Ministers of all personality types can learn to preach and preach well. Some personality types may seem to be better suited to the task than others, but with the right training, convictions, effort and personal insight, all ministers can learn to preach. Theological colleges and preaching courses look after the training part of preaching (some better than others). Convictions about the power of God’s word come to us through the Word itself. Effort comes from our desire to faithfully carry out the task committed to us. It’s personal insight that I think many preachers lack. Ministers aren’t always that great at identifying patterns of strength and weaknesses in their preaching.
It’s in the area of personal insight that I think the Myers Briggs type indicator can be really useful. It may be that you don’t agree with the MB thing at all. That’s fine. But do a test (5 minutes!) and find your apparent type and see if the strengths and weaknesses that I list for your type (or perhaps for one close to it) relate to your preaching. Even if you completely disagree at least it might have helped you reflect on your own preaching. Maybe. Humor me. Tell me I’m wrong!
Today I’m going to talk about ISTJ and INTJ preachers.
Both ISTJs and INTJs are INTROVERTS (I). They like to be by themselves for good amounts of time and so solitary sermon prep is unlikely to be an overly burdensome chore for them. Both believe that life should be willed and decided. They like to have things settled (that’s the JUDGING thing (J)). Both make decisions based on impersonal logic (THINKING - T). Because of their J and T preference, ISTJ and INTJ sermons are likely to be fairly well structured and in their application, they will tend to be quite directive (ie. telling people what to do.) Because ISTJs and INTJs are neither FEELING types or EXTRAVERTS, their pastoral insights may be lacking. Occasionally they may include an illustration that causes offense. Perhaps it will just be a throwaway comment... but they don’t naturally have a sense of what might hurt people’s feelings. Similarly, their application could fail to recognize the complexities of various pastoral situations (particularly ISTJ types) and offer inadequate advice. Both ISTJs and INTJs would benefit from having a spouse or trusted other whisper in their ear occasionally when an illustration or application point was pastorally clunky.
The difference between the two is only in one little letter - the SENSING (S) or INTUITION (N) preference. But this one letter is worth considering because it makes a big difference to how the minister goes about the task of preaching.
Sensing types (like the ISTJ) are interested in actualities. Facts. Things that they can perceive with their senses are trustworthy. Intuitives on the other hand (like the INTJ), are comparatively uninterested in concrete facts. For intuitive types, possibilities, abstract ideas and theories are where it’s at. They theorize without thinking about it, jumping from idea to idea, connecting one thing with another very quickly. Intuitives are into inspiration and new ideas. They are more excitable and find routine dull.
So there’s only one letter different between ISTJs and INTJs but this letter makes quite a difference to their sermons.
ISTJs don’t much like abstract thought, understanding a passage just for the sake of understanding the passage, and exegesis without (immediate) application. They don’t enjoy it, they don’t naturally see the point of it, and they are slow at it. But the ‘J’ in them drives them to want to want to make decisions quickly, to choose a path to take, to tie up loose ends and close off options. If the ISTJ makes decisions too fast - before s/he’s thought enough about he passage - the sermon can be half baked theologically. He/she may unwittingly miss the main point of the passage. The exegesis can be shallow. Inadequate. An ISTJ may cover up his/her poor reading of the passage by retreating into a doctrinal system (perhaps Calvinism) or by parroting what other preachers have said, or with pomp or truisms. Because the ISTJ's sermon will be structured quite well, appear to follow the passage and perhaps delivered with some force, most of the congregation won't be able to see the exegetical inadequacies on the spot. But over time, a congregation who have tasted better passage work will feel that they aren't as engaged with the scriptures as they need to be.
This may all sound discouraging for the ISTJ, but there are many excellent ISTJ preachers out there. If you are an ISTJ, your exegesis needn't be inadequate. Just take the time to read the text properly. Acknowledge that you're not naturally as quick at exegesis as some and give yourself time. In fact, force yourself to take the time. Don't let yourself make any decisions about what the passage is saying until you've looked at every word carefully. Work out how every idea fits with every other idea. If you're tempted to start riffing your Calvinism or Driscollism or Whateverism, stop and start the passage work again.
INTJs, in contrast, are good with abstractions. They enjoy the exegetical process and are fast at it. They too, want decisions made quickly, but because they think so much more quickly than the ISTJ, their sermons don’t suffer from it. A well trained INTJ with good convictions about the importance of preaching God's word will likely produce sermons with interesting biblical insights presented in a straightforward, logical way... but INTJs probably won't see their sermons as works of art. Instead, they'll see them as functional pieces of communication. As such, some listeners may feel that something is lacking. If ideas alone can move you, then you'll probably quite like an INTJ's preaching. Others will wish a little more effort was put into the packaging.