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Introverts in the Church: A Personal Review, Part 1

By Mark D. Roberts | Friday, December 18, 2009

Part 3 of series: Introverts in the Church: An Interview and Review
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In the last two days I’ve posted an interview with Adam McHugh, author of Introverts in the Church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture. Today I want to add a review of this book. This review will be different from most that I write in that it will be more personal and less analytical.

To begin, I should admit that I’ve known Adam for about a decade and consider him a friend. I first got to know him when I was Senior Pastor of Irvine Presbyterian Church. Adam, a student at Princeton Theological Seminary, did an internship in our church one summer. During that time I got to know Adam mostly through his presence at our staff meetings, though we had some individual conversations as well. I did not work directly with Adam, except as he was preparing to preach on Sunday in our worship services.

That was, I believe, Adam’s first sermon. He delivered it before he had ever taken a preaching class in seminary. And it was an excellent sermon. Nothing like the typical beginner’s sermon from a seminarian, which is usually way too scholarly and literary, meant to impress more than communicate. Adam’s effort, on the contrary, was both theologically solid and personally compelling. I thought to myself: “That guy is going to be one of the finest preachers in our denomination.”

I suppose I should say, given Adam’s quite public display of introversion these days, that his relationships with my staff and congregation were quite strong. If you had asked me after his internship had concluded, “Is Adam an introvert?” I would probably have answered, “I don’t know.” At that time, I did not know whether Adam derived energy from interacting with people or whether that drained him. He did it well. That much I knew for sure.

Since Adam’s internship at Irvine Pres, he and I have remained in fairly consistent communication. I think Adam would say that I’ve been an encourager and adviser. Given the fact that my advice sometimes led him into fairly unpleasant ministry situations, I’m not sure how Adam would rate my effectiveness as a counselor.

I have had the privilege of knowing Adam well over the years. I have walked with him through several difficult seasons of his life. Thus I have witnessed Adam’s true mettle. I have watched and prayed as his character and faith have been tested. I have seen how he has remained faithful to the Lord even as the Lord has remained faithful to him. I have witnessed Adam’s personal, relational, and theological growth. Thus I have the deepest respect for Adam as a person of deep faith and solid integrity.

This means, of course, that I have been inclined to appreciate anything Adam writes, including Introverts in the Church. In fact, I wrote a “blurb” for this book after reading an advance copy. Here’s what I wrote several months ago:

What a timely and badly needed book! Introverts in the Church will encourage thousands of Christians who have felt as if they don’t quite fit. It will help them find their rightful place in Christian community, so that their gifts might be well used in the work of the kingdom. This book will also help churches be a place where all people can flourish as disciples of Jesus. Adam McHugh has given us a precious gift through his openness, theological soundness and godly wisdom.

I still believe what I wrote, now more than ever, since I recently finished my second reading of the book.

If you are worrying that I am biased in favor of Adam because of my relationship with him, I will confess it openly. But I don’t think my evaluation of Introverts in the Church has been unduly shaped by my high regard for its author. I’ve read enough books to know when I think one is good. And, for the record, I’ve also read enough bad books, including ones written by friends, to know when I think one is bad. I think Adam’s is good, very good, actually.

If you don’t believe me, let me cite two pieces of evidence in my favor, or in Adam’s favor, to be more accurate. First, Introverts in the Church made Scot McKnight’s list of the Top Books of 2009. Scot, who is a top scholar and an astute observer of things Christian, reads a lot of books. I respect his judgment and, in fact, have noted several books on his list that I want to read for myself. (Thanks, Scot.)

Second, a recent edition of The Christian Century featured Adam’s book as its cover story and included a substantial excerpt from it in the magazine. This speaks volumes about the quality and applicability of Introverts in the Church. Moreover, as you may know, The Christian Century is a mainline publication, one that spans the theological spectrum from conservative to liberal. The fact that this magazine chose to feature Adam’s book bears witness to its wide reach, even though it is plainly evangelical in its orientation and published by an evangelical press (InterVarsity).

So now you know of my highest regard for Adam McHugh, and my strong recommendation of his book, and the fact that other, more objective critics have also given Introverts in the Church a thumbs up. But I have more to say about the book itself and my personal reaction to it. The second half of this review will be posted on Monday, Lord willing.

Topics: Introverts in the Church |


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