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While the world generally sees extroverts as making the best leaders, truth is that introverts also have leadership skills. They can be leaders too, and often are. How they lead will differ from how extroverts lead. This is the question Adam McHugh addresses in the next chapter of Introverts in the Church.

He begins with Moses arguing with God, as many prophets did, about being called by Him. McHugh may be guilty of some eisegesis here since I don’t think he’s essentially saying, “Look, don’t you know I’m an introvert.” He does rightly point out the theme of hiding found in the early chapters of Exodus. He was hidden as an infant so the Egyptians wouldn’t kill him. Hidden in the reeds of the Nile until Pharaoh’s daughter came to bathe. Moses hid the body of the Egyptian he killed. Moses hid from Pharaoh in the mountains of Midian. Now Moses is trying to hide from God’s call.

Most sane people do, initially. Shepherding people is harder than shepherding sheep. Not many people choose this for themselves. I didn’t. I love it now, but resisted my sense of calling initially.

This is particularly true of introverts. The social demands of ministry are draining. So are the expectations others place on us, particularly in a smaller church where there are no additional staff to help. Being in ministry is about people and involves people.

“Just because we lose energy doing something does not necessarily indicate we are not a good fit for it. I am convinced that calling, not personality type, is the determinative factor in the formation and longevity of a leader.”

As a Christian, we should recognize that God doesn’t promise that leadership will be easy, or feel natural. It takes place within the context of a world of sinners, including yourself. There is also the reality that His strength is made perfect in weakness. God promises to be with us, and strengthen us. It is not intended to be pursued by the powerful and highly competent. Christian leadership is not about you so much as about Him.

Thriving in ministry requires a few things. The first he mentions is self-care. In caring for others we cannot forget our own needs. Because introverts tend to internalize everything, dealing with failure (real or perceived) and disappointment can be constantly draining. We can carry the burden for everything and end up crashing and burning.

Moses, McHugh notes, was frequently on the brink; exasperated with the Israelites complaining and rebellion. They were often complaining about him. He tried to judge Israel all on his own, a long line of issues to be resolved piling up outside the Tent of Meeting. It all culminated when he struck the rock he was supposed to speak to in a fit of anger. This was why he never entered the Promised Land (an earthly, not eternal, consequence).

People in caring professions, like pastoral ministry, can experience compassion fatigue. They can become either depressed with the unending needs of others, or become callous to those needs. Self-care has internal and external dimensions. Internally, we tend to our own spiritual and emotional health. We pursue Christ, resting in His promises. We make use of the spiritual disciplines to enjoy healthy and health-giving communion with Christ. Feeding on the promises fights our typical internal pull toward despair and catastrophic thinking. We need to regularly hear His voice (in the Word) to combat the pessimism of our own (as well as the world’s & the devil’s). Additionally, some pastors take periodic personal retreats.

There must also be an outward dimension. He must have a support system, other people who encourage and listen. They help us to normalize our experiences so we aren’t catastrophizing. McHugh goes so far as to think therapy or spiritual direction should be mandatory for introverted leaders (I suppose it should also be mandatory for extroverts who lack self-understanding). I’d say it can be helpful for many. A good wife and a few good friends fulfill that need for many people.

In addition to self-care, introverted leaders learn how to monitor their energy levels through scheduling. Make sure to schedule time in the office, alone. This helps to reduce the compassion fatigue. After particularly busy seasons, I may take comp days, which is really taking an afternoon for a movie or a hike. I also work out after work most days. It deals with the stress, keeps me healthy, and prepares me to be home with the pressing needs there.

He then moves to ways in which we direct people toward God. He begins with preaching. Many introverted pastors feel quite comfortable preaching. It is a controlled environment (in most churches) and you prepare for it all week. You know what you will say, approximately how long you’ll say it, and there will be no questions requiring you to think on your feet. He then notes a number of ways to let your introversion shine in your preaching. Use pauses to “add gravity and contemplativeness”. You don’t have to fill every second. Modulate your voice (wisely) to maintain interest and indicate the important material. Use stories to make the abstract accessible. Use sermons as an opportunity to share something of yourself with them, so they can know you better. It is a way of building your relationship with the people that often doesn’t happen in small talk opportunities for introverts.

