When I was first exposed to the Christian enneagram ....
It was a day like most others, cold, snowy, dark. I grabbed my coffee, scrapped the snow off my windshield, started the car, and drove to a city-wide youth pastors meeting, a monthly normal for me In Winnipeg. These meetings are filled with great times of fellowship, worship, and encouragement.
At the end of our time together, I was chatting with another Youth pastor, "Dude, you gotta try this!
"An enneagram It's supposed to tell you what kind of person you are."
"I don't know, sounds new age. Pass."
"No Dude, it's totally not; it's like a DISC or Myers Brigg Test."
I didn't think anything of it and let side. That was five years ago. What then was somewhat of an underground thing is something of a minor Christian fad in the last couple of years and therefore warrants a little bit of a discussion.
What is it?
For those of you who might be unaware, A Christian Enneagram is sort of like a replacement Christians like to use instead of the Myers Brigg test- which has come under fire lately. It is a categorization tool that classifies human personality into a typology of nine interconnected personality types.
The symbol of the Enneagram is a figure composed of three parts: a circle, an inner triangle (connecting 3-6-9), and an irregular hexagonal "periodic figure" (connecting 1-4-2-8-5-7).
It sounds innocent enough. Its journey into evangelicalism though, has a similar history as yoga. It's a practice that roots exist in new age spirituality, and it's been secularized, then Christianized. It's been around in the Catholic church for a long time, leading Catholic teachers to denounce its use.
For some reason, it's gained massive popularity within Christian circles leaving many to wonder, should we be using it at all?
To help you make a better-informed decision on if this is something you should be using, I wanted to give you two tools to help you discern its validity in your life.
Tool 1 – Biblical resources on the Subject
Here are is a link to Biblical resources I trust. They have done some research on it1. One is from the Gospel Coalition.
Tool 2 – A Better way to Self Assess
IQ Tests, DISC Tests, Myers Brigg Tests, Spiritual gift Tests, there sure are lots of quizzes we can take! While I certainly don't think it's a sin to take a spiritual gift test or a Myres Brigg Test, I haven't found them overly helpful in my life. They keep changing the results every time I take them, sometimes within hours of me retaking them.
There is one tool I have found that has helped me more than taking a test. Do you want to know what it is?
My life relationships have always been a better method of discerning things, like personality, character flaws, and Spiritual gifts. Two Passages to leave you with
"The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?
10 "I the Lord search the heart and test the mind. - Jer. 17:9
Our sinful nature taints our ability to judge what is going on in our insides. It's not like we can't self test, it's just that our self-assessments are tainted. There are too many blind spots when it comes to discerning our own lives. We need an outside perspective. If you want to know what kind of personality traits or character defects you have, ask those who see you every day.
Print out a list of character traits. Give them to three friends that see all aspects of your life and ask them to circle your top three. If they all come back, all three friends have pointed the same trait, chances are there's some truth behind it.
The people in your life see stuff in your blinds spots that you can't. Leverage relationships. You could even prayerfully fill it yourself, asking God for his opinion.
"We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your[a] faith; 7 if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; 8 if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead,[b] do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully. "Romans 12
Dan Renton's Translation: If you think you have a certain spiritual gift, try it out and let others affirm or deny that gift. A spiritual gift is a gift that God gives you to help the church family be built up in maturity, "Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, 12 to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 1 …until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Eph 4:11
I used to know a guy who told me he had the spiritual gift of teleportation (You know, like Philip in Acts 8:39 …. Which isn't a real spiritual gift btw)
However, I was willing to be proven wrong, "Okay, Transport me somewhere" He couldn't do it and hasn't been able to do it since.
In Deuteronomy 18:21-22 God gives his people one way to discern if prophets were from God. It wasn't the only test, but it's a good one. "
And if you say in your heart, 'How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?'— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
I think the idea works for most spiritual gifts… If you feel you have one, use it. If you have to force it, you don't have it.
If you think you have the spiritual gift of administration and your desk looks like something from a Dystopian future… chances are administration is not your gift.
If you believe you are a leader, but others don't follow, you probably don't have the gift of leadership. A gifted leader is one people follow naturally, not just out of authority.
If you think you have the gift of encouragement, but your encouragement makes people want to hide in a corner and rock back in forth crying, your "gifting" needs a little work.
If you think you can lead people in worship but your singing makes this guy sound good, you can't sing. (Props to you if watched the whole video)
. If you have to make up a language …. Well, you get the idea….
But the only real way to know for sure is to try...It starts with taking an educated guess and allowing others to affirm or deny that reality in your life. If you're a talented teacher, you don't need to self-promote it. People will affirm it for you. (At least if they are honest).
The best self-assessment tools are the relationships God has placed in our lifes. They can affirm you, challenge you, and give you insight on a level that no test can. But you have to be willing to try and allow others to tell you the truth, even if it hurts a little.