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God’s Diverse People – L and D Osborn

August 4, 2018

GDPI’ve used this time and time again in spiritual direction. Easy to read, it helps us understand ourselves and our colleagues.

The M.B.T.I. can help you discover why you think and behave in certain ways, and why other people respond to you as they do. It can help you identify your major strengths – what makes you do some things better than others – and it can help you make more of those aspects of your personality that may be lying dormant and under-developed.


 Apollonian (NF). This type seems to be much commoner in the Church than in the population at large. They are also very common in the teaching profession (where they tend towards the more radical student-oriented methods).
For NFs a housegroup (like any other learning situation) should also be a support group. After all, learning is ultimately about discovering and developing their own identity. The things they care about include commitment to one another, social development, and caring. They are likely to be in the forefront of any initiative to increase the local church’s service to the community at large.
Thus they may expect greater social responsibility than SPs. On the other hand they are likely to want a more democratic approach than that of the SJ. Not for them the authoritative figure who produces the right answer. For them housegroup leaders should be equals, fellow pilgrims in the journey of discovery which is Christianity.
They are great believers in the value of everyone’s contribution. Every member of a housegroup has unique insights and experiences which can enrich the group as a whole. Thus the method of ‘instruction’ within the housegroup should not be the more traditional didactic one preferred by SJs but one of more open discussion.


This is the function which enables us to arrive at decisions via impersonal logic. A preference for thinking will be apparent in the way thinkers approach arguments. Apart from an overriding concern for truth, the main concern is likely to be that conclusions follow logically from the premises of the argument. Cause and effect will be important factors in their analyses of the world.

In presenting their case, thinkers are apt to be impersonal. They seek general arguments which can stand on their own apart from personal illustrations.
Combining thinking with sensing results in a temperament which revels in impersonal facts. Taken to extremes this can degenerate into the rationalism shown by some liberal theologians and also by some fundamentalists: that nit-picking concern for the finer points of Scripture which was once pilloried in the following terms:

These children can tell you who Huppim and Muppim and Ard were; they know the latitude of Beersheba, Kerioth and Beth-gamal; they can tell you who slew a lion in a pit on a snowy day; they have ripe views upon the identity of Nathanael and St Bartholomew; they can name the destructive miracles, the parables peculiar to St Luke, and, above all, they have a masterly knowledge of St Paul’s second missionary journey. They are well loaded and ballasted with chronicles of Baasha and Zimri, Methuselah and Alexander the Coppersmith. . . . Therefore while our clergy are instant in season and out of season . . . to proclaim the glories of Huppim and Muppim, the people are destroyed for lack of knowledge. . . . They know all about Abraham except the way to his bosom, all about David except his sure mercies, and all about St Paul except the faith which he preached and which justified him.

Lest you think such things belong to a bygone era of Christian education, Lawrence once found himself forced to sit through a heated discussion on the identity of the forbidden fruit. Was it an apple, or an apricot, or a citron, or some other fruit?
Combining thinking with intuition produces an altogether more speculative type of thinker. Instead of focussing upon the precise meaning of a single Hebrew word this type will be more likely to amuse himself generating elaborate metaphysical systems. In the history of Christianity this outlook has given rise to a variety of gnostic heresies (belief systems in which salvation depends on the possession of secret knowledge about the nature of life, the universe, and everything).

The marvellously detailed angelologies of the Middle Ages were generated from remarkably little biblical material by just this sort of mind. Of course once such a system is established as fact it becomes the province of the ST as well, who will delight himself arguing about precisely how many angels can fit on the head of a pin!
Thinkers are likely to be attracted to the Christian faith by rational arguments. Theology textbooks are more likely to make them take Christianity seriously than any number of glowing personal testimonies. A staunchly evangelical friend who is now a missionary once surprised us by admitting that what originally attracted him to Christianity was a book by the liberal theologian Paul Tillich.

The intuitive can only too easily leave his or her less imaginative colleagues gasping with bewilderment by making apparently illogical jumps from A to X. For the sensing type an apple is a piece of fruit with a certain colour, weight, texture, flavour. For the intuitive it is the gateway to an open-ended collection of memories, images, associations. It may conjure up stories of William Tell which may in turn lead the intuitive to think about nationalism, or the operas of Rossini, or Swiss clocks, or Swiss banks!

There is an apocryphal story which illustrates the hazards of intuition very well: A mathematician is in the midst of a lecture. He writes down an equation, says, ‘It is intuitively obvious that .‘ and writes down the next line. He pauses, looks at his working, mutters, ‘Excuse me, gentlemen’ and leaves the lecture theatre. Twenty minutes later he returns with a sheaf of hastily scribbled notes and triumphantly announces to the class, ‘Yes, gentlemen it is intuitively obvious!’

The future-orientation of the intuitive may show itself in other ways. Possibilities may be more interesting than realities, the future more interesting than the present. The intuitive is less dependent on his or her physical environment than the sensing type. They are also more likely to be dissatisfied with the status quo: there are always ways in which matters could be improved. Intuitives are more likely to be reformers, radicals, and revolutionaries. They value change and novelty. If taken to extremes (and not balanced by a developed judging function) novelty may become their ultimate value: they may become fickle, lacking the persistence needed to bring a project to a successful conclusion. When turned upon themselves this preference for future possibilities may well generate a hundred ways in which they could do better. Perfectionism is one of the besetting sins of the intuitive. Again it needs to be balanced by a judging function. Lawrence sees this in his own approach to writing: only deadlines imposed by himself, Diana, and their publishers enable him to put pen to paper. And when the finished product reaches the shops he is painfully aware of ways in which it could have been improved.

