Several effective personality tests exist out there. The Myers-Briggs test, for example, is top notch. For those of you interested and are familiar with the lingo, I’m an ENFP. However, another helpful personality test is StrengthsFinder. It helps identify 5 gifts out of a list of 34. I have mentioned this test in a prior blog when referring to how decision-making can work better when one’s strengths are properly aligned. This blog helps define my top five. I am indebted to Drew Angus for most of this information as he is trained in this test.

My top strength is entitled
Includer. “Stretch the circle wider” is the way the StrengthsFinder begins its description of this strength. I am aware of exclusion, and feel it when someone is outside the circle. I seek to shrink the gap between the haves and have-nots. Includers value assimilation and integration. The ‘Barrier Labels’ (aka ‘shadow side’ of each strength) come out during times of stress or anxiety. When the includer strength is not working well, they can be perceived as indiscriminate, unable to decide, and can be generous to a fault.

My second strength is entitled
Woo. Woo stands for ‘winning others over’. These folks are socially fast and outgoing, and will take the social initiative. A woo-er is excited to meet new people, and hates a social network that is static or shrinking. A metaphor that depicts this strength is the politician shaking hands with a constituent. When this gift is used well, woo-ers are outgoing and brings people in and breaks a lot of barriers across relational divides. The Barrier Label, however, is that woo-ers can come across as phony or shallow.

My third strength is
positivity. This gift is self-explanatory. Those with this gift are optimistic, helpful fun-loving. Positivity lifts emotional environments, and is contagious with enthusiasm and energy. Positivity requires freedom to experience the joy and drama of life. In other words, they need to have the freedom to feel. Their value is to live life to its fullest. When the Barrier Labels creep up, those with positivity can come across as naïve, superficial, or think that everything is wonderful all the time.

My fourth strength is adaptability. Those with this gift are focused on the here and now and are not worried about what comes next. They react with immediacy with the immediate. They have a willingness to follow the lead of change. They love spontaneity and are not all that crazy about predictability. The working metaphor for this strength is a river: “Go with the flow!” The Barrier Labels (you may start noticing a theme) are directionless, indecisive, inconclusive and whimsical.

My fifth strength is
maximizer. It’s important to note that there are four quadrants of strengths. Three (includer, adaptability, and positivity) of my top five fall in one category of strengths called ‘Relationship building’. Maximizer and woo fall in a category called ‘Influencer’. Maximizers are committed to excellence, focus on what is strong, and manages what is weak. Maximizers require quality to be valued as much as quantity. At their worst, maximizers may come across as perfectionistic, picky, and even controlling.

This test has proven very helpful for me because it explains who I am when I am doing well. When I am not doing well or performing at my best, I can also see those Barrier Labels creep in and cause problems. In fact, those of you who know me well can pinpoint both good and bad examples. This test also helps me remember myself. That may sound strange, but as we begin to start this work of church planting, I am forgetting about my strengths. In other words, the anxiety of ending this residency and beginning the official work of church planting in September has led to more reminders of my Barrier Labels. Doubts creep in and the fear of failure sticks to thoughts here and there.

Not only do I need to remind myself of myself, I have to remind myself that this whole journey is not even about myself! God certainly uses our strengths, but that’s not what leads to success. Knowing our strengths is useful, but they alone do not lead to success. What brings success is daily surrender to the Lord’s strength.

I read the Chronicles edition of Jehoshaphat king of Judah this morning. II Chronicles 20 says that King Jehoshaphat hears news that a large army from Edom is marching from the southeast to attack them. This worries the king and so he summons the entire nation to their feet and prays. They pray that the Lord will help them from this imminent disaster. Without using an ounce of their strength, the Lord answers their prayer and sends the coming army into disarray. In that example, King Jehoshaphat led Judah to prayer and they called out to the Lord. Because they called upon the Lord, the Lord flexed his muscles and showed them how powerful He really is. My prayer, and my hope for those reading this, is that we will learn to rely on the strength of the Lord with total dependence and surrender. My hope is that those who experience me will not see me, but see my savior Jesus. As John the Baptist said, “He must increase, I must decrease.” I’m learning this very slowly. Are you?