Monday, December 15, 2014

Carl, Sam, Molly & Fred: How God uses different personality temperaments in His church

1 Cor 12:4-7 "Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good."

Introduction and review
When Paul writes what he did up in 1 Corinthians 12, his concern was to show how the Triune God has so designed the church to be a reflection of Himself as a redeemed community unified in Jesus Christ that expresses such devotion in diverse ways. Spiritual gifts are the primary focus of the texts and are supernaturally given graces given out by the Holy Spirit at salvation. When we speak of personality temperaments, these are natural inborn traits that everyone has and which tend to fall into four general categories of description (choleric, sanguine, melancholy and phlegmatic). The goal today is to further our understanding on this subject and to see what happened to our four friends who were stopped at the stop light. 

Carl, Sam, Molly and Fred proceed forward
Fred Phlegmatic and Molly Melancholy were both the type of people who preferred others to go first, since they by this point had all kinds of things going through their minds. Sam Sanguine and Carl Choleric were revving their engines. Sam was excited to get to where he was heading. He just hoped that despite forgetting the itinerary, he would be able to influence others to help her along the way. Carl Choleric began honking his horn and it was time to get down the road. Carl then realized that he recognized the other three drivers, and that they all were going to the same destination. So to save face he decided to direct the other three to go first. Sam Sanguine jumped at the opportunity and went first. When Carl tried to wave on Molly Melancholy and Fred Phelgmatic, each of them just stared at each other, hoping the other could move. They pointed to Carl to go ahead and so with a quick thumbs up Carl gunned it and sped off. Molly Melancholy decided that it might be best for Fred Phlegmatic to go, since it is etiquette to let the person to your right go first.  Once Fred left, Molly then proceeded but first needed to stop and a cup of coffee, since the destination to where she was heading did not serve good coffee.

The church that God has designed is composed of different types of temperaments
The above little story was designed to get you and I to think about the different types of personalities God has made to occupy our world and our churches. When I think of the local church from a Biblical standpoint, it is like the little town. There are governing standards (God's Word, the Bible); the Mayor or we could say the King of Kings (Jesus Christ), the Sherriff (The Holy Spirit), deputies (Pastors, Elders, Deacons) and the town's people with businesses and homes that make the town life, breath and work by their differing gifts (all Christians, including the pastors, Elders and Deacons). 

The above fictitious characters are so-named from the four personality types that have been identified throughout history. Tim Lahaye in his book; "Spirit-controlled Temperament", page 2, defines temperament as: "that combination of inborn traits that subconsciously affects all of your behavior." Others, including Lahaye, have described temperament as answering the question: "why you do what you do". 

Lahaye goes onto define two other words closely related to "temperament" - namely "character" and "personality". Character is in Lahaye's words: "the real you when no one is looking". According to Lahaye, character combines your temperament, training, moral values, beliefs and habit patterns. In thinking on Lahaye's distinction of character, if "temperament" represent the raw material from whence people are made from the traits inherited from their parents, character represents the chisels, the hammers and tools taken in by that person in the shaping and molding of that person. Certainly God in His Sovereignty affects people unto salvation, bringing about progressive change in the character of the Christian and thus an alteration in the temperament. 

The second related word: "personality", is defined by Lahaye as the outward expression of one's character. We could say that personality is the paint and final touches that over time reflect to others who we are or who we want them to thin we are. Again in the life of the Christian, the Holy Spirit's work of inward transformation of the character should over times align the personality on the outside with what's going on inside.

In the above little story, not only did Carl, Sam, Fred and Molly represent the four main temperaments (respectively Choleric, Sanguine, Phelgmatic and Melancholy), but undoubtedly everyone living and working in the town had combinations of these temperaments which made the town a truly remarkable place to live. 

The more we identify God's design and yield to His will, the less conflict and more appreciation we will have for fellow Christians
God has so designed the church to be composed of those whom He set His affection upon that are not cookie-cutter people, but different. In 1 Corinthians 12:4-7, in-as-much as the text is all about the unity of the Body of Christ, three times in as many verses we read the word: "variety". I am convinced that over three-quarters of the disputes that arise in the church stem from misunderstanding one another. 

Years ago I recall listening to a message series on the spiritual gifts. The pastor commented that the Holy Spirit's distribution of the gifts take into account the personality of the person. This insight has definite scriptural support. Within 1 Corinthians 12 for example, we read of how much of each person's individuality and uniqueness is factored into the Spirit's Sovereign decision in determining which people will receive what gifts. For example, 1 Corinthians 12:11  "But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills." Another text, 1 Corinthians 12:27 "Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it."

The types of people that occupy our churches and the gifts God has distributed to each person is so vital to understand. When you consider the different church to which Paul wrote, they all were - well - different? Why? Each one had different mixes of personality temperaments and giftings. These mixtures are what I term "the church's spiritual finger print". Just as our finger prints are God-given, each church is different due to grasping how God has and is molding each one to achieve the Great Commission and Great Commandment. 

More tomorrow....

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