I remember when a dear friend pulled me aside after church. He was very uncomfortable and as he began to speak he became more and more upset. He was very angry about something happening in our church and I felt he was attacking me! Have you ever experienced surprising interpersonal conflict? Have you ever experienced conflict with church people? “In a survey asking how exited pastors experienced stress in their ministry, role conflict was a top ranked producer of stress second only to conflict over how ministry was to be done in the church.”1
I’m learning that many of the conflicts we experience may be better understood if we learn about one another’s personality types and spiritual gifts. I will share one often misunderstood personality type and one often misunderstood spiritual gift as examples of how we can learn to understand one another better.
One sometimes misunderstood personality type as classified by the Myers-Briggs personality inventory is the “guardian.” The Myers-Briggs has four measures of personality: Extrovert/Introvert, Sensing/Intuition, Thinking/Feeling, Judging/Perceiving. David Keirsey in his books exploring personality types based on these measures, calls a person with the “SJ -Sensing and Judging” combination to be a “guardian.” Keirsey suggests the personality type “guardians make up as much as 40 -45% of the population.”2 “Guardians pride themselves on being dependable, helpful, hardworking,”2 and “loyal.”2 They are “dutiful, cautious, humble, and focused on credentials, customs, and traditions.”2 They “sometimes worry that respect… even a fundamental sense of right and wrong is being lost.”2 They “have a sharp eye for procedures”2 and are “cautious about change.”2
Beyond this, Keirsey classifies people with the ISFJ personality combinations (Introvert, Sensing, Feeling, Judging) as “guardian protectors.” He says, “we are lucky that guardian protectors make up as much as ten percent of the population, because their primary interest is in the safety and security of those they care about.”3 “Protectors have an extraordinary sense of loyalty and responsibility,”3 and “prefer to make due with time honored and time-tested procedures rather than change to new.”3 “Protectors value tradition,”3 and “are seldom happy in situations where long established ways of doing things are not respected.”3 “They are frequently misunderstood and undervalued… as their shyness is often misjudged as stiffness, even coldness, when in truth they are warm hearted and sympathetic, giving happily of themselves to those in need.”3 Those is church leadership should be intentional about seeking to understand and appreciate the “guardians” God has placed among us. This is just one example, as there are at least 15 other personality types we need to learn to understand and communicate with.
When we look at spiritual gifts, one sometimes misunderstood gift is the gift of administration. I Corinthians 12: 1 says, “Now concerning spiritual gifts I do not want you to be unaware…there are a varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit.” Down in verse 28, God tells us he has “appointed in the church… gifts of… administrations” or governments (Kubernesis 2941). This gift enables a person to “organize”4 and see things that need to be made right in the church. They have a strong sense of the best way to do something. They have the ability to “steer, or govern”4 areas of the church. This is a very important gifting and one that the church needs to flourish.
However, most pastors do not have this administrative gift. “Barna reminded us that preaching and teaching are the primary giftings in nearly 70% of all pastors, while leading and administrating are found in 15% at best.”5 Most pastors have teaching gifts or shepherding gifts, and this is where it gets interesting: teachers and shepherds often have conflict with administrators. Pastors and leaders without this gift need to learn to appreciate and understand those with the gift of administration. I would suggest that pastors and leaders without this gift need to find someone with this gift and empower them to help the church be as fruitful as it can be. Likewise, I would suggest to administrators: “Sometimes (those with the gift of administration) have to watch that they do not overstep their authority and expect the pastor or others in leadership to follow them.”6 The best use of the administration gift is to “harmonize the whole program,”6 and keep everyone on the boat until it makes it to a safe harbor. We all need to appreciate the gifts in others, and learn to communicate with and empower leaders with different gifts. This is just one example, as there are at least 18 other spiritual gifts we need to grow in understanding.
As an extroverted idealist teacher, I am blessed to have introverted guardian protectors in my family. We don’t communicate the same, but we love each other! And as a church leader, I have been blessed to have been helped by those with gifts of administration. Often the voice of concern, I find there’s often a great deal of wisdom in that voice.
Looking back at the conflict with my friend, now I would guess he has the personality type of guardian and maybe the spiritual gift of administration. His anger was created out of his fear for the wellbeing of our church, and his concern that things were not being done in the right way. Arguing with him, or meeting his anger with my own upsetness was not going to help. He needed to know I had heard the concern he felt for our church. It’s only when someone feels heard that they can be willing to hear a differing opinion. He also needed to hear that I cared about him and his opinion. 1 Corinthians 12:25, “that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.”
I care about people. And when we disagree I’m learning to “hear” through each one’s personality type and “hear” through their spiritual gift. I can care for people I am different from, even if we disagree. I hope they can care for me too.
For other articles by this author see http://www.choosemercy.org
1 Wickman, Dr. Charles A. Pastors at Risk, 2014.