Churches want to get better at making disciples. But what if we're relying on the message of Jesus more than the method of Jesus?
At this point, if you haven’t heard of the Enneagram as a church leader, you’d have to be living under a rock. It has certainly gained traction and notoriety in certain Christian circles, mostly through the popularity of Ian Morgan Cron’s book, The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery.
I mentioned the Enneagram in the Younique book a couple of years ago, referencing it as a good tool for better understanding ourselves (along with other assessments). I’m excited to share that my good friend, Jeff Harris, the pastor of Grace Point Church in San Antonio, recently released a book called Enneagram: More Than a Number: Spiritual Disciplines: Your Pathway to Freedom. His fresh take on the Enneagram changed and deepened my understanding of it—and how it can be so much more than a framework for understanding personality differences.
For many years, I’ve used the Insights tool—both with the teams I’ve been a part of and with the churches I’ve served. It’s an incredibly powerful tool for understanding yourself and others, especially in a team environment. Because I’ve seen the impact of that tool, I’m usually drawn to personality-type assessments and how they can be used to make individuals and teams more effective.
In my conversation with Jeff, though, he helped me to realize that the Enneagram isn’t just another tool to help people understand themselves and those around them. As a matter of fact, the Enneagram was originally used as a tool to guide spiritual discipleship.
[Side note: I’m amazed how often we can gain meaningful insights by returning to the original purpose of things. This is why I’m passionate about helping churches to find new and fresh ways to live out the original purpose of the movement of Jesus—making disciples (not just attenders). When we understand the WHY behind the original creation of things, new worlds and new understanding open up that lead to new practices and new levels of effectiveness. But I digress.]
When we understand the WHY behind the original creation of things, new worlds and new understanding open up that lead to new practices and new levels of effectiveness.
As Jeff shared with me (and as he details in his book), the Enneagram can be traced back to an early 2nd century Desert Father named Evagarus Pontus. Evagarus viewed the Enneagram not as a personality diagnostic, but as a sin diagnostic—9 tendencies of human beings that describe how we each can get off course from the life God created us to experience.
Jeff also makes a connection between the 3 triads of the Enneagram (gut, heart, head) and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness. Finally, Jeff shared with me that the definite article of “the” in Hebrews 12:1 (“the sin that so easily entangles”) has led some Christian leaders to the idea that each of us has a certain sin we consistently struggle with (in the Younique process, we talk about Life Drifts) and that perhaps the Enneagram can help each of us to identify that consistent area of struggle.
Jeff makes a connection between the 3 triads of the Enneagram (gut, heart, head) and Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness.
All of that is definitely eye-opening and interesting enough … but Jeff doesn’t stop there. He continues on to identify specific practices (many of us would refer to them as spiritual disciplines) to help us to overcome our sin tendency and live a more fruitful, fulfilling, and abundant life in Jesus.
So if you’ve always been curious about the Enneagram or you didn’t know what to make of it because of its symbol (a circle with strange-looking overlapping lines), I’d highly recommend Jeff’s book. It will help you identify your Enneagram type, but not just so you can have an interesting way to understand your personality. It can be a way to reframe how you understand your weaknesses and develop spiritual practices to overcome them and live a more meaningful life.