Let me be really honest – I am a classic introvert. I love a quiet corner, a good book and a few hours alone are often incredibly life giving for me. So here is the dilemma, I am also a pastor! I meet with person after person throughout the day & on most days people are expecting my social “A” game. Our family has worked very hard to open up our lives to our church family, neighbors and a huge amount of college students who seem to just show up at our place. Even when I want open up my life to my church family & neighbors I still sometimes find a tension that I need to live in. My name is Ben and I am an introvert!
I am often asked by my fellow introverts, we are only 25% of the population, how do you operate as an extended family on mission, when your tendency is to want to be alone. As a church, we believe that the model of new testament evangelism always operated in “oikos” or extended families sharing life. That’s why all throughout Acts we see Paul going from “family to family” or “House to house.” That’s why we see one person come to Christ, then an entire family follow, like Lydia & the Jailer in Phillipi. Oikos, is an extended family sharing life and mission together. Within this shared life we believe discipleship flourishes because it becomes less about a bible study that gives information, and more about a family unit that allows imitation. here’s a great blog describing oikos from my friends at 3dmUk
So for the last 2 weeks our life has been crazy, the relational pace I am on would have killed me a few years ago, because I have been with people every night for 2 straight weeks. We have had visitors at the house for the past 2 weekends, dinner guests nearly every night & late night meetings around the fire pit. All of this is wonderful for my extroverted wife who gains energy from being around people but it can be challenging for introverts like me who at times become drained by people & gain energy by being alone.
So in the middle of this I am learning to be me “an introvert’ but also learning to thrive in our “oikos” family.
Here are a few things I have learned:
1) – Sabbath keeping makes me relationally strong – When I have healthy patterns of rest & work in my life, my strength is not gained or drained by people, because it is given to me by God! When I am not resting, I become far more selfish with my time & I have far less to give others. There is a very real reality that the call on my life at times is to be Gods spokesperson. If I am not resting in Him, or finding my strength in him than all I am offering others is my leftovers. When I live in the natural rythmn of rest & work I have much more to give because I am abiding in my father who gives me all I need for the mission he has called me to.
2) – Being in a family means sacrifice – At dinner tonight my son said, “I don’t want to eat dinner at the table with the family.” I told him he didn’t have a choice that our family eats together. Sometimes being a part of a family means that you sacrifice for the good of the family. Now there are a lot of things that we are very comfortable sacrificing for because we know they are worth the cost. I workout (occasionally) because I know that its worth the cost, I sacrifice my desires for my family because I know its worth it. I don’t think that our evangelical culture has learned that sacrificing for the sake of oikos is worth it. Anything worth doing is worth sacrificing for. Sometimes I sacrifice my comfort, my time, my efforts for my church family, they do the same for me, its worth it! Call me crazy but it seems like Jesus lead the way in this by laying down his life for his family, we are called to do the same. The benefits far outweigh the sacrifice.
3) – Leaders go first – An old boss used to say always that “leaders go first.” They set the tone, they lead the way. If we are asking others to imitate our lives than we have to ask ourselves some tough questions. Do I only go first in areas of comfort or am I willing to go first when I’m asked to get outside of my comfort zone? Is my home hospitable? Do my neighbors see the love of Christ in us? Do we throw the best parties in the neighborhood? Jesus did all of these things. We want to as well, which means I need to go first and model the way.
4) – Set Healthy Boundaries – I have to say no to people in my missional community, people in my huddle, people on staff and even our neighbors at times. I say no when something is already planned, when my wife and I have a date, when the family is doing family game night. Its easy to say no when your priorities are in line. When they aren’t, you find yourself saying yes to the wrong things & no to the right things. Its all about intentionality, if you don’t take control of your calendar someone else will. I believe my calendar & my check book should be the two most important theological documents I write. They should clearly say to anyone who sees them who I belong to.