Ask a Pastor Ep. 57 - Enneagram, Peace of God, Green Movement
Welcome to Ask a Pastor, a podcast from Orchard Hill Church! Have you ever had a question about the Bible, Faith, or Christianity as a whole? Submit your question and one of our pastors will answer on the program. New episodes every Wednesday.
This episode our Senior Pastor, Dr. Kurt Bjorklund, talks with Director of Young Adult Ministry, Josiah Leuenberger about the Enneagram personality test, the peace of God in situations you can't leave, how Christians should respond to the green movement.
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Kurt B: Hey, welcome to Ask a Pastor today. I'm joined by Josiah Leuenberger. Welcome Josiah.
Josiah L: Thank you. Great to be back.
Kurt B: Good. Josiah leads our young adult ministry on our Wexford campus. We are going to jump into some questions that have been sent along. If you have questions, you can send them to email@example.com. It'll play on a future episode at some point. We drop the podcast, I think, every Wednesday. That's delivered via other means of social media. It plays on the radio on Fridays. You have an opportunity just to keep sending questions. Again, so appreciate the engagement of so many of you with great questions.
Kurt B: Josiah, here's a question that came along. It says, "What are your thoughts on the Enneagram? Does it do more harm than good? I'm interested in it because it nailed me to a T, but I feel like the readings, books, and materials will take me down this hokey spiritual trail instead of just helping me to understand how I tick and what to do to strengthen my good areas." Why don't you just first explain a little bit of the Enneagram for those who maybe are not familiar with that, and then take a moment, and just share kind of your initial reaction to that question.
Josiah L: The Enneagram is a personality typing system that has become kind of a pop culture phenomenon in Christian culture over the last year or two. I first heard about this last fall. My younger brother... He's a young adult, I think, 28 years old or so. He said, "Hey, I read this book called The Road Back to You by a man named Ian Morgan Cron," who is a believer. Basically what he did is take this ancient personality typing system of the Enneagram and then characterize how followers of Christ can understand their personality and pursue discipleship, a growth in their faith, through using this resource.
Josiah L: When I first heard about it... People who have read the book, they have some different lingo that will be unfamiliar to you. They'll be talking about different numbers that stand for different personality types. You'll feel like the person at the party who has no idea what everyone else is talking about. He bought me the book. I read it. I was like, "This is so awesome." I felt like it was really helpful to me. Like this person said, I felt like, as I read the book, it kind of nailed my personality to a T. Now I do want to say, i think it's really important to recognize that resources that give us a self-knowledge can be helpful, but as a follower of Christ, I think it is incredibly important that we kind of view ourselves through a biblical worldview, recognizing that God has made us the way we are. He's given us gifts, abilities. We have a purpose as followers of Christ. Also, creation, fall, redemption, man... We're all people who are lost in our sin when we're left to our own devices.
Josiah L: Self-knowledge... It can be a really helpful thing. Knowledge of God, and what He's done for us to make a way for us to be right with Him, and be able to really function in this world in a healthy way... I think it's essential. That said, John Calvin said this, "Nearly all the wisdom we possess, that is to say, true and sound wisdom, consists of two parts: the knowledge of God and knowledge of ourselves." I think the Enneagram has given a lot of people a helpful resource for gaining knowledge of themselves.
Kurt B: Basically it's good. It's helpful.
Josiah L: Yeah, I would say so.
Kurt B: Is your take. All right. What about those who would look at it and say... I think even this question says "It takes me kind of down a spiritual path and spiritualizes something that is really a path to self-understanding." Certainly you could say it's not a lot different than the Myers–Briggs, just different categories, different questions, not a lot different than the DISC or any number of these kinds of tests that help people gain knowledge. What's the spiritual connection specifically? You had mentioned that this guy who wrote the book was a Christian. He's taking kind of secular psychological knowledge and then saying, "Here's a spiritual turn on it." I've seen this done, again, with Myers-Briggs. I've seen it done with the DISC. I've seen it done with the Enneagram. What's your reaction to that?
Josiah L: Yeah, I think as long as the gospel is kept clear, and your understanding of who you are, and God's ability to work in your life... If you're saying transformation is all about me just tweaking this or understanding that about myself, you're going to find an inability to see real lasting change but if you can see the gospel and the necessity of God's grace and the power of God's grace to change you in your pursuit, I think that that's really what it comes down to.