We also share our lives, investing in others. Let people into your home instead of treating it like the fortress of solitude. As a young Christian, the most important relationships with older men were forged by hanging out at their homes helping them with projects. Sadly, for them, I wasn’t much help. But we talked while working on roofs, replacing toilets and that kind of thing.

Lead by writing. Think out loud, so to speak, by blogging. Let people see or hear what you are thinking. I blog on a number of things particularly for the people I lead. The rest of you are welcome to eves drop.

We lead by spiritual direction, helping people to grasp what God may be up to in the patterns and rhythms of life. Much of that is listening and assessing. I wish more people came to me for this. But since many of them are introverts, they are already thinking about their lives. They are probably more self-reflective and don’t need me to help them reflect. At least this is what I tell myself as I ponder it.

He then shifts to what introverted leadership looks like. We will tend to impact fewer people, but often more deeply. This is like Jesus with the three. Introverts tend to invest in a few. I do this, in part because I can’t invest in everyone. Trouble is matching up those I want to invest in with those who want me to invest in them. Some people want more attention. Attention, not really investment.

Introverted leaders are more likely to equip others to do the work of ministry instead of trying to do the work of ministry themselves. Yeah, we can struggle with control too. I found in my previous pastorate that I was reluctant to let the worship team plan the music. Part of it was the friendship- I enjoyed those meetings as we often laughed together. But I had to trust them to do well to free myself up to do other things. In this pastorate I quickly realized they knew what they were doing and after a year let them doing on their own. Perhaps I need to pop in periodically to invest in those relationships, but they do a good job.

Introverted leaders are more likely to build leadership teams, not simply a group of ‘yes’ men. I want to collaborate even as I want to be in control. That joyful battle between the Spirit and the flesh. Perhaps it is hiding behind them, but I want us to do things together. We share responsibility for better or worse. Things move slower than I’d like at times (okay, most of the time) but that probably saves the church from my impulsiveness. I’ve seen too many pastors with dictator powers continually shifting the direction of the church instead of slowly moving in the same direction. One of the important lessons is that you need to make decisions as if you’ll have to living with them the rest of your life (instead of leaving them for the next guy because you’ve moved on to ‘greener’ pastures).

Finding y0ur place can be tough. I’m 7 years into this pastorate and still trying to find my place in Presbytery. I was thrust into my place when I was in FL. People saw gifts in me and put me in places of responsibility. Here? Not so much. Then there is the internal battle between being a faithful steward of the grace I’ve received and selfish ambition. In FL I didn’t seek those positions. I don’t want to seek them now. Maybe I should, but I am leery of my prideful heart. McHugh notes that many introverts actually thrive in larger churches. This is because people don’t expect pastors to be accessible. I want our church to be larger for a number of reasons. One is the gospel impact; I want more people to hear (and then share) the gospel in our area. One is being able to limit my responsibilities because there are other staff to do other things. I recently preached at a much larger church. It was great not having to lead liturgy and play guitar. All I had to do was preach and offer the benediction. It was refreshing. It would be great to invest in young men in ministry. In the past I’ve mentored younger men working at other churches in the same town. I miss that. I wish we were big enough to have interns, associate pastors etc. People who are there all day so we can talk and learn together.

McHugh then talks about leading different types of people. Leading extroverts is difficult because “they can view this internalizing tendency with suspicion.” I’ve seen that! Since we are processing things internally, instead of acting, they can perceive us as apathetic or indecisive. We will need to communicate more with the extroverts. There are certain people I clue in on what I’m thinking so they know their concerns and dreams aren’t being ignored even though nothing dramatic is happening. They can learn that progress is happening behind the scenes. You also make time to listen to their input.

This means I “over-communicate” for our introverts. Too many emails they think. But we need to repeat things, use body language, for our extroverted friends.

