Each time I am at a worship service or event at my church I have to pray for courage. I know that may seem surprising. Although I am not shy, I am an introvert. I am fine on the platform to sing or to speak although some nerves there are good and keep me humbled. But put me in the lobby trying to make conversation with 1000 acquaintances and I will be sweating and trying not to pass out from sheer terror.
There are times I feel like I might start crying. My heart is pounding faster than it should be and I’m praying just to keep from running out. In fact, sometimes I do run…even after all these years. And that grieves me. I love these people more than my own life. I pray for them and prepare like crazy to lead and teach them. I hurt when they hurt. I rejoice when they are blessed and happy. I have left my home and my family and moved here to make a life with them. I have made serving them my life’s work.
How can I be too socially inept to mingle with them in the hallway?!? Why do I get so insecure when they want to approach me? Why do I feel like every eye is on me, wondering why I’m wearing this or why my posture is bad?
It’s like I’ve lost my mind sometimes. It feels like I’ve run a marathon when all I’ve really done is shake a few hundred hands and try to make these precious people feel loved and valued as individuals.
That’s part of it. I’m also a bit of a closet perfectionist. It wrankles me if I forget their names or ask how a sick parent is doing only to find they passed away last week. 🙁
I feel like they will be judging their whole church experience on the 30 seconds I have to make them feel special. And I feel like I’m not that good at carrying the conversation in a way that is not shallow or rote. Also, some folks think the fact that they have bumped into me in the hallway is a sign from God that now is the time to confront something they don’t like about the way the church is being run or even about me personally or something I’ve said or done. Those kinds of encounters really make me want to hide.
So I’ve learned. I have to pray. I have to self-coach, “All you are doing is walking to the coffee counter, Lori. Just smile and say hi and make eye-contact.” I have to remember this is my ministry. This is my time to lead and nurture simply by my presence. I need to dwell on the fact that mingling builds my ministry platform for times when I am asking people to engage in worship, or obey a scripture, or join me in prayer. Because they feel like they know me and I’m one of them. And I pray that God would guide me to some one who needs to be loved on, to receive grace, or feel included. I need to remember that these people MATTER. They are worth my discomfort. They deserve access to me and my family. Jesus has trusted me with His “kids” as a care-giver.
I don’t just want to be an “Up front” person. I want to know and be known. I want to share my life.
So I do it. It’s sloppy. It’s awkward at times. It’s exhausting. But it’s right. It’s good. It’s my job. If I had it my way, I would stay at home every day and read. If I were the boss of my life, I would be happy to sit in the back and sneak out of church during the prayer. But God has called me and empowered me to lead and to serve. To do that, I must be visible and reachable. And, I can do it through His grace.
Are you an introvert called to lead? Is it hard for you to lower the barriers and be approachable? Remember we can do all things through Christ who gives us strength and is strong when we are weak.
I find these verses so helpful to cling to:
Get the word out. Teach all these things. And don’t let anyone put you down because you’re young. Teach believers with your life: by word, by demeanor, by love, by faith, by integrity. Stay at your post reading Scripture, giving counsel, teaching. And that special gift of ministry you were given when the leaders of the church laid hands on you and prayed—keep that dusted off and in use. — I Timothy 4:11-16
Cultivate these things. Immerse yourself in them. The people will all see you mature right before their eyes! Keep a firm grasp on both your character and your teaching. Don’t be diverted. Just keep at it. Both you and those who hear you will experience salvation.
Published September 16, 2013