An Introverted Task Oriented Pastor Attempts to be Relational

Introverted? Hmm? Those knowing me may question my personal assessment as an introvert. I suppose at times I may not appear as such. Most certainly, as a child, I was regularly looking for attention and desired to be in the middle of the spot light. I think that’s changed, maybe a few too many spotlights. Now, I would prefer to hunker down in my cozy office, melt some fragrant wax cubes, listen to Pavoratti, and sit spell bound by surprisingly relevant fourth century church fathers – thank you Chrysostom.

I love study. I’d happily spend an hour running down some particular source just to verify its reliability and take an additional 5 minutes to accurately post it to Zotero and order an original copy online. If left to my own preferences and the dispositions of my personality I would most likely either be studying in my office or accomplishing some hands on task somewhere in the church building.

Hence the challenge. I’m a pastor. Am I not supposed to primarily be relational? This question looms in my mind regularly, and once again this weekend it found its’ way to the forefront of my thoughts.

This weekend, we celebrated the homecoming of our dear brother in Christ, Fred Neevel. Fred was appropriately honored by his beautiful families eulogies. His son offered a gloriously gospel centered message in which God was glorified and Fred’s heart beat was reflected. And to conclude, all those in attendance were invited to a luncheon in the fellowship hall.

The vast majority of people sat at lunch while sharing wonderful relational moments together. Of course, there were the handful of other introverted task oriented people that had managed to secure a spot on the kitchen staff so that they could keep busy and out of the way. I found myself observing them all. I took note of a few couples that tend to always be in the middle of light hearted conversation. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them clean up after lunch, but I’ve also never cared because they are gifted in encouragement. There were others that sat in intense conversations. You know the type. Every conversation jumps from hello to the deepest sentiments of their heart, and their intense facial features communicate from across the room the seriousness of their conversation. These are the people you tend to avoid when you’re not up for deep conversations. Others busied themselves cleaning up after lunch, glad to have something to do so that they could avoid as much conversation as possible. This reality has as well never bothered me because every time lunch is over, clean up is already done. This same group of wonderful people jump in each time.

Everyone seemed contentedly engaged. And me, well, I wanted to pick up tables. As I stood near an empty table, wondering how I could pick it up without inadvertently communicating to anyone that they needed to get up, I paused for a moment and wondered if my natural disposition, my task oriented nature, was best tuned for a pastor. Shouldn’t I be the one that is always in the middle of conversations with everyone? As a pastor, shouldn’t I be intensely relational?

Throughout my years of ministry, I have come to realize that I have a fairly large relational battery. Given that, my battery is definitely drained by social interaction. I need periods of recharging. Some of my dear friends are recharged by social interaction. They need to get out of their house so that they can get charged up. On the other hand, I need to escape to my home or office to recharge. This is my reality. I’ve often wished this was not true of me, but I’ve come to realize it is a part of my personality that will inevitably never change.

Now I know that it is wonderful that the church is made up of all sorts of people. Some are relational and the first to come along side and offer comfort, while others are task oriented and the first to accomplish much needed task. We get a lot more done with both types present. My primary question – as a pastor, shouldn’t I be relational instead of task oriented? Now, I’m not looking for anyone to answer this. I think I already know the answer, but I must admit that this question goes through my head quite often.

In answering the question, I likely ought to avoid my feelings. I have often struggled “feeling” like a pastor. I’m not exactly sure what a pastor is supposed to “feel” like, but I’m pretty sure it’s not how I feel. I consider all the pastors I’ve known and sat under, and my estimation of them surpasses any estimation I’ve ever held of myself. Primarily, they have been stoic, mature, and composed men, wise servants and dignified (much taller as well). Me – I’ve tried to make Fridays sweat pants day in the office. Seriously, they are incredibly comfortable, and I study better when I’m wearing them. Therefore, my church benefits from my wearing sweatpants. Anyway, I’ve never felt similar to how I’ve perceived my pastors. Now I realize that they probably don’t feel the way I perceive of them. They are likely just as frail and overwhelmed as I, but that’s never been my perception of them.

So then two concluding thoughts. (1) I’m probably more relational than I think but not as much as I prefer. I would suggest to my church family that my best relational moments usually occur as I sit in the extremely comfortable barrel chairs in our lobby or my office. For some reason my relational battery remains in idle when I’m sitting in those. Maybe, unbeknown to me, the barrel chairs are my relational alternators :). (2) I’m glad God uses all sorts of people. I am the first to realize I don’t match up to the great men I’ve always looked up to, but I don’t need to. God seems to always use the lowliest of people to accomplish his work. And, I’m good with that.

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