Outreach for Introverts

As an introvert with a natural aversion to networking, Lisa Petrilli usually avoided business parties and corporate events because they made her fearful and uncomfortable. However, as she increasingly realized that such social withdrawal was damaging her career, she devised strategies that would overcome her fear of social events. She soon began to even embrace and enjoy these occasions and went on to run a $750 million dollar pharmaceutical business and to write the bestelling Introvert’s Guide to Success in Business and Leadership.

With all the attention that extroverts seek and get, especially in our over-connected media-saturated world (and church), you could be forgiven for thinking that there are few introverts left in the universe. However, statistics tell us that about 25% of people are introverts, with a further 25% having introverted tendencies depending on circumstances (I think I would put myself in this latter group). And if the church has about the same ratios, that means about 50% of us struggle to reach out with the Gospel to others just because of our personality type.

So, can we learn anything from Lisa’s strategies for Business networking and apply them to Gospel networking? I believe we can. Consider the three she summarizes in An Introvert’s Guide to Networking, over at the Harvard Business Review.

I learned to appreciate my introversion rather than repudiate it.
I have met so many introverts in business who talk about introversion as if it’s a malady that one must get over in order to be successful. This is wrong. Introversion is simply a preference for the inner world of ideas because this is where we get our energy. By understanding and accepting this preference, introverts can optimize time spent with their ideas to refine them and recharge. This allows them to be as powerful and persuasive as possible when networking situations arise.

I recognized that one-on-one conversations would be my lifeline during networking. Generally speaking, business events — and particularly networking events that require engaging with groups — are demanding for introverts. An antidote to this, I learned, is to seek out conversations with one individual at a time. When I approach events this way I have more productive conversations and form better business relationships — and I’m less drained by the experience.

I stopped being afraid to be the one to reach out.
My inner introvert used to think that making the effort to introduce myself was risky. I worried that my target would not be interested in talking with me or that I would make them uncomfortable. I learned over time that when I extended my hand with a smile and an introduction my effort would be reciprocated, even when I approached executives above my rank.

I learned to prioritize time to re-energize.
While it can be tempting to go from a networking lunch right back to work, or from a networking cocktail event right to a dinner, if you’re an introvert and you do that you won’t be able to bring your best self to your next commitment. Take the time to recharge, whether by walking from the lunch back to work, or by finding 30 minutes alone between cocktails and dinner.

Now, fellow introverts, go out into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature – albeit one at a time and with 30 minute breaks in between.

Check out

That lovely, lovely man
If you read nothing else from this list of links, please read this. It reminded me of so many of the beautiful old Christians in the Scottish Highlands that I used to pastor.

How do you preach a one time sermon?
Some good advice from Ed Stetzer.

Letters to a young pastor
Some excerpts from Calvin Miller’s book of the same name.

An endless series of difficult but achievable hills
“Repeating easy tasks again and again gets you not very far. Attacking only steep cliffs where no progress is made isn’t particularly effective either. No, the best path is an endless series of difficult (but achievable) hills.” Is Seth Godin describing pastoral ministry?

Scared of snow
Rebecca draws some spiritual lessons from some snowphobic kids.

“Use your big-boy voice”
Nathan Eshelman asks: “Do you think that the problem with some men today is that they are really boys in men’s bodies? Do you think that there is a reason why statistically there are more women in the church than men? Do you think that female pastors and elders may be partially the male gender’s fault? Do you know a number of young women that you would recommend to marry, but really can’t think of too many young men that you would recommend? Do you know Christian men that seem to sit back while their wives lead the family? Do you know a Christian man-child? The state of Christian manhood does not look good.”

My worst and best jobs

In our Counseling Class yesterday some students got talking about their worst ever jobs. It got me thinking back over the years to some of the worst jobs I had in my life; five in particular stand out.

