Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Personality types, Preaching and Evangelism.

So if, as Myers-Briggs asserts, there are sixteen personality types, or more properly preferences, and each one communicates in their own default position, how do we best communicate the Gospel to others?

In order to understand this better we need to know that within each personality type two descriptors are key: Intuition or Sensing and Feeling or Thinking.

So, in learning terms:

• Sensing people need to be given a step by step presentation; they need you to be factual and to give detail; they need you to be concise; you need to keep what you say simple and down to earth and show why it makes sense; you need to demonstrate the practical application to life and give the historical overview, showing how the Gospel has worked in the past and impacted on the lives of others. YOUR AIM is to show that the Gospel is historically based, makes sense and how it is lived out in daily life.

• Intuitive people need to see the bigger picture; you need to talk in general terms and point bout the future benefits and opportunities; you need to be confident and enthusiastic; you need to indicate challenges and be creative and imaginative; you also need to be visionary and to be conceptual, using doctrine, symbols etc.; you need to talk about possibilities and try to make the message sound fresh or unique. YOUR AIM is to adapt the way we present the message to a person’s need’s concerns. You need to be a catalyst and inspire others to take a risk in faith.

• Feeling people need you to be friendly and personable; what you say needs to be personal and to show the implication for people’s lives; you need to show how it will make a difference and to talk about the Gospel’s values; they require you to be warm and sympathetic and to be tactful; you need to talk about how the Gospel affects others by using personal testimonies. YOUR AIM is to show how the Gospel is a message of love that demands a heartfelt response or self giving love to Jesus as Lord and Saviour.

• Thinking people need logic and a well organised and objective presentation; they need to understand the principles involved and you must emphasise the truth and authenticity of the Gospel. You must be willing to engage in intellectual debate and be competent and assured as you are tested and questioned. Thinkers need to hear the pros and cons. YOUR AIM is to show the truth, justice and authenticity of the Gospel, stressing that faith is not blind belief but to involve integrity it must necessarily involve struggle and intellectual questioning.

S types need something concrete; N types need something of the vision; F types need some space and silence and T types need something of the understanding.

Great, so now I’ll never attempt evangelism again. How can I know someone’s default position? I have a limited chance of getting it right. Are they N/Fs, or S/Fs or S/Ps or what?

Here in lies the weakness, but it does seem to me to reflect the reality of the situation. I guess if you are familiar with the above then the questions they pose lead you to a clearer sense of where they are coming from. At best your opening gambits need to tap into all four strands.

How would we do this with preaching?

Take the story of the healing of the man with the withered hand. (Mark 2.23 – 3.6)

• For the Sensing people: Think of the days of the week laid out before you like cards on a table. Now think about each day as a distinctive colour in its own right. What colour do you see for each day? What colour, particularly do you see for Sunday? Is it a bright positive colour or a dull negative colour? And what is it that colours your attitude to Sunday?.....................................

• For Intuitive people: The Pharisees were running a campaign to keep the Sabbath special which did not allow people to pluck ears of corn or non-emergency healings. Now if you could rewrite Sundays the way you would want them to be, where would you draw the line?............

• For Feeling people: Now see how the whole thing looks to the man with the withered hand. It must have all seemed so strange to him. His hand had been like that for years, on weekdays and Sabbaths but never before had his hand been the cause of so much controversy and never before had he seen a real healer in that town…………………………

• For Thinking People: Sinister controversy is at the heart of Mark’s Gospel. Think through the way that this controversy has been systematically developed throughout the first two chapters. Why, then, is sinister controversy so important to Mark?...................................

I can also see this working well in a study group where you give people options over a particular task which should give everyone something comfortable to do. In terms of Evangelism, though, my only conclusion thus far is that by the very nature of evangelism there must be personal point of contact otherwise we do not engage properly with our potential congregations. The scatter gun approach isn’t going to do it.

Can I preach in a way which encompasses the four personality types? Yes, with discipline. Can I evangelise in the same way? Only by looking for clues in how they respond initially and this is where I am frustrated: could you all tattoo your M-B letters on your foreheads please?

When my class were looking at Biblical passages to suit each type, these were some of our conclusions:

• Sensing: Fulfilment of prophecy. 1 Corinthians 13
• Intuitive: Psalm 139
• Feeling: John 3.16-17. The Parable of the Good Samaritan
• Thinking: Romans. The story of Doubting Thomas

Using the theories, could you add any others?

Why do people walk away? Is it because they are rejecting the Gospel or is it because the Gospel has not been communicated in a way that engages them? Does Myers-Briggs have potential in Christian work? Yes, undoubtedly, but in some areas its value seems to be more limited.