As regards facts, theories and instructions intuitives take quite a different line from sensing types. Facts are always merely approximate. Theories are more important than facts. The physicist who, when told that his theory did not agree with the observations, retorted, ‘So much the worse for the facts!’ was certainly an intuitive. That attitude may sound profoundly unscientific but, in fact, it is quite widespread amongst theoretical scientists and philosophers. In the past it has led to scandalous distortions of science (e.g., Soviet biology’s domination by the erroneous theories of Lysenko) but it has also enabled theoretical scientists to refute erroneous observations!

When it comes to following instructions, the intuitive is likely to get into trouble with the sensing type. Sensing types follow (and expect others to follow) instructions meticulously. Intuitives rapidly get bored with instruction manuals and begin to experiment. It seems obvious that if you do this and this you will get that result. As you might imagine this can easily lead to problems. The authors once had a major row which was the direct result of just such a difference over an instruction manual. Diana asked Lawrence to show her how to use their new word processor. As a sensing type, she expected him to talk her through the instruction manual step by step. As an intuitive he had ignored the instruction manual since the day they had first unpacked the computer. Within a matter of minutes, Lawrence was reduced to a state of total frustration by Diana’s seemingly wilful refusal to grasp things that were just obvious. Meanwhile Diana was rapidly losing her temper over Lawrence’s wilful refusal to explain things in logical steps which bore some relation to the instructions in the manual. It so happened that just a few days later Diana went on a basic Myers—Briggs workshop. She returned enthusing about the Indicator and exclaiming that now she understood why we had that row! We had discovered that the Myers—Briggs Type Indicator was a very practical tool for helping us to improve our understanding of each other.

Finally, a preference for intuition may result in a very different kind of business meeting from that enjoyed by sensing types. For intuitives it is not enough for meetings to produce the concrete results coveted by sensing types. Such results are only of value if they have been preceded by discussions which go to the roots of the matter.

Judgement based on thinking is self-explanatory Choices are made on the basis of impersonal logical criteria (or cause and effect). Decisions can be right or wrong; true or false.

Good development of the thinking function is apparent in a person’s capacity for objective analysis of situations and theories. The aspects of a person’s temperament associated with the development of thinking are objectivity, impartiality, and a sense of fairness and justice.

The objectivity of the thinking type is perhaps his or her most visible characteristic. ‘Thinkers’ see things from the outside. They are spectators of life rather than participants. At times, when feelings are running high, this can be a valuable trait. ‘If you can keep your head, when all about are losing theirs . . .‘ you are probably a ‘thinker’.

On other occasions, such a calm detached outlook can be a liability. When what is required is warmth and sympathy, thinking behaviour can come across as cold and unsympathetic.

The ‘thinker’s’ preference for logic may also be expressed in a tendency to be truthful rather than tactful. ‘What do you think of my new hat/latest painting/new idea?’ may be a request for appreciation rather than impersonal analysis. The ‘thinker’ is more likely to offer the latter. Thus he or she appears to be spontaneously critical. If this is taken to extremes the ‘thinker’ appears carping, nit-picking, always quick to find fault with others.

Sensing prayer

A prayerful walk in which you consciously exercise several of your senses is a good example of sensing prayer. This version was written with a walk in a park or the countryside in mind. However, it could easily be adapted for use in an urban environment.

(1) Since it is a time of prayer, begin by taking a few moments to relax and become aware of God’s loving presence.

(2) As you step outside, breathe deeply . . . reflect on how you take the air you breathe for granted. Consider the other necessities of life which God provides. Give thanks  for that provision.

(3) Sight: Use your vision to revel in, enjoy, discern the colour, shape, texture, depth, movement of everything around you. Think about what the beauty in all around you contributes to your life. Consider the privilege and responsibility which God has given you in the gift of all this beauty. Express to God your thanksgiving and praise.

(4) Hearing: Stop for a while and really listen, listen to the silence which, in reality, is teeming with natural sounds.
Listen for the breeze blowing through the trees or through the long grass; listen for the song of birds, and for the hum of insects. Imagine the wind, the trees, the insects, and the birds all blending their voices together in a song of praise to their Creator. Add yourvoice to their worship.

 (5) Touch: Become conscious of the feeling of the sun and the air on your skin, the textures of clothing, trees, grass, stones, the sensation of the ground through your shoes.

(6) If you have time, you might like to do the same with your senses of taste and smell.

(7) As you revel in the sensations of creation, recall that all this is God’s work of art. And God is creatively present

Feeling prayer

This exercise is an Ignatian exercise based on the Wedding at Cana (John 2:1—12). We have given it as an example of feeling prayer because of its emphasis on the feelings and relationships in the story.

(1) Spend a few minutes becoming quiet before God, letting yourself become open to his presence.

(2) Read the passage slowly and reflectively, letting yourself be particularly aware of the story and the images. Build up a mental picture of the scene at this wedding.

