Ministry types?

I was struck recently by a friend’s comment about the different sorts of people who find their way into training for ministry.

His contrast was between those with personalities at the introverted reflective end of the spectrum and the more extroverted, action-orientated types. The interesting bit, though, came when he related this to the type of ministry roles each tends to pursue.

Those with a more reflective introverted personality would, he suggested, be drawn to the counselling end of things. They are the sort of person who loves to sit down with another and listen and think and puzzle and slowly find their way toward a biblical solution. They tend to be more passive by nature. They are the sort of person for whom a counselling ministry is a much more natural fit and they can find those preacher types just a little bit insensitive.

Extroverts, however, love to be getting on with things. They love to decide and declare and direct. It’s not careful listening but forthright proclaiming that they do particularly well. Their louder, more strident personalities find the ministry of preaching a much more natural fit. And they can find those counselling types just a little bit woolly.

Now, like all generalisations, this has its limitations, but I do think it captures something important. And I think it also raises some interesting questions about what each might need to learn. For the extroverts who love to preach may need to realise that to be effective in ministry they need to exegete not just the Scriptures but also a person’s heart. For, unless we understand the way people tick as well as the struggles that they face, our preaching will struggle to land. Our sermons will circle high in the sky, but we won’t be any good getting it down to street level where people actually live their lives. The extroverts need to be a little more reflective.

On the other hand, those who love to counsel need to realise that for them to be effective in ministry they can’t just listen, they do need to bring the life-changing truths of the gospel to bear. Reflective puzzling has its limits; there comes a time to declare the truth and confront a person with the challenges that come from the Scriptures. The introverts need to put it out there a little more.

The two strands need to converge. Each needs to learn from the skill set of the other, but without ever losing their own distinctive. Our preaching can’t lose its stridency nor our counselling its warmth. We aren’t seeking some grey middle ground. We need to combine gloriously the best of both.

And who is capable of such a task? Who can manage such a thing? Well, Jesus can. Reflect on his ministry. Consider his strident confrontation of the rich young ruler – ‘go and sell everything you have… then come follow me’ (Mark 10:21). Or consider his gentle wooing of the woman by the well. Was the former lacking in love? No, ‘Jesus looked at him and loved him’ (Mark 10:21). Was the latter lacking in confrontation? No, he told her all she had ever done. (John 4:39)

Our ministry is to be an imitation of his, reflecting the wisdom of the one who knew every person’s heart and the courage to minister with truth and grace. Our counsellors must learn from our preachers and our preachers learn from our counsellors until we find that there aren’t two groups, but one.

This article first appeared in Evangelicals Now