Today’s post about ENFJ Christians is the sixth in a series talking with Christians of different personality types. I started this series because discussing faith with with different personality types revealed that they don’t all feel equally valued and understood in Christian churches. This is particularly true, in my experience, for Intuitive types (which make up about 30% of the population as a whole). If Christianity is a faith meant for all people (and I believe it is), then why aren’t we doing a better job of connecting with all personality types?
Our walks with God don’t all look the same. We’re influenced by our backgrounds, variations in beliefs, and individual personalities. And even though the goal is for us all to become “like God,” that doesn’t mean we become indistinguishable from each other. God created great variety in people and I believe He did that for a reason. So let’s spend today’s post hearing from and talking about the unique perspectives of ENFJ Christians.
Identifying With Bible Characters
Three of the six ENFJs I talked with for this post identified David as a Bible character they relate to, at least in part. They identify with his heart, his struggles, his expressive worship, and his depth of feeling. One ENFJ named Nathan qualified this choice by saying, “I relate to the fact that David gets incredibly emotional about relational issues in his life, but not so much his impulsive daring.”
Other characters ENFJs mentioned relating to include the Apostle Paul, who Heather described as “a man of great conviction, and grace and grit” with the ability to adapt his leadership style to meet others’ needs (e.g. “I have become all things to all men, that I might save some,” 1 Cor. 9:22). Gwyneth chose Jesus as the most relatable Bible person for her because “His peaceful ways were misunderstood as rebellious” and “He had empathy for every person.” Nathan mentioned, “Daniel in that he’s kind of an academic/thinker type who is trying to find his way in relation to the society around him.” Kait identified her favorite book of the Bible as Ecclesiastes and said the stories of “Ruth and Joseph mean a lot to me, and Peter/Thomas are the disciples I feel I can understand where they are coming from.”
An anonymous contributor wrote that she identified “with Mary Magdalene, Tamar, Martha, and the woman who was healed from a flow of blood.” All these women “loved with every piece of their hearts, lived with courage, were honest about who they were and what had happened to them, and met each day with an intelligent awareness.” She also identifies with Jesus’ mother Mary, particularly how she “stored these things up and pondered them in her heart.” Anonymous wrote, “I have this drive to understand with my whole being, not just intellectually – but with my heart and soul. I think she might have been able to relate.” I suspect many other ENFJs will be able to relate as well.
Using Their Gifts
All the ENFJs I talked with have found ways to use their gifts and found support for those gifts within their churches. However, most also mentioned that there were aspects of their personality and/or their gifts that they were not encouraged to use.
All six ENFJ contributors to this article mentioned gifts involving public speaking and/or leading. They give messages, play music, lead worship, and dance. But Kait mentioned these gifts cause some inner conflict “due to the complex nature of the Bible’s stance on female leadership.” Corbin talked about the fact that his musical gifts are appreciated, but only if he stays within a certain type of music. ENFJs can fit the roles their churches offer, but they’re not always 100% comfortable with the opportunities they’re given.
On the whole, though, ENFJs tend to find ways to use their Harmony-focused Extroverted Feeling side to find a niche for themselves. Nathan shared that, in his experience, the solution to feeling like your gifts aren’t well-received “is controlling how you manifest that aspect of yourself. Church might not be perfect at accepting all aspects of individuals, but I think you can always find a niche for your skills where people won’t question it.”
Part of this is going to depend on individual church groups. My anonymous contributor talked about how hard it is for her to use her “gift for making others feel comfortable and comforting them when they are hurting” while “in a formal church setting where you attend a service and then go home.” But Heather said, “The church loves my ability to encourage others and build rapport,” and Kait said. “My ability to empathize with and forgive others, to be social, to create community is really appreciated.”
From the outside it probably looks like most ENFJs in the church are engaged and serving, and happy to do so. While that is true, ENFJs can also feel frustrated when their gifts for emotional connection and intuitive reasoning are not appreciated.
How Their Minds Work
One thing that frustrates some ENFJs, like many other Intuitive Christians, is when their gifts are viewed with suspicion by sensing-dominant groups. Heather wrote, “Being an intuitive type within the church is REALLY difficult. I use introverted intuition, I tend to see many perspectives.” This ability helps her “speak across denominational lines,” pick up on motives and agendas, read people, and be more “effective in ministry.” She goes on to say, “However, I don’t know how to speak about how my mind works in church. The church either sees me as a ‘prophet’ or that I’m into something like witchcraft. … My wiring seems to coincide with some of my spiritual gifts, so it can get weird. It’s sometimes hard to know what is my intuition and when is the Holy Spirit speaking.”