Imagine the bridal couple; picture them enjoying the company of their friends, sharing their joy. Experience the atmosphere of celebration; the joy, excitement, and laughter.

Place yourself in the scene. Perhaps you are one of the servants, or a guest.

You become aware that the wine is running out. Share in the anxiety that spreads amongst those who are conscious of the shortage. You see Mary approach Jesus, and listen to their exchange.

Now you watch (or take part in) what follows. Note your own feelings as the jars are filled with water, a sample is taken to the master of ceremonies, and he declares it to be the best wine.

What are your feelings about witnessing this manifestation of Jesus’ power?

(3) You become aware that Jesus is standing before you; looking at you. What do you see in his eyes? What are your feelings about this confrontation? Share your reaction with him. How does he respond? Use this as the basis for imaginative dialogue.

Thinking prayer

‘The Lord God took the man and put him in the garden of Eden to till it and keep it’ (Gen. 2:15).

We possess the things which God has committed to our hands, on the condition, that being content with a frugal and moderate use of them, we should take care of what shall remain. Let him who possesses a field, so partake of its yearly fruits, that he may not suffer the ground to be injured by his own negligence; but let him endeavour to hand it down to posterity as he received it, or even better cultivated. Let him so feed on its fruits, that he neither dissipates it by luxury, nor permits it to be marred or ruined by neglect. Moreover, that this economy, and this diligence, with respect to those good things which God has given us to enjoy, may flourish among us; let every one regard himself as the steward of God in all things which he possesses. Then he will neither conduct himself dissolutely, nor corrupt by abuse those things which God requires to be preserved.’
(1) Spend a few minutes quietening yourself, preparing for prayer and study.
(2) When you are ready, use the passages above as the basis for brainstorming, i.e., as you reread them note down whatever comes to mind, any thoughts and reactions. Don’t try to censor them. They may seem completely irrelevant to the passages but note them down anyway.
(3) Go through your list and pick out one idea which seems particularly striking, interesting, or important.
(4) Turn this idea over in your mind. Think about its implications. Does it offer any insight into God? into his relationship with the world? into his relationship with us? into our relationship with the world?
(5) What are its practical implications? How should this idea affect my behaviour?
(6) Share your reflections with God and wait in silence for further insights.

Intuitive prayer

This example of intuitive prayer is an Ignatian exercise based on the story of Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness (Matt. 4:1—11),

1 Begin by relaxing; seeking inner and outer peace. Ask the Holy Spirit to lead you as you explore your personal wilderness; and ask Jesus to be with you and lend you his strength in your explorations.

2 Read the passage several times slowly and reflectively. Note any particularly striking words or phrases.

3 Imagine that you are following Jesus into the wilderness. Build up a mental image of the surroundings in which you find yourself. What does your wilderness look like? Is it a desert, or a dark forest, or a frozen tundra, or an empty house, or. . .
Examine your feelings about this wilderness. Become aware of that which is most oppressive, most fearful, threatening, confusing, tempting in your experience.
Now, become aware that Jesus is with you. Tell him about your fears and temptations, and the feelings associated with them. This could become the basis for an imaginative dialogue: wait in an attitude of openness for Jesus’ response; address him again in the light of that response; and so on.

4 Conclude by reflecting on the situation you have imagined. Does anything in particular strike you? How have these temptations affected your relationship with God? with others? In what ways can Jesus’ strength to overcome temptations help you fulfil your ministry more effectively?

Sensing and prayer : ….sensing types perceive reality primarily through the five senses. They are down-to-earth, practical, and emphasise the present moment. But what forms of prayer and spirituality correspond most closely to this form of perception?

As far as using the Bible is concerned, sensing is likely to encourage a ‘commonsense’ approach. A passage will be taken verse by verse or word by word and read for its literal, practical sense. Indeed it may be read in minute detail. A person who likes to approach Scripture in this way may exhibit a preference for the more concrete, practical passages. Such a person may revel in the Gospel stories (particularly those of St Mark) while paying less attention to the more abstract theology of St Paul’s letters.

Sensing prayer may be characterised by its simplicity and directness. The spiritual is something to be seen, touched, and felt. God is experienced as simple presence. It calls for us to experience God in the present moment through our five senses.

Many of the techniques for relaxing and stilling oneself in the presence of God may be regarded as forms of sensing prayer. Thus, for example, prayerfully becoming aware of my bodily sensations, the feel of the clothes clinging to my body or the sensation of air passing in and out of my lungs, is a form of sensing prayer; the point being to become aware of the God who is closer to me than my own body. Similarly hearing, sight, and even taste and smell can become vehicles of prayer.

One classical form of sensing prayer is the so-called prayer of simple regard. This is a wordless, image-less being in the presence of God. It is just being present. If you like, it is a sensing of the silence and through that of the presence of God. This may sound very different from the notion of Christian prayer as dialogue. It is true that without words there can be no dialogue. Thus spoken prayer must remain the primary form of Christian prayer. But it is equally true that silence has a legitimate (even necessary) place in every personal relationship. The prayer of simple regard may be seen as the prayer analogue of those occasions in every human relationship when speech is not necessary or desirable: when the one thing needful is to hold the hand of your beloved. There may well be times when words cannot express your sorrow or comfort your pain. In such circumstances you can always take God’s hand, as it were, and simply shelter in the presence of your divine lover.