In leading introverts we need to give them space to speak. You have to wait them out in small groups, Session meetings etc. The extroverts will speak quickly, but the introverts will wait. If you move too quickly, you won’t hear from them. When I’m in a class, not teaching, I’ll often wait to see if someone else says something. But might wait too long for that teacher who moves on. Give people time to process their thoughts and gather the courage to express them.

Many of the things in this chapter were things I learned the hard way. Perhaps this chapter will help others to learn them the easy way.

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I have a love/hate relationship with pre-marital counseling. I enjoy doing it, and it is important to do. I have yet to find the best material for me to use. I’ve tried a variety of options. I want a balance between structure and freedom (this is generally true of me). I want to be faithful and cover the basics. But I want the freedom to follow what I discover. We aren’t just dealing with topics, but with people who have real histories that need to be uncovered because their relationship is unlike any other.

I feel like I’ve ping-ponged over the abyss as I’ve tried (in my own perfectionistic baggage) to find the perfect balance. I apologize to the many “guinea pigs” I’ve worked with over the years.

With a couple preparing for marriage I’ve waded into these murky waters again. Last time I adapted some of the materials in my “soon-to-be-published” book. I’m sure of of that will hang on, but I wanted to cover some of the standard topics better.

As a result, I purchased two books. One of them was Tying the Knot by Rob Green. This is an attempt to have Christ-centered pre-marital counseling. “Jesus” and “Center” are part of each chapter title. He covers your life, love, problem solving, roles and expectations, communication, finances, community and intimacy. His desire is to see all of these things in light of the object of your faith: Jesus. Each chapter has homework to process the information and apply it in your relationship. It is intended for use with a pastor or mentor in preparation.

A pastor or mentor is important precisely because we need to be pushed. There are things we would rather not talk about. This is the way we are. We want to duck the hard questions. People “in love” don’t want the boat rocked. They think they have arrived, they have found their soul mate. The search is over, but hard questions can question that conclusion. A good mentor will be able to tell a couple there are serious concerns. Struggles are okay- they deepen love or reveal we’re really into self-interest not actual love. So don’t deny struggles, or make too much of them. What matters is what you do with them.

He does start with each person’s relationship with Christ. He wants to encourage them to have Christ as of utmost importance to each future spouse. Too often people cling to a cultural form of Christianity. We treat Jesus as an optional add-on to life as opposed to the most important person in our lives. Jesus is a king, and Christians are part of His kingdom and are to keep that kingdom central. When we don’t, we become more like neighboring nations that continually fight for control. Our kingdoms begin to matter too much and the person who threatens our kingdom must be conquered or eliminated.

Green then distinguishes between a worldly understanding of love and a biblical one. Real love isn’t about epic dates and woozy feelings. It is about sticking together in the midst of adversity, short-term and long-term. God doesn’t bail on us. He enables us to not bail on each other whether it is the flu, job loss, cancer etc. He expounds 1 Corinthians 13, and reveals how we have been loved by Christ.

Problem solving is a problem for many of us because we are “hurt hoarders”: we do keep a record of wrongs which creates long-term problems in a relationship. He focused on recording their wrongs and the growth of bitterness. We can also record our wrongs and withdraw out of a sense of guilt, shame and failure. Both make solving problems increasingly difficult. He covers some of the lies we can believe about problems that create more problems. He then lays out some basic principles to keep in mind. He brings the freedom we should experience due to the doctrine of justification to confess our sin, and to forgive theirs. For couples or individuals who really struggle with this I’d recommend When Sinners Say “I Do”.

With roles and expectations Green briefly delves into the reality of roles as God-given, and the differing expectations we have. I think he does a good job of distinguishing between roles and expectations. Too often they are confused. Expectations are person-relative. Roles are God-established. An overly progressive or liberal view makes roles all person-relative because men and women are interchangeable. Some conservatives try to cram expectations into roles. There are no divine dictates about who cooks, does dishes or takes out the trash. Each couple works through those things in light of the gifts, interests, competing time demands and responsibilities etc. Each person comes from a different family culture and the couple needs to form a new family culture that is faithful in that to which God speaks and loving & wise in that to which He doesn’t.

