Do you think of yourself as an introvert? Or are you trying better to understand your introverted spouse, son, daughter, or friend? You might be surprised to hear how many faithful servants of the Lord, many with thriving, God-honoring public ministries, have described themselves as introverts. These include (but are not limited to!) the following:
- John Piper is the founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For thirty-three years, John served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is the author of more than fifty books.
- Noël Piper is John’s wife, a mother and grandmother, and a writer, speaker, and missions traveler. Noël is the author, among other books, of Faithful Women and Their Extraordinary God.
- Tim Challies is pastor at Grace Fellowship Church in Toronto, Ontario, where he primarily gives attention to mentoring and discipleship. He is a book reviewer for WORLD magazine, co-founder of Cruciform Press, and has written three books. His popular blog, Challies.com: Informing the Reforming, was visited by more than three million people in 2014.
- Gloria Furman lives in Dubai, where her husband serves as the pastor of Redeemer Church of Dubai. Gloria is a wife, mom, cross-cultural worker, and author of three books: Treasuring Christ When Your Hands are Full: Gospel Meditations for Busy Moms; The Pastor’s Wife: Strengthened by Grace for a Life of Love; and Glimpses of Grace: Treasuring the Gospel in Your Home. She is the co-author, with Kathleen B. Nielson, of Word-Filled Women’s Ministry: Loving and Serving the Church.
- Tim Keller, who “loves New York and Middle Earth,” is the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, a co-founder (with D.A. Carson) of The Gospel Coalition, as well as a prolific author and in-demand public speaker.
- Kathy Keller is Tim’s wife, a mother and grandmother, and the co-founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church. Kathy speaks publicly and writes, and it is her desire to minister in New York City with her husband for the remainder of their lives. As a child, Kathy corresponded with C.S. Lewis.
- Jared Wilson is the Director of Content Strategy for Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and Managing Editor of For The Church, Midwestern’s site for gospel-centered resources.
Although a preference toward extroversion or introversion is not a quantifiable hard science, here are two good working definitions of introverts and extroverts:
- Introverts tend to be more energized by time alone than by time with people, and tend to have an innate preference for less stimulating environments.
- Extroverts tend to be more energized by time with people than by time alone, and tend to have an innate preference for more stimulating environments.
As Challies says of himself, “at heart I gain energy and perspective in solitude and then expend it in a crowd.”
Here are some resources to help you think Biblically on this topic, and to encourage you to use your introversion to God’s glory.
As an introvert, it takes the mustard grain of faith to interact with people and call on Jesus for the energy I need to interact socially all day long…
How Can I Evangelize When I Am An Introvert? (video)
Gloria Furman at Christianity.com
Plead with God to make your in-disposition to be with people a blessing to people. In other words, I would say after 33 years, my default after preaching is to go home and pray and read, not to hang out for three hours over a meal. That’s my disposition. I do hang out for an hour and pray with people, and I’m glad I do, and it is rewarding to do it…. If you’re wired that way, instead of constantly praying God would make you another kind of person, pray that he would make you really useful for people. I think he’s done that for me….
How Introverted Pastors Love
John Piper at Desiring God
Good things can happen in solitude. Quietness can be a sweet place to meet God. But there’s a dark side to solitude when I crave it above all. The I comes to mean not ‘introvert,’ but literally only ‘I’: I don’t want you around, because I am the one who makes me happy. I can solve my own problems. I am all I need. Right now as I lay those thoughts out so bluntly, I recoil from my arrogance. Do we really think, ‘I am all I need?,’ as if we were God?
An Appetizer for the Feast
Noël Piper at Ligonier Ministries
I am introverted, but this does not give me a different calling in life than the gregarious Christian.
The Christian Introvert
Tim Challies at Challies.com
My challenge, and it is a challenge I face all the time, is to keep introversion from enabling or excusing sin. Introversion can quickly and easily become a way to validate sin. I can excuse selfishness, self-centeredness, escapism, lack of hospitality, rudeness. I can stay away from people and excuse it as being just the way I am, as being who I am. I can be shy and quiet when the Lord calls me to be strong and bold.
Tim Challies at Challies.com
I am an introverted personality, which does not mean I don’t enjoy being with people or that I’m not good at interacting with people, only that it is work to do so. Extroverts tend to fill up in social settings; introverts tend to empty….My first thoughts on Monday mornings are to my fatigue and all I must do, but I must push them into thoughts of Christ, of all he is and all he has done. There lies the vision that compels my will.”
Jared Wilson in The Pastor’s Justification: Applying the Work of Christ in Your Life and Ministry
The gospel frees me to embrace who I am while not using my weaknesses as excuses for laziness. My identity in Christ has to be the foundation upon which I build my personal identity, regardless of introversion or extroversion. In his sovereignty, he made me the right mother for my kids. He has promised to perfect me and even use my weaknesses in his service. Sure, there will be challenges, but that is how God intends to grow me and conform me to his image.
The Introverted Mother
Eowyn Stoddard at The Gospel Coalition
The process of understanding introversion and the way it’s expressed in my life has been both a tremendous relief and also an ongoing source of doubt and concern. My daily reality is people-intensive and externally stimulating…These realities, combined with my definite need for quiet and solitude, have often left me and others confused about who I really am. The lie I’m most tempted to believe is that the way God has wired me is incompatible with the life he’s called me to live.
Four Lies About Introverts
Amie Patrick at The Gospel Coalition
…in attempting to force her “to come over to the dark side” and join the ranks of extroverts, I was utterly failing to value her personality and see it for what it is—not as weakness, but as her greatest strength, a much-needed contribution to our marriage.
Help! I Married an Introvert
Stephen Miller at The Gospel Coalition
…one middle-aged candidate didn’t pass his denomination’s assessment process; they thought he was too introverted and couldn’t engage unchurched people. (They also rated him as a ‘mediocre preacher’.) Upon further prayer and conversation, they revised that decision. He went on to plant a thriving church in the northeast. Today this pastor has launched an entire network of dynamic new church starts. That’s the story of the introverted, bookish, ‘mediocre preacher’ named Tim Keller [pastor of the 5,000+ Redeemer in NYC].”
Matthew Woodly, “A Calling Confirmed”, Leadership Journal
Are you saying, how did an introvert get to be a megachurch pastor in Manhattan? Very gradually. It is a combination: God called me to be a minister and then decided to prosper my ministry more than a lot of other people’s, which was always a surprise. I do not know why. It is not false modesty. I am still not sure why.
A Wave Came In: How an Introvert Like Tim Keller Became a Great Pastor
Marvin Olasky interviewing TIm Keller at worldmag.com
I am a serious introvert. I’m much more comfortable behind a keyboard than in front of live, actual people. But because I know that there are people who need to be comforted with the comfort that I received when I was suffering, I said yes when asked to be here today.
Kathy Keller, speaking at the National Prayer Breakfast in 2013