The perspectives issue also came up for several other ENFJs, who struggle with people who want them to see things in black-and-white terms. Nathan shared, “in some cases I find myself wanting to be too accepting or compromising. I’d like to keep everyone happy and feeling good about themselves, and I like to relate to people. This leads me into trouble sometimes because I’ll care less about if someone is specifically following God law than I should.” Heather adds, “I see a lot of nuance … I focus on the big picture. I see trends in the church, and have the tendency to see where these trends will lead. I desperately want to ask hard questions that tend to make sensors uncomfortable. My questions are often seen as a lack of faith, and not as a way to deepen my faith. I am extremely visionary and future oriented.”
Another things that both Corbin and Nathan mentioned is that the church doesn’t seem to value “emotionally focused men” (to use Nathan’s phrase). Corbin wrote, “I am told I feel to much/am too led by emotions. When I am feeling discouraged, I am told to ‘just pray more’ and everything should be fine, vs feeling and expressing the highs and lows in a raw and real way (like David).” This is a struggle many feeling-type men (especially FJ types) can identify with. Though men in the Bible express strong emotions, for the most part men in Western culture are not encouraged to do so even in the church.
Challenges For ENFJs
The topic of conforming too much to others’ standards also came up when I asked ENFJs about the biggest challenges they face as Christians. Kait said, “my challenges are always to not just believe what would make other people happy, but to know what it is that I believe because of what I believe, if that makes sense. ENFJs are natural chameleons, which can (for better or worse) get you praise in a church community for looking like what you’re supposed to. However, I believe God calls us to authenticity and vulnerability about our flaws and shortcomings. Not engaging in self protection though masquerade is a challenge for me.”
A couple of ENFJs mentioned intellectual challenges in their Christian walk. For Gwyneth, this means “Being stereotyped as ignorant or naive. Many on the secular side will try to debate me, not knowing that I was once on their side and know most of their arguments. And it seems to them that I don’t want to hear them, but I don’t see how I could go back to my old ways of thinking after being in His presence and learning so much.” For Nathan, the challenge lies in finding ways to handle intellectual arguments against his faith, “for example the challenges in aligning science with Christianity.” This point might surprise some people who see ENFJs as purely emotion-driven, but personal experience has taught me that many place a high value on being able to make sense of the things that they believe. It’s part of how their inferior Introverted Thinking process shows up in every-day life.
Other challenges that ENFJs mentioned include feeling like they don’t fit in or getting discouraged. Heather said, “I am acutely aware of how actions are perceived. I know how I need to dress and behave to reach the church and be effective in my call. However, that can be really stifling.” Corbin shared that he struggles with holding on to hope and finding encouragement. Anonymous said that it’s hard for her to talk about her faith because words don’t always come easily and her testimony is connected with some personal experiences that are difficult to share. To sum-up, while there are some challenges that more than one ENFJ experiences, their individual struggles are deeply personal.
Connecting With ENFJs
It should come as no surprise that ENFJs connect most readily with church teachings when there is a relational, emotional component. I hear this over and over from ENFJs I talk with both in-person and for this blog post. Here’s how four ENFJs described the types of teaching/preaching styles that connect with them best:
“Personal/relatable/conversational! I get way more out of a small group conversation than a sermon. But sermons that tell stories and make it personal captivate me.” — Corbin
“I enjoy deep one on one conversation or group facilitated discussion.” — Kait
“I cannot engage without a speaker who can’t demonstrate that they care about God and that their life is more full because of their relationship with God. … I like interactive and discussion based learning far more than sermon/lecture learning.” — Nathan
“I like any teaching and preaching that is deep. I enjoy being encouraged to engage with God on a relational level. I like preaching that is both intellectual and emotional. (Not an easy find.) I love to have small group discussions with other open-minded people because I like to process in a group and ask questions.” — Heather
If churches are trying to engage ENFJs, then creating opportunities for believers to meet in small groups is an essential part of that. For more formal teachings, ENFJs connect best when the person teaching is engaged on a personal level. They don’t just want feel-good messages, though. As Heather mentioned, they prefer preaching “that is both intellectual and emotional.” Kait also said, “I love the theories and underpinnings and the mysticism behind what we learn.” This is also a topic Gwyneth brought up, saying, “I like the practical application of abstract topics, if that makes sense. … I really enjoy a podcast called Moral Revolution. It teaches on sex, love and marriage, but in a realistic way.” ENFJs want their minds and hearts engaged in a way that encourages them to take real-world action.
Speaking of taking action, my anonymous contributor pointed out that it is very important when trying to reach ENFJs that your actions match your words. All FJ types read people well and are quick to pick up on a disconnect between what someone says and how they actually live their lives. If you’re trying to connect with ENFJs while preaching the gospel, make sure that you practice what you preach and present yourself in an authentic way.
