We’ve all heard how folks describe others folks as “pushy,” “shy,” “responsible,” “determined,” “persevering,” “fun,” “serious,” etc. These are adjectives that are used to describe people and they are just another way of referring to someone’s personality.
I think it is imperative and beneficial for churches to do some study on personality types. Much of the conflict within the family, the work place, our schools and in the church is caused by personality clashing. Personalities can complement each other or cause conflict. We get to choose which we wish it to be. We are either going to let the flesh rule us or God’s Spirit (Gal.5:16-26). One is a curse and the other is a blessing.
Yes, there is conflict because of one’s opinions, one’s upbringing and one’s education, but most conflict comes as a result of one’s personality. Your personality greatly determines how you deal with your opinions (and those of other folks) and how you treat others.
We are fortunate that much study has already been done in this area. The two personality inventories with which we are most familiar are the Myers-Briggs (MBTI) Personality Profile and Gary Smalley’s LOGB profile (see his book Making Love Last Forever, chapter 10). I now have my own that I recently produced in our “I Serve U” series.
Consider the following about your personality:
Your personality type is neither good nor evil; it just is. There is debate about the origin of your personality which I will not discuss here. However, your personality is the one thing that makes you YOU. I believe that it is God-given, and when used properly, it becomes a great blessing at work, in the home and in the church.
Your personality is either ruled by your flesh or by the Spirit of God. The personality ruled by the flesh causes all sorts of problems (see Gal.5:19-21) while the personality ruled by the Spirit of God creates all sorts of good and beneficial things (see Gal.5:22-23). Paul told the Corinthian Christians that they were fleshly. We can see the corresponding problems they had because they were fleshly (e.g. immorality, divisiveness, insensitive, etc.). However, when a person is ruled by the Spirit, he/she becomes loving, joyful, peaceful, etc. When God rules your personality, good things happen (there is peace and personalities complement each other). However, if you are ruled by your flesh, bad things happen. You get to choose which you wish to be.
You need to recognize that others have differing personalities. There are basically four personality types. Depending how you ‘name’ them they are Lion, Otter, Beaver and Golden Retriever (or DISC: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness and Compliance). When you recognize these different personality types and you learn what each is, you can see God’s wisdom in His design. If we were all the same, most of us would be unnecessary. We need lions to lead, otters for fun, beavers to get the work done and golden retrievers to promote harmony and peace. This may be an over simplification, but it does illustrate what I’m saying here. We need to appreciate others’ personality types and use this recognition for His glory. When we do, we complement each other. Recognizing and appreciating one another’s gifts is not enough; we must also recognize and appreciate each other’s personalities.
Some Scriptural principles that promote personalities complementing one another:
John 13:34-35 – paraphrased: love one another as Christ loved us with an unselfish love. I may not like your personality, but I am committed to loving you and wanting what is best for you unconditionally. Love endures all things and never fails. When we love this way, we better understand and appreciate each other. This takes submission to the Lord and the pay-off is huge.
Ephesians 5:21 – submit to one another as unto the Lord. This carries with it the idea of recognizing and appreciating others’ gifts and personalities and cooperating with each other in fulfilling the mission of Christ.
Romans 15:7 – accept one another. Believe it or not, there are folks that you do not like simply because of their personality. However, in the Lord’s church I must accept you fully because we are ‘blood relatives’ in the Lord. Most of the acceptance we see in the world and in the church today is shallow at best; it is based upon something we have in common (e.g. sports, education, children, hobbies, friends). It is ‘conditional’ love. However, we are to accept each other (with all our imperfections) because Christ accepted us that way.
We need all four personality types to do the work of the church. I’ve already referred to this, but I want to say this again. As Paul told the Corinthian church that not all members are hands, or feet, etc., the same could be said when it comes to personalities. Not all of us are otters or lions or beavers or golden retrievers. We are a divine blend of all. One brother said, “If we were all the same, we’d be bored.” I’ll add—the work of the church probably would not get done.
Is this found in the Bible? While it is not the case that the Holy Spirit mentions the four different personality types by name, He does reveal them to us in the different Biblical characters. If you read closely the stories about Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Esau, David, Ruth, Esther, Naomi, Peter, Paul, Matthew, Barnabas, etc. you can see the differences in them. Part of that difference is obviously personality.
A practical application in today’s church: when forming a committee or a work crew, an elder, deacon or ministry leader should pick folks from all four personality types. They will need a leader (Lion). They will need hard working folks (Beavers). They will need folks who will work as long as it takes to get the work done (Golden Retrievers). And, they need folks to make it fun (Otters). This is what we tell our leaders to do.
You will also find the most productive elderships include more than one personality type.
In some sense, each of us is characterized with all four of these personality types.
Even though I may not be a ‘lion’ there is a bit of a lion in me. However, each of us has a dominant personality type that needs to be recognized, appreciated and controlled by God’s Spirit.
When doing inventories, assessments and coaching in the Lord’s church, please help members discover their personality types and assist them in using them for His glory.