I’m 85 pages (about a third) into Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh. I stumbled upon Pastor McHugh’s blog a couple of weeks ago when I was freaking out about how noisy school can be, and an acquaintance who I haven’t seen or spoken with for some time gave me a copy yesterday, simply because he likes it. So far I like it fairly well — Paster McHugh strikes me as being quiet, gentle, sincere, dedicated, thoughtful, and somewhat well read. He references evangelical, Catholic, Orthodox, American Awakening, and psychologist sources as well as a number of other pastors and personal acquaintances he has interviewed. What he says is by no means new or unknown, but as Orthodox are inclined to point out: if I teach anything new, it’s probably because it’s a heresy. And even the heresies are mostly used up and recycled.
I appreciate Pastor McHugh’s understanding of ways in which introverted characteristics tend to make evangelicals feel left out and inferior, his insistence that this need not be case, his orderly presentation of psychological distinctions, and sympathetic suggestions for things introverts can do in order to avoid hiding, faking, or burning out, which are temptations for everyone, and in particular matters (sociability, evangelism, and leadership especially) tend to be more problematic for introverted temperaments. This point that stood out as being most worth insisting on is that temperament — to the extent that it’s simply a natural style or approach, not an excuse — should not be a disability within the Church.
The chief flaw of Introverts in the Church is probably that it’s psychological without showing how psychology and spirit coincide beyond temperament; I see that as a language issue that stems from trying to write a book primarily on introversion, a particular temperament, rather than on the quiet, reflective, contemplative side of the human person as such. Introversion and extroversion may be a helpful way to explain why, for instance, I don’t make a good camp counselor so long as that position means pretending to be excited about things that I neither enjoy nor appreciate (messy games and loud songs, for instance), but am perfectly fine as an arts and crafts leader, or talking with individual students, or whatever. Some people show that they’re happy by yelling (I guess), and some people show they’re happy by standing perfectly still and radiating happiness — perhaps accompanied by internal exclamations of “glory to God!” and even happy conversations about how fantastic the trees, the sky, the Trinity, and life are. The former is probably an extrovert and the latter probably an introvert. This is helpful in understanding why it is some people enjoy things I don’t at all understand, why I don’t, and why that’s usually alright, so long as we seek to understand and reach out to one another in love. That’s only a small part of life, however, and even only a small part of Introverts in the Church; it may be dangerous to associate important practices such as the Jesus Prayer, listening to God in silence, withdrawing from the noise of the world, and mystical contemplation with a particular temperament, and while paster McHugh acknowledges that every person has a introspective and outwardly engaged side to them, he does imply more of a differences in spiritual things than I would be willing to maintain.