Having started my ministry in mission development -- in fact, in one of the first Lutheran mission starts in the movement that is now called "emergent," I often encounter a bit of surprise when people who only know that part of my history meet me. Even the folks who have been forewarned that I'm not a curse-like-a-sailor, tattooed hipster are a little taken aback when they discover that I do as much listening as talking. Over and over again, I've had to disabuse people of the assumption that being an evangelist is the same thing as being an extravert.
It's a common stereotype -- the outgoing, super-friendly pastor must be good at "bringing people in," right? Lay people often subconsciously or openly look for the most extraverted person they can find because they assume that extraverts are better at putting people at ease, more likely to reach out and help the congregation grow. As a result most introverted pastors -- and our numbers are legion -- learn how to pretend that we are more energized by crowds and light social interaction than we really are. At best, we put on a good show and go about secretly doing what we're really good at, which is building genuine relationships. At worst, we're made to feel like frauds.
It may have been true in previous generations that extraverts had the edge, when all you had to do was find people who were looking for a church and put them at ease. A couple decades ago mission developers were trained to do just that -- knock on doors in new subdivisions and strike up conversations with total strangers. The driving assumption was that if people knew your church existed and found the pastor friendly enough, some of them would ultimately beccome part of your church. And since most lay people would rather have a root canal than knock on strangers' doors and talk about Jesus, they went looking for pastors who seemed most likely to do so.
The mission landscape was already very different in the 1990's, but now all the arrows point in the same direction -- we can't just assume that people are "looking for" a faith community. Many have given up looking, and many don't even have organized religion on their radar. Some are so openly hostile to religion that the pastor is the last person they'd talk to. For congregations who are concerned about evangelism, this means at least two things when it comes to looking for a leader.
1) Your pastor cannot be the center of your relational life. Leaders who soak up affirmation for their friendly and outgoing ways might actually be doing your community a disservice if they are not also inviting every member of the congregation to see their relationships in a missional way. No human being can relate in a meaningful way to hundreds of people at once. Life-changing relationships come a few at a time, so leadership is more about building a climate of relationship-building than about being the center of those relationships.
2) In true evangelism, listening is just as important as talking. For far too long, lay people have quivered at the prospect of sharing their faith because they've been led to believe that it's about having answers instead of asking questions, about selling a product instead of invitation into a body of believers. Introverts play a crucial role in a congregation's mission because they often pay attention to things that extraverts ignore in their rush to broadcast their thoughts to the world. The next time people fret about "getting the message out," consider whether you've taken enough time to listen to your community first.
One congregation I know engaged their whole evangelism team -- lay people, mind you -- in a listening campaign. Each team member started with someone they knew and had 1-1 conversations with people who were progressively further from the center of their congregation's life, until finally they were talking to thoroughly unchurched neighbors. They weren't there to talk, but to listen. I suspect what they learned in those conversations will do more for that church's mission in the future than anything the most outgoing pastor could do.