Worshiping Personalities

This post was originally uploaded onto the earlier version of this blog on 25 August 2005

Looking at my posts recently, they’ve been a bit “heavy” on the theology side. So, to break that a bit, I decided to write up a thought that has been running around my head for the past few weeks. It has to do with how worship leaders help people to connect with God (I also think it applies equally to preachers/teachers as well).

In analysing how people learn, researchers have come to recognise a shift from intelligence to intelligences. No longer do we have a traditionalist view that recognises only a single ‘intelligence’ (usually related to linguistic or mathematical ability) and which varies in its development from person to person. Rather, we should see people as having multiple ‘intelligences’. Add to that the fact that people have different personalities, cultures, genders, etc, and you create a seriously intense environment for education and connection.

There are many tools that can help us get beyond this complexity – mainly these are frameworks which help us simplify, without becoming simplistic.

In the light of this, my thought is simply this: we should take these differences much more seriously when we plan a time of worship.


Worship leaders need to be equipped with a variety of different “frameworks” with which to be able to see the world. Their task is to try and see the world through as many eyes as possible, and construct a meaningful corporate experience that will draw as many people as possible, via as many different “intelligences” and by as many different routes as possible, to a common place of reference in their worship experience.

In this regard, I would highly recommend the Enneagram as a profiling tool. It is one of a number of personality profiling tools available, but I happen to think it is one of the best, that really gets to deep levels of understanding of people’s drivers and motivators.

If we take the nine different “types” into account as we prepare worship (or as we prepare a sermon), we may not be able to “hit” each of them with bulls-eye accuracy, but I think we will become significantly better in our leadership roles.

For easy reference, the nine personality types listed by the Enneagram are:

  1. Need to be perfect
  2. Need to be needed
  3. Need to succeed
  4. Need to be unique
  5. Need to know
  6. Need to be secure
  7. Need to avoid pain
  8. Need to confront
  9. Need to avoid conflict

I believe that leaders in future church will take these types of frameworks (specifically those that attempt to understand human development) and use them to great effect in crafting all forms of communication with people.

(PS, for those who know the Enneagram, I think the traditional church is dominated by 2’s, 3’s and 6’s. You can also see different denominations and movements characterised by a single dominant personality type).

My original post had this excellent addition by way of a comment from “StevenL”:

Hi Graeme, et al.

Gordon MacDonald (Forging a real world faith) talks about leading instincts of the soul and how we are called to serve one another by allowing different styles in worship. I have found it helpful to try to include these “worship languages” when planning and leading worship. They are:

The Aesthetic Instinct (majesty) – David
– architecture is important
– symbols of the sanctuary
– seeks to be overwhelmed and impressed by majesty and infinitude of God
– David’s mandate to Solomon (1 Chron 22: 19-20)

The Experiential Instinct (joy) – Simon Peter
– throws himself into things
– meet God and speak to Him in ‘street’ language
– responsive to the Holy Spirit and the energy He promises to give
– Peter and his many impetuous moments; do it with feeling

The Activist instinct (achievement) – Moses
– Christ-following activity is service
– See the world in desperate need of change
– Get something done that fits into the missionary purposes of Heaven
– Moses (kills a guard; engagement in liberation)

The Contemplative instinct (listening) – John the Baptist (wilderness to public)
– meet God in the quiet of his inner life
– pay attention to how we intersect with God through the spiritual disciplines
– focus on prayer life; meditation
– John the Baptist moves from the wilderness to powerful public witness

The Student instinct (truth) – Paul
– be a constant searcher of the scripture (love for the truth)
– Sunday school, expository sermons, Bible study
– Insists on fervent, relentless examination so that faith will not be weak
– Paul: balance, but student predominant. Upside encourages study of the scripture; downside – opinionated, leads to confrontations over the truth

The Relational instinct (love) – Barnabas
– love for people
– God is present when people bond together in fellowship, worship, mutual support
– Heartbroken at conflict, exhilarated when people overcome barriers
– Barnabas: takes John Mark under his wing.

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