1. Morning Milk Delivery
This was my first job, I was 14, and I only lasted a week. It involved getting up Mon-Sat at 3.30am for a 4-8am shift delivering pints of milk (in glass bottles) to households in the suburbs of Glasgow. And yes, I was still in High School, meaning that I went straight to school from the milk run. Needless to say, I slept through most of my afternoon classes that week, and by the end of the week I think my parents realized this was probably not the best career move. It was also not a little dangerous; we had to jump off the back of a moving van with up to three pints of milk in each hand. My worst moment was when two of my “colleagues” tried to throw me off the back of the milk van that we were hanging on to as the driver careened around the dark streets of Glasgow at  50mph. My week’s work earned me the princely sum of 12 British pounds (@ $17 dollars).

2. Morning Bread Delivery
What was it about early morning jobs that attracted me? Anyway, at least this one was my own business. A friend and I (we were about 15 years old) went round our neighborhood asking if people wanted fresh, hot bread delivered to them on a Saturday morning. To our amazement we very quickly received over 100 orders. We contacted a bakery and managed to make a 100% profit on what we sold, earning us about $40-$50 each for about three hours work. It still involved getting up about 4am on a Saturday morning to take delivery of the bread and rolls, package them into the orders, and then go out into the often cold, dark, wet night to deliver them. And how did we deliver them? Well, as you can’t drive in Scotland until you are 17, we struck upon the idea of a shopping cart each. We “borrowed” them  from a local grocery store and piled the carts so high that we actually could not see where we were going. What a racket as we rattled along with our cargo of sweet smelling bread and rolls. And I think I still have the scars of one snowy morning and an uncontrollable cart.

3. Potato Peeler
Yes, aged 16, I spent five summer weeks in a Scottish Hotel peeling potatoes. I think I did a few more things as well – like wash the huge porridge pots and dinner trays – but what I mainly remember is the huge pile of freshly dug, mud-caked potatoes that met me every morning begging to be washed, peeled, and sliced. I think we were catering for about 70 guests and – what is it about us Brits – they had boiled potatoes with every evening meal! I worked about a 60 hour week and earned about $50 per week – it was a Christian hotel, which apparently meant you could employ slaves.

4. Goods Lift Operator
You may have seen in the dark recesses of J C Penney or Sears, some rather scary looking elevators (we call them “lifts”) which sort of look like prisons. These are the lifts that move the clothes from storage to the floor and back again. Well, I got a summer job working one of these for $4.40 an hour. I thought it would be a breeze, but by end of the first day, in which I must have slid these heavy metal doors backwards and forwards about nine million times, I felt like I’d gone 15 rounds with Muhammed Ali. And then there were all these sweet little old store assistants with their “aching backs” who needed help to move their boxes in and out, in and out. “And maybe you could just carry them over to the far side as well, son…” I felt as if I spent the summer in a dungeon on a rack.

5. Hopper Popper Toy Salesman
A what?! Yes, true story. But that’s one I’ll save for another time.

Two words came to mind as I reminisced about my early “career”: preparation and privilege. God uses everything in our lives to prepare us for the next stage of our lives and, ultimately, for eternal life. I know it’s hard to see any possible connection between Hopper Poppers and heaven, but as James Dobson said, “Nothing is wasted in God’s economy.” Part of heaven’s joyful surprise will be when God helps us to connect all the dots of our lives. So, though I can’t put it all together right now, I strongly believe that each of these hard and rather humiliating jobs played some part in my preparation for the ministry.

Which brings me to my second word, privilege, the immense privilege God has now given me of being a preacher of the Gospel. Pastors, I know the “job” can be so difficult and so discouraging, but please don’t ever lose sight of the grace involved in being allowed to preach even one sermon or pastor even one precious soul. Let us ever say with Paul: “To me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.” What a grace, a gift, an undeserved favor!

I could (and should) still be delivering milk or bread, peeling potatoes, operating an elevator, or (worst of all) selling Hopper Poppers. That’s what I deserve to be doing; if I deserve to be doing anything (and I don’t). But instead, God has graciously called me to preach Christ and even to train others to do the same. What amazing, amazing, amazing grace! May I never cease to wonder at the astonishing mercy of God.

