Confession: I am a professional Christian (pastor) and I find it hard to share the Gospel.
Maybe you can relate?
Years ago, Christians were taught what is called the Bridge Illustration as the most “effective” way to engaging in spiritual discussion and evangelism. If you aren’t familiar with it, it goes something like this:
- Sin separates us from God.
- Your sin separates you from God.
- There is only one way to bring us to peace with God: Jesus and the Cross
The problem with this approach however is that its main focus is justification: the theological doctrine that the wrath of God is appeased through Christ and in receiving Him, we receive forgiveness. The focus is on forgiveness and evading hell.
But, is that all there is to the gospel? Is there not more to our good news? Shouldn’t our good newsing (evangelism) be bigger than just a diagram?
If you haven’t heard of the Enneagram yet, it has become a pretty big deal. Richard Rohr wrote a book on it years ago, but it more recently got popularized through The Road Back to You by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile.
In short, the Enneagram is a map of the 9 passions or coping mechanisms to life. In our Christian language, sin.
In most, if not all traditional evangelism training, we are taught that in order to share good news with someone, we first must get them to recognize a need for such good news. We need people to recognize their sin so they can recognize their need for a savior.
I do agree with this despite not being a fan of the traditional forms of evangelism. Repentance, the act of turning from sin to God, must involve our acknowledgement of sin.
Why am I not a fan of the bridge-illustration?
Because in our post-modern world of relativism, millennials don’t think they are wrong. They can do wrong from time to time, but they aren’t wrong. What can those of us who want to share the good news of the Kingdom of Jesus say then to someone who does not consider themselves morally bad? We share the Enneagram.
Because the Enneagram focuses on passion or the way people cope with the world, the Enneagram is the perfect tool to begin a conversation at sin and ultimately end with a Savior.
Let me briefly explain each type:
1. The Perfectionist
Their passion is anger, whether it be resentment towards the world or their parents, or a righteous anger toward the brokenness of the world. Ones are deeply troubled by their imperfections. They are instinctively inclined to see their faults.
Ones need to know that they are good and the world will be good. They need to know that God loves them, and has made a way for their forgiveness and redemption. Hearing passages such as John 5:24, “Very truly I tell you, whoever hears my words and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be judged but has crossed over from death to life.” This is very good news to Ones who live most of their life in their own judgement of themselves and the fear of the judgement of others.
2. The Helper
Their passion is pride. They believe they deserve love and will do whatever they can do earn and gain love. Twos are generally the most caring, loving and sacrificial type in the Enneagram. It would seem strange to think of them as prideful, but what makes them so helpful is their habit of thinking they are needed. Of course in some way everyone is needed, but they more than others think they are really needed, that the world will fall apart without them.
The good news for Twos is that God has it and calls them to be with Him. That spending time with Jesus like Mary is sometimes better than cooking like Martha. (Luke 10: 38-42). Twos take great comfort in the knowledge of the love of God and that Christ came not to be served but to serve (Mt. 20:28).
3. The Achiever
Their passion is deceit, not so much to others, but rather to themselves. Performers lie to themselves in how things truly are in order to work more and harder because they define their value and identity in what they achieve.
Their good news is that God loves them even before they do anything, just like with Jesus at his baptism. (Luke 3:21-22). Before Jesus died on the cross, healed and fed thousands, God the Father was pleased with His Son. Jesus was pleasing to God as a simple carpenter and a single man. There was absolutely no disappointment from God in Jesus. Threes need to know that God loves them unconditionally without any strings attached.
4. The Individualist
Their passion is envy. For Fours, they are in perpetual desire for something better and more beautiful than they currently experience. The good news for Fours is that the Perfect Kingdom is here, near, and coming! (Matt. 4:17). Fours do not do well with a dualistic theology; that is, a belief system that suggests certain things are more spiritual and more favored by God than others. Fours see and long for meaning and beauty in everything but a belief system that tells them only certain “spiritual” things are loved by God; this notion creates a deep void within them.