In communication he focuses on words as the overflow of the heart. We all need renewed hearts. Only Jesus can renew our hearts. Too often we speak in ways that diminish, wound and degrade our spouses. When your kingdom is on the line you will not care about collateral damage. And this is the problem.

In discussing finances, Green wants us to see ourselves as stewards. This means that how we spend our money is tied to our relationship with Christ. His kingdom, not our own, should determine where our money goes. Too many people give little thought to Jesus when they think about cars, homes, vacations, snack food etc. We’ve been trained to think about the environment, or “fair trade”. But most haven’t been trained to think about stewardship. That’s important too! More important actually.

He includes a rarity in pre-marital counseling material- a chapter on church. He talks about community and one of those communities is the faith community. It is one of the ways we keep Jesus in the center, and a manifestation of Jesus being in the center. He loves the Church! It is His Bride. How can we love Jesus and not love His Bride. Oh, unlike Him she is far from perfect. She’s like us, and therefore hard to love at times. Loving the Church is part of how we learn to love like Jesus.

He wraps up with intimacy, or sex. We tend to keep Jesus out of our sex lives. I am reminded of Only the Lonely when he brings her home for dinner together. Mom has gone out and this is going to be the big night when they finally fornicate. In the bedroom there is a statue of Jesus, so he puts a hat over the statue thinking then God won’t see. We fail to see Jesus as the Creator of our bodies and therefore of sex. He has authority over our sex lives and does regulate them. Sex is intended to strengthen the one flesh union as an expression of love, not self-interest. That shapes how we talk and do sex in marriage.

Tying the Knot covers almost all of the essential topics. It is a very readable book and is not verbose. He gets to the point, sometimes a little too quickly.

He could have spent a little more time developing Christ as the Creator and Lord of marriage and His supremacy and sufficiency in all things related to life and marriage. But better a book this size than the size of mine. He was able to stay focused and that is helpful for young couples on the road to marriage.

I’m surprise that child bearing and rearing is not really covered. I say this since “be fruitful and multiply” is part of the creation mandate (and Noahic covenant and Abrahamic promise), and forms one of the purposes of marriage. We live in a culture where marriage and children are increasingly separated as evidenced by more children being born outside of marriage, and more couples choosing to be childless (a national magazine had this as its cover story a few years ago). It is one of the topics I encourage friends to discuss before they are engaged. If you can’t get on the same page regarding children and how they will be raised there will be many conflicts surrounding those topics. I found this to be a glaring omission.

But all together, I thought this was a very good book. I plan to use this book and not the other with the young couple coming for pre-marital counseling this summer. It doesn’t say everything, but what it says it does say well.

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Lots of people have their best of 2010 lists.  Why should I be any different?

But I will do it a bit differently.  Instead of books released in 2010, I will recommend some of the books I read in 2010.  Unlike some guys, I am not always on top of the new releases.  Additionally, sometimes this can mean we forget great books from the past.  I will include 2 books that I re-read this year as well.  Great books hold up over time, even if you suffer from ADD.  Lastly there will be a few books I read this year (or at least tried to) that I do not recommend.

