Thornleigh Seventh-day Adventist Church (Sydney, Australia)

Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 43 - October/November 2011 > Personal Differences (by Dr Alex Currie)

Personal Differences

by Dr Alex Currie

Personal Differences - What types of people are in your church?

Have you noticed some church members do not attend Sabbath School; do not lead out in public prayer and politely refuse to participate in Church life?    Their lack of involvement may have nothing to do with their spirituality but more to do with the way God has wired them up.   There is a continuum between outgoing and inwardly focused people which is revealing.   

People energised by interacting with others are on the E (Extraverted) side of this continuum.   They process things by communicating.   They speak first and reflect later.  In church life these people have multiple friends and love chatting and participating in church life.   They enjoy corporate prayer, appreciate bible study groups and love combined worship experiences.  For renewal they love retreats and camp meetings.  

At the other end of this scale are church members who are I's (Introverted). They capture energy from reflection, meditation and solitude and prefer reading the Bible by themselves rather than hearing it read.  They enjoy private, rather than congregational prayer.  It is in the solitude of thought, imagination and ideas that their spiritual energy is renewed.  To an 'I' the 'E's' are intrusive, interrupting, exaggerated and lack concentration and depth.   Sabbath School class is a challenge to an 'I' unless it is composed of quite a number of 'I's' who tend to be independent, discreet and deep thinkers.  I's think first and then speak.   Understanding the E to I scale may give nominating committees clues in providing satisfying ministries for members.  The truth is that E's are made complete or whole by embracing reflection, while I's need action, involvement and participation for wholeness.  

Another personality continuum exists between sensing (S) and intuitive (N) types.   Some people absorb information through their eyes, ears and other senses.   At the other end of this scale are the N's who absorb information by understanding the big picture and focusing on the relationship and connections between the details or facts.  They see patterns and possibilities for the future.  Both types are needed in a healthy church.    S's love the concrete and immediate whereas N's anticipate and create vision.   One lives the spiritual life confidently in the present, the other for the future.  S's love traditional rituals and patterns in worship, so Sabbath School and Church must follow established order and sequence and be predictable.   Both types are essential for a church that is impacting its community.

How we make decisions as humans is dependent on the Thinking (T) Feeling (F) scale.   In bringing a church board or business meeting to a decision on an issue a wise chairman will examine the logical consequences of a choice or action (that's using the T),  as well  as considering what is important to the people in the congregation.  T's make decisions based on principles and truth. They examine situations objectively and analyse issues by cause and effect.   F's make decisions on congregational values so desire harmony.   T's have an intellectual path to faith while F's have a personal approach.    To become balanced T's need to embrace devotion (or heart) while F's need to embrace knowledge (or mind).   The Church needs to hear people at both ends of the scale.

The final scale relates to how we orient ourselves to the outer world and is called the Judging (J) and Perceiving (P) scale.   J's live in a scheduled, planned, orderly way which they want to control and regulate.  Such people avoid last minute stress.  P's however, live much more casually in a spontaneous, flexible and open-ended manner.  These people are energised by last minute pressure and stress.  The J's in our churches make decisions, come to closure and move forward, whereas the P's feel confined by decisions and plans and prefer last minute option possibilities.  When they worship, J's are reminded of what they should do but P's are reminded of what they are doing and to keep doing whatever is working.  J's really enjoy knowing what to expect next in worship whereas P's love surprises or an excursion from normal practice.  For wholeness, J's need to embrace spontaneity, while P's need to learn discipline.   Both types are desperately needed in a healthy Church.

Just as there are different spiritual gifts the Church needs to embrace, so there are different personality types we must celebrate and utilise their type to the maximum. 

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