’t game the system) debate the meaning of the beatitudes. It could reveal a lot.

  • RJS


    My concern here is rather confident scientists (many with “extrovert” leadership tendencies) and rather confident pastors (again many with “extrovert” leadership tendencies) … Cain’s section on leadership and the Harvard Business School is on my mind.

  • DRT

    Thanks RJS, I have reading to do.

  • DRT

    [my daughter told me that it is a sin to kill a mockingbird…..]

  • Richard Heyduck

    As an introvert I’ve run into this phenomenon. Even more, however, I’ve felt the odd person out as a P in J-dominant institutions.

  • DRT

    Richard brings up a good point. Many do feel ill at ease about the introvert extrovert thing, but the S-J personality is, perhaps, a bigger problem.

  • DRT

    Here is the wiki write up on the sj

  • I do tend to think that we need to think more in terms of a 1 Corinthians 14 model in which the entire body of Christ can be active. There are the basic categories of speaking and serving, even Peter divides them up that way.

    I do think this model does tend to play out in other settings of the church in an unhealthy manner. I would think that many home groups end up being dominated by a leader, or a very few, who would do much better to lead a discussion, ask questions and encourage participation. Instead it is almost like a home version of what happens in the big service. And unfortunately this model often impacts the smaller churches as well. After all, what churches in the evangelical sphere have been “successful” and therefore the churches other churches and pastors may emulate?