My wife, Diane, grew up by the ocean. While we were dating, she told me about the dreaded family trips they took each summer to Arizona to visit her grandfather. They navigated the hot desert in an old Chevrolet Cor-vair— without air conditioning.
She also told me of her “vow” to God. She promised him she would do whatever he asked her to do—except marry a minister or live in the desert.
Two years later, we were married. I was minister of worship at our church at the time. A year later, we moved to Phoenix.
We made the drive in the middle of August, arriving when the midafternoon temperature was 117 degrees. We were convinced that God had prompted the move, but that knowledge didn’t make it any easier—or cooler.
While we drove, Diane pondered her mixed feelings about the adventure. She saw the dirt, the sagebrush, the rocks, and the tall saguaro cacti with their arms pointing toward the sky. Thinking of the contrast with her beloved ocean, she said, “OK, tell me just one good thing about this desert.”
I replied, “Check out the cacti—they’re all lifting their hands and praising God.”
Long pause. “OK, that’s one. Give me another,” she said.
That one example was really enough. We could find many more if we looked around. God loves the coastline just as much as we do, but he also loves the desert. And the mountains, and the prairies, and the oceans white with foam . . .
No matter what the terrain, everything in creation does what God designed it to do. Cacti grow up, not down. Wind blows. Rocks lie there. Snakes slither. Birds fly. Flowers bloom on schedule.
There’s really only one part of creation that regularly tries to operate outside God’s design. That’s us. For some reason, we often try to be something we’re not. If we actually figure out how we’re supposed to live, we assume everybody else should live that way too. So we tell everyone else how they should function. After all, it works for us—shouldn’t it work for other people as well?
One of a Kind
Ephesians 2:10 says God made us with a unique design. It says we are his “workmanship.” The Greek word poema is used in this passage, which is where we get the word poem. When God wanted to express his creativity, he didn’t write a poem or paint a picture. He made us. We’re the ultimate expression of his creativity. It would only make sense that if he designed us with a unique purpose, he would want us to function in that way.
Imagine going to the doctor because you have a sore throat. After a few minutes, the doctor opens the door to the examination room, peeks inside, and says, “How can I help you?” You describe your symptoms.
“OK, I’m going to prescribe a cast for your arm,” he says.
“But my arm’s OK—it’s my throat that hurts,” you protest.
“Yes,” he replies, “but I’m still going to prescribe a cast. It’s a good solution. I’ve prescribed hundreds of casts, and they’ve all worked extremely well. In fact, I’ve become kind of an expert on casts. I’ve had special training from the top cast makers in the country. Trust me—it’s the best thing for you.”
I’m guessing your confidence level in that doctor would be pretty low. For one thing, he prescribed without examining you. For another, he was more interested in his solution than in your situation. You’d probably escape as quickly as possible and never return. You’d tell your friends about the experience to ensure that they would avoid that doctor as well.
Most people have discovered that life is easier when we use things the way they’re designed to be used. If we want to cut down a tree, we use a chain saw, not a razor blade. Yes, it would be possible to do it with a razor blade, but that’s not what a razor blade is best at. It would take much more time and effort. On the other hand, you wouldn’t cut an article out of the newspaper with a chain saw—a razor blade would do a much better job.
God designed us with a specific purpose in mind. The reason? So we could do what he wants us to do, in the unique way that nobody else could do it. Why should we try to do it differently?
If God designed introverts, doesn’t it make sense that he would want them to do his work through that personality? When introverts spend time trying to function like extroverts, they’re doing more than just wasting time. They’re actually robbing themselves of the very tools God gave them to do his work.
In the same way, it wouldn’t make sense for extroverts to function like introverts. God made extroverts to do extrovert things. He made introverts to do introvert things. Both are essential for society to function, and both are necessary for the church to accomplish God’s purposes. Paul said, “If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has arranged the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be” (1 Cor. 12:17–18).
I Gotta Be Me
Tom worked for twenty-three years as a high-tech engineer in the defense industry, developing the fine circuitry that guided missiles to their destination and caused bombs to explode properly. When I met him, he was working as an engineer in a company that designed pacemakers for heart patients. His job was designing the intricate systems that keep a person’s heart beating in a regular rhythm. Curious, I asked him why he had transitioned to such a radically different career. “Oh, I’m doing the same thing I’ve always done,” he said. “The type of circuitry I design is almost identical. But I spent twenty-three years designing things that would kill people. I decided it was time to start keeping them alive instead.”
Tom was good at what he did and was able to employ his skills and passion in his work. He used the best of how he was wired but chose different paths for carrying out that passion. When he changed companies, he didn’t start from scratch, doing something he wasn’t designed to do. He just took his skill set to another field of work.
Everyone has parts of their job they love to do and parts they could do without. You probably find that the daily responsibilities you enjoy the most are the things you’re wired to do. The things you dread are probably the farthest from the way you’re designed.
That’s the problem with people who take a job that is uncomfortable but pays well. They probably won’t excel in that position, because it’s not who they are. But other people might take a lower paying job they love and flourish because it’s simply an extension of who they are by design.