Why does he pick the worst of people to do the best of jobs?

Check out

Debt, Ethics and a Seminary Education
“Churches are now filled with, and led by, people who are often drowning in debt and struggling to think about much else.  Even closer to home, debt has reached crisis proportions for those of us who venture to study at America’s expensive seminaries on our own dime. Maybe this is just wrong.”

Dispatches from Blighty: The Don and Driscoll
A Brit on Britain. Probably worth a listen! I totally agree with Jeremy’s cynicism about some of the rather optimistic stats that have been quoted about British church-going in various places.

Government and its rivals
Ross Douthat critiques the President’s new healthcare regulations and the impact on religious groups: “Sectarian self-segregation is O.K., but good Samaritanism is not.”

How abuse changes a child’s brain
The brains of children raised in violent families resemble the brains of soldiers exposed to combat.

How sitting all day is damaging your body and what you can do to counteract it
The stats will make you jump out of your chair: “Do you sit in an office chair or on your couch for more than six hours a day? Then here are some disturbing facts: Your risk of heart disease has increased by up to 64 percent. You’re shaving off seven years of quality life. You’re also more at risk for certain types of cancer. Simply put, sitting is killing you. That’s the bad news. The good news: It’s easy to counteract no matter how lazy you are.”

Here’s a video to get you started!

CK Short: Crushed!

Season 3 of The Connected Kingdom gets underway with a new format. While we’ll continue to do the usual CK stuff from time to time – interviews, Q&A’s, debates, etc., – we’re going to be releasing a weekly “CK Short” every Tuesday. These will be 10-15 minute episodes in which Tim or I will deliver a short monologue on a subject followed by a few minutes of comment and discussion. This week, I challenged Tim to speak on the subject “Crushed.”

Listen to the first few minutes of this episode to hear about more changes including how you can suggest monologue topics for us, and even star in a “CK Short” of your own!

Oh, yes, and as you’ll see below, we’ll be posting a [partial] transcript of the monologue with the podcast. Of course, if you don’t listen, you’ll miss out on the highly intelligent and entertaining interaction, but I suppose reading is better than missing out completely!

Download here

Crushed: by Tim Challies.

Horatio Spafford was a man who knew pain and a man whose pain has left a powerful and lasting legacy to the church. A wealthy Chicago businessman, Spafford invested heavily in real estate and saw almost his entire fortune consumed in the Great Chicago Fire that swept the city in 1871. Far greater pain awaited him. In 1873 he decided that he and his family should enjoy a vacation. They decided to go to England since their dear friend D.L. Moody would be preaching there in the fall. Though business delayed his own departure, he sent his family on ahead. His wife Anna and their four daughters boarded the steamship Ville du Havre and set out for England. On November 22 another ship collided with that one and two hundred and twenty six people lost their lives, including all four of the Spafford girls. Upon arriving in England, Anna sent her husband a tragic telegram: “Saved alone.”

Spafford set out to England to be with his wife and during that crossing penned the hymn, “It Is Well With My Soul,” a powerful declaration of trust in the midst of tragedy.

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.

“When sorrows like sea billows roll.” It is a poignant metaphor, a simile really, that speaks of sorrow coming upon us like waves on a storm-tossed sea. The same sea billows that poured over the heads of his daughters, the waves that stole their lives, are now pressing hard against him, threatening to drown him in despair, to steal his soul. They are rising up above him, they are cresting and crashing down upon him, they are pulling him under and tossing him in the undertow. Yet he has more hope for his soul than his girls did for their lives. The Lord has taught him that all will be well. Whatever his lot, whatever the Lord decrees for him, he is able to say, “It is well with my soul.” What was the source of such comfort in trial? It was this: “Christ hath regarded my helpless estate / And hath shed His own blood for my soul.”

