Unity in Diversity – Embracing our differences

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“I have no desire to tell you guys what I am doing.” – San Antonio Spurs center Tim Duncan, when asked why he hasn’t joined twitter.

Gregg Popovich is Duncan’s no non-sense, mission-driven coach. The two men share a game-day ritual in which Popovich takes a seat on the bench alone at halftime. While the rest of the arena is going to get a beer and hot dogs and his players are practicing shooting baskets, Duncan comes and sits down next to him. They both stare at the ground. Usually, they say nothing. They’ve been doing this for years and people have had many theories as to why – though one of many theories spins off the fact that the two of them are both introverts.

“In mainstream American culture (in schools, corporations, and social institutions), those who are talkative, outgoing, energetic, and assertive have a decided advantage. People who enjoy reflection and solitude, and listen more than they speak, are often viewed as enigmatic, antisocial, and passive” – Adam McHugh (Author, Presbyterian minister, Hospice chaplain)

In personality assessments I’ve tested as an extrovert. However, I get my batteries charged by time alone. I enjoy situations where I get to interact with lots of people. It’s energizing, but also exhausting. I prefer deep conversation to small talk, friendships to meeting strangers, and I find that a multitude of superficial conversations can be draining. So I’ve come to a conclusion – which I’ve adapted from the Washington D.C.-based pastor Mark Batterson – that I’m an introvert by necessity and an extrovert by personality.

What fills your energy tanks or drains your batteries? Where do you land on the introvert extrovert continuum? How well do you think that church engages both extroverted and introverted men? What should mark a godly man and leader – should it be a magnetic personality (Titus 1:5–8, 1 Tim 3:2–7, 1 Pet 5:1–3)? If a certain group (introverted or extroverted) is marginalized how can the men of Hope help champion and celebrate this group?

Romans 12: 4-6 says that we’re all a part of the same body. The kidneys need the heart which needs the brain. We need extroverts and introverts; video game engineers and electrical engineers. To be successful, the San Antonio Spurs needed Popovich and they needed Duncan. Although being an intensely private man himself, Popovich worked to create a culture where he knew how to relate to everyone on the team, including the seemingly introverted Duncan. The story is told that Popovich flew out to meet Duncan as soon as the Spurs obtained the first overall pick – not to talk basketball, but for the sole purpose of being with him and getting to know his future player. The Spurs have benefited from the culture Popovich created by winning four NBA championships during his tenure, and coming up just short in the 2013 NBA finals in a thrilling seven game series.

Men of hope, let’s continue to create our own winning culture: to embrace differences, seek to understand men, and show the city a glimpse of Christ and the gospel through our unity in diversity.

–Benji Mathews


12 thoughts on “Unity in Diversity – Embracing our differences

  1. Benji, enjoyed your thoughts!! I wish I could reach the introverted when needed & extroverted when needed in the ways they connect by being “all things to all people.” I think this is possible, it takes hard work to go out of your default zone.

    It would be interesting to hear a pastor’s take on this topic as a shepherd (especially if more introverted as I sincerely think many are). How does one touch base with as many people as possible on say Sunday gatherings personally – & the superficial talk would be an annoyance to some introverts anyways. Seems to be a catch 22, but I don’t know what else you would do but try.

    Oh & in the future you should blog on your area of expertise in working with patients, immigrants/refugees/global stuff! Or on discipleship realm. Looking forward to hearing you speak with the CMDA crew in a few weeks.

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  2. Intriguing thoughts, Benji. I think I am your opposite: an introvert by personality and an extrovert by necessity. Time with others does charge my batteries, but I will not necessarily seek it out. I think this is one component of building community amongst introverts. Give them space, as they appear to want, but give them opportunity to be in community in a non-threatening way. Conversation does not have to fill the room, but like Papa and Duncan, they are close without words.

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  3. Benji, I noticed this blog after I had a 3 hour visit with one of our friends who is introvert!! He was alone as his family was away. It was wonderful to see how he opened up to share few things to talk and discuss about different concerns. The Lord created both introvert and extrovert and they are precious to Him and cares for them. We see the real reaction when they are by themselves. Sometimes the extrovert have to come to themselves to be useful. The introvert react when needed and are recognized by others. Among the Jesus’ disciples, the brothers Andrew and Peter – Peter could be an extravert and Andrew introvert. When there was a need in feeding the hungry and everybody was helpless, Andrew was aware of a boy with bread and fish! The other disciples chose Andrew with others to enquire the Lord of the future of the temple! When Peter was himself the Lord reached him – Jesus turned and looked at Peter when he was alone after denying 3 times! Jesus came to Peter when he went back to fishing and caught nothing! With the help of the Spirit of God we can recognize and encourage the introvert and be patient and be available to the extrovert when needed.

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  4. Well written Benji. I, like you, spend most of my day being an extrovert, engaging others in conversation as much as I can. However, I definitely am comfortable by myself. Last year as an intern, I went on several camping and hiking trips alone. I would’ve preferred to have a friend along, but it’s very difficult to find someone willing to do that on a moment’s notice. It’s even more difficult to find someone whose company you truly enjoy — so I went by myself and loved it.

    Our Christian churches, as you said, do seem to cater to extroverts more — I think that’s natural. How could you have a bunch of introverts meet together several times a week (worship, prayer, small group)? ha ha! I do think we should strongly encourage men to get involved with other Christian men in the name of accountability, discipleship, etc. However, we should not force people tooooo far out of their comfort zones when we do get together; that doesn’t seem to be a real, understanding, empathetic accommodation for different personality types.