However, the most familiar form of sensing prayer is more active than this sensing of God through silence, focussing instead on listening and speaking. It may be straightforward down-to-earth conversational prayer. Or it may take the form of entering the presence of God via the recitation of psalms, saying the rosary, or repeating the Jesus Prayer.

In the Protestant tradition a proper concern for the word is sometimes translated into an exclusive concentration on speaking and hearing. Perhaps that is why our places of worship are sometimes so ugly. For example, we know of a recently constructed church which could be a lecture theatre rather than a place of worship (in fact it has to be lit by artificial light even on a sunny day). Other Christian traditions have made more of the sense of sight. Romanesque and Gothic cathedrals were designed not merely to keep their congregations dry during services. They were designed to inspire and guide our prayer and worship.

Another way in which some Christians use seeing in prayer is through the contemplation of icons. This is often misunderstood by Protestants as a form of idolatry. But icons were never intended as objects of worship. Nor were they intended to stimulate our imaginations or evoke pious feelings. In a helpful introduction to this form of prayer, Henri Nouwen comments that ‘Icons are painted to lead us into the inner room of prayer and bring us close to the heart of God.’And they lead us into prayer by engaging the sense of sight.

Another characteristic of sensing spirituality is its emphasis on the present. There is a tendency for the person who likes to use this approach to accept the status quo: the details I observe, the institutions I experience just are and I have to accept them and live with them. Such a person will set great store by tradition. The danger, of course, is that a proper valuation of tradition may give way to arid traditionalism.

Feeling and prayer  The feeling function enables us to make decisions and organise our world on the basis of personal considerations and value judgements (aesthetic, moral, etc.). Its effect in the spiritual life is an emphasis on relationships, intimacy, and affection.

In Bible study the personal application will be very important. An element of warmth is essential. A person who reads the Bible with this function to the fore may well describe it as God’s love letter: it will be seen as a very intimate work directed personally at him or her.

Feeling spirituality apprehends God with the heart. Thus in contrast to the desire for insight associated with thinking this approach seeks the affective moment: the experience of being beloved by God. Some of the ecstatic experiences associated with the charismatic renewal may be in tune with the feeling approach.
In public worship, the feeling function is catered for more by the Eucharist than the sermon. Communion may be regarded as a time of particular intimacy with God. But for feeling types public worship is also important because of the aspect of being part of a worshipping community.

People who are naturally oriented towards the feeling function often have better developed social skills than thinking types. They are people-oriented, concerned for the needs and feelings of the other person. For that reason their prayer may well be dominated by intercessions.

…the Ignatian exercises may ….well be seen as a prime example of feeling prayer. This is because the intuitive contemplation often leads to a feeling-oriented imaginative dialogue.

Journal keeping, while perhaps not naturally associated with people whose feeling function is well developed, may be a good way for others to develop their feeling. Many journal exercises are designed specifically to help with the expression of feelings and to become more aware of our personal relationships.

This dimension has never been lacking in evangelical spirituality: Pietism, Methodism, the Holiness Movement, Pentecostalism, and, most recently, the Charismatic Movement have all regarded feeling as important. However, as with the other functions it can be dangerous to overemphasise feeling. The danger is simply that we concentrate on feeling (and experience) at the expense of truth. This may be expressed as a sort of spiritual pragmatism which regards every spiritual discipline which makes you feel good as a legitimate part of Christian spirituality.

Intuition and prayer

Just as there is a sharp difference between perception through the senses and through intuition, so there is a distinction in the corresponding approaches to prayer and spirituality. Where sensing focusses on the details of present reality, intuition concentrates on patterns, possibilities, and the future.

The intuitive approach to the Bible is likely to be much freer in the use of imagination than the sensing approach. An intuitive reading of a Bible passage is unlikely to focus on each word in succession. On the contrary it may neglect the individual words in the interest of the overall meaning. The comparison with intuitive reading of secular literature may be instructive: the individual words merely serve to evoke the story, to create and populate a world within the imagination.
This does not mean that sensing people are unimaginative. Rather they use their imaginations in a different way. Someone for whom the five senses are important is likely to use imagination to evoke the sensual details of a scene. For example, in imagining the feeding of the five thousand they may be able to imagine the feel of the ground beneath their feet, the hot Mediterranean sun on their face, the texture of the bread, and the taste of the fish. The intuitive may evoke the overall feel of the crowd and the possibilities inherent in the situation (they may also be more likely to go beyond the written word and speculate about alternative histories).
Precisely the same thing goes on in the Ignatian contemplations. Apparently the young Ignatius stumbled on the imaginative approach to Scripture when, during a long illness, he was reduced to reading the Bible and the Lives of the Saints. He found that the method he customarily used with secular literature worked admirably. His Spiritual Exercises is largely a careful elaboration of the imaginative approach of placing oneself in the story and reliving it. For those who are suspicious of a prayer technique so closely associated with Roman Catholicism, it is worth noting that the great Puritan theologian Richard Baxter adopted a similar technique in his devotional classic The Saints’ Everlasting Rest.

The intuitive approach, being less focussed on the words, is also likely to be less literal. Symbolism is of more interest because of its capacity to evoke images for the mind’s eye. It is often suggested that the rich imagery of John’s Gospel, the Book of Revelation, and the Old Testament prophets makes them particularly accessible to the intuitive approach.

