Category Archives: Theology

Jesus the Introvert, pt 1.

 

                           40 days alone in the desert, I can handle it!
 “40 days alone in the desert, I can handle it!” 

 

Yes, you read that correctly, Jesus the Introvert. I believe that according to the examples given in the bible about how Jesus lived, he showed signs of being an introvert. Does this mean my fellow introverts are finally free from the social guilt of being an introvert? No. Extrovert types are still more acceptable in our North American culture and everything from homes to cubicle office space is designed to accommodate them.

This is part one of four in my “Jesus the Introvert” series where I will be highlighting some of Jesus’ introvert habits and writing about the significance of these traits as a spiritual discipline that if given a chance, extroverts can find as fulfilling as being in a room full of party people.

What is An Introvert?

There isn’t one “type” of introvert, or extrovert for that matter. There are varying degrees of introvert traits, but they all have some of the following in common:

– gathers energy from being alone, energy is depleted by being around too many people for too long,

-mental and physical energy is drained by over stimulation from being around groups of people in busy work and social environments

-processes thoughts and generates ideas internally

-tends to be more reserved and reflective

-enjoys solitary activities, but is not anti-social

-likes to quietly observe before making decisions or participating

-analytical

Silent Time With God

Prayer and Fasting:

Jesus spent time alone in prayer connecting with God and himself where he utilized that time to rejuvenate his body and mind. In Matthew 4 we read of Jesus’ 40 days alone in the desert. Being alone for 40 days might feel like emotional and social death to an extrovert; but for Jesus, he did what he knew he had to do to prepare for his calling. If Jesus needed to take a social break sometime during this period of prayer and fasting, who knows what might have happened to himself spiritually. Instead of giving in, Jesus passed the test of temptation by resisting Satan with God’s truth straight from scripture. He did this alone. He didn’t need a crowd of people to take up for him. He had no one, it was a battle here on earth between himself and Satan, but don’t be fooled into thinking it wasn’t a spiritual battle. Jesus prepared for and won that battle with solitude, fasting, and prayer. He won that battle for himself and for the entire human race.

Being in community with others is an important part of our spiritual growth, but there is something different about being alone and welcoming God’s spirit to communicate with us.

Being alone gives us time to deepen our relationship and dependency on God. Times of solitude remind us to be quiet and focus on the promises of God and the lessons He wants to communicate to us. God has messages that are meant to be delivered to you in solitude. These are messages that can only come to us when we are alone in silence with a receptive heart and mind. It is also important to not be in a hurry to tell others what God has been laying on your heart. An extrovert will want to quickly run and tell somebody or everybody what has been revealed to him during quiet times with God, but an introvert knows to be still and ponder the message. Whatever is revealed to you during your time of prayer doesn’t always have to be shared with others. If God leads you to share it with others, then do so, if He doesn’t, then it is alright to keep it to yourself.

Let’s not forget about another introvert in Jesus’ family, his mother Mary.

In Luke 1:29 Mary is said to have been “…much perplexed by his (the angel’s) words and pondered what sort of greeting this might be.” After the post-natal visit and prophetic words from a group of shepherds in Luke 2:19 Mary, “treasured all these words and pondered them in her heart.” It’s not a coincidence that the bible writers chose to make note of Mary’s habit of pondering what had to have been confusing, frightening, and odd news.

In a society that favours extroverts, let’s not forget to embrace and value introvert traits. We can develop an appreciation for introvert based spiritual disciplines by following the ways of Jesus, and we can do that by starting with prayer and fasting.

QUESTION:

Do you spend more time praying in groups or praying by yourself?

Does your church or place of community gathering place more of an emphasis on introvert or extrovert expressions of faith and spiritual disciplines?

What are some of the introvert and extrovert expressions of faith practiced in your Christian community?

Do you lean more towards introvert or extrovert expressions of faith?

 

ACTION:

Here’s a challenge for you. This week, after your time of prayer see if you can spend at least 5 minutes in quiet solitude, saying nothing, and doing nothing except welcoming the presence of the Holy Spirit. It might sound strange if you are not used to doing this, but I can’t stress the important of sitting in silence by yourself, welcoming the Holy Spirit. We are used to rattling off prayers to God, but it is more difficult to then sit in silence afterwards. You can do this sitting on the floor, lying on the floor, sitting in a chair, standing, but whatever you choose you need to be able to be still in that position for 5 minutes.

 

May the presence of His Holy Spirit bring you peace and wisdom.