To know that everything is spiritual, that every inch of the world is loved by God, that the Kingdom includes not only forgiven people but passionate and artistic people will help Fours embrace their life and the calling God has for them.
5. The Investigator
Their passion is avarice or hoarding. Fives seek the world in black and white. Whereas Ones view the world through a moral lens of right and wrong, Fives view the world through a truth lens of fact and fiction. The dark side to the Five is that they are prone to conceptualization and avoid turning their knowledge into action. King Solomon was the wisest person in all of history after Jesus, yet he stumbled and fell. Why? Because he couldn’t apply all the knowledge he attained to all of life.
The good news for Fives is that God is the architect of life and the universe, and only truth and certainty can be found in Him (Gen 1.) He is the Word (John 1) and the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn. 14:6). Fives can take comfort that God is the organizer of the universe and he loves systems and plans. He created the solar system, circulatory system, neurological system, etc.
6. The Loyalist
Their passion is fear. They are motivated by the fear of the dangers of the unknown future. Sixes are always in fear of things going wrong, whether it be in their relationship, their job, or even on their vacation. Every moment is a moment when something could go horribly wrong.
For Sixes, they need to know that they don’t have to worry because God cares for them a and provides for his children (Matt 6:25-27). That whatever they truly need, God will provide or has provided a way for it. Sixes need to anchor their faith. Faith in a God who is loving, trustworthy and able.
7. The Enthusiast
Their passion is gluttony. There is no such thing as too much of a good experience. Though everyone wishes to be happy, Sevens find their happiness primarily in things that happen, in experience. They are always on the look out for the next party, vacation, journey.
The good news for Sevens is that God is deeply close to those who call upon him and is always active and always working. Non-Christian Sevens will most likely be attracted to the charismatic side of the church and Christian life. Whether that’s the experience of healing, hearing God’s voice or some physical/emotional manifestation of the Holy Spirit, Sevens need to not just know, but experience God. Acts 2:1-4 presents an attractive picture of life to Sevens and is a good reminder for us that the gospel is the proclamation and demonstration of the love of God.
8. The Challenger
Their passion is lust. Though generally associated with sexual desire, lust in its broadest form is not knowing when to say no. The Eight’s greatest fear is being out of control and being controlled by others. They will therefore tend to try and control every aspect of their life, not knowing when to hold back and unintentionally objectify and control others.
The good news for Eights is that God is the liberator of the oppressed. That He is the breaker of chains. He desires to free them and the world of the enemy, the oppressor. Passages like when Jesus overturns the tables in the temple (Mt. 21:12-13) and when Jesus wept over Lazarus’ death (Jn. 11:35) are loved by Eights. Eights need to know that Jesus gets angry and cries about the welfare of them and the oppressed.
9. The Peacemaker
Their passion is sloth or laziness. Nines will do anything and everything they can to avoid conflict. Whether it is confrontation and conflict between them and someone else, or between two people that the person loves, the Nine will do whatever they can to avoid it. Nines often will settle for false peace instead of true peace. As long as there is an absence of conflict, whether resolved or not, Nines are happy.
The good news for them is that God is bringing shalom (peace) to everything. Peace with Him, peace with self, peace with each other and peace with creation (Rev. 7:9)! Nines need to know that Jesus is the ultimate peacemaker, and blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called children of God (Mt. 5:9). That one day, the wolf and the lamb will lie together (Is. 11:6).
Although Martin Luther contributed greatly to the Kingdom, he was at the end of the day speaking from the Perfectionist’s point of view. He was motivated by anger, particularly the fear of the anger of God. And though God used him tremendously, should our focus still be on the wrath of God as our main starting point of the Gospel?
I’m not saying justification by faith isn’t important, don’t get me wrong. I’m just saying we don’t have to start the conversation with it.
With a decent knowledge of the Enneagram, you could start a conversation with anybody about their passion. You could share about your own passion and how the Gospel brings freedom to you.
Maybe you’d be so bold to share how the Gospel can bring freedom to them.
The Gospel is the answer to all our problems and all our passions!
And the Enneagram is a great tool to help us begin a conversation about it.