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Help! I’m an Introvert with Extroverted Spiritual Gifts

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Hi, my name is Rayni and I’m an introvert.

I used to attend Introverts Anonymous, but usually no one would show up and if they did they didn’t want to talk. (Okay, that was joke). But being introverted is a serious business that many people don’t understand. In college I lived in a dorm on the top floor. Many mornings I chose to walk down the seven flights of stairs just so I didn’t have to say hello to anyone in the elevator. Today, if I see you in the grocery store and you haven’t seen me first, I will most likely immediately turn and walk in the opposite direction with great gusto so I don’t have to talk to you; even though I may like you.

What I’ve just shared probably sounds a bit odd or even mentally ill to all of those bustling extroverts out there. But I know the introverts are tracking with me. So, what is an introvert to do when God has clearly given you spiritual gifts that require interacting with people? You know, those “pesky” gifts like teaching, counseling and leadership that require you to be in front of or with people rather than behind the scenes?

Take Short Trips Out of Your Comfort Zone
After college I worked for two years at a church as a Campus Pastor. Looking back it is my favorite job I’ve had but at the time it was a bit overwhelming as an introvert. I regularly interacted with college students, led services and preached sermons when the pastor was away; and mentored, counseled, and prayed with students. It was a great growth experience but I found that I was continually living outside of my comfort zone with all of this “other people required” interaction.

I’ve learned that it’s a good thing to sometimes step outside your comfort zone, especially when God is leading you to.That’s where you grow. But if you constantly live outside your comfort zone its easy to go into survival mode rather than abundant life mode. Learning how to have healthy boundaries in this area will help you to live fully in the gifts God has given you.

Fill Up on God’s Strength
It’s no joke that God is full of limitless strength (Psalm 147:5) and that He wants to partner with us in using the gifts He created in us. God is glorified when we are authentically who He created us to be. I continually rely on God’s grace and strength to help me step through any fear associated with using my gifts. I invite God into the situation, ask Him for wisdom, guidance and help. He always comes through. He’s reliable like that. And it’s for His glory anyway. So, don’t be afraid to step out with God to use your gifts even if you’re feeling weak. God’s not weak. And I seem to remember some guy named Paul talking about how God’s grace is sufficient in our weakness. (2 Corinthians 12:9)

It Is What You Make It
If I let myself get psyched out about walking up to someone new at church and striking up a conversation, I will probably make a last minute turn into the restroom to avoid them. But if I just relax, don’t think about it too much and simply say hello, more times than not it turns out just fine. In my heart I want to reach out and be welcoming. Sometimes I let my introvert tendencies get in the way, and often I reach out anyway.

I am always glad when I get past my issues and do the things God has placed in my heart to do. You can talk yourself out of doing something good or you can just step out and do the thing. It is what you make it. That goes with walking in the other extroverted gifts God has given me as well. As soon as I surrender it to God, and take that first step through the fear, my heart comes alive with doing what God created me to do. There is much joy in that. And there is much triumph in trusting God enough to make that first step.

Church Should Be At Least As Welcoming As a Bar

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Have you ever seen the TV show Cheers? You know, that bar where the same group of people hang out on a regular basis, sharing their ups and downs over a pint or two. In the show, you receive a warm welcome when you walk through the door. People are glad to see you. They remember your name. They care about what’s happening in your life. When you walk inside, you’re family and you belong. To steal a line from my pastor…church should be at least as welcoming as a bar.

Shouldn’t it?

Visitors Are People, Too
Do you remember what it’s like to be new to a group and not know anyone? It can be lonely and intimidating. Being new to a church can sometimes feel like there are a bunch of cliques where everyone already has their group of friends and you’re on the outside. Sure there are some people who want to slip in and out of church unnoticed, but most people want to belong and often need a little help getting involved.

I’ve visited lots of churches alone over the years. At one church after visiting a college & career group a few times, I liked the people but didn’t feel any major connections. After my third visit I was walking out the door, not planning to come back again, when a girl I had met earlier called out my name, ran across the room and said she wanted to say how great it was to meet me and she hoped to see me again. Guess what? After that I decided to come back again and ended up making friends and staying in the group for a couple of years.

Often, it just takes one person genuinely connecting with a visitor to bring them back again.

Let’s Get Over Our Excuses
I am thankful that my church has lots of genuine people who are warm and welcoming. I am sometimes very welcoming to guests but too often I stick to talking with people I already know. I’m a big introvert and even though in my heart I want to welcome the visitors, striking up a conversation with a stranger makes me feel uncomfortable. And I don’t like to feel uncomfortable. Do you know what that is?

A bad excuse!

I remember years ago at one church I used to be in charge of the greeters and I would often tell church “regulars” to get over their excuses and insecurities and greet visitors anyway. Because its what we should be doing. Now I am convicted that I need to take my own advice and start being more intentional about welcoming visitors like I used to. Even more so after bringing a guest with me to church recently, I am reminded of just how important it is to go out of my way to welcome visitors. I was so thankful for those who reached out to my guest and took the time to have a two-minute conversation. I was grateful! Yes, my guest was “with me” and not alone, but it still makes a huge impact when other people make a point to say hello and take a genuine interest in a new person.

Jesus Would Welcome Visitors
I know, I know…I’m pulling the “Jesus card”. But really, Jesus was the ultimate welcomer. He got to know people. He spent time with them. He made them feel special and He was genuine. And while He spoke hard-hitting truth into their lives, He did it with such love and grace that it made the person actually want to become better and healthier. Imagine that. Jesus called out people’s true identities and let them know that they are somebody worthy of His time and interest. For us, this can start with saying hello to a visitor at church.

This weekend will you let go of your excuses and join me in being more like Jesus?