Josiah L: Kind of speaking personally, the way I would recognize coming to an understanding of how this can be helpful is to read that book, The Road Back to You. I think it is a helpful resource written from a Christian perspective. As you read the different personality types that he lists out, you'll probably find yourself identifying with one or another.
Josiah L: For me, something that's been really important for me in my own life of faith is I tend to be a very performance oriented, driven person. Oftentimes in my relationship with God, I've said, "You know what? My relationship with God is based on how productive I am." What am I doing for God? How am I using the gifts He's given me or whatever and feeling like something with my relationship with Him depends on what I'm doing.
Josiah L: As I read this book, there's a personality type number three, the achiever. I just felt totally exposed, like someone nailed me to a wall. Now I could've walked away from reading that and said, "I'm an achiever. I need to go out and achieve all these things." As someone who knows sometimes our greatest strengths are also our greatest weaknesses, it's given me an awareness of myself and how I can look to Christ, and rest in Christ, and know that who I am depends on His performance on my behalf. I can lead. I can serve. I can enjoy gifts and opportunities from a place of freedom rather than feeling like I need to earn what I've already received by grace. It's been really helpful to me in that regard. I think that the other types would have their own issues.
Kurt B: What would be the danger of a test, not necessarily just the Enneagram, but any of these kinds of tests? What would be the potential danger?
Josiah L: Yeah, I think the potential danger is living with a self-focus rather than a focus on God and pursuing knowledge of the self rather than knowledge of God because it's kind of a two-sided coin. Can we really know God if we don't know ourselves, but can we really know ourselves if we don't know God? I think that it can be a helpful tool if it's leading us to a deeper knowledge of our need for grace, and our understanding of who God is, and what He's done to meet that need. If I'm just thinking about, "Man, what can I do to be the best me?" That road doesn't really lead us to a place that's healthy in the long term.
Kurt B: I would probably add... I think sometimes having understanding is good, but it can also become a artificial boundary where you start to say, "That's who I am, how I am," rather than being able to say, "How's God working in this situation? What does the situation require of me?" As a result, you can short circuit maybe some of how God's working. It's certainly the idea of focusing on strengths and leaning into your strengths. I mean, that makes sense. It works. I think as a Christian, sometimes you're called to do something other than lean into your strengths. I think sometimes it can give people a false, not a false, but a sense of no obligation to say, "I don't need to do that. That's not me. I just need to focus on me and my strengths," rather than, "I'm called to something in the way that I live." I don't... That happens in anything.
Josiah L: People can use it as a license for saying, "Hey, you know what? This is my personality type. I tend to be very decisive in making decisions. If I'm a jerk to you, that's your problem because this is just my personality."
Kurt B: Exactly. I think that can be a danger of any kind of self-understanding, if not brought under the power of the word of God.
Josiah L: I would also recommend... There's a podcast, the Typology podcast, that that author does, Ian Morgan Cron. It's fascinating. This guy... He's kind of a pastor, but also a counseling background. He'll essentially meet with people, who you might even recognize some of their names from Christian culture, and essentially, do a public counseling session with them where he kind of works through some of their stuff.
Kurt B: Oh interesting.
Josiah L: Yeah, it's fascinating.
Kurt B: Good. Good. Well, thank you. Here's a question. It's on peace. It says, "After having a discussion with someone last week about joy, here's my question. How do I keep joy and peace of the Lord in a harsh environment such as work, family, or when things are not able to be changed or if I can't get away from them?" How do I keep peace basically in the hard places of my life?
Josiah L: I want to say first, this question... I can relate with that struggle. I remember earlier on in my career, I was coaching in college track and field. It was something where I was really excited about that opportunity, but I also had a boss who was kind of the old-school hard-nosed guy. When I went to work for him, he was 82 years old. The world was a little bit different when it came to working with young adult athletes back in 1960 from what it was in the early 20-teens or whatever. This guy... He was impossible to please. No matter who I recruited or how my athletes performed, it was never enough. One of those jobs where you're working long hours and weekends... I think I got paid $6,000 a year to do it. That was just a really tough few years for me.
Josiah L: I remember oftentimes, in my faith feeling like, "Oh, when am I going to be able to be content?" In that time, God really used those difficult circumstances to shape my heart, to see how I could be content in Christ in the midst of those times to find peace and to find joy in the gospel in the midst of a season where I felt like there was a constant temptation to say, "I can be satisfied. I can rest. I can be happy once my circumstances change," rather than, "I can be content in Christ in the moment."
