How the Enneagram Can Point You to God

How the Enneagram can Point You to God

While the Enneagram may appear to be just another personality typology, Katie Jo Ramsey at Relevant believes it can be a tool for stepping into the transformation God extends to us in Christ.

Everywhere I turn someone is talking about personality tests, and more and more they are talking about the Enneagram. Our culture craves self-knowledge. Tell me my spirit animal or Hogwarts house, and you know I’ll share my results on Facebook.

I find it both surprising and ironic that the Enneagram has so quickly gained popularity in the culture while some evangelicals remain suspicious of the tool. After all, it is a system that robustly affirms our sin and brokenness. As Western Seminary professor Chuck DeGroat recently reminded skeptical conservative Christians, “The Enneagram has people of all stripes talking about besetting sin patterns. Can you imagine that? It takes sin far more seriously than any contemporary psychological tool, perhaps so seriously that it’s shattering behavioral sin paradigms that give people a false sense of control.”

Recently, a prominent Evangelical leader condemned the Enneagram as “an approach to spirituality that is alien to, and often at odds with, the language and contours of Scripture.” But as Howard Baker, professor of Christian formation at Denver Seminary, stated, “Some evangelicals are wary, skeptical, or critical of the Enneagram based on one author’s interpretation or use of it. That would be like discarding the Bible after reading one ultra-liberal commentary on it.”

While on the surface the Enneagram may appear to be just another personality typology ending in self-knowledge, I believe it can be a tool for stepping into the transformation God extends to us in Christ. But the tool won’t work if we don’t first know its purpose in context of the Gospel.

The Rise of the Enneagram

people crossing city street

The Enneagram is giving millennials a healthier way to understand themselves. But do they understand it? Tyler Huckabee at Relevant charts the Enneagram’s rise in popularity for Christians.

A group of half a dozen people sit in a circle on big Ikea chairs, drinking coffee from hip, branded mugs while a group leader reads from a workbook. Everyone is keenly interested, jotting down copious notes on worksheet paper. One guy even brought a computer.

We’re at a church in Nashville and from a distance, this looks like some sort of self-help group, which is apt enough. This is an Enneagram class, one of several the church offers, and the people are here to help themselves in the most foundational way someone can—by understanding themselves.

“My husband and I come from a probably more traditional, Gospel-centered perspective and that’s why we’ve spent the last 15 years bringing what we know of the Enneagram into that sector,” says Beth McCord.

McCord runs Your Enneagram Coach, a website designed to walk people through the basics of the Enneagram and get some coaching on their own type in particular. She says that the Enneagram is spiritually “neutral,” but has significant appeal for Christians—if they can get over their initial fear of it.

“They’ll say well that’s not in the Bible,” she says. “Well, the Myers-Briggs isn’t in the Bible. You know, there’s lots of things that aren’t in the Bible but are still helpful.

3 Ways of Finding Your Enneagram Type That Are Better Than Taking Some Online Quiz

3 Ways of Finding Your Enneagram Type that are Better than Taking Some Online Quiz - Katie Jo Ramsey

According to Katie Jo Ramsey at Relevant, finding your Enneagram type is not always straightforward, but the process is part of the reward. So let the Holy Spirit breathe energy into your search.

A white-hot anger swelled up in me. Twenty-eight years of feeling misunderstood was rising to the surface, and I sat stunned in the bewilderment and promise of seeing my true face for what felt like the first time.

A year prior my husband, Ryan, and I had started a two-year program called the Soul Care Institute led by Crosspoint Ministry. There we learned about the Enneagram, an ancient tool for spiritual formation. From the framework of a Trinitarian understanding of personhood, I began to see the Enneagram as a profound tool for transformation. Today, you probably know it as a popular personality typing system.

We were the first of our friends to deeply engage the Enneagram, so we unwittingly blundered through the typing process. My husband and I careened into two separate ditches, ones I’ve seen countless others stumble into as well. We’ve since crawled out and both have come to more deeply respect and empower one another in our respective journeys. But illustrating our fall into these ditches might help you recognize and navigate your own.

The Enneagram for Pastors

church steeple

Enneagram expert Suzanne Stabile shares in Christianity Today how she and her husband, pastor Joe Stabile, have utilized the Enneagram within their church ministry context.

My husband, Joe, is a pastor. In other words, he is teacher, public speaker, counselor, children’s story teller, youth leader, HR director, master of ceremonies, facilities coordinator, volunteer coordinator, mission trip coordinator, hospital chaplain, creative designer, office equipment technician, mediator, fundraiser, finance officer, funeral director, father, and grandfather.

Does he excel at every one of those tasks? How could anyone? He thrives in some parts of the ministry, and in other areas he merely gets by. For 2,000 years, men and women have tried to discern a call and find their way in the ministry, only to find a world of expectations that cannot be met.

Through his 40-plus years of pastoral ministry, Joe has found a number of tools to manage the range of expectations that come with ministry. None have been as helpful to him as the Enneagram. The Enneagram explains the differences in those who have filled the pews in the churches we were appointed to serve. It has helped us become aware of how we all see the world differently, how we respond differently to what we see, and the specific steps we can take to become more like Christ.

Of course, like any self-assessment tool or personality test, there is a danger in making the Enneagram more than it is. It is simply one helpful tool as we journey toward understanding who we are, who God is, and who we are in relation to God. By itself, the Enneagram doesn’t have much to offer, but when combined with prayer, Bible study, and other spiritual practices, it can be extremely helpful.

Below are descriptions of the nine Enneagram types, as well as some advice for those who find themselves in those descriptions, applied to the pastoral role. You might be tempted to think of others who fit each description. That’s an understandable impulse, but the healthiest way to use the Enneagram is by focusing on self-awareness, not diagnosing others. Try to discern where you land and consider how growing in this kind of self-awareness might help you in your life and ministry.