Similarly intuitive prayer may rely heavily on imagination and fantasy. Such an approach may use symbols and images rather than words to communicate with God. For example, instead of asking God to heal Adrian’s migraine in so many words, the intuitive may imagine Jesus entering the darkened room in which the sufferer is lying and laying healing hands upon his head.
There is another form of intuitive prayer which at first sight is so different to this free use of images as to seem quite incompatible with it. In this form the presence of God is intuited in silence and stillness. This is superficially similar to the prayer of present regard. However, there is a significant difference which one American theologian has summed up as follows:
The difference consists in the focused or unfocused character of the gaze. To use a playful distinction . . . in the prayer of simple regard we are now/here, fully present to the present actuality of life, whereas in what I call the prayer of the vacant stare we are no/where (recall that the Greek term for nowhere is Utopia).

Because intuition focusses on possibilities rather than concrete realities, it is future oriented. In religious terms its keyword is hope. Thus, unlike sensing types, intuitives tend to value novelty and change above the security of tradition. Thus intuitives may be impatient with set prayers, traditional liturgies, etc. The danger, of course, is that they may seek novelty for its own sake (what C. S. Lewis called ‘the liturgical fidget’). Their prayer and hence their relationship with God may become mercurial, inconsistent, and erratic.

Interestingly journal keeping is often recommended as a spiritual discipline for intuitives. Lawrence finds it helpful not so much because it enables him to express his intuitive insights but rather because it forces him to put them into words and thus ground them in reality.

Thinking and prayer
Thinking has been so badly neglected as a dimension of prayer and spirituality that we are likely to be surprised when prayer is described as thinking. More common would be the following comment from a distinguished Roman Catholic spiritual writer:
‘prayer is to be made less with the head than with the heart. In fact, the sooner it gets away from the head and from thinking the more enjoyable and the more profitable it is likely to become. Most priests and religious equate prayer with thinking. That is their downfall.’

The thinking function is one of the two functions by which we make decisions and organise our world. It is responsible for those decisions which are arrived at by means of logic and objective considerations.

The thinking function comes to the fore in an intellectual approach to Scripture. Thus a thinking type may approach a book of the Bible carefully and systematically, perhaps with the help of one or more commentaries. He may take weeks over it, seeking a deeper understanding of God’s word, analysing the structure of the book, learning about its cultural context, establishing the precise meanings of terms in the book, etc.

To someone who values thinking, truth is of crucial importance. Indeed he or she may have become a Christian because, in the light of the available evidence, Christianity seemed the most rational way of understanding the world. As my comments on the ‘thinker’s’ approach to Scripture suggest, such a person is likely to understand the spiritual life at least partly in terms of a search for truth and meaning. Feeding the mind in the study of the Bible or theology is thus inextricably bound up with prayer. And a moment of intellectual insight is likely to be regarded by them as a high point of prayer.

Again this has parallels in the realm of personal relationships between humans. In one of her books, Anne Townsend recounts the case of an engineering student who would express his affection for his girlfriend by sharing his engineering text book with her! It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but, for ‘thinkers’ at least, the cut and thrust of intellectual discussion is an essential part of a personal relationship.

It is customary today to draw a distinction between prayer and study. For example, the headings suggested by the Third Order of the Society of St Francis for a tertiary’s rule of life include prayer, spiritual reading, and study. My own experience (as a thinking type) is that study and spiritual reading are impossible to disentangle. And both frequently shade imperceptibly into prayer.

Unfortunately for ‘thinkers’ the Church today (particularly where it is charismatic) is dominated by ‘feelers’. Their reaction when a thinking type shares an insight with them is often uncomprehending or dismissive. We are told to stop using our heads and start using our hearts. One spiritual director with much experience of handling thinking types makes this comment about such a reaction:

I wish to assert in the strongest possible terms . . . that this should never be said to the thinker about prayer, unless by someone with whom there is a long relationship of mutual trust and confidence and the assurance that the directee is able to supply a context for the remark. Outside such a context, saying this is equivalent to saying: ‘Your experience of God is not valid,’

The ‘thinker’ reminds the church that knowing God is every bit as important as loving God. And in these days of charismatic renewal an objective rational judgement is an invaluable aid to discerning the spirits.

As with the other psychological functions, however, there are dingers in putting too much emphasis on the role of thinking in prayer. Much of the anti-intellectualism in the Church today is a very natural reaction to past overemphasis on thinking. The tendency of ‘thinkers’ to share on an intellectual level easily generates into an intellectual elitism. Where thinking is overuled mere erudition may be confused with spiritual maturity, and genuinely holy men and women may be overlooked or despised because they cannot read Greek and Hebrew.

Communication and the Good News The gospel is not a psychological package

Membership of a particular church appears to bring with it the expectation that we will adhere to certain patterns of worship and behaviour. It may take a cultural form: ‘real Christianity expresses itself through the use of the Latin mass/Tudor church music/the unaccompan­ied chanting of the Psalms in Gaelic/Moody and Sankey hymns.’ However, it can also take a psychological form: ‘real Christians should be capable of sitting in complete silence for thirty minutes/walking into a pub and telling strangers about Jesus/planning their prayer lives with military precision.’

caters exclusively for admirers of English choral music or, for that matter, heavy metal. The Church is not a place for meeting like-minded Christians or Christians who share our special interests…. Psychological imperialism often takes a less extreme form: the person whose temperament does not fit will be tolerated within the congregation. However, it will be clear to that person that they are merely tolerated. Their views are not taken seri­ously or elicit patronising responses. Churches may have their token mystics, intellectuals or evangelicals much as they may have token blacks or token women.

