American Christianity has a single major bias: against introversion. From large (and loud) congregations to even our idea of heaven; American Christianity (like American society) seems tailored to turn off introverts and highly sensitive people.
It’s not that introverts dislike being social. I greatly enjoy being social, but it has to be on my terms with only a few people. Too many people at once (more than 5 for me) drains my energy. Social events are marathons. That is why I much prefer to worship with only 1 or 2 other people ( Matt 18:20).
Highly Sensitive people are people whose nervous systems are more sensitive than 80% of the population. This allows them to be easily overwhelmed by bright lights, loud noise, and crowds….the typical Sunday morning service. I suspect I am among this group – I get massive headaches that last for hours if I am in too bright of lights and noise for too long. Unfortunately, I work retail. So that means the first of every month is a rough time for me.
Introversion isn’t a behavior. It is hard wired in the brain and the way the nervous system works. We can fight against it for a time. Go do some circuit training for 8 hours. You will come to understand how exhausting it is.
Most people worship with singing, sermons, acts of spirit, prayer, and the ever present after service social hour. Frankly, my description of hell – especially after working with the public all week. I am called a hermit because of how I pointedly avoid modern church services. I cannot connect to God in such an environment. I am too busy focusing on not running out the door. I tried for 12 years to enjoy such worship since I was taught it was the only way to truly worship, but I couldn’t. My heart sings and makes melody when I am alone meditating. It cries out for silence when I sit in a pew.
Being true to my nature instead of fighting it has caused me to be labeled as “fallen away.” The extrovert bias prevented me from focusing my mind upon Jesus and God as they ask, yet now that I finally can – alone – I am not thought of as being a proper Christian. It is quite ironic and frustrating.
I firmly think American society and worship is far too loud. It does little good since people don’t sit and contemplate their lives, God, and take time for family amid the ruckus. All the noise and entertainment allows people to avoid looking at their minds. I’ve talked to many people who can’t stand any type of silence; it makes them uncomfortable and think too much. I am coming to think the best worship service is one where people take the Lord’s Supper and then sit in silence for the rest of the hour. No sermons and no singing. Rather, let the heart sing and make melody instead of the mouth. It would do well to open each week with a reflection on the previous week’s actions, and lessons we can learn from our mistakes.
American Christianity would do well to sit down in small groups and try silence. At the least, we need to respect the need of introverts for silence and small groups. We have many skills we can bring to a congregation ( listening, mindfulness, contemplation, et al). However, with the ways church as currently structured, introverts are left out. They can either drain themselves and attempt to remain or become “hermits” as I was forced to do.
Of course, I am a very happy and peaceful hermit. I am also a better Christian now that I am not so exhausted.