Intuitives in the church

I was just reading Christianity Today’s book review of Introverts in the church: Finding Our Place in an Extroverted Culture, which you’ll find under the heading of Introverts for Jesus, Unite!

Now, as an introvert I’m only too happy to see personality differences being recognised. But as someone who’s been researching personality types in new religious movements for many years, I have to say, I think Adam S. McHugh’s has picked the wrong type pair. Because my researches have led me to conclude the intuitive – sensor gap is far more significant.

Many years ago I conducted a number of informal spot poles amongst emerging church folk and invariably found 80% were intuitives, that only 20% or less were sensors. This gave me pause for thought, given you’d expect the figure to be 30% in the general population. Moreover, more recent studies have found that people drawn to mysticism tend to be intuitives. And you know, the deeper I looked the more clear it became to me that the emerging church in many respects represented a revolt of intuitive Christians against suffocatingly sensor Christian institutions.

But this personality type split is not healthy, not healthy at all in my opinion. Balanced community requires both sensors and intuitives. The problem is intuitives are not feeling respected. This is a challenge for sensors but also intuitive Christians as well. As an intuitive Christian myself, I have found discipleship of intuitives is very different to discipleship of sensors. Christians need to learn to adapt discipleship to the needs of different types.

13 thoughts on “Intuitives in the church

  1. It it our function as intuitives to “unite” ourselves into another faction, or to diversify the church within its larger unity?


  2. Sally, if you refer to the thread at you’ll see that some studies have identified NFP as the personality combination most open to psi and mystical experience, and STJ as the least, with intuitive(N) being the most determinative factor.
    I have heard of other studied, through friends like Phil Johnson, that have not only back this up but identified that many evangelicals pastors fall into the SFJ category. This is notable for a number of reasons. Firstly because, yes, it verifies that protective and unimaginative SJs have a stranglehold on the evangelicals church. But more, it suggests alternative reasons for why so many lay men, the majority of whom aren’t Fs, complain about “love songs to Jesus” and the feminization of the church. They’re just not into gushy, feely singing. So, for an NF such as yourself, I would suggest the problem is not so much a lack of feeling space in the church but a lack of permission to express that CREATIVELY, which of course relates to the intuitive function.
    As an NTP myself, INTP to be precise, I find I clash with SFJ pastors on all counts. Though I lack the feeling to be “optimally” mystic 🙂
    As for discipling folks with different needs, I find Ss flounder without adequate structure but Ns are suffocated by it, so I adapt accordingly.
    But here’s my take on the emergent exodus from the established church. Cultural change was opportunity but NOT the root cause. The church has never catered for intuitives that well, at least not in living memory, but while Christendom reigned intuitives had nowhere else to go. But with the emergence of cultural shifts that emphasized future orientation, systems thinking and creative expression, intuitive types have become more empowered. They’re not sitting for it any more. Unfortunately though, not only is this causing a haemogaging of gifted people from the mainstream church, intuitives are more initiators than finishers so they’re projects tend to fragment after a few years without sensor support. What we need to do then, is explore new ways of integrating. So we need to look at commitment to one another.


  3. Ooo wow ! That’s so true ! Im a female christian ENTP (Think about it that female ENTPs are 1,5% of the general population and maybe 0,0005% of christian pop?) and I have HUGE issues with church and the gap between how my mind works and what’s preaching… It draws me further and further from church. Brian Mc Laren’s books makes sense to me to a certain extent (but no completly, I find a big lack of the role of the holy spirit role in his books). 95% of the time I feel like a complete stranger in evnagelical church. As if I came from an other planet… I don’t see the point in most preaches. Or they seem illogical, not interesting, filled with flaws to me. Im feeling like peeople want to mold me into something Im not. Im desperate of finding any new way to be a real christian but with respect of who I am. So Im open to any (web) ressources of books to help me make sense to that christianity !!


  4. Interesting post, Matt!
    INTP fist-bump! 😀
    In my evangelical circles, the related question is “Where are the Arts students?” There’s too much analysing, categorising, and explaining… An awful lot of engineers…
    I reckon it’s a big issue for Australian evangelical Christianity. My hometown, Adelaide, hasn’t done too bad a job of it, but I suspect that’s more of an ‘Adelaide thing’ than because Christians have been particularly wise about it…


  5. Cal
    My personal experience, from being an intuitive and from discipling a number of intuitives, is that intuitives tend to thrive best in one-on-one mentoring style relationships. Prepackaged mass-appeal approaches tend to fall flat. For that reason I’m not sure what I should be recommending to you till I get to know you better! What itches are you wanting to scratch? You may want to check out some of the subject headers in my side bar for ideas.


  6. Arthur
    I lived in Adelaide for a year you know, back in the early 90s, but it was prior to following Jesus so I’m a bit ignorant of the Christian scene down there. Was much more familiar with the Theosophical Society bookshop. Lots of intuitives down there! I think it’s safe to say that Evangelicals are uneasy with silence, symbol and the imagination. I put much of their down to their emphasis on the Word and truth. The only arts they are comfortable with are the musical arts and poetry, the arts that emphasize lyrics. I think we need to give more theological attention to dreams and the incarnation. Jesus was the Word even when not uttering a word. And he calls us to join him in dreaming of another way, another truth, another life. Dreams are apocalyptic, in the best possible sence.


  7. I haven’t been around your blog for long, Matt, so the following may already be very much on your radar…
    For many years I’ve loved abstract symbolic art of various sorts, and have been especially excited by Christian efforts in this area! For me it serves almost as a kind of Protestant iconography. I just lap it up, especially because Western Protestantism short-changes itself so badly in the arts!
    The two artists I particularly know of are Maz Gill-Harper (Tasmania)
    and Anneke Kaai (Netherlands)
    Anneke Kaai’s devotional books are just wonderful (large-format, full-colour, with devotional text on left and painting on right), and you can find them easily in Aussie Christian bookstores.
    (Not to self: must blog more about this!)


  8. Thanks Arthur, I hadn’t come across these artists before. Out of the two I’d say my personal preference is for Anneke Kaai, with Psalm 150 being the one which most drew my eye. Had that suggestion of life reaching up in praise.


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