I owe a great deal to Andrew Walker. A few years ago I had the privilege of driving Andrew by car to an event that took a day to get there and day to get back. Over so many hours, Andrew asked as much about me, as I did about him. Andrew had that ability to make you think what you had to say was the most interesting thing he could consider at that moment. I, in turn, received a gracious and expansive tour of the church - the church I had been part of and a kaleidoscopic view of that which I had not. I also received some incisive and empowering insights for the church's future. By the end of that car ride, Andrew had invited me to consider undertaking a PhD. That invitation changes my life as I knew it.
Some of my students at George Fox have asked me about this article that declares the Myers-Briggs test to be totally meaningless. Then I’ve seen it re-posted on many friends Facebook walls. The article is almost troll like, deliberately intent on provoking readers into an emotional response to generate readership and comments.
So this one article would have us believe the Myers-Briggs test is not only meaningless, but that it’s only value is for entertainment. So is it RIP Myers-Briggs (MBTI)? If you don’t know what MBTI is, take a look here?
Well let’s stand back from the hyperbole and look at the claims of the article.
1. No Clinical Psychologists would ever use the Myers-Briggs I’m not sure why that is news, or a valid claim. I’ve interacted with psychologists a great deal, personally, with family and professionally.
I’ve never expected them to use the Myers-Briggs for what they do, and would be disturbed if they did. MBTI coaches would also never expect to use the tool for psychological issues. This argument in the article is a red herring. Only an idiot would use the MBTI to deal with someones psychological issues and needs.
2. The MBTI is useless in predicting success in a job Again another red herring, and the MBTI has never been a success predictor. The MBTI is not a job success indicator, so what is it? Read on and I’ll get to that.
3. The MBTI is based on false binaries and made up categories The MBTI measures a very limited range of things for sure. It produces a grid of 16 types, based on four aspects that have a binary component. Let’s take the issue of how people don’t fit into 16 neat boxes. Of course they don’t! Human beings are unique and all aspects of who they are are on a wide spectrum.
The MBTI by it’s own admission, is measuring spectrums and divides those into two half, two weightings on opposite sides. For example, do you get energised when tired by being with other people (extroversion), or being on your own (introversion). The result is you are likely to be introverted or extroverted, but in a range within that.
So aren’t the categories just all made up and aren’t real things? Well so are the categories of psychology. Take personality disorders. You can’t cut someone open and find a personality order to examine. It’s a description of a range of behaviours in a person with mental health issues, that deviate from what someone else has decided is normal behaviour.
All human beings are unique, and even those with personality disorders don’t fit into a diagnostic box. But with medical and psychological issues, human beings suffer similar issues in similar ways.
Calling that something in a category is a short hand way to talk about it and provide treatment for it. Now for sure, personality disorders are based on the testing many many people, to see patterns that allow that diagnosis.
Then again the MBTI is similar, in that is has been used to ask millions of people the same few questions, for the same few categories. Ask enough people the same questions with a limit range of options and people will fall into those categories. Some will be borderline, and others clearer.
And again a reminder - the MBTI measures 16 aspects of personality and preference, and is nothing to do with psychological problems.
4. What is the relationships between the Myers-Brigss and psychology? I’m sure there is some overlap between personality and psychology. For example if leaving planning to the last minute caused self destructive events in your life, missing important events, stress for you and your loved ones, you might explore with a psychologists why you do that.
I like to plan ahead but that can lead to anxiety and control. I talk my psychologist about why I am unable to live in the moment, and rest. I can find ways to grow as a person and be less anxious, and still find that my preference is to plan ahead. But I have never hoped I’d become less anxious so I might change my MBTI!
5. Don’t put me in a box, pigeon hole me, or label me I’ve heard this many times from people who don’t like the test. If you don’t like it don’t use it. You’d be limiting yourself to go through life using your MBTI as the only way to understand who you are. It’s very limited and focused on just a few key things.
Also I don’t know anyone who uses it to interact with people all the time, maybe there are some people out there who do, perhaps MBTI coaches! Most people I know who use the MBTI use it as one tool of many to help understand preference, within personality.
6. Myers-Briggs does work - long live Myers-Briggs The Myers-Briggs does work, in that is does one simple thing. It maps the responses of people into 16 categories, that allows us to take complex behaviour and understand those with short hand mappings, as we interact with ourselves and others.
That's why when you take the test a good coach seems to know so much about you. It's not that they are amazingly perceptive, but that your test questions, give them answers to key thing about your personality. What good Myers-Briggs coaches are gifted at is using the information you provide about yourself, to help you better understand yourself and others.
For example, the Myers-Briggs asks questions that show your preference for planning. Do you leave everything to last minute or do you plan ahead. The results are your own answers to those questions. Now just because the test confirms you like to leave things to the last minute doesn’t make any value judgements about you.
But if you work in an environment that requires planning in advance, it might help you realise why might find that less than optimal for how you work. Again, as above, it doesn’t mean you’d see a psychologist to talk about why you prefer to leave your planing to the last minute.
Similar an introverted person, might understand with the MBTI that their preference is to withdraw from people to be energised and build that into their lifestyles and work. And the MBTI does not tell you that you can only work in those 16 categories. It does help you see the categories, i.e. preferences that are not your most preferred ones.
That’s all the MBTI does.
In my work life I’ve found that ENFP people tend to have planning taking place in their heads and it all comes together in the end. That’s a generalisation, as many ENFPs know they need to plan ahead and do so very well. But many don’t. What makes them an ENFP is not the MBTI test, but who they already are!
