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.