Kurt B: Take us through how you really did that because that sounds liberating and great. How did you go from, "Wow, it'd be awesome if my circumstances would change and I want them to change. I'm going to work for them to change, but I'm going to be content in the gospel," as you say. How did you actually make that change rather than just in theory?
Josiah L: Yes. I got my butt kicked until I looked to Jesus. I had people who cared about me enough to help point me towards Him when I couldn't do it for myself. Just speaking candidly, it was developing that desperation in my life where I was really discontent with the status quo and feeling like I needed a change. I thank God. I was in a church. I put myself in a place where people could speak truth to me. People in my church did speak truth to me. I remember a passage that meant a lot to me at that time. It's one that has continued to mean a lot to me during times in my life where I've really desired peace, when it felt like something that was unattainable.
Josiah L: It's from Philippians. "Rejoice in the Lord always. I say it again. Rejoice. Do not be anxious about anything but in everything, by prayer and petition with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God. The peace of God... This is the part that always sticks out to me. "Which surpasses your own understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus." I think that what that has shown me, what that passage communicates to us is that when we know that God has already met our greatest need in giving us Jesus on the cross to make us right with Him, when He's guaranteed our future for all of eternity, we can find a lot of hope in the present knowing that God sees us now and He has what we need in the sense that He'll give us a peace in Him when we feel like that's not even possible. I've experienced that to be true. I really have.
Kurt B: I totally get that. What would you say to somebody who's listening right now and says, "I would like that. That sounds great. Of course, you did that. You're Pastor Josiah. Of course you turned to Jesus when you were getting your butt kicked and you were desperate. I've had a hard time doing that. I'm still just as desperate even though I've tried to turn to Jesus."
Josiah L: I would say, first of all, I'm Pastor Josiah because I had that experience. Back then, I was Coach Josiah. I experienced God's grace in a profound way that was life changing. I said, "Man, this is awesome. I want to have an opportunity to share this with more people." It made that profound of an impact on me. I would also say that something I've learned is that God's grace really is sufficient for us as we walk through those difficult times in a way that passes our own understanding. If you're in a situation where you don't see how you can have peace, there's a sense in which this passage says, "You're exactly where you need to be for God to make an impact on you." You may not get how His grace is going to be sufficient for you, but that doesn't mean that He's not able to work in a powerful way in your life.
Josiah L: The other thing I would say from Scripture, we can see very clearly that trials, challenges, difficult situations that we would never put ourselves in, one of the primary ways God transforms our character so that we can know His grace more deeply and become more like Him. Romans 5 talks about how, "Since we've been justified through faith, we have peace with God through Jesus." He also says, "We boast in the hope of the glory of God, but we also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance, perseverance, character and character, hope. That does not put us to shame because God's love has been poured into our hearts by the Holy spirit."
Josiah L: What that really means is that it's in those moments of trial, those most difficult times for us to believe and to hold on to God's promises, that he often meets us in a way that really transforms us the most. Times that we would never wish upon our worst enemy are oftentimes that we can look back on in our own stories and say, "That's when God really got a hold of my heart or shaped me in a profound way."
Kurt B: It's often those moments when we become aware of something. You could use the word idol, something that we've idolized, something that we've made too much of. There's a moment where we decide either to offer that and surrender it even though we don't want to, and you keep coming back to it probably over and over again versus fighting it and saying, "No, I won't be content unless this is true." What seems to me, having watched this in my own life and in other people's lives for a couple of decades now, is that what happens is you deal with one idol and another one emerges. It's a little bit like whack-a-mole. You hit one down and then something else will pop up. At one moment, it might be coaching. Then the next moment, it's success as a pastor. The next moment, it's financial success. The next moment, it's something with family.
Kurt B: It just... You're constantly being asked in a sense, to take something that you're saying, "I'm holding this as the most valuable thing right now," and saying, "Is this really my value or will Jesus be my supreme value?" It's not a struggle that you typically resolve once in one issue. You'll have one issue that that's episode one. Maybe yours was with coaching where it defines all the issues and you say, "I made a big choice." Then you're going to have a thousand more smaller ones later and maybe another big one that you have to keep walking through. In order to have peace, it's almost a constant struggle to say, "I'm going to put aside this idol and find my truest, deepest satisfaction in who God says I am," which is in the gospel, which is in rooting my identity in something other than what I'm getting from all of these other things that define me.