Yesterday I spoke with Jorg, a captain of a cruise ship. He said, “I’ve never had a job. I just get up every morning and do what I love to do best. They pay me to do it, so I’ve never had to work.”
That’s true in our Christian lives as well. We’ll find our greatest fulfillment and joy in doing the things God designed us to do and the greatest frustration when we work outside our unique, God-given design. That’s why so many introverts are frustrated with evangelism: we’ve been told how it needs to happen, but that’s not how we’re wired. It’s not that we don’t want to share; it’s just too foreign to our temperament.
I’ve spent a great portion of my life trying to be something I’m not. What started out as a genuine concern for the lost gradually changed to a guilt-based approach to winning them to Christ. After years of doing something that took so much work and produced so much stress with so few results, I gave up. If there had been some fruit, it might have been different. It was even worse when I heard sermons that said I should be faithful even if there weren’t any results. It just didn’t make sense. I wasn’t convinced that I was being faithful to the right things. I began to suspect that I was being faithful to someone else’s idea of what evangelism should look like, not God’s customized idea of evangelism for me.
After discussing these ideas over the past few years, I’ve found several common themes in people’s responses:
1. “I really want to evangelize.”
Deep down inside, most sincere believers want to evangelize— not just because it’s expected but because they have a genuine desire to help others find the answer to life’s issues. But when people who are not naturally outgoing are told what evangelism is supposed to look like, it’s more than scary. It’s like going on a Christian version of Fear Factor. They’d rather eat live bugs or bungee jump from a burning hot-air balloon than share their faith in the ways they’ve been taught.
2. “It would be easier if I were more outgoing.”
Western culture seems to value extroversion. If a person wants to get ahead in life, in business, or in relationships, being an extrovert seems to be an advantage. Surrounded by that paradigm, it’s easy for an introvert to feel cheated. But that attitude overlooks the doors that can be opened only by quiet persuasion.
3. “I’ve tried, but I don’t see any results.”
The desire to share the Good News with others seems to be hardwired into most Christians. New believers want to tell others but don’t know how. So they listen to tapes, read books, and hear sermons on witnessing techniques. For introverts, those methods seem pretty unnatural, but since they have the desire, they try them anyway—with little result. That leads to discouragement and guilt. It’s not that the methods they’ve learned are bad; it might be simply that they need a more complete list of methods.
4. “I don’t know how to lead someone to Christ.”
My daughter, Sara, and her husband, Brian, are in a Bible study for young married couples. Recently the group members were discussing their various perspectives on evangelism. They all had a desire to share their faith, but not one person in the group knew how to lead someone to Christ. It simply had not been part of their upbringing. When I was at their stage of life, I knew how to share but didn’t want to in the way I had been taught. They wanted to share but didn’t know how.
5. “There has to be a better way.”
Could there be more to the process of evangelism than we’ve been told? We know God wouldn’t give us the desire to share our faith without giving us the tools to do it. Like David trying to fight in Saul’s armor, we find the tools we’ve been given unnatural. We’re on a quest to find new tools.
Chuck Swindoll is known internationally for his giftedness in the pulpit. His ability to communicate has been a tool to lead many people closer to the kingdom. When he pastored the church I attended, we took every opportunity to sit under his teaching. It was a chance to see someone truly using the gifts he had been given.
Sometimes our minister of music would have Chuck join him in an impromptu duet during the service. Chuck would always jump at the chance. He had a great voice and loved to sing, but his gifts were in preaching, not singing. People came to hear him preach and would have been mightily disappointed if he had given a concert instead of a sermon. Just visit any Christian bookstore; you’ll find a whole shelf of his books, but you’ll be hard-pressed to find a CD of his music.
I’ve gone to a few Christian concerts where the artists talked for about ten minutes between songs. Usually it was some kind of challenge about the meaning of the song we were about to hear. But I was always disappointed. They were spending too much time doing what they were not gifted to do, which robbed us of the chance to be ministered to by what they were gifted to do. The concerts that have meant the most to me were usu- ally packed with music, occasionally interrupted by personal insights from the musician.
Singers are supposed to sing. Preachers are supposed to preach.
The pattern of all creation is that things do what they were designed to do. When that happens, things go smoothly. When it doesn’t, there’s confusion, frustration, and chaos. If we truly believe that God designed us individually and uniquely, that he shaped our future before we were born, and that he has a customized purpose for us, it follows that he has given us what we need to fulfill that design.
Mike Bechtle, Evangelism for the Rest of Us: Sharing Christ within Your Personality Style (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006).
We have just released a new Bible Study on the topic Sharing Christ.
These lessons are available on Amazon, as well as a part of Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription Service. Like Netflix for Bible Lessons, one low subscription gives you access to all our lessons–thousands of them. For a medium-sized church, lessons are as little as $10 per teacher per year.
Each lesson consists of 20 or so ready-to-use questions that get groups talking. Answers are provided in the form of quotes from respected authors such as John Piper, Max Lucado and Beth Moore.
These lessons will save you time as well as provide deep insights from some of the great writers and thinkers from today and generations past. I also include quotes from the same commentaries that your pastor uses in sermon preparation.
Ultimately, the goal is to create conversations that change lives.