Jesus made disciples, and sent them to make disciples who would in turn make disciples. This is the way of life we are called to.
When I look at the Gospel accounts of the start of this process for Jesus, I see:
that a group of people are drawn to him, and invited to spend time with him;
and that, from out of that group he calls specific people who he will focus investment in, people who are shown him by his Father as he prays about who to invite.
This would seem to me to be the model Jesus gives us. But Jesus is clearly very at home in social gatherings, is clearly the sort of person to whom others are drawn; and I am an introvert. Not only that, but I know that I am not alone! So how do we navigate the first stage of discipleship as introverts?
Not everyone is drawn to extraverts. Indeed, some people are repelled by extraverts. There will always be people who are drawn to introverts – and not only other introverts – but this will almost certainly be a slower process and a smaller number of people than will gather to extraverts in general and certainly to apostles who are, among other things, natural people-gatherers. And if this is our only model, we will be frustrated! Certainly, we have found that it takes a long time to see people respond to our repeated invitations to share our lives with them (my wife is not an introvert, but having been married to me for so long has made her more attuned to introvert preferences); but also that the few who do have often (though not always) become very committed friends.
Starting with a smaller group of people to choose from, I think there is a temptation to hope to invest meaningfully in each of these people. Experience tells me that this is a mistake, and one that sets us up for disappointment. Indeed, it has been those people where I have had a very clear sense of God’s voice saying “I have sent this person to you” that have proven to be the most lasting relationships.
Throughout this initial, perhaps speculative or at least preparatory stage, we have modelled those values that are core to us: values that include hospitality, and service; values that have marked every community we have nurtured. Over the years, the number of people who have responded has been relatively few; but, we have seen those who God has given us to disciple reproduce those values, in a host of diverse expressions, all over the world. And again, this is what we see modelled by Jesus, who, though he drew large crowds, invested in a few, and in so doing touched – and continues to touch and to transform – the whole world.
So be the person God created you to be, with your preferences and interests, and watch to see who is open to you. Then be unswervingly true to who God has made you – not because they need to become your clone, but because the discipler sets the culture, in order that, having assimilated the values, the disciple expresses those values in their own ‘voice’ and so becomes a discipler in turn...