Great Books I Read in 2010

  1. Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes You Just by Tim Keller.  I just finished this book, so it is fresher in my mind.  In typical Keller fashion he challenges conservative Christians, “progressive” Christians and unbelievers to think more biblically.  The timing for this book was great as the conservative-liberal divide on the issues of social justice seem far more pronounced and polarizing.  He brings a wealth of information into the discussion, but is far from wishy-washy.  Keller has biblical boundaries for this discussion.  Some just want to talk.  I believe Keller does a great job of keeping the gospel central to this discussion.  Even better, it was released in 2010!
  2. The Trellis and the Vine: The Ministry Mind-Shift that Changes Everything by Colin Marshall and Tony Payne.  This was a very good book that encourages pastors and elders to have a different understanding of ministry.  Too often our view of ministry limits our ministry in an unhealthy way.  I’m struggling with how to implement some of this in an existing church.  Not the fault of the book.  On second thought, perhaps that would have made a great additional chapter.
  3. The Marrow of Modern Divinity by E.F. (most likely Edward Fisher) with notes by Thomas Boston.  Yes, this is a few centuries old.  But it is an important book that I’d been meaning to read for a few years.  I’d been providentially hindered from reading it.  It is written in the style of a dialogue between 4 different characters.  E.F. (and Boston in his notes) brings in the work of a number of even older theologians, and their own contemporaries.  It deals with the Christian’s relationship with the law both before and after conversion.
  4. The Transforming Community: The Practice of the Gospel in Church Discipline by Mark Lauterbach.  This book is a few years old, but I think it is an important book for pastors and elders.  Church Discipline is a much neglected subject and Lauterbach does a great job of keeping the gospel central to how a church practices discipline.
  5. War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles by Paul Tripp.  Tripp applies a sound biblical, gospel-centered theology to communication. It goes far beyond “how to”, to unearthing our sin and idolatry.  Unlike some of the other books, this is appropriate, and aimed at, all of us who confess Christ.  Some great biblical wisdom that often brought me to repentance.
  6. Gospel-Powered Parenting: How the Gospel Shapes and and Transforms Parenting by William Farley.  There is no dearth of parenting books.  This is one of the best precisely because he focuses on how the gospel is applied in parenting.  If you’re a parent, it might be wise to pick this up.  If you know a parent, give it as a gift (like I did).  I think you might catch the common thread thus far: the gospel.
  7. By Grace Alone: How the Grace of God Amazes Me by Sinclair Ferguson.  Continuing that thread is one of my favorite authors.  This is yet another great mind-transforming, heart-warming book.  It has both heat and light.  I cannot recommend it enough.  Buy this book!
  8. Adopted for Life: The Priority of Adoption for Christian Families and Churches by Russel Moore.  Again, the gospel as revealed in adoption this time.  Moore writes, as the subtitle makes clear, not just for families but for the church family.  It is a great book, though at times a tad clumsy as it shifts back and forth between his family’s story of adoption and the biblical theology of adoption.
  9. The Immigration Crisis: Immigrants, Aliens and the Bible by James Hoffmeier.  There have been any number of attempts to justify various immigration positions from the Scriptures.  Hoffmeier uses this expertise in the OT and archeology to dig into the appropriate texts rather than just read his position into them as is common practice.  It is not a very long book, but is a very helpful book that is worth reading by anyone who cares what the Bible may have to say about this important subject in our day.

Great Books I Re-read in 2010

  1. Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex and Power and the Only Hope that Matters by Tim Keller.  I didn’t read it all that long ago, but a great book holds up.  This is one of those books that holds up.  Another timely book by Keller.  As a great preacher, he is able to shape the books so they are bringing biblical truth to current issues.  But these are not “fad” books, but topics he’s been preaching about for years.
  2. Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands: People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change by Paul Tripp.  I read this again for community group after reading it during the “lost years” of transition.  It is a great book for understanding personal ministry to one another.  It helps me as a pastor, and it should be helpful for ordinary church goers.  He brings a good biblical theology to the task.  Some material is also found in War of Words, but I found that to reinforce the message since I was reading them at the same time.

Books I’m Not Excited to Have Read (or at least tried)

  1. Dual Citizens: Worship and Life Between the Already and Not Yet by Jason Stellman.  I had high hopes for this book.  I struggled with how he applied his 2 kingdom theology.  It sounded too much like let the world go to hell in a handbasket except for those who embrace the gospel.  The church and Christians appear to have no real function in society aside from evangelism.
  2. Pray Big: The Power of Pinpoint Prayers by Will Davis Jr.  I did not make it very far in this book.  It was basically an attempt to proof text his views instead of developing a solid, applicable theology of prayer.  This is why I usually don’t read broadly evangelical books.

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Communication is a problem for all of us.  It is a problem as old as that fateful day the serpent spoke to Eve.  It plagues our marriages, families, churches and the work place.  There is no place on earth where there are people that there is not a struggle to communicate.

