Personality Profiling in the Church

Personality Profiling: Using the world’s outlook on human nature and the world’s trust in its assessment of the so-called strengths and weaknesses of a person’s ‘personality’ to build the church.

Personality profiling is used in business to place people in positions that is believed will best suit them – and therefore the company as a whole. It is based on a worldly assessment of a person’s personal disposition or personality with its so-called strengths and weaknesses. If one is to apply this to the church, we may ask with some concern, “Where is there an acknowledgement – let alone an appreciation – of the grace of God in our lives and of the gifts which the Holy Spirit imparts?” Where is there an appreciation and understanding of our dependency on, and total need of, the grace of God and the empowering of his Spirit for the work of the ministry? Where is there an understanding that sanctification might at times involve God ‘curtaling’ or teaching us not to rely on what are regarded as our natural strengths?

Whatever our natural disposition, whatever kind of personality we may have, the starting point is, and must always be the work of God’s grace in our lives by his Spirit. The church is not built on natural human abilities or personality types. To what extent these may be used by God will, in a fundmental way, depend on God himself, not on us, nor on the pastor, nor on the leadership team, nor on the world’s understanding of what works best. We can be sure that human abilities and strengths, if depended on, are destined to ruin the spiritual growth and condition of the church rather than strengthen it!

Judges 7:2  And the LORD said unto Gideon, The people that are with you are too many for me to give the Midianites into their hands, lest Israel vaunt themselves against me, saying, my own hand has saved me…..7:7  And the LORD said unto Gideon, By the three hundred men that lapped will I save you, and deliver the Midianites into your hand: and let all the other people go, every man unto his place.

God chose Gideon to give victory to Israel over the Midianites. But God reduced the number of the Israelites to just 300. Why did God do this? He did it so that Israel would not begin to think that it was their power or ability that had won them the victory.

1 Chronicles 21:1-3  And Satan stood up against Israel, and incited David to number Israel. And David said to Joab and to the rulers of the people, Go, number Israel from Beersheba even to Dan; and bring the number of them to me, that I may know it. And Joab answered, The LORD make his people a hundred times so many more as they are: but, my lord the king, are they not all my lord’s servants? Why then does my lord require this thing? Why will he be a cause of guilt to Israel? … 21:7  And God was displeased with this thing; therefore he struck Israel. … 21:14  So the LORD sent a plague upon Israel: and there fell of Israel seventy thousand men.

King David, in a bad, off-guarded moment, decided to carry out research in order to measure Israel’s strength. Even Joab recognised that this was an evil thing and that it would bring guilt and damage to Israel. 70,000 Israelites died through a plague that God had sent because of David’s sin – namely, in wanting to evaluate Israel’s strength. God had always told his people to put their trust in him – not in others, not in themselves, but to be strong in the Lord their God! King David had become complacent with regards to Israel’s utter dependency on God and wanted to have some sense of their own strength. His confidence was being built not on God but on a sense of the natural strength of Israel which resulted from his ‘research’.  Was this to make him feel better and more secure about future battles with enemies? If so, it constituted a kind of falling away from God. Certainly it seems that is how God himself viewed it –  70,000 Israelites died as a result of this research!

God had repeatedly told his people to put their trust in him, as we see in the following Psalm,

Psalm 20:7  Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.

We know that in the Scriptures Egypt is a symbol or a representation of the world and its system, and this is what God said through Isaiah,

Isaiah 31:1  Woe to them that go down to Egypt for help; and stay on horses, and trust in chariots, because they are many; and in horsemen, because they are very strong; but they look not unto the Holy One of Israel, neither seek the LORD!

So the question is this: isn’t using the world’s personality profiling techniques in order ‘to build’ God’s church exactly what God warned against in the verse above – going to the world in order to ‘do’ or ‘strengthen’ God’s work, instead of going to God, offering our lives as a living sacrifice to Him and depending on His grace – which at times will no doubt involve weaning us off what we think are our personal strengths and sanctifying our natural disposition to suit His work, and more importantly to reflect the nature of His Son?

2 Cor. 5:16 From now on, therefore, we regard no one according to the flesh. Even though we once regarded Christ according to the flesh, we regard him thus no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.

