Public Apologetics Part 1: Introvert Edition

by Holly Ordway

Over the past few years I’ve noticed that many Christians have a certain sense of performance anxiety from hearing a few too many conversion stories and personal testimonies. Should I have led X number of people to Christ by now? Christians who have been studying apologetics are often particularly gripped by anxiety: shouldn’t I be Doing Something Important to Save Souls with this knowledge?

The answer is that yes, we should share our faith, and yes, we should make use of apologetics knowledge — but there are many ways to do so. One size does not fit all.

In this post series, I’m going to tackle some of the issues regarding apologetics in public, and say what might be somewhat counter-intuitive things. The basic idea is this: there are ways that Christians ‘share the Gospel’ that are, I think, frankly counter-productive, and there are attitudes among Christians that cause needless anxiety and deflect Christians from things that would be genuinely helpful. So here goes.

Public Apologetics Part 1: Introvert Edition

You’ve probably all heard some version of the story. An evangelist explains that he was on a plane, and ended up in a great conversation with the guy sitting next to him, and before the plane landed the guy had given his life to Jesus. Or something like that. Moral of the story (apparently): talk about Jesus to total strangers at any opportunity.

OK, let’s be clear about where I stand on this:

I think I would rather die than turn to someone sitting next to me on an airplane and say “So, have you thought about accepting Jesus as your Savior?”

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Now, if I genuinely thought that this kind of conversation was necessary and helpful, I would pray for the grace to become a martyr to social awkwardness. However, I am relieved of this necessity by the simple recognition that before I was a Christian, back when I was an agnostic and later an atheist, I was JUST AS RESERVED as I am now.

When I am on a plane (train, bus, etc) my attention is focused on not interacting with strangers. Eye contact when necessary for politeness, as in, thank you for helping me not drop my suitcase on the nice lady in 22C’s head as I put it in the overhead bin. Otherwise, I have my book or my iPad, and thank you very much for letting me read or write or do whatever introvert thing I am doing.

I like talking to my friends, and to students, and to audiences who have for some reason chosen to listen to me talk about poetry or apologetics or what-have-you. That is in an entirely different category — on a different planet! — than talking to strangers, which makes me anxious and stressed.

So when I was an atheist, I would have responded very badly indeed to a Cheerful Extrovert for Jesus trying to get me into an Important Conversation for My Soul. The thing is, it wasn’t an atheist-Christian thing, but rather an introvert-extrovert thing… but the fact that I’m reserved means that a Christian stranger trying to drag me into conversation, or to foist tracts onto me that I haven’t asked for, is crossing my personal space in a major way. No matter what the message, Christianity or anything else, the Extrovert Stranger’s attempt to engage with me, a highly reserved introvert, would end up with me developing a serious dislike of whatever the message was…

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