Paul David Tripp wrote War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles with this pervasive proclivity in mind (also available in CD book, a DVD seminar, discussion guide and here is a sample chapter).  He does get to the heart- focusing on the heart, not just technique.

This book is not just a practical self-help book.  Actually, it isn’t a self-help book at all.  It is intensely theological, but applies that theology.  The help it offers is the gospel.  Jesus alone is able to end the war of words of which we are all apart.

Theologically he does not shy away from the reality of indwelling sin.  Our problems are rooted here, which is why only Jesus can resolve them.  He also puts forth a rigorous doctrine of sanctification.  This book is really about the process of sanctifying our speech as we root out the sin in our hearts.  This is a book that often prompted me to repentance, particularly as he illustrated matters with personal stories.

My only ‘complaint’ is the amount of material repeated from Instruments in the Redeemer’s Hands.  It really isn’t a complaint- I probably needed to hear it repeatedly.  There is a great deal of overlap in the approach of the books- the problem is in the heart, the solution is the gospel, and change takes place in personal ministry.  So obviously there will be overlap.  I just happened to be reading both books at the same time.

This is not a book to read quickly, or take lightly.  It is not meant for application for others until there is application to yourself.  But I encourage you to read it- it just may significantly change your relationships, if you are able to apply the truth uncovered here.

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I’ve been reading Paul Tripp’s War of Words: Getting to the Heart of Your Communication Struggles.  [It is also available in a video series with workbook]   One of the issues he addresses is improper motives for following Jesus.  It is not a modern problem, but one that we see even in the ministry of Jesus.  Tripp takes us to John 6.  The people followed Jesus because they wanted to be fed, again.  They failed to look past the miracle (John uses the term sign) to the thing is signified.  They were unhappy when Jesus didn’t meet their expectations.

Tripp asks about your great “if only.”  “If only  … I would be happy.”  That would be your dream- the fountain from which all happiness would flow.  But now all that flows is a steady stream of disappointment and bitterness.  We think that Jesus has let us down, because he has not fulfilled our dream.

“Their pursuit of Christ was born instead out of a love for self and the hope that Christ would be the one who would meet their felt needs.  … What moves and motivates everything we do is not a submission to God’s will and a burning desire for is glory, but our own set of personal desires and dreams.”

Sign of the Bread of Life

Our dreams motivate us.  Often into self-destruction.  Witness all those misguided people who end up on the first 2 episodes of American Idol.  They had a dream for themselves that was out of step with reality (and no one loved them enough to say ‘you can’t sing’- I’m not sure why since no one has a problem telling ME I can’t sing).

What is God’s dream for us?  If you are a Christian that is simple: that Christ would be your life, and that you’d have a deeper, stronger, more mature faith (self-abandoning trust as Packer says) in Christ.  Tripp develops this from John 6 and 1 Peter 1.

Any material blessings we experience are merely signs- and those signs point us to Jesus who is Life.  When they become the whole enchilada we lapse into idolatry.  When we don’t have them, watch out!  We will be filled with anger, bitterness, depression and a host of other vile things.

“In my opinion, in the heart of every sinner is a desire that life would be a resort.”

Probably, Las Vegas.  All you can eat buffets.  Lots of attractions to keep you occupied.  Comp rooms if you gamble (a lot).  Lots of eye candy, which really isn’t helpful.  But no mess, no fuss and party all the time.

But life is not like that.  And we take it out on others.  They may be blocking our desires, or merely ‘innocent’ bystanders.  Either way we become one of the thousands slain by hardship (though hundreds of thousands have been slain by affluence).

“If we are living for earthly bread and see it as our source of life, we are going to be in for big trouble when we don’t have it.  But if we are living for spiritual bread, for a deeper communion with Jesus Christ, then our lives (with all of their problems) become wonderful places to know and grow in fellowship with the One who is life. … If he is what your heart craves, there are wonderful opportunities to grow in grace and knowledge in the midst of all kinds of difficulty.”

Is that how you face difficulty?  Or are you miserable, whiny and petulant?  At that moment you are not craving Jesus, but something or someone else.  Your response to trouble matters.  It is a sign to the condition of your heart.

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