Because of what God has done in our lives through Christ, we no longer judge people by human values of human perceptions! I believe that is what this verse is teaching us. Not only are we radically changed but our whole way of viewing others is also radically changed. Personality testing stands in contradiction to these verses in 2 Corinthians – you are using human values to assess human nature. It doesn’t mean that we can’t make assessments or distinguish things that differ, but it does mean that we do these things from a totally new perspective. For indeed He makes all things new and all things are of Him, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God has before ordained that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:10. The focus is on what God has done and on what He is doing in our lives and what He has given to each one! This is what needs to be discerned – spiritually discerned! The apostle Peter is very clear and emphatic,

“As every man has received a gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If any man speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man ministers, let him do it as of the ability which God gives: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen.” 1 Peter 4:10-11. Paul highlights the same truth in Ephesians 4:7,  “But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.”

The function and effectiveness of ministry should issue forth from the work of the grace and the gifting His Spirit in our lives. It’s according to the ability that God gives – or is it?

Have we never read this verse? : “But he said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’ Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.” (2 Cor. 12:9).

This doesn’t mean we have to become some kind of passive instrument with no confidence in anything. But nor does it mean filling our minds and bolstering up our egos with what we now think (as a result of some test) are our personal strengths and acting upon them! What a terrible scenario that is! It is not a matter of being negatively or positively self-conscious about our abilities – it is about being God-conscious! It means putting our confidence and trust in God in our daily lives, actively presenting ourselves as living sacrifices that His grace and Spirit brings forth that which pleases Him; it means learning the disciplines of a spiritual walk before God, having an understanding of His will and what He is doing in our lives, which at times will involve curtailing our natural inclinations and disposition and way of doing things. (An understanding of this comes not through self-analysis, but by walking with God day by day. It’s an understanding that comes directly from our heavenly Father personally to us. It is a very natural thing in a spiritual walk with God. It is the result of our living personal relationship with Him. He guides, comforts, encourages and strenghtens us – and he corrects and chastises us – all this in Fatherly love.) All this becomes negated and thwarted by turning to and relying on personality profiling.

Someone may ask, “but isn’t my natural disposition and its strengths from God?” Well, where do you read that in the Bible? What we are naturally is what we are naturally. It is evident from God’s word that we need to be sanctified, spirit, soul and body. The idea that what I am naturally like (by disposition or personality) is necessarily of God and must stay like that, and that I should act according to such strengths and weakenesses is not only unbiblical but opposes what is taught in scripture.

We are to give ourselves to the word of God and thereby let his word and Spirit continually transform us into what He is making us!

Meditate upon these things; give yourself wholly to them; that your progress may appear to all. Take heed unto yourself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this you shall both save yourself, and them that hear you.” (1 Timothy 4:15,16).

If you can receive it, the truth is that, essentially, God takes no account of human ‘personality’. He is interested in our faith and obedience – the obedience of faith and love, which transforms us and makes us into what He wants us to be (like).

The Bible is clear about where our confidence should be:

Philippians 3:3-5  For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh. Though I might also have confidence in the flesh. If any other man thinks that he has reasons he might trust in the flesh, I more: Circumcised the eighth day, of the stock of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of the Hebrews; concerning the law, a Pharisee… 2 Cor.1:9  Indeed, we felt that we had received the sentence of death but that was to teach us that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.

Paul is here saying that the true Christian, or the truly spiritual believer does not put his or her confidence in their own abilities. That is not what they put their trust in. That is not what they rely on. Neither his religious training nor his education and learning is something that Paul put any value on. God may indeed have used Paul’s deep knowledge of the Scriptures to show him greater things, but Paul is very clear as to the source of his understanding and revelation, “But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ.” Galatians 1:11-12.

This truth is highlighted in the Acts of the Apostles, “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13.

What the church needs today is not to promote the natural disposition of people, but encourage people to spend time with God, spend time in prayer to him, spend time waiting on him; people who know him and are being transformed by him in such a way that others can recognise that, ‘this person has been with Jesus.’ Such a person also does the work of God according to the grace of God given to him or her by the Spirit of God. Such gifting or calling should be spiritually discerned by the leadership and others. Why are people relying on carnal personality profiling tests?

Acts 6:1-3  And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Hellenists against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily distribution. Then the twelve called the multitude of the disciples unto them, and said, It is not reasonable that we should leave the word of God, and serve tables. Therefore, brethren, pick out from among you seven men of honest report, full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom, whom we may appoint over this business.

No personality profiling here! No testing of organisational or management skills! They looked for men who are full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom! If we put people in positions just because of their natural strengths then we do disservice to both them and to the church. The criterion for ministry in the church is never based on your personality type or your natural disposition – the focus is on one’s moral and spiritual character, the evidence of the work of God’s Spirit and grace in one’s life.

