Personality and Ministry: Perspectives

In this “personality and ministry” series, I’ve sought to provide my own answer to the question, “how do I fulfill my duties in ministry in a way that is (primarily) faithful to the gospel and (secondarily) faithful to the kind of person I am?”

The question hints at my priorities. I want, most of all, to be faithful to the gospel. On the last day, I want to hear God say, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Don’t we all? But I realize that I’m living out this faithfulness with a particular set of strengths and weaknesses. Everyday I have to deal with me.

Thankfully, other people have worked through these issues before me. I’m not the first person to ask that two-fold question. In this post I’ll be pointing your attention away from my little blog and toward some articulate and thoughtful men who have wrestled with this issue.

1. Gavin Ortlund: We Shouldn’t Moralize Strengths and Weaknesses

In his article, “Why I find the Meyers-Briggs Type Indicator Helpful,Gavin Ortlund makes a really helpful observation about the relationship between personality and morality:

No personality trait has any moral superiority to any other; God simply makes people differently. And yet it seems to me that we all tend to think that the way we operate is the “normal” one. … while the disputes that can occur between a J [judging personality type] and a P [perceiving personality type] can touch upon moral issues, they are not necessarily moral issues. The line between “personality” and “wisdom” or “personality” and “right/wrong” is not always crystal clear. … They remind us that not all of our differences are moral differences, and thus help us not make unnecessary judgments. They help us leave room for God-given differences, and thus learn from others where we might be tempted merely to criticize, and be cautious to assume our way is always the right way.

Do you see what he’s saying? The ways we operate as extroverts and introverts, perceivers and judgers, or whatever, are not always moral issues; though they can be. This is an area where discernment and caution can save us a lot of trouble.

Orltund makes two other helpful observations, and the rest of the article is worth your time if you’re interested in this subject.

2. John Piper: Awareness does not excuse complacency

John Piper I’ve had about seven Jiminy Crickets (Pinochio’s “official conscience”) walking around on my shoulders while writing these posts. They’re reminding me that I like, love my comfort zone, and that I better not slack off in my areas of weakness simply because I know they’re areas of weakness. I can’t let myself say, “I’ll leave those things (I’m not any good at) to other people.”

John Piper would agree. There is no reason for any sensible person called to ministry to settle for what they find themselves with. Piper, the man who has had more influence in my life than almost any other, wrote about this issue early in his days at Bethlehem Baptist:

When I came to this church I knew that I was not gifted in evangelism and personal witnessing. I have never been very good at turning a conversation with an unbeliever into a serious spiritual discussion of his condition before God. I suppose I could content myself under the sovereignty of the Holy Spirit and say that he has called me to be a pastor-teacher, not an evangelist. … [but] unless the Lord makes it very clear to me that I must, I am not going to accept my lack of giftedness in evangelism. I have been praying and will go right on praying and ask you to pray with me that God will give me the gift to win people to Christ, one-on-one and through my preaching.

3. Justin Taylor (observing John MacArthur and John Piper): God does not create all pastors equally

Justin TaylorAt a conference in 2007, Justin Taylor led a discussion with John Piper and John MacArthur about a range of subjects related to ministry. In the video below, Taylor asks the two men how they deal with depression. Their responses are as different as is possible:

MacArthur: I don’t get depressed.

Piper: I get really depressed really often.

God uses the ministries of both these men to bring the truth of his Word to lives all around the world, but he does so through their black-and-white different personalities. I’m filled with hope when I realize that personality is not an obstacle to God’s grace — it is a conduit of God’s grace.

Conclusion

I begun by saying that I approach this whole issue with two goals, 1) I want to be faithful to the gospel, and 2) I want to be faithful to the person God made me to be.

These goals are not equally weighted. Like Paul, I am a servant of Jesus Christ. He has bought me with his blood and I am belong to him. Jesus begun his public ministry by telling people: repent and believe. Both of these are self-effacing actions. They both require that I look to Another. My most important calling is to be faithful to the gospel of Jesus Christ — to repent of my sins and believe in the Good News.

But I’m daily submitting to Jesus’ kingship as the person he made me. Which means that my “repent and believe” will look slightly different when compared to yours. I daily have to repent (per point 1) of judging people for not being organized and self-disciplined, daily believe (per point 2) that God is intent on transforming me by his grace and not content to leave my in weaknesses, and I’m daily reminding myself (per point 3) that God will use me in whatever place I am. It’s never that neat and tidy. But it happens. There are moments of repentance. Sweet moments when I’m aware of God’s grace and his ability to use me wherever I am.

What have you heard people say about this issue?

What are your thoughts about the call to this two-fold faithfulness?

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