 

 

Theology, Justice, and Church Authority: Stay Strong in Your Faith

Because I Said So

 

I believe in respecting the leadership of pastoral staff, but because I attend a fundamentalist church, there are times when I have had to pause, bite my tongue, and let my thoughts be just that – thoughts. There are also other times when my thoughts can no longer be contained and I let pastoral staff or a leader know, “Oh noooo, that is not alright”. It doesn’t happen often, but when it does…

I recently had some theological differences with a group of pastors at my home church. I was told that I “consistently challenge pastor’s authority”. I was both sad and happy to have this accusation made against me. I was sad because this group of fundamentalist pastors interpreted and experienced what I knew to be a theological discussion as “challenging authority”. On the other hand I was simultaneously happy because I make no apologies for my theological stance and I speak up when necessary.

My life experiences differ greatly from the life experiences of the pastors who lead at my church. I’ve attended this church for around 18 years and the staff demographics haven’t changed at all. I could leave and find a new church to attend, but I don’t live in a city with a lot of diversity and this is very much reflected in the eerily homogenous pastoral leadership staffed across varying denominations in my city.

There was a time when I struggled with deciding if my theological beliefs were worth standing up for. Was it worth it to be branded a heretic by certain pastors and other believers who couldn’t wrap their minds around things I would say during bible studies and conversations about faith? Was it worth it to be gossiped about by staff as they warned others about what they referred to as my “questionable theology”.

The writer of Titus wrote an entire letter about being faithful in submitting to authority, being obedient to subordinates, and maintaining sound teaching. The second half of the letter displays the author’s dislike for theological debates when he warns believers to, “…avoid stupid controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9).

Is this why these pastors at my church tried to silence me? Were my concerns “unprofitable and worthless”?

I realized the theological discussions I tried to engage in with my pastors proved to be unprofitable, but certainly not worthless. My concerns were not worthless because I believe in the things that God has taught us to care about; justice which is carried out by caring for the poor, the marginalized, those emotionally hurt and damaged by the church, women and other issues highlighted in the bible. My theology is not worthless, it is rooted in recognizing the things which both God and Jesus despised: discrimination, sexism, taking advantage of the disadvantaged, using the name of Christ to bring harm to others, and many other atrocities which are listed in the bible from the Hebrew Scriptures straight through to the gospels where Jesus showed us what it looks like to live a justice focused life infused by the guidance of God’s Holy Spirit.

pulpit bully pastors

Disagreements as Growth:

Sometimes you need to take a stand and speak out against faulty biblical teachings. Check the scriptures, pay attention to the context of the passages, use academic tools to learn more, and most importantly pray about the topic before you speak up about your concerns regarding faulty teachings. It’s also important to know when to remain silent. Choose your battles wisely. We are not always going to read and understand scripture in the same way; human variables have a strong influence on how we understand scripture. Know which things need to be addressed and which ones can be left alone.

When we engage in uncomfortable theological discussions or debates we strengthen our faith and expand our knowledge. If you only listen to yourself and others who think exactly as you do, how will you ever know if you are correct or in error. Hot tempered, ego filled arguments, are the types of interactions that never lead to any good and are not rooted in the fruits of the spirit. Learning to engage and listen helps us develop respect for others, patience, grace, and awareness of others’ experiences and beliefs.

be a leader

If you are a pastor or hold a lay leadership position, engaging with those who differ from you can teach you humbleness. Some of my pastors and other men of higher positions in community ministry have boldly used the word ‘authority’ to silence and control me. When that word is used, it usually occurs when they become visibly uncomfortable with having to dialogue with me after they realize that I am making points that are valid, factual, biblical, academic, include lived experiences, and other things that make for a proper argument. Great leaders are those who never stop learning. As Christians one never stops learning. The Holy Spirit doesn’t stop giving us wisdom, correction, and guidance; it is only us as humans who choose to quiet the work of the Spirit.

As a graduate student I was required to build a solid theological base. As students we developed our beliefs from academic rigour and spiritual experiences rooted in our relationship with God.  I wasn’t able to bring myself to settle exclusively for one type of theological system or methodology, but I am heavily influenced by a group of intersecting theologies: Feminist Theology (I’m not what people would consider a feminist, but I like certain types of feminist theological methodologies), Postcolonial theology, and Practical theology.

It’s not my theological studies that have lead me to take a stand against the misleading and sometimes harmful teachings of my pastoral staff, it is my belief in God and the powerful words found clearly in scripture that let me know that I cannot remain silent about my concerns.

appeal to authority

You don’t need a graduate level education to know when something doesn’t sit right within you. When the small quiet voice of your conscience grows louder and louder and moves from your gut to your head and then back again until it ignites a passion in you; don’t ignore it. Be brave, be confident in the Lord, and do something. Speak, pray, help, walk away, whatever it is that you feel prompted to do. You are guaranteed to be hurt by others, betrayed, ignored, challenged, and segregated, but remember who is with you as always; he experienced the same thing too while speaking the truth of our Father.

Peace be to you as you walk in faith and justice.