How Introverted Pastors Love

How Introverted Pastors Love

MINNEAPOLIS — It’s no secret John Piper is an introvert.

This week 75 pastors and ministry leaders gathered together as a local chapter of TGC Twin Cities to hear Pastor John share about his 33 years of ministry. The discussion was led by R.W. Glenn of Redeemer Bible Church.

One of the first questions was how an introverted pastor, like Piper, has learned to love others through his personal gifts and limitations.

The Pastor As Introvert

“It’s amazing how many introverts go into ministry,” Pastor John said of himself and others. But it’s true. For many pastors, hanging out with people is physically draining. “A lot of people would say that’s a bad thing; you should repent of that and turn around and either do something else, or start loving to hang out with people.”

Or, he said, introverted pastors can use their strengths to intentionally love people. Extroverted pastors and introverted pastors, if they’re born again, both love people, but there remains a tension for the introverted pastor who defines love exclusively in terms of activities in the presence of people.

He went on to explain.

Plead with God to make your in-disposition to be with people a blessing to people. In other words, I would say after 33 years, my default after preaching is to go home and pray and read, not to hang out for three hours over a meal. That’s my disposition. I do hang out for an hour and pray with people, and I’m glad I do, and it is rewarding to do it.... If you're wired that way, instead of constantly praying God would make you another kind of person, pray that he would make you really useful for people. I think he’s done that for me....

I believe what people have benefited from me most is what I have seen in the Bible. I don’t think I have blessed Bethlehem much by being a good organizer or a good model of personal evangelism. I can list a lot of ways they have not benefited from me. But, if I don’t despair, if I say there’s been some good done, I know where it came from — it came from me taking notes over my Bible and wrestling to see how Hebrews 10:10 and 10:14 come together, that was this morning; seeing something I’ve never seen before in the text, and walking into a staff meeting and telling them; walking into a hospital room and telling her; walking into the pulpit and telling them what I saw. And then going home to see some more.

Take what you see, and then if you’re a writer, you write it. If you’re a preacher, you preach it. If you’re a hanger-outer, tell the hanger-outters-with what you saw this morning.

The Pastor’s Devotional Life (And Dynamic Theology)

A little later the discussion turned to the difference between time invested in personal devotions and in sermon preparation. Pastor John explained the importance of reading the Bible through every year.

“My theological framework is constantly being refined in my personal devotions,” he said. “I’m a Christian Hedonist and a 7-point Calvinist [laughter]. But that is not a static reality. There’s core that never changes, but the pieces of it move around, and the emphases move around, and the edges expand, and applications grow. All that theological formation is happening as I'm wrestling with text after text after text by reading through the whole Bible every year.”

Other topics covered in the 50-minute gathering:

  • The top three priorities for pastors.
  • Piper’s perceived failures and regrets from 33 years of pastoral ministry.
  • Why pastors should focus on preaching to people in the room, and not to an unseen online audience. (“If you try to be a world-pastor and your church is your studio, that's going to go south real fast.”)
  • Why God loves to bless church-planting churches.
  • Perceiving symptoms of spiritual sickness in the congregation.
  • And the place of passion in preaching. (“I cannot preach to people something I’m bored with. That’s the way you die in ministry.”)

Listen to the entire discussion here: Reflecting on 33 Years in the Pastorate.

Tony Reinke (@tonyreinke) is a content strategist at Desiring God, blogger, the author of Lit! A Christian Guide to Reading Books (2011) and John Newton on the Christian Life: To Live Is Christ (2015), and hosts the Ask Pastor John and Authors on the Line podcasts. He lives in the Twin Cities with his wife, Karalee, and their three children.