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Rather not shout to the Lord?

by
28 August 2015

Exuberant worship is not for everyone, says Naomi Starkey

The Introvert Charismatic: The gift of introversion in a noisy Church
Mark Tanner
Lion £8.99
(978-0-85721-588-8) 
Church Times Bookshop £8.10 (Use code CT442)

 

THE language of “personality type” has become ubiquitous in church circles over recent decades. Various approaches offer a range of models by which one can identify one’s particular personal (and faith) characteristics. These models can, judiciously applied, be helpful tools for understanding oneself and, often just as crucially, understanding others. In this book, Mark Tanner uses some of the terminology of the Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator to explore how those identifying as introverts can find their place in the characteristically noisy and crowd-orientated culture of Charismatic churches.

Drawing on interviewees across the personality spectrum, he sets out to explode some myths about introverts (they are not shy, antisocial, inarticulate, and so on), seeks examples of introvert behaviour in the Bible, and analyses what is meant by “Charismatic”. He goes on to suggest ways in which introverts can benefit from the dynamics of Charismatic churches.

He also sets out how Charismatic churches can benefit from acknowledging the perspectives of those who long for close connection with God, through the Holy Spirit, and yet sometimes struggle with the general noisy exuberance of such worshipping communities.

I was drawn to the book by its title (as an introvert who has experienced God’s touch in powerful ways, but who finds a solid half-hour of contemporary worship music somewhat debilitating). In particular, I found Chapter 10 — “Six Steps Towards Fullness of Life” — provided useful pointers to introvert self-acceptance, mixed with a gentle challenge to “learn a second language”, to combine that self-acceptance with a willingness to try new ways of expression.

At times I felt a tension in the use of the term “Charismatic”, which in the UK tends to describe a specifically Anglican/Vineyard blended worship style. Rightly, Tanner sets out to demonstrate that belief in the power and work of the Holy Spirit was evident in the lives of the church Fathers as well as the Azusa Street Mission — and yet that raises the question “Surely all Christians are, by definition, charismatic?”

The extent to which individual believers feel at ease expressing their belief in the Holy Spirit — and the style that they find most natural — is actually a wider issue than this book addresses. Instead, the term “Charismatic” can simply end up as shorthand for “those who feel at home with the Anglican/Vineyard style”. The question of introvert comfort within such a context is, however, one well worth airing.

 

The Revd Naomi Starkey is Assistant Curate in the Ministry Area of Bro Enlli on the Llŷn Peninsula in north Wales.

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