Introverted Evangelism

Is personality type a deciding factor for bold faith?

Many years ago, I was instructed with a group of Bible school peers to venture out into a university campus for street evangelism. As a Christian, this seemed a good thing to do. Yet as an introvert, it was a nightmare. Here I was, out on the street, expected to engage in strangers' lives—when I didn’t really like talking to people that much at all.

My highlights of these outreach efforts would include asking a busboy on his break what he thought about the weather and telling another guy that I liked his shoes. Other than that, my time was spent roaming around feeling nervous and awkward about what I had to do.

Evangelism became my greatest fear. I went over all of the angles as much as I could. Still, I could never come up with anything natural to say, as going out to talk to strangers seemed very unnatural to me.

Initially, I wanted to change. I had people pray for me to be “bold” and to “step out of my comfort zone.” I was going to kill my reclusive personality. After all, the world was perishing. I kept going out every week, but no matter how hard I tried, I could not bring myself to participate in the outreach. I had seen the need in the world, and the world saw my failure to meet that need. I was frustrated and angry with myself for failing so miserably.

This anger wasn’t just directed at myself but at the methods we were using to share the Gospel. All of the Bible tracts, street preaching, door-knocking and stranger-talk stuff overwhelmed me. The streets our organization would hit up had become a Gospel-distribution center, where we were trained to be master marketeers. The goal was to get all of the information out there, no matter what it took, and hope that the people would somehow respond to it. It was the kind of system that some people can thrive in, but for me, I felt out of place.

Did I need to become a complete opposite version of myself to share the Gospel?

What can one do in the face of this contradiction? Did I need to become a complete opposite version of myself to share the Gospel? I couldn’t wrap my mind around it. I was depressed—convinced I was a failure, letting God down with my inaction. After letting the guilt bother me for quite some time, I decided to give up. What good was it for me to feel this way? What help could I possibly offer to others?

The first thing I needed to do was remind myself of who created me, who I was, and what I could be. I was reminded that God had put His signature on me, not on who I could be. I started to denounce the lies and replaced them with the truth: I was made with specific intentions, and God could do great things through me if I would embrace them. I needed to break through the guilt and get on with living.

I had to learn that, in fact, I do like talking to people—I just don’t like talking to strangers. I love discussion, especially about faith and theology. If someone wants to discuss beliefs, or hockey, or movies, I could literally talk for hours I just can’t force it on them. Believe me, I’ve tried to start a forced conversation about hockey and people just aren’t interested.

Introverts also have the advantage in that listening is a huge part of having a conversation. A lot of people like to hear the sound of their own voice in a world in need of more listeners. Not being great talkers automatically puts introverts in a great position to listen. Everyone has a story to tell, and the Church needs to have open ears to hear what people are saying. Everything is sacred—there are no irrelevant conversations, and God can use all situations for the purposes of His Kingdom.

Not being great talkers automatically puts introverts in a great position to listen. Everyone has a story to tell, and the Church needs to have open ears to hear what people are saying.

Of course, being challenged is a good thing. It can benefit us to step out and go beyond what we thought we could. Yet that risk needs to be more than just trying to do things that you don’t want to do. We also need to break out of all of the preconceived ideas of ourselves and who we “should” be in order to embrace the person God made us to be. For most of us, being comfortable in ourselves is a risk in itself.

When we become comfortable with who we are, no matter what our personality type is, or where our interests lie, we can become more honest in our evangelism. If you don’t feel natural approaching strangers to talk about the Gospel, try another approach more suited to your personality and gifts. What’s your element—that place that fuels you in joyful energy? Find it, and connect with people there. Your joy will make people notice, and perhaps open up opportunities to share Christ’s love. The world hates fakers, and the last thing you want to do is present Christ in a way that is perceptibly fake or forced.

If you’re shy, then stay that way. Work with it. Accept your unique make-up and learn to laugh at yourself instead of wishing you were different. But whether you’re an introvert, extrovert or somewhere in between, continue to cultivate relationships—which are an integral part of obedience in the faith. If you don’t think that you can answer the call to evangelism, then perhaps go out and offer to cut your neighbor’s lawn, babysit their cat or do some other service that might be helpful to them.

