Adam Cavalier currently serves as cross-cultural worker in southeast Asia. His home church is The Chapel on the Campusin Baton Rouge, LA. He holds a Master of Theology (Th.M.) in pastoral ministries from Dallas Theological Seminary. Check out his blog at From Cajun to Asian.
Imagine there is a young, flourishing leader in your church. He is a bright, humble, and faithful extrovert. Not only that, but Extrovert has an insatiable desire to know God through his Word, exudes confidence, has impressive communication and social skills. Everybody in the church loves him and believes he has great potential to be a celebrated leader in God’s church. Extrovert just read a book on missions, has been infected with the Great Commission bug, and it looks like he is never going to recover. Now when he reads Scripture, he sees God’s heart for the nations on every page. After praying through a book that lists unengaged, unreached people groups, he has zeroed in on a particular people group in Northern India. Currently every time he prays, God continually places this specific people group on his heart. He believes God is calling him to dedicate his whole life to this group by learning their language, translating the Bible into their native tongue, and sharing the gospel with them until either every single person in that group believes in Jesus Christ or the he returns in glory.
Also, imagine another young leader in the church who is not so dynamic. People aren’t necessarily overly drawn to his personality. He has a quiet, gentle, introverted spirit, but some find him a little odd. Although he has his little quirks, Introvert has exemplary Christian character. He is faithful, honest, dependable, and he can handle the Word well. The church loves him, but they don’t want him on stage. And because he doesn’t have an infectious personality like Extrovert, they keep him relegated to less visible responsibilities in the church. Dissimilar to Extrovert, Introvert isn’t as drawn to the cross-cultural mission field. He sees God’s passion for the nations, but isn’t personally called to be a missionary. He feels called to stay home, equipping and sending others.
There is a problem. Most people in his church and community think that both their plans are misguided and ill-advised. The church wants to send Introvert to the field, and keep Extrovert home. They wonder why Extrovert would want to go and use his God-given personality overseas. He could cultivate it and have a much greater impact on God’s Kingdom at home where the crowds are. Likewise, they think that Introvert could better be used cross-culturally. He doesn't light up the stage, but there are unreached people who are lost and dying apart from the knowledge of Christ in distant lands. Though he is a tad awkward in social settings in our culture, he could be effective in international ministry. I have heard these arguments time and time again. This is not a hypothetical story; it’s the story of many believers who desperately want to be a part of God’s promise to have someone from every tongue, tribe, and nation represented in Heaven worshiping the one true King.
Praise God For All Types
The intention should not be to regard certain personalities as essential over and against others. The call is for Christians to regard all personalities as fundamental to God’s purposes for nation-saving, sin-breaking, life-changing, risk-taking, God-honoring purposes. We are not to pity persons who are individually called to go to the cross-cultural mission field, we are to praise them; better yet, we are to praise God for them. One the one hand, those who want to serve Christ overseas are invaluable here. They are precious, and we need more people with a heart for the nations at home to function as senders and equippers. The missions-minded believer will be a catalyst for others to give more time, resources, and thought to what God is doing in the nations. A believer who is willing to go must also be willing to stay.
On the other hand, someone who feels called to serve Christ overseas would have immediate impact on the field. Go-ers should go! I believe our desire has all too frequently been to export our under-developed introverts and hoard our over-exposed extroverts. Many in our Western cultural are guilty of burying our one “talent” in the ground and waiting for our “hard” Master to return (see Matthew 25). As Westerners, we do a great job of giving time, money, resources, and prayer to the foreign mission field. But when it comes to what we cherish most – our beloved people – we are less willing to give that up to God. I believe that we should not only be lavish in our distribution of gifts, talents, and resources, but also our people. As John Piper says in his book Let the Nations Be Glad!, “Many Christians in the West think that the day of sending missionaries from our churches is past. This is tragic. Presumably, what we should do now is support missions from the Global South (“the Christian church in Africa, Latin America, and Asia”). My way of putting that would be: Let them shed their blood. We will just send money." This is true of believers in the West, but I believe it is especially true of our well-liked extroverts.
Let God Decide
I believe this problem often stems from our seemingly-impenetrable pragmatic worldview. Who doesn’t want a dynamic pastor that can handle and communicate the truth of God properly? Don’t misunderstand me. I think we should have well-trained pastors and church leaders equipped with biblical truth and skills to minister in the local church effectively. But I believe we have not always done a good job of balancing this principle with an uncompromising faith in God’s astonishing promise that he will carry out the work – regardless of our best attempts to help (or hurt). Will the dishes get done if your child helps you in the process? Sure, we might break a dish or two in the process, but God decides to include us in the task that has a sure outcome. Someone from every single tongue, tribe, and nation will be present before the throne. The question is this: Will we completely trust that God will accomplish his purposes through us in a way that only he can do?
Our subtle response to person's calling is to respectfully ask, “Did God really say that you should go to that people group?” I think that if we continue on this Spirit-quenching approach to Kingdom growth, we will deliberately stunt Spirit-empowered growth and will only allow for man-made results. Can’t you hear it? Some have said, “Come, let us build ourselves a nation and a church with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves, lest we be dispersed over the face of the whole earth.” The good news is that this is not an unsolvable problem.
By the grace of God and with his help, we can overcome our poor stewardship by only one thing: Believing the gospel. We should be eager to send our “best” people out to the field, not reluctant to let them go. Time and time again, I have seen Christians willing to send out “strange” introverts to the cross-cultural field, but hesitant to send their fashionable extroverts. Joseph and his dreams can go to distant lands and foreign people, but the older brothers can stay. David can go out to the fields and tend to the sheep, but the stronger brothers can stay and fight. The character and calling of a believer should override our (sometimes selfish) opinions on guiding our brothers and sisters on where they should go or what they should do with their lives. In this case, Jim Elliot’s memorable quote should ring a resounding amen in our hearts, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.”
For another great article on extroverts and introverts, see Seth McBee's article HERE.