Not the Myers-Briggs Type

Posted by on Jan 11, 2017
Not the Myers-Briggs Type

It’s been a while since anyone has asked me what my Myers-Briggs “type” is. If anyone does ask, I’m not sure how I’ll answer. I never was a big fan of that device for helping people understand themselves. But my concerns go beyond personal preference.

I’ve heard that the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) remains very popular in the business world. Teams take tests to see if their members are introverts or extroverts, intuitors or sensors, thinkers or feelers, and whether they like to check boxes on to-do lists or not.

The entire system has been criticized extensively by psychologists. The MBTI was built upon theories of Carl Jung, which have now been discredited as poor starting points for understanding human experience. And it fails to satisfy standard criteria for reliability.

When asked what he thought of the MBTI, noted psychologist Dan Ariely advised. “just look at the horoscope. It is just as valid and takes less time.”

Some Christian groups employ the MBTI to help ministry teams work well together. In addition to the problems I’ve already mentioned, I find this particularly disturbing because, in my experience, these “labels” take on an authority unsupported by Scripture. More important realities such as our identity in Christ, our callings as members of the body of Christ, and the mission of the church all get eclipsed by discussions (seemingly endless ones) about whether I find my energy by being around people or escaping the crowd.

And try as they may to insist the test is not meant to minimize people’s individuality (“all you INTJs go over there”) or responsibility (“I couldn’t help it, I’m a J!”), the net effect has been less than ideal.

Sadly, the Christian groups I’ve been a part of that use the MBTI have never talked about spiritual gifts, a topic that gets a lot of attention in the Scriptures. New Testament scholar Walt Russell, in his recent book Sustainable Church, reports the unfortunate reality that many Christians don’t even know what spiritual gifts are or why God gives them.

The root problem, it seems to me, comes from allowing our categories and thinking to be shaped by non-Biblical perspectives more than by Biblical ones. I remember hours of discussions of how our team could work together with our mix of MBTI types. But we never talked about how we could minister with our God-ordained distribution of gifts.

Rather than spending time determining which “type” we are, we would do well to ask which gifts we’ve been given. Those gifts will prove far more helpful “to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ” (Ephesians 4: 11-13.

3 Comments

  1. Henry
    January 12, 2017

    I appreciate this post. Years ago a Christian counsellor used the Myers-Briggs in a Sunday School class that I attended. I was chastised when I questioned its Biblical basis and appropriateness for the class.

    Reply
  2. ron houle
    January 12, 2017

    Randy:

    Thanks for your thoughts on the MBTI. Having suffered through that 3 different times for 3 different employers or for other reasons, I have never thought they would be of huge value in most any setting.

    I have a bit of a struggle also with the “spiritual gifts” , or more precisely, with the application of the scripture around this topic. On the one hand, I wholeheartedly embrace God’s word on this, but it is in the application of His Word that I sometimes think the Christian Community, or a congregation can maybe go astray. For instance, there was a time here in BCC where we were providing a “derivative” of an MBTI, which was a test or survey of sorts that was meant to point us to what our spiritual gift(s) are, and hence where we might best serve.

    An issue I have with that is the biblical call to, simply, serve. Are we not to serve where there is a need, regardless of how we might see our gifts or what environment makes us feel most comfortable? Or, stated differently, might not our spiritual growth be deeper if we are in a situation where we are drawn to deeper reliance on Him to get us through rather than our own sense of self-reliance?

    I may be overstating this a bit, but I hope you get the idea. The broadest commandment, seems to me, is for service, where or how we do that might best be done with the fewest filters and the lowest level of comfort..

    I am not suggesting your piece was promoting one or the other, just a thought that comes to mind for me whenever the topic of “Gifting” comes around.

    Thanks for all the great ministry you provide.

    Regards,

    Ron

    Reply
  3. Rabbi Eukel
    January 17, 2017

    Shalom, Randy Newman ~

    First time reader of your Blog. Got here by way of searching “author” on “Engaging Jewish People.” I have been made to know that ADONAI guides Intentional Intersections. So here I am. Three simple comments. Personality assessments are perhaps good affirming tools, but can not and should not take the place of wisdom relationship engagements. Spiritual gifts are also affirming in ways that a Believer may serve the Body of Messiah. Finally, the Torah Teaching Truth of last week, VaYechi (And he lived) is about visionary prophetic Blessings. Ya’akov-Isra’el’s twelve sons are given a Word for the future living of descendants that reflects heart characteristics known through family relationships.

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