    So, as in all things, it takes balance.

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  5. Appreciate the food for thought. Wonder if those like me who possibly more introverted (not taken a personality test recently) would Favor a specific worship/mting style when meeting corporately? For a single guy like me without many christian friends it was even more tough to “go to church” on sunday. I like the q you asked me instead of hammering down on why I didn’t come on sunday services: something like what venues am I creating in my life for connection points with God and knowing him better? It helped me finally join a small group.

    For worship I seem to like the silence, prayerful, or contemplative atmosphere which are uncommon, but with smaller group settings & mentoring situations there seemed to be other connection points for me with God – and interestingly more people to connect with that I see at sunday service. I like fabs comment about ‘introvert by personality and extrovert by necessity’ and I think I maybe changing to that (which is another topic – can you lean introvert and change to extrovert?).

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  6. This is a very interesting topic, Benji. I guess sometimes people are just diverse within themselves in a way that they might be extroverted in some situations and introverted in others. Also, whether one is very social in general might not necessarily mean that they prefer the very energetic and externally ‘electrifying’ worship when it comes to interacting with God. I love meeting old and new folks, whether through small talks or deep conversations; but I also enjoy my time alone, in my own little space, charging in solitude. Yet for my personal time with God, the “introverted” type of worship suits me well as I can focus on the words, on my examen, and on my thoughts on the teaching.

    The churches with their different ways of worship, or “cultures”, perhaps already preselect the congregation in some way; with the Catholic church on the more “introverted” end and some Charismatic churches on the other extreme. But whether one is extroverted or introverted, I’d think that everyone wants to be included. To reach men with different personalities, I guess the approach just has to be individualized with small groups of different “styles” to make everyone feel comfortable interacting with others in the church. One potential problem with the more extroverted church culture is that sometimes we assume that everyone would initiate contact. We just have to be remindful and find a way to let everyone know that he/she is not forgotten.

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  7. I like the writing style and the source of the Spurs! Reading the comments, Ian’s is quite intriguing and well written. I would agree with him about his second paragraph fully. Cannot add much more.

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  8. Thank you Benji for bringing up this interesting topic. Great comments also which has been good to read. I like how you used “continuum” of introverts and extroverts. Would the introverted man be compatible with leadership & teaching gifts? What kind of model is best in church leadership – would certain personalities be a better fit?

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    1. Appreciate the comment. I’ll have others in leadership chime in here also. Yes, there are varieties – & while it maybe true that some introverts aren’t comfortable in front of people/teaching groups, there are definitely others with gifting in these areas.
      Regarding the leadership district, there’s not a one-size-fits-all model & churches would be served well when all types of men are encouraged & there is room at the table for both introverted and extroverted.

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      1. Outsider looking in from KY –
        This is a great topic for a church to be aware of. A few thoughts.

        1. My former pastor John Piper is an introvert to the extreme, but he certainly has a capacity for teaching, even in front of large audiences.

        2. When I was younger I remember having a conversation with a bible teacher tell me that he often pukes before he preaches because of the nerves. That’s a lot of nerves! And yet he always packed a punch from scripture.

        Other examples abound.

        On the other hand I recently watched a sermon from a church in Tulsa that a friend of mine started attending. He told me that he loved the preaching’s and since he is a new believer I couldn’t help but watch a few sermons just to make sure he was in a good church. I must say, the pastor was clearly extroverted. His energy levels were over the top and he was clearly comfortable being in front of a crowd, but this one of the worst sermons I’ve ever heard. He didn’t stay true to the text.

        He took things out of context. His stories glorified himself rather than Christ. And the list goes on.

        This man’s problem was not that he was extroverted or introverted, but that he is not teaching according to the Scripture!

        The church needs men who love Jesus, teach his word faithfully, live according to that word by the Spirit, and give grace to their brothers and sisters who fail even as they fight for righteousness. Introvert, extrovert and anyone in between, so long as they are faithful to the Word, the church needs them.

        Great to see so many good men being raised up in Minneapolis. Hailing from Louisville – BC

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  9. Good stuff! Coming late into this wonderful conversation… The topic is one I’ve grappled with for a long time, and it often comes to play when I have to choose a place to worship. I’d definitely consider myself an introvert, though over the years, I think I have ‘mellowed’ up a bit (couple of years ago it would have been difficult to get me to hang out with folks-even those I know well!). Some of my closest friends nowadays are absolute extroverts, yet i learn so much from them. I think this echoes your sentiment regarding the body of Christ, and how different parts are interdependent on each other (though I think the kidneys supersede everything else ;-)).

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  10. Thanks for your thoughts Benji. You caught my attention with the sports analogy. I was also intrigued by Pop’s no nonsense answers with the media. Being a coach I have seen all types of personalities on my teams as well as in different coaches that I have dealt with. I think the masses are often drawn to the big personalities but the truly committed such as a Tim Duncan might relate better to a deeper more thoughtful personality. Whether an extrovert or an introvert we are drawn to people of the same vision. In the church it is wonderful to see people of all walks of life and of unique personalities drawn to a deep relationship with our Savior. It is fun to see people that would probably never hang out together become the best of friends because of HIM.

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