What do I mean by the terms “introvert” or “extravert?” These are psychological terms used to classify people’s personalities. Someone who is introverted is normally characterized by shyness. This is a commonly displayed aspect of introversion, which sometimes stems from the fear of social disapproval. In the most basic sense, an introvert is someone who is energized by being alone. In contradistinction, an extravert is an outgoing, expressive person, enlivened by the presence of people. Those that belong in this latter category naturally gravitate toward social situations and are prime leaders. But this does not mean that introverts cannot be socially active, and neither does it mean that introverts cannot make grand impacts.
Many famous introverts could be named, but focus is drawn here to a handful of their achievements:
- Scientific Theories of Gravity and Relativity
- The Civil Rights Movement
- Literary Adventures as Peter Pan, Macbeth, and Romeo & Juliet
- Iconic Characters like The Cat in the Hat, Charlie Brown, and Harry Potter
- Movies including Schindler’s List, E. T., and Close Encounters of the Third Kind
- Technological Mega-corporations such as Google and Microsoft
What does this have to do with discipleship?
A challenging context for some introverts is a personal, one-on-one encounter with another human being. The thought of sitting across from another person to discuss one’s innermost secrets, marital struggles, or spiritual practices may be difficult with someone you barely know. Therefore, one-third of the population is likely to decline the invitation to participate in or lead a D-Group of two since roughly 30-40% of humans are introverts.[i]
Like the achievements mentioned above, however, introverts are capable of great discipleship endeavors. But before introverts can lead they must be taught. A shy individual may consider participating in a group setting of three to five people before they would groups of other sizes.[ii] Therefore, one must take into account the personalities displayed in one’s potential discipleship audience and tailor his or her group size for utmost spiritual effectiveness. It is likely that Jesus did the same.
If it is accurate that 30-40% of people are introverted, we can reasonably assume that Jesus discipled introverts. The Gospels record Jesus ministering in five distinct group sizes: (1) the crowd (“the multitudes”), (2) the committed large groups (the “seventy-two” in Luke 10), (3) the cell (the twelve disciples), (4) the core (Peter, James, and John), and, (5) the close-up, temporally-limited encounters (one-on-one dialogue). Making disciples cannot be restricted to a particular group size.
But take note: the Bible is devoid of accounts that describe Jesus discipling anyone in a one-on-one ongoing relationship, the kind of setting that may alienate the introverted.
Maybe Jesus knew something we should learn.
If these ideas resonate with you, here are three options for you:
- REACT. Do something.
- RESPOND. Leave a comment on this post.
- REPOST. Repost this link on Twitter, Facebook or your blog.
[i]Susan Cain, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking (Portland, OR: Broadway Books, 29).
[ii]I identified reasons to meet in a Group of 3 to 5 in an article I wrote for 9 Marks:
1. You avoid the Ping-Pong match.
2. You have a built in checks and balances structure to guard against learning something unbiblical.
3. One-on-one can be challenging to reproduce.
4. A group of two tends to become a counseling session.
5. Jesus discipled in groups.
6. A group provides built-in accountability.