I’ve recently gotten a little geeky about personality tests. It started when I was out to dinner with some moms from my neighborhood. We were bonding over cocktails and delicious food while the conversation flowed easily from common interests. We laughed at somehow coming to the realization that Disney World is the last place we all would want to vacation with our families. “How is that possible!?” we wondered aloud in a roar of laughter. The dinner conversation moved on and it later turned to the Enneagram (and other personality test measures). For fun, we all agreed to take an online test and share our results.
The next day, in a group text thread, the answer to our mutual Disney-disdain question was revealed: We all shared the very same dominant personality type.
I’m a relational person and I like to gain insight to the inner motivations of myself, but especially the people around me too. I see tests like Myers-Briggs and the Enneagram as tools of understanding to help me better engage with others. That said, I think these forms of ‘typing’ can sometimes lead to excuses for wrong behaviors, or even cause us to be stagnant (following the stereotypes of our typing instead of growing into the fullness of who God intends us to become).
Sure, it’s fun to just group together with like-minded people, to travel with our type. But the Kingdom of God is so much more diverse than Disney’s Magic Kingdom, our little neighborhood, and especially more-so than a gaggle of gals enjoying “Mom’s Night Out.” As Believers, we are beautifully diverse, but called to be united in service to His Kingdom. Thankfully, the Spirit equips us to do so with a variety of His gifts.
Hopers, if you haven’t done so, I recommend finding a Spiritual Gifts Test to evaluate the work of the Spirit in and through you. It’s important to keep in mind that spiritual gifts assessments are different than other personality typings. Bear in mind spiritual gifts are not rewards or even natural talents. They are as one writer puts it “abilities God gives the believer for the purpose of service. They are not human talents. Human talents are inadequate to do the work of God.”
For me, the spiritual gift of Shepherd/Pastor comes up to the top for nearly every test I’ve taken. And yes, I’ve admittedly taken multiple, in hopes of a different result (so that I can commit myself to the service of another gift). When I see the word “Pastor”, I think “spotlight”, and the thought of the spotlight makes my palms sweat, heart race and nerves jumpy… and not in a good way. However, my spotlight-assuming definition is a modern perception of the Pastor/Shepherding role. It’s a gift actually best lived-out in the background. To get a better handle on how to effectively use this spiritual gift, let’s lay down our modern perceptions and trace back to the original, Biblical context.
“To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder and a witness of Christ’s sufferings who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, watching over them—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not pursuing dishonest gain, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.” 1 Peter 5:1-4
The Greek word “poimen” is translated just one time in the New Testament as “pastor” but multiple times as “shepherd.” The Bible Study Tools website tells us that “The tasks of a Near Eastern shepherd were: to watch for enemies trying to attack the sheep, to defend the sheep from attackers, to heal the wounded and sick sheep, to find and save lost or trapped sheep, to love them, sharing their lives and so earning their trust.” So ultimately, the shepherd is meeting the needs of the sheep.
A Shepherd isn’t a guy with a microphone on a stage or a coach shouting on the sideline, a Shepherd isn’t an identity of POSITION, but rather a role of POSTURE.
“The greatest example of this is exemplified in Christ who was at the same time the Chief Shepherd yet also the spotless Lamb who laid down his life for the sheep. While a coach sits on the sideline and offers direction, a shepherd stands in the midst of the action and is part of the action himself. Shepherds should always smell like sheep.” –Paul Lamey
That all goes to say that an effective pastor must have the gift of shepherding, but everyone who has the gift of shepherding is not called to be pastor. It’s a gift that can be used in many ways. I am not a church pastor, but I am in a shepherd posture with my family, my church small group, the volunteer role of planning for our adoption support group, and writing for HopeisHard too. If you’re a bearer of the Pastor/Shepherd gifting like me, there are some things I’m learning that I feel worthy to share as cautions and hopefully helpful guidelines. Shepherds need to:
Delegate: Include others because you can’t do it all. You are more interested in doing for others than having them do for you, but you cannot meet your flocks every, daily need. You cannot be at all places at all times to meet the demands of your flock. But as a good shepherd your leadership can help others learn to be accountable to their role. Being overly protective or doing all the work for your flock can actually make them weak.
Be watchful of pride: The enemy likes to see Shepherds craving the spotlight. Be content to live in the background. When “sheep” look up to you, it’s easy to falter in humility and succumb to arrogance. Stay people-centered and spend time in prayer for others.
Stick to your flock: Be careful not to take on multiple flocks. As hard as it can be, Shepherds need to learn when and how to say “no.” You can be in multiple areas of service and not always be the shepherd of every single group. Sure, you are gifted at overseeing, but remember others are too. Be selective so that you can be faithful and devoted instead of overextended.
Remember you’re a sheep too: I’ve learned that the more I use the gift of Shepherd, the more I need to remember that I’m also a sheep. Fellow Shepherd-type Hopers, Hope is Hard if you aren’t being shepherded too. Slot yourself under the leadership of others and to the authority of the God who loves and smells like all of the sheep in His Kingdom. He knows you and loves you, and wants to meet your needs.
“I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me.”