In addition, ENFJs place a high value on teachings that can explain why the Bible and God’s way of life matter. ENFJs don’t shy away from asking hard questions and if they’re seeking truth in a Christian setting they want to see that it’s okay to wrestle with tough issues and discuss different ideas. Heather encouraged those trying to reach ENFJs to see “the nuances of scripture” and address hard questions. Gwyneth also said, “being able to know your stuff and why you believe would help minister to people like me.” Nathan added, “Focus on how God’s way benefits people and makes life abundant. For example, I’ll be lost in a discussion of judgment without context for why it is good for us that God is performing judgment.”
Why They Believe
For this final section of the posts in this series, I like to let the people I talked with explain in their own words why they believe this faith is the right one. Here’s what my six contributors said:
- “I am a Christian because of Jesus. This question can be hard to answer for me, because the answer runs at least in part along the lines of ‘I just know.’ But if I think about it a long time, I realize that my faith is largely due to those Christian people who have stuck by me. They are incredible, and filled with a genuine love and empathy for others (including me) that still floors me. I don’t understand it, but it doesn’t change. And as my relationship with Jesus grows more intimate, I feel a hope and peace that I would have never considered possible, and am finding that my heart and spirit are deepening and strengthening. I used to believe that all the pain would go away – nope. If anything I feel everything more vividly. But that also means that my heart is growing more and more loving than it has been. … I believe this faith is the right one also because it is mysterious. I don’t have it all figured out, and that is a good thing. If I could figure it out, then that means my mind would be bigger than what I believe in. That is most certainly not the case.” — Anonymous
- “Though I don’t always ‘feel’ God, I know there is no other explanation for life and the universe, and no other system that can work well and offer an abundant life like the laws of God.” — Corbin
- “I believe in Christ and God and defend my faith because the existence and resurrection of our Savior historically, the way I’ve felt the Spirit in my life emotionally, and because no matter how much inflammatory literature I read from contradicting backgrounds, I’ve always been able to explain to myself why it was insufficient intellectually.” — Kait
- “I have looked at and tried many things. This is the only one that has made logical sense to me and I have also felt Him and His Spirit. No one can convince me that the transformation and peace I’ve had and felt isn’t real.” — Gwyneth
- “The older I become the more rational I have become and faith isn’t as easy. It always comes back to Jesus for me. His life, his witness. The way he touched and changed lives. One writer stated that Jesus was either the greatest liar that ever lived, or that he was exactly who he says he is. The disciples were completely convinced of Jesus as God and Man. At the end of the day it has to be about Christ. He is truly the anchor for the soul in a time of chaos and confusion. He is a leader worth emulating and worth dying for. He is the hope of the world, a light in a dark place, he is love. There is no one else like him in the history of the world. His life was love and grace personified. Christianity is the only religion that teaches salvation by grace and forgiveness, and not through works. I still go to church because I believe in Christ and he told me to do it, whether I fit or don’t. ” — Heather
- “All religion is essentially an attempt to answer two fundamental questions, (1) what is the best/right way to live life and (2) how did existence come to be and in what way does our personal existence relate to the broader world more broadly (i.e. what is the universe and do we matter within it and does life continue past our current experience). Science is essentially a system for providing a reason behind our beliefs and an understanding of the world based on evidence that is objective. Unfortunately the scope of science isn’t able to cover everything we need it to in life. For example, I cannot wait upon a systematic study to tell me who to marry. In the same way, science is not able to offer a definitive explanation of how to live or a complete understanding of existence. Because of this, you cannot rely on science and have to figure out what the most likely explanation for your 2 big questions is. Because of the order in the universe, the experiences people have (personal transcendence, psychedelic and unusual conscious experiences, etc), and the fact that intelligent is actually a very parsimonious theory (it is simple and explains everything, even though you can’t test it) I believe that there is a God. Once you believe that, you can assume that the creator probably is involved throughout existence and has certain ways in which He would expect you to act. This brings you to religion and simultaneously generates a problem — there are lots of religions and logically they cannot all be correct. I follow my particular branch of Christianity because if you believe the Bible is true, then my sect follows it most accurately. The problem is bridging the gap between believing in God and knowing which one to believe in. I was raised Christian, so I cannot say that wasn’t an influence, but I follow Christianity for a few reasons — (1) it ‘feels’ right in context of personal spiritual experience and emotions, (2) it offers a view of the world that makes sense within most of its doctrine, (3) its proscriptions for how to live life are effective principles for life.” — Nathan
Your turn! If you want to share your Christian ENFJ story or talk about ENFJs in the churches, comment below. You can also check out the other posts in this series here:
If you’re a different personality type looking to contribute an upcoming blog post in this series contact me or head over to the original post. I’d love to feature you! Please note: unless you tell me otherwise, I’ll assume that by getting in touch you agree I can quote you directly and credit you by first name (or screen name) and Myers-Briggs type in future projects.