Reflections on our life and lessons in uganda
The Great Struggle of the Introverted Missionary (or pastor’s wife, or women’s ministry person…)
Anyone who has met me for 5 seconds will know that I am introverted. Not the cute, personable introvert who is a little quiet but is well liked. Let me explain it this way, on the Jungian personality test I score greater than 96% introverted (usually it is 98%). Worse than that, I am shy. Painfully shy. My closest friends have told me, “I see why people think you aren’t friendly, but it just takes work to get to know you”.
Knowing these things about me, it probably won’t surprise you that there are some struggles associated with being introverted and called into ministry. Now, I have researched more than once things like ‘introvert and ministry’ ‘how to do ministry when you are shy’,‘is it a sin to be an introvert’ (which is a sadly common google phrase). Even in my home church, where the folks are like family to me, you would more often than not see me in kid’s ministry or vacuuming. I used to tell our lead pastor that I did it to avoid talking, and I was mostly joking-ish. However, there is something to be said for those who prefer serving in areas where small talk isn’t required.
Women are very talkative, social creatures. Even us introverts are, just in different ways. So it can become a great struggle to form relationships or feel included in the church world. It is easy to view extroversion as a good and introversion as bad. (I can’t tell you how often in life I prayed for God to make me an extrovert). But He didn’t make me an extrovert; and He still sent me to the mission field; and it is exhausting. I am in a world where I know one, ONE, person (it’s my husband). In many ways, the mission field can be an introvert’s worst nightmare (or women’s conference or even a crowded sanctuary on aSunday can be daunting).
I am not only surrounded by total strangers, but they speak a different language, oh and I am being put into formal ministry to ADULT PEOPLE. (This has renewed my prayers for God to make me an extrovert; but He hasn’t yet haha). Introversion can be tough for ministry.
I don’t have answers for my introverted or shy friends that will change your life instantly; this is probably my single greatest struggle in ministry. But I have learned some things which I must pray over and apply on a daily basis right now.
1. It is easy to get down on ourselves for being introverts. Or perhaps it draws you into a sense of inferiority or isolation. This is an attack. Whether you are inclined to feeling inferior, victimized, superior, lesser, whatever, it is an attack. Psalm 139 tells me that God fashioned me how He did and that He loves ME. Not the more social version of me. So we must stop focusing on ourselves. We must lift our eyes beyond ourselves and the things we like or don’t. Let’s fix our eyes on Jesus. (This is for all of us, not just the introverts).
2. Don’t let introversion become our excuse for isolating. It is hard for me to meet new people. But if I allow fear and shyness to prevent me from pushing myself to meet people I will be a) lonely and b) ineffective in ministry. I am not saying to become a social butterfly. I am saying to not hide in our room because ‘what’s the point of going to a women’s event, I’ll just get ignored.’ We all need to be in fellowship, and feeling isolated can be a great excuse for us to play the victim and hide away to protect ourselves.
3. God has gifted each of us in different ways. We must play to our strengths in ministry. I am not a great evangelist who can go street preaching easily. But I am very good at listening to those who are hurting, or visiting the sick, or vacuuming, or cleaning toilets. Now this doesn’t excuse me from sharing the gospel. But it allows me to find the places I am effective in ministry and service and utilize them.
4. Paul says multiple times, like In Colossians 3:11, “where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all.” So what does this tell me? It doesn’t matter how I label myself, how Jung labeled me, how you label me or anything else. It isn’t about me. Christ has done away with our strife and division and instead gives unity. I am not less or more than an extroverted believer, we are part of the same body. Christ is in both of us. And all we do is for Him. So let us seek Him in prayer, study, fellowship and service. It is all about Him anyway.
So, to wrap up. If I am seeking to serve Jesus and am sensitive to the Spirit as He calls me to ministry, then it won’t matter if I am shy or not. If He calls me to some form of ministry I will do it, and He will enable me. He doesn’t wish I was an extrovert. He loves me as I am, He loves you as you are. And He is pleased when the body works together for His glory. He pairs me in ministry with those who are weak when I’m strong and vice versa. “Behold, how good and pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together unity!” Psalm 133:1.
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