Once again it has clear implications for preferences in com­munication. An intuitive will not appreciate a straightforward factual account of how it is. The story of St Augustine’s pilgrim­, age to faith is a cautionary tale for all sensing types who would seek to witness to an intuitive. Augustine was a very gifted young man with a devout Christian mother (St Monica). Clearly she felt it her duty to teach her son the Christian faith. Augus­tine speaks of her suckling him on the name of Christ and yet he turned his back on Christianity partly out of contempt for what he regarded as the insultingly simple myths of the Bible. He had an insatiable desire for deeper meaning and he sought it in Hellenistic philosophy and esoteric religion. Still he was not satisfied. It was not until he came under the influence of the Bishop of Milan, St Ambrose, that he found what he was ‘hooking for: in Ambrose’s teaching he found a Christianity transformed, a faith with more than enough depth to satisfy his longing for the facts behind the facts.

But being too factual (superficial as they would see it) is only one of the possible pitfalls when talking to intuitives. The other pitall is the temptation to explain too clearly the facts behind the facts. We said earlier that intuitives focus on the overall picture, the wood rather than the trees, but once they have been pointed in the right direction they can usually see the wood for themselves. There are few things that irritate them more than a sensing type labouring the point.

Combining thinking with intuition produces an altogether more speculative type of thinker. Instead of focussing upon the precise meaning of a single Hebrew word this type will be more likely to amuse himself generating elaborate metaphysical systems. In the history of Christianity this outlook has given

I rise to a variety of gnostic heresies (belief systems in which salvation depends on the possession of secret knowledge about the nature of life, the universe, and everything).

The marvellously detailed angelologies of the Middle Ages were generated from remarkably little biblical material by jus this sort of mind Of course once such a system is establishe 1 as fact it becomes the province of the ST as well, who wi ; delight himself arguing about precisely how many angels ca fit on the head of a pin!

Thinkers are likely to be attracted to the Christian faith b rational arguments. Theology textbooks are more likely make them take Christianity seriously than any number of glowing personal testimonies. A staunchly evangelical friend who is now a missionary once surprised us by admitting that what originally attracted him to Christianity was liberal theologian Paul Tillich.


The whole tenor of a feeling person’s communication is likely to be warmer and more enthusiastic than that of the thinker. When preaching or witnessing they are more likely to stress their own personal experience since it is the point at which faith is most real for them. They are generally more sensitive

`to the needs and reactions of their hearers and, particularly if they are extraverts, will be prepared to adjust their presentation to meet the perceived needs.

Conversely a feeling person is more likely to appreciate such `heart-warming’ presentations of the gospel than a thinking person (who may be tempted to dismiss them as sentimental waffle). The charge of sentimentalism is one to watch. It is often levelled at feeling types who take their feeling preference to extremes.

Taken to extremes it may degenerate into an exaggerated concern for personal religious experience.

If feeling is combined with intuition the result is a tempera­ment with a greater interest in possibilities than in specifics. This is likely to result in a difference of emphasis when it comes to responding to the perceived needs of others. Where the SF responds directly to individual needs, the NF is more likely to perceive the facts behind the facts and address the structures that have given rise to those needs. Thus whereas the SF may be more inclined to traditional acts of charity, the NF may be more inclined to engage in social activism. There may well be a similar difference in their approach to matters spiritual. The SF tends to pietism but the NF may be drawn to some form of mysticism.

The introvert fears domination by the outside world. The claims of social institutions and individuals are perceived as ,threats to their personal integrity. Thus certain traditional forms of evangelism are likely to be counterproductive. Both mass rallies and the hard-sell approach adopted in some forms of personal witnessing could have been designed to heighten the introvert’s fear of a loss of identity. Much more effective is a non-coercive setting: a casual conversation over coffee or a small group discussion (possibly Bible study or a discussion of some contemporary ethical issue with input from a Christian perspective). For the introvert the most important thing about the gospel is its capacity to set us free from the dead hand of society: the good news is that Jesus has liberated us from all that threatens to suppress who we are and that, through the Holy Spirit, we can achieve our God-given individuality.

Finally judging and perceiving preferences will also have an impact on the way we communicate. Judging types like every­thing to be done decently and in order. A straightforward step-by-step unfolding of the gospel is more likely to appeal to them.

The his­torical events of the gospel offer precisely that grounding in reality which sensing types seek.

It is the interpretation lying beyond the historic enables the gospel to engage with intuitives as we types.

Extrapolation from the events

The next step is the logical extrapolation beyond their interpretation. This is the point at which engages with the thinking function.

Thus the fact of the empty tomb and its interpret words, ‘He has risen, he is not here; . . . he is going before you to Galilee’ (Mark 16:6, 7), point beyond thems t force the listener to ask the question, ‘What does itall mean?

