Book Review: The Introvert Charismatic

This book has been around since 2015, and features a pretty impressive array of endorsements. I was surprised not to have heard of it, until a friend saw it and thought of me. This friend promptly started to apologise – knowing my less-than adulatory views of the Myers Briggs personality test which this book draws on. This shouldn’t, however, have put me off.

Mark Tanner is Bishop of Berwick and as a former Warden of Cranmer Hall in Durham, someone who has had a unique opportunity to both do and reflect on ministry over his life. I’m neither of these things – but i found myself resonating with a lot of what the author has to say. I am unashamedly Charismatic in my theology – both in the technical sense that all Christians believe the Holy Spirit empowers the Church for God’s mission in the world, and in the practical and popular sense that I believe, alongside many others, that the Holy Spirit distributes gifts and goodness (What the New Testament calls ‘charism’) amongst the Church today, in the same way that Jesus’ first disciples did in the New Testament. I am also, I think, some of the time at least, what might be called ‘introvert’. Certainly, parts of my personality, emotional makeup and spirituality resonate with what Mark is describing – and occasionally causes me to question and ponder the mainstream of Charismatic ‘culture’.

This book is, in my opinion, actually two very good books. The first, and main, is an exploration of what it means to be an introvert in a very outgoing ‘noisy’ form of Church, and this is approached methodologically, theologically, sympathetically and carefully. The second, subtly interwoven but (with my publishing industry hat on) detachable as a standalone superb short introduction, is an explanation of what a Charismatic actually is, some of what we believe, and where that connects particularly into church history, scripture, and the wider church.

As an example of the importance of bringing these two words/worlds into dialogue, I offer what I thought was a brilliant vignette from Mark’s book (engaging with what I think can be very problematic language around parts of the charismatic church):

all of this ‘ministry’ is beyond me. I cannot do it, and when I try to I end up distorting and damaging those I am trying to help. It is usually when ‘Mark’ (me) ends and Jesus starts that I can truly engage in the dynamic of discipleship which is entirely grace (charis).

This is the distinction that the Canadian Vineyard leader and teacher Gary Best helpfully draws between ‘ambassador’ and ‘general’. Both have real authority, but only the general has might. When the general is disobeyed he has to sort it out; when the ambassador is frustrated it is the King who is in control. Our authority is not actually our authority; it is the coming king in whose name we operate and we must never forget this
This kind of observation, in my mind at least, demonstrates the value of this book. Some of it makes awkward reading for introverts like me – other elements of it make (I’d imagine) hard reading for those of a more extrovert persuasion. As a charismatic, though, I firmly believe that the Holy Spirit is the one who leads us into all truth (John 16:13), and that sometimes this comes through hard conversations and clarifying questions. 

As well as giving some practical pointers to both introverts and extroverts about growing and serving together, there is also a good chapter about what introverts can offer to the Church. I resonated, again, with a lot of this – and also found that it echoes quite a bit of what I understand my slight gift and calling of reading books to be – and I think this would be a valuable tool for those in ministry of any kind who have introverts on their teams. I’d even go so far as to put it in my top ten of chapters on Christian leadership!

I could go on, but I’d be in danger of this review going on longer than necessary. My only quibble with the book is its reliance on the introvert/extrovert(/ambivert) paradigm, and the wider Myers Briggs language, which I’m quite uncomfortable with. That said, the author is good at pointing out that a) this language is just a tool and b) it is not comprehensive. Would that other leaders and speakers/writers on leadership had the same awareness!

Overall, this book is well worth reading if, like me, you are probably an introvert and definitely a charismatic. If you might be either of those things, then it would also be worth reading. The aforementioned chapter on introverts in the body of the Church is also invaluable – I’d hope that charismatic church leaders of all denominations and movements would consider reading this book, to better understand each other and those in their congregations. 
I’m late to the party, and even later in the year, but this is definitely one of my top books this year.

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