I’m an INFJ, which is a mapping and short hand of how I amongst other things, like to plan ahead, and don’t like leaving anything to the last minuted. So when working with and ENFP, it means I can consider how someone else prefers to be and they me etc.
So for me the Myers-Briggs is a very useful tool, and I will continue to use it. But for who I am, what God wants me to be and how he can grow me and use me, it remains a very tiny tiny tool that I do not use to understand my meaning and purpose.
I just got back from Hong Kong, and 10 days with my students from the Leadership Doctor of Ministry that I lead. (The photo above was taken by one of my newest students, Pablo Morales) It's always an amazing time - the experiences we have in the global cities we meet in each year, with some of the most inspiring leaders and ministries in those locations.
We get to say goodbye to students moving on to their final doctoral thesis/projects and welcome our newest students just starting.
We have a section on our web site for our students reviewing their experience in the program. So if you are interested in a Doctor of Ministry degree, and/or want to know what our students have experienced, take a look here.
One of my favourite speakers, pastors and authors, Carey Nieuwhof has a new book, Lasting Impact, out today. If you ever wondered why your church isn't growing, why high capacity volunteers are leaving your church, or why so many church leaders end up unhealthy, this book will help.
It addresses 7 key issues facing almost every church. Buy today and you get the audio version of the book, free. Details at www.lastingimpactbook.com
This week I welcome, in Hong Kong, the new intake for the doctor of ministry program I lead out of George Fox Seminary. Jesse Yu who made created the photo for this post, will be presenting during our time in Hong Kong. This time together is just one small part of an immersive learning experience the leaders in our program.
"Each year, incoming and current and outgoing students all meet in a global city for a face to face experience. These face-to-face (F2F) intensives in the hybrid learning environment are called “Advances”.
These face-to-face intensives serve as a central learning experience in the program in which students will study and have experiences that ignite their imaginations, push the boundaries of their thinking, and network them with other leaders. The ultimate goal of each international Advance is to enable students to better lead in their own contexts.
Through a combination of academic seminars and field trips, students interact in-person with scholars and leaders from local churches, businesses, faith-based nonprofit organizations, government, and other entities engaged in significant ministry efforts. Students also meet with their advisors and research course instructors to discuss their customized research. Second and third-year students and advisors present their research to the entire learning community." From our Leadership and Global Perspectives D.Min Advances.
I travel to New Zealand today, and later in August I will be teaching a week long course on Youth Culture, Popular Culture Theology at Laidlaw College. Whilst I'm in New Zealand I, will also be with my church family speaking at the Coast Vineyard, Auckland on 16th August and at Grace Vineyard, Christchurch on 23rd August.
I am so looking forward to catching up with old friends and making new ones - it's 14 years since I was last there. I am looking less forward to the 12,000 miles and 24 hours flying to get there.
So I'll be upside down, going from summer to winter with rain, and some snow (Queenstown). I also hope to see some main LOTR sites.
Yesterday I got the spend the day with a group of senior pastors from around my church family, that my wife and I oversee. The topic I took them through for the day was on developing capacity to cope with the pain and conflicts of leadership. I believe Sam Chand, when he exhorts to know that 'if you're not hurting, you're not leading' and 'you'll only grow to the threshold of your pain'.
As I review my own 18 years of church planting, the pain of conflicts and the brokeness that brings into my emotional life, has been the factor to cause me to flag and question my ability and willingness to continue leading.
Many of my friends who have left pastoral ministry have often done so, overwhelmed by a tidal wave of conflict, pain and relational brokeness.
So yesterday, I used three books that have have helped me the most with understanding and navigating the pain and conflicts of leadership:
Gene Edwards, A Tale of Three Kings
Dan Allendar: Leadership with a Limp
Sam Chand: Leadership Pain
1. A biblical understanding of Pain
A tale of Three Kings is a book I must have given away over twenty times. Only 97 pages long it retells the story of Saul, David and Absalom. This beautiful retelling helped me to cast the pain and conflicts I have faced in a biblical perspective.
2. Being transformed by Pain and Weakness
Dan Allendar's book is stunning. It diagnoses the pathologies of conflicts in leadership, of how we often abuse others, or are overwhelmed ourselves in conflict. It brings understanding and hope to see how we can face our brokenness with others and learn from it and be better leaders. In fact our ability to face our broken and weakness determine what kind of leader we are.
3. Leading through pain
Sam Chad's book by his own admission is not a theology of pain, or a biblical study in pain, but is rather an exploration of the leading in times of pain and brokenness. As I read it, the stories of conflicts helped me get perspective and the leadership within it gave me steps and actions to lead through conflict and pain.
I'll turn my musings on the three books into a series of blogs posts over the summer, watch this space.
I had the privilege of speaking at the Bath & Avon Vineyard Church this morning. I was asked to preach on the beauty of the church. So I took Hebrews 10:19-25 as my text and explored how a congregated community, that mutually considers, spurs, encourages and serves one another, is a most beautiful thing. The writer to the Hebrews lets us know that these practices as a congregation are a primary way we experience and access the presence of God.
The audio I recorded from my teaching is online here.
I'm speaking at the Faith in The Future conference at the London School of Theology, later this month on 22nd June. I've been asked to talk about The Future of the Local Church. In advance of that, Christianity Magazine interviewed me about some of things I might be talking about. You can catch that interview online here.