Wednesday, July 9, 2014

1 Corinthians 12: Personality and Spiritual Giftedness

1 Cor 12:27-31 Now you are the body of Christ and individually members of it. And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? 31 But earnestly desire the higher gifts.

I have observed that God does not give ministries randomly: the spiritual gifts (divine endowments) usually fit the personalities. I am a certified MBTI (Myers-Briggs Personality Indicator) administrator and trainer, and I have discovered that personality type often determines the kind of ministry that a believer excels in. For example, insightful bible teachers and expositors are often of the introverted-intuitive types. On the other hands, those with a pastoral ministry are often the caring introverted-feelers or the more gregarious extraverted-feelers. Whereas those who excel in administration are usually sensing-thinkers. Furthermore, I notice that the spontaneous sensing-perceptives take to the supernatural ministry of healing and miracles like fish to water. [For those who are curious about the MBTI, the embedded video below gives a brief introduction.]

We are born with a certain personality type (there are 16 MBTI types). This is our "nature". How we express this personality-gift is determined by the nurture (positive or negative) we get. The final outcome is our "character". The formula below summarizes the spiritual formation process:

  • CHARACTER = NATURE (Personality Type) + NURTURE (Education, Experience & Endowment)

My contention is that God does not distribute gifts randomly, though He "apportions to each one individually as he wills" (v.11). He gives gifts that fit our personality-types. It is unlikely that He would call the sensing-perceptives (more comfortable with spontaneous activity-type ministry) to become theory-oriented theologians. Similarly, it's equally unlikely for the introverted sensing-thinkers to be called to the pastoral care ministry which is a people-intensive ministry. Of course, there are exceptions--but they minister under great strain and stress.

So Paul drew up a list of gifts which could be categorized in terms of personality types:

  • Apostles: Mostly the extraverted intuitive types, for they are the visionaries and idealists who would love to conquer the world for Christ. I notice a predominance of intuitive-types in mission organizations.
  • Prophets: Again, more likely to be the introverted-intuitive types, though prophets are rare for me to observe.
  • Teachers: Teachers would have to be introverted-intuitive thinkers to have the patience to enjoy the solitude of study and thinking.
  • Miracles/Healers: Miracle-workers are usually the spontaneous sensing-perceptives for it takes a certain daring and on-the-spot spontaneity to operate in the supernatural ministry.
  • Helpers/Administrators: These are the practical types, mostly sensing-judgers. They are great for getting the admin and logistics in place to support the intuitive-type ministers who often tend to forget the practicalities of a ministry.
So the answer to Paul's rhetorical questions ("Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing?") would have to be "NO" because we are born with different personality types.

Father, thank You for making us all different so that You can use us to glorify You differently. Amen.

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