Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Worshipping an extroverted God as an introverted believer

I am an introvert. And I grew up in a Pentecostal church (also known as Charismatic). As I often tell people, God has an interesting sense of humor. Why?

During a typical Pentecostal service, things can get rowdy. It is expected that, if you are a Christian and a Pentecostal, you will express your faith loudly and with large gestures.

This meant that at the very least, you were supposed to raise and wave your hands, clap enthusiastically while singing, and pray out loud along with everyone else; all doing the same things at the same time.

Like I said, it could get rowdy. And loud.

Volume is not a measure of holiness

Generally, all of this behavior goes very much against the grain of an introvert. But not participating signaled that something was probably deficient related to your faith and commitment to God.

This created a clear conundrum for me.

When I was 16, I also experienced what is termed the “baptism of the Holy Spirit” which can be kind of an exciting thing. But, of course, I tended to not express that excitement the same way as, say, my grandmother did. She would dance. I just sort of sat quietly and thought happy thoughts – in tongues, of course.

But reasonable rowdiness was expected of just about everyone. It’s what Pentecostals did in church.

So, I raised my hands, reluctantly. Clapped, unenthusiastically. And prayed out loud, in a soft self-conscious mumble.

Being loud is not boldness, and boldness is not a spiritual gift

I felt guilty about the lack of “boldness” in my life believing something must be wrong with me. Still, I tried, and threw myself for a time into “ecstatic” worship, but it just wasn’t how God had imaged me. So I finally stopped.

I don’t remember the specific date, but I do know there was a clear demarcation where I stopped trying to be what seemed to be expected of a Pentecostal Christian, and settled into worshiping the way God had shaped me to worship -- as an introvert in a Pentecostal milieu.

Eventually the guilt faded as I learned that acting like a spiritual extrovert doesn’t make a person more holy. It just makes them loud.

One image with many expressions

The reality is that we are all created in God’s image, an image that is expressed uniquely through each one of us. Even when it comes to exercising the spiritual gifts we have been endowed with, how we do so will be determined in part by the personality style God has chosen for us.

It’s okay for extroverts to worship exuberantly, as did King David. But it’s equally okay for introverts to worship meditatively, as Jesus did many times.

It took me a few years, but I finally learned that it’s okay to be a quiet Pentecostal, even one who has experienced the gift of tongues.

For me, this is no longer a detriment but an advantage. I can experience a seemingly chaotic Pentecostal service and enjoy and understand all that’s going on and be comfortable being still. I can also sit in the quiet solemnity of a Catholic service and connect with God through the tradition and liturgy.

As I’ve learned, it’s not the form, method, style, or volume of worship that is crucial, but rather, the Person being worshiped.

Who are you worshiping?

What’s your experience as an introvert in your church? At work? Anywhere? Please share your experiences, thoughts, and more in the comments!

Two excellent books for introverts and those who love them...


  1. I grew up Assemby of God. As an Introvert, I got to say that it was child abuse and today CPS would take me out of such an environment.

    1. Every AG church had its own unique culture. On the whole, I never experienced anything that could be called child abuse. I can't speak to your specific situation. However, if what is meant that taking an introverted child to an extroverted experience, I still wouldn't call it abuse, just challenging. Thanks for your comment!

  2. Good Stuff.
    Similar challenges to this Charismatic (not Pentecostal) Calvinist.


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