5. The Activist
Activists love to meet God in the vortex of confrontation. They want to fight God’s battles. For them, church is primarily a place to collect signatures and sign up volunteers for the “real work” of the Gospel that takes place outside the church building.
Activists constitute the movers and shakers of the Christian community. They may take a political bent or adopt an evangelistic emphasis, but what marks them as an activist is that they feel most alive spiritually when they are in the midst of God’s active (often confrontational) work. That’s when God seems most real, most immanent, and most exciting.
6. The Caregiver
Caregivers love God by loving others. Providing care and meeting needs in Jesus’ name spiritually energizes them and draws them ever closer to the Lord. For caregivers, caregiving isn’t an obligation as much as it is a threshold to intimacy with God.
Caregiving extends beyond nursing sick people; it could include fixing a widow’s car, serving as a volunteer firefighter, or researching a cure for a disease. A caregiver is comforted by Jesus’ words, “Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” (Matthew 25:40) To a caregiver, God seems nearest when they are looking at him through the eyes of a sick child or hurting friend.
7. The Enthusiast
An enthusiast loves the excitement and celebration of their faith. They tend to be more relational, and therefore favor group worship. They feed off the excitement of other believers praising God.
Enthusiasts also revel in God’s mystery and supernatural power. They like to take spiritual risks and wake up hoping God will do something new and fresh. Enthusiasts don’t want to just know Scriptural concepts, they want to experience and be moved by them. Their exuberance tends to lead them to embrace things like dancing, music, drawing, singing, and other creative forms of worship.
Whereas the traditionalist is comforted by routine, the enthusiast wakes up hoping that God will move in a fresh way that they’ve never seen Him move in before.
8. The Contemplative
Contemplatives are marked by an emotional attachment and even abandonment to God. They are God’s lovers, and they want to spend their time in God’s presence, adoring him, listening to him, enjoying him. Intellectuals want to understand new things about God; activists want to fight God’s battles; but contemplatives want to adore God and to know him better.
These Christians resemble ascetics in that their passion for God often leads them into solitude, where they can just sit still and enjoy being in God’s presence. Their watchwords are desire and relationship, as affirmed by Jesus in John 15:15: “I no longer call you servants… Instead I have called you friends.”
Contemplatives enjoy doing the things that couples like to do: demonstrating their love for God through secret acts of devotion, giving gifts to God like the gift of a poem, or an anonymous act of charity. They often favor the discipline of journal writing, where they can explore their heart’s devotion.
9. The Intellectual
In this context, “intellectual” doesn’t necessarily mean “smart,” but rather, a heart that is most often awakened when they understand new concepts about God. Their minds are very active, and new intellectual understanding literally births affection; it creates respect for the creator, which leads to worship.
Intellectuals are usually the ones stressing Bible study as the mainstay of their devotion. But some may also have curious minds in areas beyond the Bible—biology, astronomy, even physics. The more they understand about truth and God’s universe, the more in awe of God—and therefore in love with Him—they become.
Just as the naturalist can’t wait to get out of doors; the sensate is eager to visit the cathedral; the ascetic scurries off into his inner world; so the intellectual seeks God in the pages of a book, an inspiring lecture or sermon, or the vast ruminations of their minds.
Most of Us Are Blends
Do you see yourself in any of the above categories? Don’t feel that you have to choose just one; most of us are blends, and many of us will move in and out of certain temperaments as we age. The important thing is not to find the right “label,” but to understand how you best connect with God so that you can more deliberately and consciously cultivate an increasing affection for your creator.
God made you with a specific design. You will certainly bear similarities to certain other believers, but you most celebrate the creative quality of God when you give yourself permission to seek His face in a way that honors His creative design—beginning with your own spiritual makeup.
The book Sacred Pathways goes into each temperament far more thoroughly, with tests and warnings for the particular temptations of each temperament. There’s also a new chapter that discusses any possible correlation between the Enneagram and the pathways.
Let me say in closing that I want to honor you and your resources. If you have an older copy (2010 edition) of Sacred Pathways, it’s not worth it to purchase the new one. The changes are minimal—mostly just the addition of the section on the Enneagram. The new cover looks very nice, but I don’t want to mislead you.
You can read more about the book here: Sacred Pathways
This article originally appeared here.