I am a stranger to this kind of sorrow. Though my life has not been completely free from pain and disappointment and sad farewells, I have never known sorrow to come against me like the waves of the ocean; I have never known it to threaten to drown me in despair. But discouragement, now there is something that too often crashes upon me like waves crash against the hull of a ship. There is something that often threatens to crush me.

Discouragement comes in different forms. There is discouragement that comes when I am left grappling with failure, when I have not succeeded at the things I’ve attempted to do well. There are the sermons that never take shape the way I had wanted them to, the ones that never seemed to yield to time and patience and brute force. There are the dreams that never grow into anything more than a rough and untenable plan, the relationships that never lead to friendship, the chapters that have to be left out of books, the opportunities wasted, the holiness lost and neglected. This life is one of so much failure and there in failure’s wake is discouragement, towed along behind it.

Discouragement can come in a very different form—the form of other people’s success. Here is the excruciating pain of seeing others do well in those areas where I have failed, of hearing of the sermons that went in all the directions my own never did or the books that sold a hundred copies for every one of mine. There is the discouragement of coming up to the edge of my own talent and seeing others with greater talent and greater gifts excel all the more. And there is the discouragement of seeing people with equal talents and equal gifts be offered all kinds of opportunity not open to me. Mixed up with sin and pride and envy, this kind brings with it a peculiar and poignant kind of agony.

And then there’s the form of discouragement that comes with trying to do too much and be too much and exceed and excel at too much. Pride can push me here, to make me want to do more so I can be noticed by more people, and so I work too many hours and go in too many directions. I get away from the few things I’ve been called to, ignoring the gifts I’ve been given and trying to convince myself that I need to be someone I’m not. Instead of being me I try to be that guy or that guy or that one. I take my eyes off the great prize of bringing glory to God and instead put so much effort into bringing glory to myself.

And then there is the despair that seems to just come without reason and without source. It is the despair that feels almost physical, the despair that must have some kind of spiritual or supernatural source, the kind that offers no explanation, just the sense of being crushed under foot.

And there is discouragement, washing over me, and I am sinking under it, fighting desperately to manufacture some kind of joy to keep me from drowning in despair.

This is what it is to be crushed. Or nearly crushed. But there’s hope when discouragement is pressing down. The Apostle Paul could say, “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed. Perplexed but not driven to despair. Persecuted but not abandoned. Struck down but not destroyed.” Where do you find that kind of hope when discouragement is thick, when it is tangible, when it surrounds you like water surrounds a man drowning in the ocean? You go where Spafford went when sorrow threatened to destroy him. You go to the day that all purposes will be revealed, that all sorrow will cease, that all discouragement will be destroyed.

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

Tim Challies


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Check out

How do you discern the conversion of a child
Good starting point provided by Brian Croft.

Reflections on the Church in Great Britain
Some encouraging words from Don Carson for my British friends and brothers in the ministry.

Being faithful in the small things is a big thing
“Most of decisions that we make are small.  They are often done when no one is around. Over time they begin to add up and eventually make us who we are. Sometimes I hear from Christians that if we are faithful in the small things, God will entrust us with big things.  I’m not so sure. Small things are big things.”

Working long hours can be truly depressing
“People who worked 11 hours a day or more, more than doubled their risk of major depression compared with colleagues putting in eight hours a day.”

How plastic bottles can lighten up the darkness
This video will brighten your day…or at least help you realize how bright your day is compared to others.

Homeschool wars
Tara Edelschik steps into the homeschool minefield and, well you can read about the carnage yourself: ”But here’s an interesting thing I’ve noticed in my year of blogging.  Whenever I write about my struggles as a mother, people are incredibly appreciative.  When I write that I hate homeschooling and can’t stand to be around my kids, people cheer.  At last! Someone is keeping it real! When I write about my children being disobedient and selfish and my fears that I don’t know how to raise them well, people thank me profusely for my transparency.  But when I write that things are going well, that God is in fact answering my prayers, that homeschooling my children has improved our relationship – then I am showing off, acting like a know-it-all, and judging people who make other choices.”