Q & R: Room for me?

Here’s the Q:

Six years ago I began to deconstruct the fundamentalism I walked from as flawed but never resolved. I had to learn what community is. Theology gave me words to amend my belief checklist. This process included books/podcasts (including yours). I picked up your new book. The early chapters invoked yep, gotcha – um, as I finished panic set in.First, I agree with you, Marcus Borg, et. al. how a revised “church” as community must host adult re-education (not just school for kids). “Church” may be culture’s only logical resource for relationship training besides a teach/re-teach of biblical interpretation skills. The faith to sustain and motivate a healthier world culture grows from skills! Skills must be taught (and families/schools are less able).

Yet I fear some emerging/convergent presentation tone carries an implementation style risk. You have a You Tube video where you discuss MBTI and personality. Returning after 20+ years in “spiritual but not religious”, I’m struck by how church is easier for the extroverts or feeling-oriented (or already socialized). I’m an INTP “why child” surrounded by geeky won’t even walk in the door INTJs. Admittedly, our type needs relationship skills (e.g. you whine – I push away) while the “church” may legitimately need our special skills.

I’m fine without creeds (belief test), but less fine when the new approach lacks a new theology. I agree “love” matters as a greatest commandment (yet it’s not always that simple). I agree church has a role in questioning comfort zones. If I’m to give up my new checklist, I still need to understand the why of things. If the new “how to be church” emphasis communicates only in terms like put more “feel” into experiential worship, get out there, evangelize and mingle, join the movement, speak up, pray together, share your pain, etc. it literally terrifies away introvert or thinker types (granted – your questions help some).

What I’m cautioning you to work back into your communication is how to make use of and grow all types of resources towards new church. My response to church reform has been “bring it on”. I felt your clear crisis call for immediate action, yet I also felt that anxiety-provoking imperative can feel like “church” pushes against one’s personality type. I don’t think that is your intent. Such anxiety can make me think if I don’t fit the new mold, I don’t belong in church anymore, much less anyone like me. I probably need to reread several times, but wanting my cave is my first reaction.

Thanks for your note and your responses to the book. I’m an introvert too, and especially since leaving the pastorate (where, in a sense, I extraverted weekly on Sunday mornings and functioned daily as an introvert as I prepared sermons, counseled, etc.), I sometimes feel the same urge as you do – to find a cave and enjoy some blissful solitude for as long as possible.

I also think you’re right – that many churches make it hard for introverts and thinkers. (Meanwhile, other more cerebral churches make it hard for extraverts and feelers.) This is one of the reasons I am a big fan of liturgy. Well-designed liturgy creates space for many different kinds of people, and creates a clear path into participation. At the end of the day, as you suggest, we need to be who we are, and we need to know we’re welcomed and accepted as we are, even as we’re challenged to grow and stretch.