A Socially Phobic Introvert in an Active Church

I went to my church’s Life Group yesterday.  We are going through Thom Rainer’s I Will: Nine Traits of the Outwardly Focused Christian.

In the book, Rainer says that church people who only attend the worship service are more likely to drop out of church than those who attend a small group or a Sunday school class.  Someone in the group explained her understanding of the rationale for that: we’re more likely to attend a church if we have friends there.  Someone else said that, when she first attended our church, the pastor encouraged her to get involved in all of the church’s activities.  That way she can learn people’s names, get to know people, and find a place in the church.  Before you know it, she had a role in the church, and she considered it home.

The previous pastor of the church told me a while back that small groups were a new thing for this church.  I asked the Life Group what the church was like before there were small groups.  Essentially, they answered that the church still had lots of activities to attend.  There was Sunday school, Bible study, quilting groups, committees, etc., etc.

I will be moving again in a few months, and I will probably look for another church that will be closer to where I will be.  My experience in the current Methodist church that I attend has made me think about what exactly to look for in a church.  What do I want?  What should I want?

Of course, the point of Thom Rainer’s book is that we should not think so much about what we want or what we can get from church.  We should be focused more on worshiping God and on serving.  I guess I have to decide for myself what to do with that line.  I do not repudiate it entirely.  On the other hand, I have difficulty removing my wants and desires—-in short, myself—-from the equation.  After all, I carry myself—-and my own thoughts, needs, feelings, and wants—-with me wherever I go.

Something that strikes me about the Methodist church is that it is very active.  There are many churches that talk about doing good, and these churches mean well.  But the Methodist church is actually proactive in doing good.  It is always on the go.  It is high energy.  I admire that.  But I get exhausted thinking about it.  I am the sort of person who likes to be by myself and read all day.  But I am glad that somebody is out there trying to make the world a better place!

I also am the sort of person who wants to be loved, or at least liked, without much effort on my part.  Some places are more comfortable for me in this regard than other places.  For me, trying to be liked takes a lot of work.  Add to that the times in my life when I have earnestly tried to be liked, and I have not been liked.  That can easily discourage a person from trying, or it can make a person socially phobic.

I guess that one thing that I can do is to keep an open mind.  Be open to participating in some activities—to try them out, at least.  Keep in mind that I am not the center of the universe.  Hear other people’s joys and concerns, and care about them.

 

 

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About jamesbradfordpate

My name is James Pate. I study the History of Biblical Interpretation at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati, Ohio, as part of its Ph.D. program. I have an M.A. in Hebrew Bible from Jewish Theological Seminary, an M.Div. from Harvard Divinity School, and a B.A. from DePauw University. This blog is about my journey. I read books. I watch movies and TV shows. I go to church. I try to find meaning. And, when I can’t do that, I just talk about stuff that I find interesting.
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