Evangelism for Introverts
Without question, the most challenging commandment for modern-day Christians appears in Matthew 28:19-20. Few, if any, of us are truly comfortable with going and making disciples. This passage poses a particular challenge for Christians who are introverts. Very often, when we (because I am definitely an introvert) are told to spread the good news about Jesus, we envision accosting people on street corners or in elevators, our hearts die within us, and we figure that the best solution to the problem is to do nothing and pray extra-hard for forgiveness. After all, God doesn’t really mean for people like us to share the gospel, does He?
Of course, the answer to that question is “Yes!” — but not in the way we think. God created all of us, the wallflower as well as the life of the party, and He does not command any of us to do the impossible. God expects introverted Christians to be evangelistically active too, but He doesn’t expect that to manifest as it does in extroverted Christians.
To understand how this should work in practice, we need to understand what is meant by “extrovert” and “introvert”. Commonly, we define the former as “likes people” and the latter as “doesn’t like people”. This is incorrect. A Christian who doesn’t like people is not an introvert, but a misanthrope, and he really needs to consider the application of Matthew 22:39 to his misanthropic ways.
Instead, both extroverts and introverts do (or at least should) like people, but they like them in different ways. Extroverts thrive in large, noisy, chaotic gatherings. They feel energized when they are able to bounce from conversation group to conversation group, spend fifteen seconds sharing life stories, and move on.
Introverts wilt in high-stimulus environments like that. They prefer people in small doses, and they would far rather spend an evening talking quietly with a close friend or two. The less hubbub there is, the better.
As a consequence of this, extroverts tend toward quantity in relationships, and introverts tend toward quality. Where an extrovert will have 50 friends, an introvert will have one or two, but he is closer to those one or two friends than the extrovert is to any of his 50 acquaintances. The introvert has fewer relationships, but he invests much more in each one.
The introvert, then, is not going to be comfortable telling every one of his 50 co-workers about the gospel. That requires a pattern of brief, surface interaction that is completely the opposite of the way he lives the rest of his life. It feels forced and unnatural to him, and the very prospect is usually enough to deter him. If he does gather his courage and try, his obvious lack of comfort with mass outreach will render his efforts ineffective. Instead, the introvert needs to evangelize in a way that feels natural to him. He needs to establish deep, genuine friendships with outsiders and use those friendships to influence them toward Christ.
To many, this will sound like a copout. It will sound like “lifestyle evangelism”, which in practice means, “I’m going to live godly, and if anybody wants to know about Jesus, they’re always welcome to ask me.” Such a philosophy is much more a salve for a guilty conscience than it is an actual effort toward evangelism.
Instead, the introvert must take the initiative in building these relationships, and he must be purposeful in so doing. He can’t be content with his current small circle of friends. Usually, they are already Christians and do not need to be rescued. He has to reach out too, but he doesn’t have to do it like the extrovert does. The prospect of befriending all 50 co-workers will daunt the introvert, but of that group, there are probably one or two who particularly appeal to him.
Those few should be his primary prospects, but once again, this is not a hi-I’m-Bob-want-to-study-the-Bible kind of approach. In no other area of his life would the introvert share his deepest convictions with a near-stranger. When he tries to discuss his faith with a near-stranger, then, he’s always going to sound disingenuous. Even if he is representing the truth correctly, he isn’t representing himself correctly.
Instead, the introvert’s goal should be to establish a genuine friendship. Introverts are generally terrible at making sales pitches, but they’re good at looking after those who are closest to them. In order for his spiritual appeal to be successful, he has to establish an environment in which such an appeal will feel natural.
He needs to do all the things that people do when they are looking to build a friendship. He needs to spend time getting to know his prospect. He needs to invite him over for a meal or two. He needs to keep in close contact with him and be familiar with all the details of his life. He needs to help his friend out in any way that friend needs help. None of this can be an act. It has to be real, an expression of deeply felt agape. Outsiders are certainly clever enough to suspect that when we show great interest in telling them about the gospel, but no interest in the rest of their lives, we aren't truly interested in them at all.
Then, once the introvert has established this environment of trust, he can begin to influence his friend toward Jesus.
This isn’t a hard sell, nor is it even a soft sell. It can’t be any kind of sell at all. It has to be a sincere expression of deeply felt concern, and it should come naturally. After all, if I regard Jesus as the most important person and the greatest blessing in my life, aren’t I going to want to share the truth about Him with those I love?
The introvert won’t have time or emotional energy to establish relationships like this with more than a few prospects, but the ones he does establish will be high-quality. This is true for a couple of different reasons. First of all, sincere appeals from close friends are powerful and hard to resist. If you know that your friend is selflessly devoted to your good, and he believes that you need to bring Jesus into your life, you’ll probably at least to be willing to attend services a time or two to check it out.
Second, the nature of this relationship makes it much less likely that the new convert will fall away. Extroverts have a real problem here. Because they “play the field” by talking to a whole bunch of people to see if any of them can (comparatively) quickly and easily be persuaded to obey the gospel, they don’t establish a deep, enduring connection with any of them. The extrovert doesn’t have the same amount of influence with each one of his 50 friends that the introvert does with his two friends. I have an extroverted preacher buddy who gets frustrated when three-quarters of the people he baptizes head right out the back door.
Introverts don’t have that problem. Because their friendship with the new convert is deep and genuine, they continue to have a great deal of influence with him even after his baptism or restoration. These friendships should be of the you-can-tellme-anything variety, and the introvert can use that freedom to be very frank when he worries that his friend is backsliding.
Obviously, this process is neither quick nor easy. It may well take months or years for the introvert to move from early stages of friendship to being able to discuss the state of his friend’s soul. However, the value of the prize to be won clearly justifies the expenditure of any amount of time, and it is a way that the introvert too can glorify God.
— From his blog, His Excellent Word