Josiah L: I absolutely agree. I think that's what the life of faith comes down to when it comes to walking through these times of trial and difficulty. It's a beautiful process, but it hurts like heck.
Kurt B: Absolutely, absolutely. The reason I say it's important to even understand that it's whack-a-mole is you want to think, "God, I gave you this idol and I dealt with it." Whether that one or another one comes back, you're going to deal with another one at some point. I do believe that that is the challenge, that living with real peace, because otherwise, you start to become obsessed about something that you say, "This has to go well. This has to be okay. This needs to be right or I can't be happy." The truth is your happiness, if it's tied to any of those things, will always be a contingent happiness, a fleeting happiness, because you can't completely control those things. Therefore it's got to be rooted in something more or you'll always be at the whims of something outside of yourself.
Josiah L: That's good.
Kurt B: Here's a question. It's about being green. It says, "There's a large push to go green. With all the talk about saving the environment, why should Christians feel the need to go green at all? Aren't we getting a new earth anyway someday?" Isn't God going to remake everything? Why deal with being environmentally friendly? It's that type of question.
Josiah L: Oh, good question. I think there's definitely a group within Christian culture as well that this is such an important issue to those folks from a biblical conviction. I remember in college, there was a group of people who were part of this environmental stewardship coalition or something. They would walk around with their plastic cups that they reused all the time because they didn't want to have to waste any cups and use more water to wash them or have disposable ones. I was a part of that group for a year. I have to be honest. I do use paper napkins and paper towels. I will throw away cups now.
Kurt B: Toilet paper. I mean, you use all kinds of things.
Josiah L: I do, on occasion.
Kurt B: I'm just trying to point out the inconsistency.
Josiah L: I agree, yes.
Kurt B: That at some point, everyone uses something that's disposable.
Josiah L: I have to be honest. I don't entirely feel guilty about that. I do believe, however, that Scripture indicates that creation is absolutely affirmed as good. God created the water, the sky, the land, the seas, the birds, and animals. After each of those things, God said it was good. I think we, human beings... We have an obligation to honor God's creation. Genesis chapter 2, God put Adam in the garden of Eden, said "Tend the garden and take care of it." On the other hand, God also said to Adam, "Fill the earth, subdue it." It's this freedom to utilize the resources that God has given us as a sustenance for humanity.
Josiah L: Now I think that we do have an obligation to treat creation with respect. I think that that is often a matter for us of conviction. I think that it's a matter of of wisdom and really considering, what does it look like for us to treat God's world with respect? Like this person brings up, the new Testament's very clear that there will be a day when Jesus comes to renew creation, to restore the world. As we wait for that, what is the best way to live? I don't think that the best way for us to live is to say, "You know what? God's going to remake all this anyway. Let's just abuse the earth, and get out from it what we can, and throw our cheeseburger wrappers out the window because one day, God's going to clean all that mess up."
Josiah L: I really think the best way for us to live is in light of eternity and say, "You know what? God has made this world a good place. His creation is good. One day, he's going to renew it all. Let's respect the earth. Let's do the best we can to treat it in a way that honors what God has made. Let's also recognize that God's given us this world for us to utilize it for our own sustenance and to enjoy it. One day, he will renew it, but let's treat it in light of that."
Kurt B: Would you agree with this statement? "Litter is a spiritual issue. Litter is ultimately sinful."
Josiah L: Yes, I do. I agree with that. I think that that would be to dishonor creation by carelessly disposing of our waste.
Kurt B: What about pollution? Fit the same category?
Josiah L: Oh man, Kurt. You're pointing out my inconsistencies now. About pollution... I think that to any degree that we reasonably can reduce pollution, that's a wonderful thing. I think that's wise. I think it would be a great thing for us to do that. However, where do we draw the line between what is reasonable and what's not? What is wise and what's unwise? I think that it's wise to reduce pollution. I'm not about to shell out $60-grand or whatever to get a Tesla so I can have an electric car. I'm not about to stop buying paper towels. I do think if there's a way we can reasonably reduce pollution, I'm all for it.
Kurt B: Well, good.
Josiah L: I do think it comes down to a matter of conscience and conviction to a certain degree.
Kurt B: I would love to comment, but unfortunately, we're out of time.
Josiah L: Oh, isn't that convenient?
Kurt B: We're going to leave it right there on Josiah's words. Thanks for joining us today, spending part of your day with us. If you have questions, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org.