Saturday, April 25, 2015

Spiritual Gifts and the Introvert

According to the New Testament, the Holy Spirit endows each believer with spiritual gifts so that we can build the church, grow in our faith and bring glory to God. Each of us has different gifts or different functions and is an important part of the body of Christ. I have read these scriptures many times but until now have not paused to consider what my spiritual gifts might be or how I might use them.

Several years ago, the women’s ministry at my church gave me a Uniquely You Profile booklet, by Mels Carbonell, Ph.D. The booklet included a spiritual gifts questionnaire, a DiSC personality questionnaire to help you recognize the influence of your behavioral tendencies, and suggestions on how to use your spiritual gifts in church ministry.

The DiSC model of human behavior describes personality a bit differently than the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator with which I am familiar. The letters stand for Dominant, Inspiring, Cautious and Supportive and for other adjectives that conveniently begin with the same letters. Some prefer the DiSC model because it is more simplistic (and probably easier to teach and/or sell). There are four traits in the DiSC model instead of the eight traits of MBTI. Whether you describe human behavior based on how people-oriented and task-oriented people are (DiSC) or based on how they are energized, respond to their environment and make decisions (MBTI), personality assessments are useful in understanding our inclinations and motivations.

When I considered what my spiritual gifts might be, I felt discouraged and put the profile aside without finishing it. With my introverted personality, a “C/S” blend in the DiSC profile, it seemed as if I had nothing to offer, certainly not the greatest, most desirable gifts like preaching the gospel or evangelizing. Speaking to people I don't know is intimidating. I am most comfortable serving behind the scenes. And Carbonell said that Cautious types like me often have much wisdom but little "personality".

Last year, my small group studied the book of Romans using the Deepening Life Together bible study, which included a couple of pages on spiritual gifts. This gave me a bit of insight into my gifts so I finally completed the Uniquely You Profile that I had put aside years ago. Although I found some questions a bit biased towards extroverts, my answers confirmed my self-observations. I also read the scriptures and came away with a deeper understanding of how God shapes believers to use our spiritual gifts.

Spiritual Gift
Scripture Reference
1 Corinthians 12
1 Corinthians 12
1 Corinthians 12
1 Corinthians 12
1 Corinthians 12
1 Corinthians 12
Ephesians 4
Ephesians 4
Ephesians 4
Romans 12
Romans 12
Romans 12
Romans 12
Romans 12
Romans 12
1 Peter 4: 9-10

Be Yourself, Only Better

The author of the Uniquely You booklet said "Remember, there is no bad personality. We need to accept the way we and others naturally respond as unique traits." I agree with that, however Carbonell's advice contradicts these assertions. If you are not naturally outgoing, he says you "need" to be. If you are passive with respect to task-orientation, in other words if you're not the dominant, demanding type, he says you "need" to be more aggressive.

There are certainly times when you should set aside your natural behavior, for example, to speak up when you are naturally quiet or to stop talking and listen if you are naturally chatty. But for the most part, we should be true to who we were made to be because there are some really good reasons we are not all the same. However, we should also be aware of our weaknesses and challenge ourselves to overcome them. For me, this has meant learning, with God's help, to be less judgmental, less fearful, more positive and encouraging.

The truth is, we all have lots of personality, we just express ourselves and use our talents differently. If your natural inclination is to be inwardly focused and reserved, don't let anyone tell you that you "need" to be fixed. It took me nearly fifty years to figure out that there are advantages to being an introvert just as there are advantages to being an extrovert. I now assertively embrace my uniqueness.

When you compare yourself to others, it is easy to feel discouraged, like you just don’t measure up. But when I consider the intricacy and the purposefulness of God’s design, I believe it is no accident that human beings were made with varied personalities and talents.
Now if the foot should say, "Because I am not a hand, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. And if the ear should say, "Because I am not an eye, I do not belong to the body," it would not for that reason stop being part of the body. If the whole body were an eye, where would the sense of hearing be? If the whole body were an ear, where would the sense of smell be? But in fact God has placed the parts in the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be. If they were all one part, where would the body be? As it is, there are many parts but one body.
1 Corinthians 12:14-19
We should be encouraged because God has a purpose and plan for each of us - even for those of us who find it difficult to talk to or to lead other people. Sometimes God chooses the most unlikely people to do something and when he does he provides the strength to do it.

Be a Servant

In his letter to the church at Philippi, Paul wrote “therefore if you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any common sharing in the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being in one spirit and of one mind. Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others." Paul also wrote that believers should emulate Christ and take on the nature of a servant. Not everyone is gifted to be an evangelist or teacher, but anyone can be a helper.

In my search for a way to serve my church, I have been encouraged by the examples of others, especially the introverts. Every week, I see a quiet, serious-looking usher handing out bulletins and passing the collection plate. My introverted friend bakes for the church and also leads the two-year old class every week with quiet dedication. The pastor who leads the church’s caring ministry is not gregarious and talkative like our senior pastor, but he sensitively counsels those who are hurting.

I found a couple of ways to serve in my church as well. I became a group leader with the AWANA program but stopped volunteering after a couple of years because I really wasn’t gifted at leading boisterous children. It was also too much stimulation for me. Now I help with the toddler class once or twice a month. It has been a great way for me to meet many young families.

Be Transformed

It is important to understand spiritual gifts but it is even more important to use them for God's glory and to save lost souls. I believe that my strongest gifts are faith and discernment. I spend much time in prayer, thought and contemplation – in my head – so these gifts make perfect sense. Faith is my internal source of strength. I've tested and weighed the reasons for my faith yet have not been as courageous in expressing my faith as I should be. I have the ability to discern right from wrong and truth from error and to make wise decisions, yet I seldom share my insights.

What good are my spiritual gifts if I don’t share them? How valuable are these gifts if they are not tested and approved? In Romans 12:2, Paul said “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing and perfect will.”

When I first started writing a few years ago, God opened my eyes to a couple of things. One, He made me examine my motives and goals. I had dreams of writing a novel, of being famous some day. Was this for God’s glory? No, I was conforming to the pattern of this world, seeking treasures here on earth. Now my goal in writing is to make a difference in another person's life - who that someone is I don't know, but God does. I can offer a different perspective and share what Jesus Christ has done for me. Two, I prayed that God would lead me where He wants me to be. He let me know that where I need to be now is right here, working out some spiritual issues. 

I am growing in my faith. God is actively transforming me. He has shown me that even though I do not socialize and speak with the ease of an extrovert, my words can still be used to spread the message of God’s love. I am learning to use my voice. With God's help, I can discern the truth and speak the truth, in love.


  1. Hi, Cathy. I know this is a really old post, but I just want to let you know I appreciate your insight.

  2. Thanks, for reading my post Heather! I haven't written much on Blogger this year.

  3. Hey Cathy, thank you for being transparent and taking the time to express yourself. I'm a fellow C/S introvert. I can fully relate to this article.