This Sunday, I am finishing a series of messages at my church I have called “Inverted Kingdom.” It is based in Luke 6, and has been a conversation around the ways Jesus turns conventional wisdom on its head. But then I got to thinking: it takes only a slight word change to go from Inverted Kingdom to Introverted Kingdom. What would that sermon series be like?
Well, I guess it depends. Are you an extrovert? An introvert? Or perhaps an extrovert who misunderstands introverts? Perhaps you’ve heard the joke that asks: How much does an introvert weigh? The answer: not enough to break the ice.
That joke makes me laugh — even though it’s not accurate, and even though I’m an introvert. The truth is, lots of folks misunderstand introverts. They are not necessarily shy, or awkward, or quiet. Introverts can be quite talkative, charming, and engaging — because introversion isn’t a matter of how I project myself, but how I renew myself. While extroverts are renewed by being with others, introverts are often renewed by being alone. This doesn’t mean we introverts don’t like (or love) people; it simply means we are wired differently than our non-stop, where’s-the-next-party extroverted friends.
About ten years ago, a Christian college did a survey and asked students: Was Jesus an extrovert or an introvert? The result: 97% pegged Jesus as an extrovert. (So, maybe I should do a series called Extroverted Kingdom….) It’s likely that the students almost unanimously identified Jesus as an extrovert because that is what our society values. We believe leaders should be strong, outgoing, boundless balls of energy who know how to work a crowd. But is that accurate?
What about the times Jesus withdrew for quiet and prayer? What about the times he avoided crowds? What about the fact that he focused his energies on 12 guys, and really focused his ministry on 3 guys?
In the end, who knows whether Jesus was an E or an I? Perhaps he was the perfect combination of both. But either way, whether a person is a high E, high I, or somewhere mixed in the middle — there is no “wrong” personality. Just as we have learned that left-handed people don’t have to become “right,” so introverts don’t have to become extroverts. It’s not a matter of right and wrong, but a matter of how you are wired.
Having said that, we all can be challenged to grow, no matter where we fall on the E/I spectrum. As an introvert, I’m not a big fan of parties; but sometimes I need to go to them anyway. As an extrovert, my wife never met a party she didn’t like; but sometimes she needs to stay home.
At the end of the day, we are all different; whether E, or I, or whatever other letter we want to attach to ourselves. And while we acknowledge our differences, we are not the sum total of our differences.
This is one of the reasons I love the Church; it is a place where people with all kinds of differences and distinctions come, and find unity in the One who becomes our ultimate identity. For all the labels that may be attached to me, none of them are really who I am. In Christ, I belong to him. And to his people. And his Spirit brings us together, with a unity that supersedes all our differences.
So, I won’t be doing the Introverted Kingdom series any time soon. For there is only one kingdom — and it’s a kingdom for all of us who find our identity in Jesus, introvert and extrovert alike.