Evangelism for Introverts Hannah Bemis July 26, 2017 Archive, Breaking, Online Exclusive 398 Font Size » Large | SmallBy Hannah Bemis Imagine you are late for a doctor’s appointment and there are two elevators that can take you up to the floor on which you need to be. As you wait impatiently, one elevator opens up and an older gentleman quickly steps in. Do you make the obvious choice to step into the open elevator with this man, getting to your appointment as quickly as possible, or do you decide to wait for the next elevator? This scenario is actually not hypothetical for me. I was faced with this decision last week, and I made the same choice I make every time: Wait for the next elevator. Why? Because I am an introvert. When I was growing up, before “introvert” became a buzzword, I was described as “shy.” Basically, if I have the choice between being late and having to make awkward conversation with a stranger, I choose to be late, hands down. At parties in college, I used to pretend to be asleep in a chair (I know, SO WEIRD). Today I’ve progressed to staying in the kitchen and doing dishes or pretending that my kids have an emergency (and how awesome is it that they usually do!). When I go on a walk in my neighborhood and see people chatting outside their houses a couple blocks down, I slyly cross to the other side of the road so I won’t have to do more than wave at them (and occasionally I pick up the pace and look super focused like I’m really working out, so that I won’t even have to wave). I realize this sounds rude and standoffish and that I probably appear to be unfriendly to some people. I wish those people could know that I am super friendly in my heart. I have good feelings toward pretty much everyone I see. I think good thoughts about them and I am often even praying for them as I pass them by, but actually talking to them is quite painful for me. That small talk, those awkward pauses when we’ve reached the end of our assessment of the weather, it’s all just too much for me. I will literally relive these moments and shiver several times throughout the rest of my day. Needless to say, I have never had the quintessential in-air gospel conversation with my seatmate on a plane. There are times when I have questioned my value as a Christian because of this. How am I supposed to share my faith or be part of the Great Commission when I don’t even really want to talk to anybody? This question has paralyzed me with guilt in the past, but God has lately opened my eyes and shown me how I can still fit, exactly the way that I’m wired. So for the other introverts out there, here is what He’s shown me: When God drops an easy opportunity into your lap, say yes. We have a very sweet couple that lives next door to us. Bill is older, probably in his early seventies, and his wife, Debbie, while about 15 years younger, suffers from multiple sclerosis. Bill recently approached the farm-style fence that separates our backyards and called my name. I went over, inwardly cringing at the potential small-talk that awaited me, and said hi. “Hannah, could I ask you to help me out with something funny, when you have the time? Debbie likes to pull her hair back in a braid at night to keep it off her neck, but she can’t do it herself anymore. She’s tried to teach me, but I’m not any good at it and she can’t show me. Could you try to show me how to braid hair?” Of course my heart melted into a puddle at his humble request and of course I said yes. We sat on my front porch and used my daughter Nora’s hair to practice. He actually learned very quickly, and we spent a few minutes afterward having a conversation that effortlessly moved into deeper themes like parenthood and marriage, and the importance of forgiveness. And I didn’t even have to approach anyone or do anything hard. Occasionally God will force connection in a way that is less easy but unavoidable. Say yes then too (because you kind of have to). We have another older neighbor named Shirley further down the street. Her husband passed away shortly after we moved into our house. Since I hadn’t ever officially met her or her husband, I agonized over the proper way to respond. Every time I passed their home and saw Shirley, I would smile tenderly in a way that I hoped said, “I know your husband passed away and I am so, so sorry, but I am not going to come knock on your door and tell you this because I don’t want to intrude and because I am shy. So please know by this smile how often I think of and pray for you and how much I actually care.” Apparently God didn’t think this was cutting it because after about a year of these tender smiles, my dog escaped our house and went running straight down the street and into Shirley’s yard where she was sitting on her porch with her cat. Our very friendly, very extroverted dog jumped into Shirley’s lap, jumped on top of Shirley’s cat, knocked over Shirley’s drink, and just generally harassed Shirley in the friendliest way possible until I got there and grabbed hold of her collar. (To be clear for those of you who are extroverts: this is an introvert’s literal worst nightmare.) Shirley, while shaken, was very kind and said she loved animals and knew that our dog was friendly. I apologized about 35 times and then pulled my dog home. I felt so sick about it the whole episode that I decided I needed to bake Shirley something to express my remorse. Well, I baked a very burnt loaf of pumpkin bread, which I used as an excuse not to go back over there. A few days passed and I still couldn’t get Shirley off my mind, so I baked another loaf of pumpkin bread which turned out fabulous so I had no excuse. My kids (two of whom are confirmed extroverts and were THRILLED that we were actually going to go talk to some neighbors) and I took the loaf over to her, apologized that our first meeting had been so crazy, and told her we wanted to introduce ourselves properly. She said she was so glad we came over and that any time we needed any help with the kids or anything at all, to please let her know. We have since had several conversations that have not been painful or awkward in the least. Use your gifts to connect in ways that are tolerable and even fun for you. Despite having burned Shirley’s pumpkin bread, I love to bake and am actually not terrible at it. I’ve baked several things for a few of our neighbors, and it’s been an easy way to start conversations. I’m going to be honest: sometimes (a lot of times) I have had the kids bring the items to the neighbors’ homes while I have watched from the doorway. While this may be cowardly, God is kind to let me take baby steps. The neighbors often approach me later to thank me and we still end up connecting. I love to write and God has gradually opened up more and more opportunities for me to share my writing and my love for Him with others. The best part of writing is that I can say everything I want to without ever having to have an actual conversation with a stranger. However, I have often had people (sometimes even strangers) approach me at church or at a social gathering to say that they read something I wrote, and I am drawn into face-to-face connection with them. God is gracious to let me start small, but He is also faithful to challenge and stretch me. I love to teach, and my husband, Jordan, recently told me that World Relief, the non-profit for which he works, was short on volunteers to teach English to refugees. The idea of teaching English one-on-one to someone I didn’t know and couldn’t fully communicate with sounded daunting. Amazingly, the next person on the list who needed help was a young, Muslim woman whom I knew and liked. I was still a little nervous but I said yes, and my friendship with this young mother has since developed into something really special that I look forward to each week. Enough about me – what do you like to do? Whether it’s write, teach, skateboard, sing, play an instrument, punt a football, program a computer, or something totally different, I guarantee there’s a way God can use it to propel you into sharing your faith. It’s true what our pastors say: we are all called to share our faith, to “evangelize.” However, not all types of evangelism look the same. If you’re an introvert like me, know that God loves you enough to have already created a custom-fit evangelism method just for you and your personality (so sharing your faith won’t always hurt). Also know that He loves you enough to challenge you to grow (so sometimes sharing your faith will hurt). Be ready to say yes either way. Each baby step will be worth it and you can trust His leading – even if He leads you straight onto an elevator with a stranger.