In recent times there’s been a movement within the church luring Jesus into the category of alpha male. They cite that many men stay away from church because they view it as a ‘ladies club’, prompting a number of church leaders to attempt to take Jesus out of the limp wristed, semi-geeky and semi-camp imagery and more into a macho, ‘carpentered up’ image of ‘who he really was and is.’ But, is it based on scripture or is it a misdiagnosis of the reason why there’s more women in church than men?
David Murrow’s book ‘Why Men Hate Going to Church’ talks about the touchy-feely sermons and feminized love songs that fill our churches and how the average male is put off by them. Leon J Podles, author of ‘The Church Impotent – The Feminization of Christianity’ states that many churches emphasize Jesus’ softer teachings, like His love and His desire to save, while ignoring the more masculine doctrines of sin and hell. He believes that men love a good battle between good and evil more than a soppy romance.
That may be food for thought but is it right, however, to turn the ultimate leader and saviour of the Church into a fully blown alpha male? Is it right to hypermasculinize men so as to make all men hunter and gatherers like Esau rather than home dwellers like Jacob? Just because men love meat doesn’t necessitate an all meat diet. Surely actions and feelings, adventure AND love should always be apart of every action man’s agenda. Does putting a ‘macho’ male culture above a ‘metro’ male culture create a gap into which the Church inadvertently fuels a ‘homo’ male culture?
The Alpha male and the Extrovert often walk hand in hand (so to speak). It’s easy to see the way Jesus fed the 5000, the way He sent out the 72 and the way He confronted the money changers and conclude that He was an amazing extrovert with alpha tendencies. Yet an introvert can also do all of those things. I say this because they are not alpha traits – they’re leadership traits. And both extroverts and introverts are candidates for leadership. It’s also easy to see the way Jesus was a friend of sinners, loved food, extended the opening hours of a wedding and hung out with 12 friends for 3 years and conclude that He was a rampant sanguine, fully extrovert and an amazing socialite. Yet introverts can make friends as well. Introverts can party all night if driven by a strong purpose and goal. In fact, food becomes the best friend of the introvert, as it depressurizes relationships and allows easier transaction of truth and emotion.
An introvert has four distinguishing characteristics – they’re generally quiet, often sensitive, very thoughtful and often either creative or quirky! Jesus had all four.
Before we look at all four traits, it’s important to fess up that Jesus was not good looking. The importance of this is due to the link our society places between leadership and looks (our image) and extroversion and appearance. In our image-based culture we think that to be a leader you have to look good ruling many out of excelling in leadership – subconsciously anyway. You’re wondering how I know what Jesus looked like? Isaiah prophesied in Isaiah 53:2 that He would have ‘no beauty or majesty to attract us to him’ and ‘nothing in His appearance that we should desire Him.’ In a culture where since 1900, every American President has been an average 1 inch taller than his opponent at election time, we need to destroy the myth of looks. In reality most extroverts think that they are better looking than they actually are, and most introverts think they are worse looking than they actually are. Either way, leadership is leadership, looks or no looks.
Jesus was four things –
Isaiah also prophesies that Jesus wouldn’t be a loud mouth. He wouldn’t ‘shout or argue or raise His voice in the streets.’ Sure, He shouted at the gravesite of Lazarus and He shouted, I guess, at the moneychangers. Yet His disposition was ‘quiet’. Quiet strength was his domain. And that’s the domain of the introvert. In a world that doesn’t stop talking, introverts speak words that are like ‘apples of gold in settings of silver.’ (Proverbs 25:11) Twenty-five Words aptly chosen from the thoughtful wisdom on an introvert are worth the 2500 words of a shouter.
The longest sermon of Jesus was the ‘Sermon on the Mount’. Without long pauses and some editing, it was shorter, much shorter, than every sermon that has been preached since! His analogies were all succinct. His teachings were left still begging for a bit more interpretation. His hyperboles were short, dramatic and finished on a high note, not like many preachers we all know.
Either this was the work of a pragmatic choleric extrovert, or more likely a thoughtful introvert.
Isaiah prophesied that Jesus would not break or crush a ‘bruised reed’ or shorten the life of a ‘smoldering wick’. (Isaiah 42:2,3)
His sensitivity to human need was seen in his astute dealing with the woman caught in adultery. It was seen in His accommodation of tax collectors and sinners. He was fluent not only in God’s word, but also in the ‘language of human’.
His sensitivity even reached out at the cross and saved a criminal who was dying beside Him. His general movements were not those of a swashbuckler, but of an introvert gauging every situation and responding to it with tailor made eternal truth and grace.
Jesus’ excursions to a quite place of solitude (Mark 1:35, Matthew 14:23) not only indicates a man of prayer but also a man in need of time to process and time to listen to His heavenly Father.
In our extrovert culture where ‘any decision is better than no decision’ an introvert bucks the trend and states (quietly) that ‘a right decision is better than a stupid one’.
Because introverts notice more and digest more, they need time to process more. Hence when an extrovert tells the masses to come out of their shells, there are some animals that take their shells with them. Shell time is process time. An introvert can’t just not worry about something; they need to alloy their worry with God’s promises through some good shell time. Then it can dissipate in the realm of faith.
An extrovert says that ‘practice makes perfect’, yet for an introvert ‘process makes perfect’.
4. Creative (and quirky)
From the ‘Foxes have holes’ dialogue through to his, ‘The Kingdom is like’ parables, Jesus was an artist – not with paint, but with his words. He was quirkily artistic at times and dramatically hyperbole at other times – for example when he told us to ‘hate our families’ (Luke14:26). We’ve done the interpreting the same way as a painting in The Louvre is interpreted to us by a tour guide, who knows the context and the intent of the painter.
Creativity – whether popular or quirky is often the domain of the introvert.
It’s time to allow the introvert in you back into leadership. It’s time to allow introverts to stop feeling like they’re second-class citizens, bound by fears that they just can’t shift. It’s time for the real you to arise. More power to the introverts! Bye Bye.
If you’d like a more in depth analogy of the power of the Introvert, I highly recommend the book that has placed a bee in my bonnet – ‘Quiet – The Power of Introverts in a World that can’t Stop Talking’ by Susan Cain.