You’ve probably met an introvert before. Maybe you are one. I’m not trying to pick on you if you are. Some people are wired that way. What is an introvert?Here’s a dictionary definition for you, “a shy reticent, and typically self-centered person; a person predominantly concerned with their own thoughts and feelings rather than with external things.” Just as there are introverted people, there can be introverted churches. I call them introchurches. And there’s a problem with introchurches.
Do You Have an Introchurch?
What Is an Introchurch?
To understand what an introchurch is, we need only to go back to the dictionary definition of an introvert, and think of the introverted person as a church. “An introchurch is a shy, reticent, and typically self-centered church. They are predominantly concerned with their own events, programs, and experiences, rather than with the world around them.”
An introchurch may be big. It can be busy. It can have great preaching. It can have nice people. But the affairs and activities of the church rarely go beyond the church members themselves.
Obviously, focusing on the home crowd isn’t all bad. The Great Commission affirms that we are to “make disciples,” which is a long-term commitment that is carried out by local churches. Believers are not to forsake assembling. Churches meet and do and spend time and money on church. The problem comes when the home crowd becomes a preoccupation, a fixation, an overdone commitment that is stealing time, energy, resources, and attention from the mission of the church.
This is an introchurch. Introchurches neglect mission. Introchurches forsake evangelism. Introchurches reject outreach. Introchurches ignore a whole aspect of the gospel. The introchurch is in trouble.
Do You Have an Introchurch? Four warning signs.
- People complain that your church isn’t doing very much to reach out, feed the poor, care for the homeless, or give the gospel. Brandon Hatfield, pastor and author of Barefoot Church, opens his book with a poignant account. It happened when he and his wife were meeting with another couple for an “all-too-familiar conversation.” The family was leaving the church. The reason? In their own words, here is the reason that they were leaving the church: “The church needs to care more about the poor. They need to fight injustice! They need to help the orphan and widow in their distress! They need to do what they say they’re about….Here’s the problem: I don’t do it either. I don’t know how. I don’t even know where to start.”
- Your church budget betrays a significant bias toward home activities. Where is church money going? Churches with a passion for evangelism and mission often have a church budget that gives 50% of the offering into helping the poor, feeding the hungry, proclaiming the gospel message to the lost, etc. Many churches give more. Every church is different, but if your church gives precious little to “outside” activities, take heed.
- Your time and attention as a leadership team are almost exclusively on home-crowd affairs. Depending on your role in the ministry team, you may not invest your energy into outreach. But do any of the leaders have an outreach role? If not, this could be a sign that your church has characteristics of the introchurch.
- Your church’s “programs” do not have an outreach or evangelistic component. Most churches have a list of activities that they do on a weekly or monthly basis. Are any of them outreach-focused? The corrective is not necessary to hire an outreach pastor or tack on an outreach ministry. The corrective is to infuse each of your existing ministries with an outreach dimension. In other words, instead of just having a church potluck every fourth Sunday, you have a church potluck at the downtown rescue mission and feed the homeless people. Instead of having just a youth group paintball activity, you have a youth group painting activity, where you help to paint the local crisis pregnancy center or a public school classroom.
Extrochurch: Making the Change from Introchurch to Extrochurch
The opposite of an introvert is an extrovert. The opposite of an introchurch is an extrochurch—a church that is concerned with the lost, the needy, the world. This is a missional church. It is a church whose passions, budgets, activities, energies, and objectives center on proclaiming and living out the gospel. It is a church who practices the Great Commission. It is not an introchurch.
An introchurch cannot switch to being an extrochurch in one mighty exertion of the will, in one mighty pastoral power move, or in a sermon series on missions. It takes time. It is a gradual change. Here are two ways that an introchurch can begin to change:
- Understand the role of the church. When you realize that the church does not exist solely for its own satisfaction, entertainment, and growth, you begin to realize the importance of the mission. This is where change begins—a realization that a proper ecclesiology requires an active missiology.
- Consider what you are already doing, and how it can be extended to reach people outside the church. Take stock of your programs, budget, and energies. What do you have in place? Now, how can you change it to include an outreach component?
- Consider how your church can leave the premises to help people who will not come to you. As Kevin Harney writes in Organic Church, “The truth is that many people in our communities won’t come to our church campuses or buildings. They will stay where they are.” Where are they? How can you go to them?
Introchurches need to change. If your church is an introchurch and needs to change, there is no time to lose.