The personal impact of the events

The gospel is not just about something that took place two millennia ago. When John the Baptist sent his message of doubt to Jesus the answer he received was in the testimony: the deaf hear, the blind see, the lame gospel was objectively transforming lives then and still does so today. Some account of the present power of the I a legitimate part of today’s proclamation. Such testimonies the point at which the gospel engages with the feeling function.

The work of the Holy Spirit is decent and orderly but, at the same time, creative: the reality which God is creating is an ordered reality but that order is dynamic not static. It is always new.

Someone once suggested that, in order to cater for all personality types, a sermon must contain elements which engage with all four of the psychological functions. Thus the ‘ideal sermon’ will be rooted in concrete realities to engage with the sensing function. It will contain unspoken possibilities waiting to be perceived by our intuition. It will be intellectually stimulating for the benefit of thinkers. And it will be heart-warming, engag­ing with our feeling function.

intuitive preachers could take greater pains to earth their sermons with concrete illustrations. When Lawrence was an undergraduate he attended a church with an outstanding preacher. However, it was often said of that preacher that many members of the adult congregation got more out of his children’s talks than out of the sermon proper. He was probably an intuitive since he tended to leave too much unsaid when addressing an adult congregation.

Similarly thinkers should always ask themselves whether their sermons read more like lectures. One way of redressing the balance would be to study biographies and autobiographies: illustrations drawn from life experiences are an invaluable source of the human interest which is so important to feeling types. And again, preachers whose sermons are full of human interest and heart-warming inspirational stories would do well to ask from time to time, ‘What truth am I trying to convey?’

In fact we would all do well to ask ourselves, ‘What is the point of a sermon?’ It is only too easy to let our psychology rather than our theology determine the purpose of sermons. To be specific, we may allow our preferred judging function to determine what we regard as the purpose of a sermon. This comes across most clearly in the case of thinkers: for them a sermon is primarily for the communication of some truth; it is an opportunity for teaching. Thus in some churches the sermon can become a lecture. In fact, we have heard of one parish in which the official title of the curate is ‘Lecturer’ precisely because he has traditionally been responsible for a significant proportion of the preaching. On the other hand feeling types may consider that the real purpose of the sermon is to bring about some change in the hearts of their congregation. At its most degenerate this may give rise to the sermon as entertain­ent.

The function of the sermon is to draw people further into the worship of God. This can be by way of their thinking function as the sermon offers them fresh insight into the being and character of God. Alternatively it can be by way of their feeling function as the preacher leads them into a deeper experience of God’s grace and love.

SJs are likely to be the backbone of the local church both numerically and in terms of commitment (just as they are the ;backbone of every other human institution). They are also ;likely to be the ones who resist any change in the way things fare done. They need to be convinced that the changes will increase the orderliness and efficiency of the institution without radically altering its character.

When it comes to learning, they prefer teachers who have some degree of authority. They are likely to feel more comfort­’ able if housegroup leaders are officially recognised in some way and possess some genuine authority within the congregation. At the same time such leaders must be worthy of respect in the sense that they somehow embody the values of the insti­tution and display a certain competence in what they do. Thus housegroup leaders might be closely associated with the lay leadership of the congregation (e.g., the diaconate or eld­ership). They might also be expected to be mature Christians who are involved in Christian education themselves (perhaps through a housegroup leaders’ housegroup).

In the absence of such authoritative leaders an alternative might be some form of workbook. In any case what SJs under­stand by teaching is the passing on of clearly defined infor­mation by an authoritative other.

Dionysian (SP). Although common in the wider community, people of this temperament are relatively scarce within the church. Such people live for pleasure and may well dismiss the Church as too rule bound and formal to satisfy their needs. SPs positively dislike lectures, predetermined structures and learning packages. They learn best in situations which give them hands-on experience. Thus they tend to do better at practical subjects than abstract ones.

For example, imagine an evangelism training course. The SI’ would expect it to consist of a systematic progression througAr all the situations you are likely to meet together with advice on how to tackle them. By contrast, the SP would learn mucd. more effectively by being given a pile of tracts and sent out into the streets alongside an experienced evangelist. SPs leant on the job.

They also enjoy performance. If you can work drama, music” collage, collage, or other practical creative activities into your teaching programme you are much more likely to engage the attention. of this type.

Apollonian (NF). This type seems to be much commoner in the Church than in the population at large. They are also very common in the teaching profession (where they tend toward* the more radical student-oriented methods).

For NFs -a housegroup (like any other learning situation) should also be a support group. After all, learning is ultimately– about discovering and developing their own identity. The things they care about include commitment to one another, social development, and caring. They are likely to be in the forefront of any initiative to increase the local church’s service to the community at large.

Thus they may expect greater social responsibility than Ws.. On the other hand they are likely to want a more democratic approach than that of the SJ. Not for them the authori figure who produces the right answer. For them ho leaders should be equals, fellow pilgrims in the journey discovery which is Christianity.

They are great believers in the value of everyone’s contribution. Every member of a housegroup has unique insights and experiences which can enrich the group _as a whole. Thus the method of ‘instruction’ within the housegroup should not be the more traditional didactic one preferred by SJs but one of more open discussion.