It all comes down to doing what you love to do. God needs us all to do our own unique part in reaching out to the world. There are too many people out there “doing work” for Jesus instead of being joyful for Him. As an anti-social homebody, I say that it’s time to embrace the joy. Be yourself, digging inside to find the things in life that you love—and then connect with others from this genuine place. Sometimes the simple things that are on our hearts are the very things that others need to hear about the most.

Maybe you’re not the “bold” type, the life of the party or someone who feels comfortable talking out spirituality with strangers. This doesn’t mean you’re not cut out for Kingdom work. If you’re an introvert, you can take pride in the rich Gospel mission Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 9:22: “I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some.”

64 Comments

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John Stanley commented…

Ever since I realised that God was more serious about being friends with people than I am, I have found that trusting that God has been involved in peoples lives (waaay) before I get there requires me to listen. When I do, I hear what God has been doing in their life, and my listening allows them to hear it out of their own mouth. I don't need to inculturate it any more than being myself, as Brett has so wonderfullyand clearly said. I don't need to force my agenda or even correct their heresies, that will take time and my own integrated walk alongside. Listening helps me to hear the voice of God in their life and affirm that voice, which they know instinctively, to be that of God. John Wesley called it the 'prevenient grace of God'.

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Bill commented…

This was great, and I'm really glad it was addressed. However, I hope I'm not sounding particularly negative but I felt a little uncomfortable with the phrase, "don't think that you can answer the call to evangelism". The only issue I see there is that it's not a call to evangelize. It's a command. There is no one incapable of sharing Jesus, with the only exception being if they can't articulate what they believe, and in that instance, I would question if they do believe. By loving the Lord and loving others we share Him with them, out of joy because we know He's better than anything, and those without Him stand condemned. I am an introvert, and the times I have shied away from sharing have been out of fear, which is birthed from (let's just be honest) being ashamed of the gospel and more concerned with what people think than obeying God. I've had to high that because it is sin, not "just who I am". If we are afraid, it's important to know that must change, not be worked around.

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Anonymous commented…

Thanks for your thoughts.

First of all, I think that the line "don't think that you can answer the call to evangelism" was an editors choice to tie the paragraph together. My point there was that, we are also commanded to love our neighbours in ways that would include going over to see if they need any help. I find that this kind of attitude is too rare for Christians, and it is a perfect opportunity to share God's love with people. It's practical and, as an introvert, easy to do. Why does evangelism have to be scary, awkward, and intrusive all of the time?
A few people on here have commented that not sharing the gospel = fear. I fear that my point did not come across clear enough. I hoped to open up show that there are many, unique ways to share (cutting the neighours grass can lead to more interactions, etc.) besides the "bold, in your face, direct" approach. I would say that I would hesitate to share in those situations not out of fear but out of embarrassment for how unnatural, awkward and shallow those methods are.

Believe me, I want people to know about Jesus. I also want people to share out of their strengths and not in fear out of an apparent lack of them. We all have strengths. Let's be creative and use them as to reach others.

There is an important dynamic here, though, that I would like to point out. If you are shy and you think that your lack of boldness is based on you being ashamed of the gospel, then how can you not live in fear? As in, every time you neglect to share the gospel in any situation, how can you not immediately think that you are a failure, that you are ashamed, and that God disappointed with you? I've been there. That is not a healthy place, nor is it Truth.

Jesus invested in a small group of people. He spoke in mysterious parables. He seemed to pick his spots, so to speak. He was creative in sharing his father's love.

Could it be that, as introverts, our seeming faults are actually blessings in disguise? As I mentioned, I like to listen to people, I am not into listening to someone and then quickly changing the subject to something that I want to talk. We tend to notice the "odd on out" in groups. Lets invest in those people. I don't know, there are many attributes here that, I am sure, woul cross over to be gifts of extroverts as well. I guess what I mean is, as all people, let's get creative and excited about sharing.

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David Pitchford commented…

This is amazing. As an introvert, I wish I'd read this when I was involved with Cru in college. Paul in 1 Corinthians 12 talking about the different parts of the body of Christ comes to mind here.

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Anonymous commented…

Amen! My sister and I are exactly opposite. She's been a Christian for a few years to my decades. Still, she is comfortable evangelizing to strangers and I'm not. She credits me for encouraging and strengthening her faith which has helped her do that. That's more my gift! Sometimes living the faith is the best way to evangelize. It's important to remember Paul's description of the Body of Christ. We are all different parts and cannot be a Body without each other. I believe God designed us this wayso we would work in community with each other.

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