Summary: At its best, the church is communal, creedal, charismatic, and caring.
Doing Church Together
August 6, 2006
One of the things that I have learned through the years as I have taken scores of psychological tests for ordination and continuing education is that I am terribly introverted. I am so introverted that I am almost off the scale.
Extraverted people are those who gather their energy from interaction with other people. Put an extravert in a crowd and he or she will never be at a loss for words, will never wonder what to say next, and will always find someone to talk to.
An introvert on the other hand, is physically and emotionally drained by contact with other people. Being in a crowd of people is exhausting. An introvert finds it to be incredibly hard work to find things to say in order to make conversation. It saps your energy and depletes your strength. An extravert needs other people to be energized. An introvert by contrast, needs periods of quiet and rest after being in a group of people for a while. My wife still doesn’t quite understand my need for a major nap on Sunday afternoons, but it is necessary because of all the hard work that Sunday morning demands.
Introverts are often misunderstood because it seems like they don’t like people. But introversion and extraversion have nothing at all to do with liking or not liking people. It simply is part of our personality make-up that was given us by God. It is what makes us who we are. You would be surprised at the number of pastors who are introverts because it doesn’t seem like a profession that would attract introverts.
I tell you that because my introversion has a profound effect on my life. My parents are as far on the extraverted side of the scale as I am on the introverted side. They never have trouble talking with anybody. They talk to waitresses, shoe salesmen, people standing in line at the bank, the person behind the cash register at the grocery store…it doesn’t matter who or where they meet them, my parents will talk to them.
Toni and I were eating at Applebee’s not too long ago. We sat across the aisle from a couple a little older than we are. With them were their son and grandson. The little boy was being really cute, doing little kid things. We smiled at him and each other remembering those days, and being glad that they were over. They struck up a conversation with us and it wasn’t long before we knew that their son had just graduated from law school. We could tell that he was really embarrassed by all of that.
On the way out of the restaurant, Toni and I laughed together because we understood where that young man’s red face came from. You see, when you meet my parents, it only takes about four minutes to be told that their son is Dr. Carmer and a pastor at Calvary United Methodist Church, and their daughter-in-law is pastor at Leo UMC. I’m embarrassed by that stuff because I don’t do that. I don’t talk to strangers very easily and somehow, my occupation and education seldom enter into a conversation anyway.
One of the things that my parents can’t understand is why I hate family reunions. Let’s face it, the only thing I have in common with my extended relatives are some shreds of DNA. Reunions are agonizing for me. I never know what to say or to whom to say it. And I can never wait to go home.
It’s interesting that there are so many introverts who are pastors because its not easy being one and pasturing a church at the same time.
Regardless of our own personality make-up, I have a feeling that if I would ask all of my introverted brothers and sisters, we would all agree that one of the greatest things about the church is our community. We exist with and for each other. When you come right down to it, I’m not convinced that anyone ever gets to heaven alone. We all need the community of faith for inspiration, for education, and for sanctification. We need the church to teach us when we are ignorant, to correct us when we go astray, to encourage us when we are on the right path, to strengthen us when we are weak, and to help us up when we are beaten down. In the church we find role models of what it means to be a faithful disciple. In the church, we are introduced to Christ. The church is not only important for our spiritual growth; it is essential.
Dr. Jack Ulmer was the Dean of Student Services at Indiana University – Purdue University, Fort Wayne and my Senior High Sunday School teacher over at Forest Park. Dr. Ken Keller was professor and chair of the Department of Education at IPFW, and also a member of the church. On the Sunday after I received notification that I had been accepted to Purdue University, I remember telling Doc Ulmer the good news. Dr. Keller happened to be standing close and said; “Now it will take both of us to get him through.”