So you’re an introvert attending a big church and you feel lost amongst all the people. Now what?
If you’re like me you may be feeling sad that nobody has invited you to lunch, or angry with God for leading you to a church where you don’t feel loved, or panicky that you’ll never belong. Your finger is hovering over the eject button, increasingly convinced this can’t possibly be where God wants you to be.
But don’t begin with your emotions!
There is hope for introverts like us, even when we feel completely lost or invisible in a big congregation.
Here’s some things that I’m preaching to myself –
Get convinced by the spiritual reality
The reality is that the people in the pews next to you really are your brothers and sisters in Christ. You may never have spoken with them or been to their house, but they are more intimately related to you than even your biological parents and siblings.
Together you have been united in Jesus’ death and resurrection, and together you have been born again into the same new family. You do belong with these people! Anything else is a lie.
You and they are:
“the church of God… those sanctified in Christ Jesus and called to be his holy people, together with all those everywhere who call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ”
(1 Corinthians 1:2).
You may feel lost and lonely in the middle of a crowd, but the spiritual reality is something completely different. These men and women are your family, and together you are called to:
- Bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
- Build up one another. (1 Thessalonians 5:11)
- Encourage one another. (Hebrews 3:13)
- Pray for one another. (James 4:11)
And together to be:
- Hospitable to one another. (1 Peter 4:9).
- Kind to one another. (Ephesians 4:32)
- Devoted to one another. (Romans 12:10)
To accept one another. (Romans 15:7)
This is who we are, and what we’ve been called to be, and we can trust that God will be faithful to this reality. Why? Because it was his costly love-motivated, eternally-planned gospel that made it possible!
So stick it out, and pray that God will make the spiritual reality more and more evident in your life, and the life of the church that you’re part of.
Get passionate about Christian community
Next, get passionate about the blessing and importance of Christian community! This is actually probably easier if you’re struggling to feel loved and connected in authentic relationships at church. You really do see the need! But a bigger and better reason to be passionate about Christian community is because Jesus is.
Jesus is passionate about the relationships we are called to. His new command is: “love one another: just as I have loved you” (John 13:34). His prayer is that we’d “become perfectly one” (John 17:23), and that our relationship would mirror his relationship with the Father – just as his Father is in him, and he is in the Father, (John 17:21).
He died to make this possible. So let’s be as passionate as Jesus, and let’s be willing to make costly sacrifices to bring about this reality; firstly for others, before we worry too much about ourselves.
Jesus knew it was worth it!
See the need around you
When you look around the church what do you see? Do you see sorted people, who don’t need another friend? Do you see cliques of people who all feel secure in their friendships? Do you see people sailing through life? Or do you see people who are lonely, struggling, and in need of support and prayer?
Actually, it’s impossible to tell. On the outside most people look pretty much the same. But what difference would it make if you began with the assumption that the person next to you would love for someone to take a genuine interest in them, and to value them enough to want to spend time with them outside of church?
Introverts are generally really good at meaningful relationships, built on one-to-one time, and really listening to the other person. So be confident that God wants to use you to bless other people. Don’t wait for someone else to make the first move!
Be the change you want to see in the world
OK so the title of this section is a bit of a cliché, but in this case it’s true! Rather than moan and get frustrated about how lonely we feel at church, let’s begin to mold culture around us, and to patiently build church community one small manageable step at a time. And let’s expect God to multiply our little efforts like Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fish.
This is what I believe God has impressed upon my heart both times I’ve ‘ended up’ attending big churches. It may not be my natural habitat, but God has put me here for a reason!
Part two will be a list of practical (introvert friendly) things we can do to mold the culture around us, and to patiently build church community one small step at a time…