“A man who isolates himself seeks his own desire;
He rages against all wise judgment.”
(Prov. 18:1, NKJV)
I’m an introvert. According to the Meyers-Briggs personality test I’m an ISTJ – the “Logistician.” That means that I think in terms of logic and black-and-white right-and-wrongs. I form relationships best with those who have similar personalities and beliefs, but those relationships generally don’t come easily or quickly. People with different personalities than mine, especially more extroverted ones, tend to think of me as stiff and hard to get to know. But those who have made it to the friendship level will find me, if not the most exciting friend, at least one of the more loyal and dependable ones.
As an introvert, I do enjoy being with friends – it’s just that it tends to leave me feeling more drained than energized. I’m not one for having a busy social life; too much activity makes me want to retreat into isolation to rejuvenate myself before I dare venture out again.
If I am going to socialize, I want it to be worth it. I want to be able to open myself up to someone I can trust. I want to invest only in relationships that I think will last, generally iron-sharpens-iron friendships. Otherwise what’s the point?
I tend to feel self-sufficient. Many times I feel like I can get more out of the Scripture on my own at home than I can in a group setting or on a Sunday morning. There can be a temptation to wonder what’s the point of even going to church when I can connect better with God on my own?
I don’t know about you, but I usually think of Christianity in terms of my own personal relationship with Christ and my own personal holiness. I’m not giving as much thought to the larger community of believers.
But for the past couple years in particular, I’ve been thinking a lot about community within the larger context of Christianity. In the New Testament, community was an integral part of the believers’ lives – fellowshipping with one another and caring for one another was a normal part of their activities.
So that’s something that’s been more and more on my heart lately. How can I be building my Christian brethren up in the Lord? How can I be discipling them?
In Acts we read of disciples gathering daily for meals and fellowship. In Ephesians and Colossians we learn how the church is to be functioning as one body, building one another up. In Corinthians we see how the believers are to be using their spiritual gifts for the purpose of edifying one another. In Timothy and Titus we are instructed to mentor those younger than us and to walk together with others who will pursue faith, love, and righteousness together with us. In Hebrews we are told not to forsake the gathering of ourselves together, but to spur one another on toward love and good works.
We’re selling ourselves short when we make it all about us. Because then what happens on Sunday morning when the sermon doesn’t address our own lives? Or when we show up at an event where we don’t know anyone or meet anyone who’s a potential life-long friend? We don’t get anything out of it; we become disappointed and discouraged; and there’s a feeling of emptiness because we feel like we didn’t get “our needs” met.
But when we realize that the Gospel is bigger than our individual selves – that’s when real Christianity can begin. When we stop asking what we can get out of something or someone, and start asking instead what we have to offer and how can we glorify God in a particular situation – that’s when we can start seeing “church” played out.
For us introverts, though, that can be hard! It’s not natural for us to reach out and invest in relationships for Christ’s sake. It’s not natural to make those connections and be thinking of others more than ourselves, especially when all we want to do is go home and curl up on the couch in private – but it’s what we’re called to do!
And it’s something that even Jesus demonstrated. When He was tired and sad over the news of His cousin’s death, He withdrew from the crowds to be alone – but when they followed Him anyway, He set aside His personal comfort and was “moved with compassion” for the very people who were keeping Him from a time of quiet, refreshing solitude.
Fellow introverts (and even you extroverts!), let’s be more intentional about our relationships with others, understanding that Christianity isn’t meant to be lived in isolation, but within the beautiful context of godly fellowship and community.
40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. 42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. . . . 44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.
46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church[h] daily those who were being saved.
(Acts 2: 40-43, 45-47)
4 I, therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you to walk worthy of the calling with which you were called, 2 with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love, 3 endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. 4 There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called in one hope of your calling; 5 one Lord, one faith, one baptism; 6 one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. . . .
11 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, 12 for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ, 13 till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ; 14 that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting, 15 but, speaking the truth in love, may grow up in all things into Him who is the head—Christ— 16 from whom the whole body, joined and knit together by what every joint supplies, according to the effective working by which every part does its share, causes growth of the body for the edifying of itself in love.
(Eph. 4:1-6, 11-16)
12 Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; 13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do. 14 But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection. 15 And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to which also you were called in one body; and be thankful. 16 Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom, teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. 17 And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.
4 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. 6 And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. 7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all . . . 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills.
(1 Cor. 12:4-7, 11)
22 Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. 23 But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. 24 And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, 25 in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth,
(2 Tim. 2:22-25)
23 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful. 24 And let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works, 25 not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as is the manner of some, but exhorting one another, and so much the more as you see the Day approaching.