Book Review: Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh

It was quite a few months ago that I came across an article in the New York Times about how introverts were supposed to be taking over the world. It was linked to a book by Susan Cain called ‘Quiet! The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking.’ Either from that article, or from a series of links therefrom (I can’t recall which) I stumbled across McHugh’s book. On the basis of the title alone, I knew it was one that had to go on my reading list (which currently has about 200 titles in it).

I make no bones about the fact that any time I do a Myers-Briggs type personality test I invariably come out as an INTJ. Also, I made (albeit slightly obliquely) reference to my former church pushing on the congregation the idea that you had to be extroverted; which ultimately ended up being one of several factors which pushed me to finding a new church.

Rarely do I read a book and start muttering words of agreement under my breath as I do so, but this was one of the few as I read through the first couple of chapters. One thing I had been wary of was that, being American in origin, the translation across the Atlantic might not work well. Also, the front cover endorsement from John Ortberg didn’t fill me with confidence as those of you who remember my review of one his ‘lifestyle christianity’ books may recall. McHugh does include sets of questions at the back of the book, which I still find slightly patronising, though it does seem to be a peculiarly British thing to find them as such. Other than those few points, it does translate very well. The kinds of characters and scenarios described are very familiar, and I could even have provided alternative names for some of them which would have fitted nicely.

The first part of the book really looks at the issues that introverts face in being part of a church. While I heartily agreed with most of it, I couldn’t help but think that the key beneficiaries of reading this would actually be extroverts. The thing is, and one may guess this from my blogging, that introverts communicate better when there is time to stop, think and carefully choose the rights the words. So for an introvert like me, this is as a great encouragement, telling me “you’re not the only one” and I think others may well read it in a similar manner.

McHugh admits that the most difficult chapter to write was that on introverts in community. This is very carefully and well-thought through with much to mull over as well as practical suggestions. Where the book got a little turgid was in the two chapters (which take up just over a quarter of the book) on leadership. This is just my view, as I have neither any position of leadership or desire to occupy one. Once those pages have been passed, the book picks up once again, with much that is practical. In order for churches to implement the ideas proposed will require persuasion of those extroverts who presently dominate the ‘way things are done’, something I have never had much success with.

On the whole, this is a book that is hugely welcome. Though there are references to quite a few others, they only skim the subject, so this seems to be one of the first books to tackle the title subject “head-on”. Some readers may be put off by the frequent use of the word “introvert” as it may feel as though you are being gently hit over the head with it. At a random flick through the book, I looked at 5 separate pages and found “introvert” or some derivation of it 13 times, 6 of which were one page! However, that’s a minor point. An even more minor point that may be addressed in the 2nd edition will be a couple of typos on pages 77 & 78 which escaped the notice of the proofreader. That aside, one issue that McHugh deals with excellently is that of biblical basis. After all, personality types aren’t really a significant issue in the bible. What he does is make some reasonable suppositions with all due warning, evident of careful scholarship.

One of the chapter titles is entitled “Finding Healing” and the front cover contains an imperative to “Read it and heal.” This implies that some introverts may find themselves hurt by extroverted characters within churches. If so, then they have had it much rougher than I have. I would more describe my view as being frustrated by extroverts in the church. So my encouragement to you would be to read it and discover an alternative way of doing church.

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2 responses to “Book Review: Introverts in the Church by Adam McHugh

  1. I haven’t read the book but I test as INTJ and I preach and teach the Bible. I have found that my internal spiritual life has been the major part of the journey which I wasn’t expecting when I became a Christian. I expected external obedience and moral stuff, but the inner passion with the living Christ seems to be totally ignored by most writers. I have begun to wonder if this is an INTJ Christian trait because it is discussed so little. Sounds like an interesting book you reviewed. Intensity seems to be an INTJ trait which crosses over into church life perhaps?

  2. Pingback: 2012 in books | The Alethiophile