Promethean (NT). This type may initially show a preference for either of the learning situations preferred by SJs and NFs. The traditional didactic approach appeals to the NT’s liking for I clear logical structures. However, the NT needs the freedom Ito disagree with the conclusions of the argument. Information will not be accepted merely because it is conveyed by someone in authority. A more open discussion-based approach appeals to the NT’s interest in different possibilities and perspectives. However, they soon become irritated if the discussion fails to achieve any visible intellectual progress, if it merely ‘goes round in circles’.

Since they are the archetypal intellectuals they are most at home with the methods which have been developed in academic environments since time immemorial: lectures, seminars, prob­lem-centred discussions and dialogue. A more modern method which we might add to this list is brainstorming.


One of the temptations when using the Myers—Briggs Type Indicator (or similar psychometric devices) is to attempt to spot a ‘best’ type for a particular role. This may be done either by examining statistical evidence (how many people of this type opt into that role?) or on a theoretical basis (given our definition of this or that type in what areas might we expect them to excel?). As a result, some businesses misuse the Indicator in order to select particular types for particular jobs.

However, it should be recalled that type is a matter of prefer­ence not skill. This is very clear in the case of the thinking function.

Extraversion and introversion

We might expect people attracted to pastoral care and counselling to be extraverts. They are naturally sociable and find it relatively easy to start and maintain conversations. Thus many people find them easier to approach than intro­verts.

The danger with extravert counsellors is that they may be too sociable, too talkative. Introverts, in particular, may find extraverts rather overpowering. There are times when the situation demands a gentler approach. Of course, if the extravert is also a feeling person they may be sufficiently sensitive to the other person’s needs to give them that room.

Introverts may be less comfortable about finding themselves called upon to advise or counsel. On the other hand, they are t more likely to give the other person a chance to speak. This is because they themselves need silence in which to put ideas into iwords.

Sensing and intuition

Intuition is the more penetrating of the two modes of percep­tion. It sees beyond the superficial details to the underlying f patterns. Thus you might expect intuitive counsellors to be much better at getting to the heart of the matter.

The problem with intuition is that it will seek patterns even when there are none. In some cases it may look beyond the A real problems and perceive quite illusory problems.

Thinking and feeling

In many situations we might expect feeling to be the more appropriate form of judgement. We expect feeling people to be more sensitive, more caring. They find it relatively easy to establish a rapport with the other person. Such people are sometimes said to have ‘the heart of a pastor’.

A preference for judging, with its associated desire to bring order out of chaos, can be helpful in many pastoral situations. Remember that judging does not mean  judgemental, it means a desire for order and control over the environment. Where this could come into its own might be in umpiring group counselling sessions. For example, in family or marriage counselling it is helpful to have a counsellor who can help the people being counselled to avoid the ever-decreasing circles of mutual i recrimination. Judging types are more inclined to move the conversation along and to prevent clients from going fruitlessly over and over the same ground.

On the other hand the judging person’s penchant for order can be inappropriate at times. The curate who allots precisely ten minutes to each bed when hospital visiting may get through his visiting list efficiently, but what impression does it leave with the people he is supposed to be caring for? Similarly the vicar who adopts an appointments system must beware of importing into his pastoral care the impersonality of a dentist’s waiting room.

Per­haps the most striking study was a survey of school adminis­trators: 86 per cent proved to be judging types. Other studies indicate that people whose type is ESTJ or ISTJ find routine administration particularly congenial.

The extravert brings increased breadth to the life of the introvert. Conversely the introvert brings new depth to the life of an extravert.

Sensing types and intuitives complement each other’s percep­tions of the world or the project they have been asked to tackle.  The sensing type has a much keener awareness of what is in %fact the case. An S can detail the symptoms of the problem accurately, he or she knows precisely what the fine print in the “4 contract says. The sensing type can also help the intuitive to appreciate and enjoy the present reality. When it comes to problem-solving sensing types are particularly good at applying past experience.

Where sensing types remind us of the riches of the past, intuitives alert us to the possibilities of the future. We need them to penetrate to the very roots of the problem, and to provide the vision which gives direction and meaning to our work.

Thinkers and feelers need each other: the analytical powers of the one complement the sensitivity of the other.

An emphasis on judging will ensure that we get things done. i Judging types will encourage us to plan properly and make decisions at the appropriate times. On the other hand, perceiv­ing types will bring a valuable element of flexibility to any team. They will point out any new factors that need to be considered and will help us to avoid premature decisions.

One such model suggests that the dominant function is developed during childhood, the auxiliary during ado­lescence, and so on. Furthermore this model suggests that we also tend to switch between extraversion and introversion as we move from one phase to the next.

Denial of self is only a preliminary stage. This should be clear to anyone who has ever tried it! If self-fulfilment is futile, so is the attempt to deny yourself. For self-denial on its own is every bit as self-centred as the quest for self-fulfilment. The one is merely the negative image of the other!

Thus Jesus points us to the next step: the cross. The cross of Jesus Christ. is the fundamental discontinuity which lies between the two views of reality: the self-centred perspective and the God-centred.

What does he mean when he calls us to take up our cross? People often debase the idea by referring it to the greater or lesser troubles we all have to put up with in life: ‘It’s the cross I have to bear.’ But the cross referred to by Jesus is his own. We are called to embrace the cross of Christ.

The point is that genuine personal growth is not to be achieved by our own efforts, either positive or negative. On the contrary, the way of the cross calls for the surrender of all our aspirations. We allow them to be put to death with Christ.

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