Timothy’s natural disposition may have been timid to some extent and that is perhaps why Paul encouraged him with these words, “Therefore I remind you that you stir up the gift of God, which is in you by the laying on of my hands. For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” (2 Timothy 1:6-7).

Timothy might not have had ‘natural’ leadership qualities yet he was unique among those led and fed believers with the word of God and with the character of Christ, “For I have no man like-minded, who will naturally care for your state. For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” (Philippians 2:20-21).

No one like Timothy! What a testimony. The great danger here is that through personality profiling a person may be told that they are ‘weak’ in a certain area and thus make them self-conscious about it and ‘lock’ them into this ‘weakness’ – when it may be an area in their lives that God is seeking to change! We are allowing the world and its way of thinking to interfere with and hinder the work of God in a person’s life. People are made to become ‘self-aware’ or self-conscious about their personality ‘strengths’ and ‘weaknesses’ – they are becoming defined by the world and its system of thinking; they are being defined by their first birth and what life has made them, instead of being defined by who they are in Christ and their relationship with Him! We are becoming defined by the world, rather than living by the word of God and being defined by that!

If we walk with God then He will direct our paths and He will work to strengthen our ‘dispositional weaknesses’ or curtail our ‘dispositional strengths’ if they get in the way of His will, His calling on our lives and the manifestation of His nature

Please remember, we are talking about directing people in the Lord’s work according to what is called personality profiling – we are not talking about certain gifts or talents that people have. For example, you would not give someone the responsibility of playing the piano who has no ability to do so, just because they are full of faith and the Holy Spirit! Some things are a matter of common sense – and some are a recognition of the genuine calling and gifting from God that someone has. On the other hand, a friend of mine who was ‘worship leader’ in his church found out that the base guitarist was on drugs and in sin. When he mentioned this with some concern to the leadership team he was told, “We don’t have any other base guitarist in the church.” The leadership already knew about the state of that musician but didn’t want to do anything about it because of his ‘talent’! Something is very wrong here!

Have we lost sight of the great truths of the Scriptures,

1 Corinthians 12:4-11  Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of workings, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man for profit. For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit; To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit; To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another various kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues: But in all these works that one and same Spirit, dividing to every man individually as he will. … 12:28  And God has set some in the church, first apostles, secondarily prophets, thirdly teachers, after that miracles, then gifts of healings, helpers, administrators, various kinds of tongues.

It is the work of God’s grace and God’s Spirit within us that alone equips us for any service that we made do.

You may ask, “Doesn’t God use our natural strengths?” If by this you mean should we appoint people to positions in the church based just on their natural strengths, the answer, according to what we have read above, is surely, “No.” That path will lead to the demise of the spiritual condition of a church.

God may use our natural abilities, but it is also true that to appoint people on the basis of natural ability is a recipe for hindering God’s work rather than promoting it. The focus of this article is not on talents that we may have, but on the use of personality profiling. Nevertheless, to a large extent what is written here also applies to the use of natural abilities and talents.

The Lord has been ‘building his church’ for nearly 2000 years without personality profiling. How is it that pastors and leaders lack spiritual discernment and common sense to such an extent, that they so lack the wisdom that comes with spiritual maturity that they have to go to and rely on the world’s understanding of human nature based on the world’s own system and values in order to ‘build His church’?

The problem and the tragedy is that churches are being run more and more along business principles –  like a business – with branding, image, self-promotion and a large number of paid staff which eats up a vast amount of money. Human ingenuity and skill are taking the place of a reliance on God and His Spirit and the operation of grace in believers’ hearts. Numbers may be up, but the spiritual decline is inevitable.

A last word:

Martha was a down-to-earth practical person with a sense of responsibility and who liked to get things done. All well and good we may say. Yet her natural disposition was getting the better of her! Her behaviour was being so driven by what she naturally was that she was missing the most important thing of all! She was neglecting God’s word and her relationship to Him! This was the Lord’s response to Martha’s complaint about Mary not helping in the household chores: “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needful: and Mary has chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her.” (Luke 10:41,42, but read the whole passage to get the complete context.) What we are by natural disposition in not necessarily bad (neither is it necessarily good), but if our personality trait gets in the way of knowing Him, if it is the thing driving us and determining our behaviour instead of it being the word of God that it shaping our lives and directing our behaviour, then we lose out, then spiritual growth is hindered. We are to take time to read and meditate on God’s word. We are to take time to fellowship with Him and be taught of Him. It is in this relationship with Him that our lives are transformed by His word, by His grace and by His Spirit. None of this is to make us ‘self-conscious’ about ourselves and what we are like, but to make us lovers of God, to make us supremely God-conscious.