God needs you!

 

Introversion isn't something to be cured; it's something to be celebrated! 

Colossians 4:6 describes the most effective approach to evangelism for introverts: Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.

 

Evangelism for Introverts

By Mike Bechtle

If you're a typical introvert, you're probably starting this article thinking "maybe it'll give me hope." When you saw the title, you expected to see suggestions to be more bold, more obedient and more committed in sharing your faith. You don't really want to read it, but you're thinking, "If I can learn some new techniques, maybe I'll be more successful and see more results, and God (and others) will be pleased with me."  You really want to share your faith, but it seems so hard.

Sorry-this article won't go there. Witnessing will never get easier if you're focusing on techniques. If it's hard and you inwardly dread sharing your faith, it's probably because you're trying to do something in ways that don't match the way God designed you.

For years I wanted to be an effective witness. I took classes, listened to sermons and read books about evangelism. I tried every method I could find, but it seemed to get harder instead of easier. I wondered, "If God wanted me to share my faith, why didn't He give me a more outgoing personality? Why should it be so hard?" I finally gave up on evangelism, because I got tired of feeling guilty.

That began a journey from guilt-based sharing to grace-based caring and sharing. I discovered that God made me in exactly the way He wanted so He could work through that temperament. He didn't want me to become something I wasn't; He wanted me to be me.

The value of being an introvert

When David fought Goliath, everyone assumed he would wear Saul's armor. They thought it would be ridiculous to go into combat without that protection. But when he tried it on, it didn't fit. It was only when he used his unique set of skills that he found victory, even though it didn't fit the pattern that worked for everyone else.

Most books on evangelism focus on witnessing methods more suited for extroverts. There's nothing wrong with those methods. But for an introvert, those methods don't go far enough. Reading them, I always felt like a turtle being taught by birds the best way to walk.

I discovered that my guilt in sharing came from trying to use methods that didn't fit. When I heard sermons on boldness, I assumed it meant "outgoing and forceful."  But that wasn't how God made me. I was designed for quiet persuasion, reaching people who will never respond to an aggressive approach.

If God designed introverts, doesn't it make sense that He would want them to do His work through that personality? When introverts spend time trying to function like extroverts, they're doing more than just wasting time. They're actually robbing themselves of the very tools God gave them to do His work.

If sharing your faith is something you inwardly dread, it's probably because you're working outside of God's unique design. You're following other people's patterns instead of God's.

How we're different

Brett is an extrovert. He gets energized in a large group, and feels drained when he spends too much time alone. He's action-oriented and learns by doing. He thinks out loud, and makes decisions easily. Brett's pattern is "act-think-act."

Jill is an introvert. She doesn't mind being in a group, but finds it draining after awhile. She recharges by being alone. She's thought-oriented and learns by watching. She thinks best when she's alone and needs time to make decisions. Jill's pattern is "think-act-think."

Which is better for evangelism? Both.

It used to bother me that I could come up with great answers for people's questions about 30 minutes after the conversation was over. I'd beat myself up thinking, "Why didn't I say such-and-such?" I envied extroverts who could think quickly in a conversation.

Introverts might take awhile to formulate their answers, but an answer will be well thought-out and sensitive. Just because we can't think of the best response ?right at that moment doesn't mean we've failed. It means saying, "That's a great question. I'll have to think about it. Give me a day or so, and I'll email you my thoughts."

Introverts have some real advantages in evangelism:

Strategies from scripture

I had certain ideas about what evangelism should look like. When I prayed to be a better witness, I assumed God would supernaturally change my desire so I would want to share in those ways. But that didn't happen. Instead, I found that many of my ideas weren't biblical. When I finally discovered what the Bible actually says, it all began to make sense-and I had the desire to share in new, appropriate ways. So, what did I learn?

1. Evangelism isn't our job-it's God's job. We're responsible for building relationships, pointing people to Christ and allowing God to use those relationships to draw people to Himself. We have to be faithful in delivering God's message when He calls us to do so, but trust Him with the results.

2. I don't have to use sales techniques. We don't have to convince people to come to Christ. God does that. Our role is to introduce one friend to another (Christ), and let them develop that relationship. Take the time to get to know the person well and discuss spiritual concerns that directly relate to that person's life. Ask open-ended questions, listen carefully and seek to learn something from the person.

3. I don't have to witness to everyone I meet. Introverts aren't made for quantity of relationships-they're made for deep relationships. When an extrovert walks into a room full of people, she surveys the crowd to see how many people she can talk to during the event. But when an introvert walks into the same room, she surveys the crowd to see which one person looks the "safest" to have an extended conversation with.

4. "You shall be witnesses" is a description of a person who has firsthand experience with something. If we know Christ, we are qualified witnesses-whether we feel like it or not. As we deepen relationships with people, the things we've seen and experienced become a natural part of our conversations with them.

5. Evangelism is a team effort. The Bible compares the church to a body with different parts. When we demand that everyone witness in the same way, it ignores the value God places on all the members. When Christians ask someone to receive Christ, they don't do it alone. God has already brought a string of people (including introverts) into the person's life to move him or her closer to faith. I Corinthians 3:6 reinforces the value of each person in that chain:  "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth."

6. I have to hang out with non-Christians. Introverts might be uncomfortable pursuing a lot of relationships. For them, quality is more valuable than quantity. But the relationships have to be formed through interaction with unbelievers. Introverts specialize in "going deep" in those life-on-life connections.

7. God uses us the way He made us. If you try to be an extrovert, evangelism will get harder. If you try to be yourself, it will get easier. That's why God designed you as you are. People aren't attracted by our methods, they're attracted by our lives. Don't use your introvert temperament as an excuse to avoid tackling a task God is calling you to undertake. While He doesn't want you to be someone you're not, God may lead you out of your comfort zone in order to stretch and build your faith.

8. Communication doesn't always involve talking. Most evangelism methods emphasize verbal techniques. But introverts are often more effective in writing than speaking. If it's demanded that introverts verbalize their faith in every situation, the value of their written communication is minimized. For example, writing through exchanged emails can be an effective way to evangelize.

A Biblical approach for introverts

Colossians 4:6 describes the most effective approach to evangelism for introverts: Your speech should always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you should answer each person.

God hasn't designed introverts to be aggressive in evangelism. He made them sensitive, patient and thoughtful-characteristics that will be extremely effective in the lives of others. Our responsibility, according to this verse, is to prepare. When God brings opportunity, our responsibility is to genuinely care for that person. When that caring leads to a faith discussion, it won't be forced. It will be a natural expression of that caring.

Matthew 28:19 instructs us to "make disciples."  Discipleship involves guiding people closer to God from whatever place they are. For unbelievers, it's moving them one step closer to salvation. An introvert is called to be intentional in his efforts to engage in that process.

Introversion isn't something to be cured; it's something to be celebrated! 

Mike Bechtle is the author of Evangelism for the Rest of Us: Sharing Christ Within Your Personality Style (Baker Books), on which this article is based. Visit www.mikebechtle.com.

 

Reprinted with permission of On Mission magazine, North American Mission Board, SBC