By Chris Heuertz, Clare Loughrige, and Liz Jackson
“It looks like two pentagrams having sex.”
“I’m outta here, they are using new age heresy!”
“I want to know more about God, not more about myself.”
Those are some of the things we’ve heard from Christian friends and not so friendly Christians about the Enneagram. How about you? Do you have similar stories to tell?
Those of us who have a passion for the transformative power of the Enneagram, and a relationship with Christ, have a vision to bring the Enneagram wisdom into Christian communities to partner with scriptural truths to change lives. However, we have often met with challenges in bridging the space between Enneagram communities and the church’s structure. IEA Conference Chair, Jan Shegda, heard Liz Jackson’s desire to address Christianity’s conflicted relationship with the Enneagram, called on Chris and Clare, and asked us to guide a roundtable discussion at the 2018 International Enneagram Association Conference. The conference theme, Building Bridges, framed our dialogue on the challenges, potential solutions, and opportunities in bringing this transformational tool into the various traditional Christian environments.
Some of the most pervasive challenges to bringing Enneagram learnings to Christian Communities include:
- Aversion to structure (Quakers, spiritual communities)
- Aversion to anything outside the words in the bible or the specific teachings of Jesus.
- New age feel, branding, use of the Enneagram symbol which looks like a pentagram
- Lack of authoritative Christian literature
- Significant time investment required to learn and use the Enneagram
- Many different growth programs in churches to compete with for attention
- Many churches focus on God’s encouragement vs. addressing our dark side.
- They focus on the surface “what’s your #” and not the deepening of the work – minimizes the benefit
- Lack of easy materials to bring to small group study, it takes an Enneagram expert who has significant training, which may not be available to every church.
The group brainstormed some solutions to those who want to incorporate Enneagram wisdom in their Christian communities:
- Use language and tools that clarify the deep transformative benefits of the Enneagram, not just superficial “know your type”.
- Create simple, flexible tools that can be used in a variety of church environments.
- Leverage podcasts and accessible content.
- Connect Enneagram wisdom to the biblical text.
- Role model use of Enneagram for our own growth, to the point, that others notice, “that person is growing and transforming, I want to understand what they have been doing so I can reapply that.”
- Talk to the leaders in the church about the Enneagram, give them time to experience it and see it’s transformative power first, then they will be a source of support.
- Use different language if needed at first before mentioning the “Enneagram”. For example, you can talk about different masks that we wear to survive our early life situations, and how God wants us to identify our true essence. Once the group starts experiencing the freedom of understanding their masks compared to their true selves as God created them, then you can let them know this is based on the Enneagram.
- Leverage authoritative figures that are well-known such as Rohr and publishing houses like IVP who are providing Enneagram resources. The more authoritative branding you can find to bring to the church, the easier it will be for a church to endorse the use of the Enneagram.
- Continue to publish articles about the Enneagram in Christian publishers/magazines, as well as sharing valid Christian articles in our church communities and on social media. This creates a “buzz” that reinforces the connection between the Enneagram wisdom and God’s Word. This is part of being disciples.
We were grateful for the honesty and vulnerability of those who joined us and we realize we have significant work in this bridge building endeavor. So, we decided to continue the exchange and invite the ieaninepoints tribe! On September 19th, join us, Chris, Liz and Clare and Jan Shegda, too, for a FREE Zoom call! The IEA Great Lakes Region hosts a monthly call the 3rdWednesday of the month at noon EST and you won’t want to miss this one. Whatever tradition or no tradition you come from, we can learn bridge-building skills from one another. Click to register for this free Zoom call!
For those looking for help when starting Enneagram studies in their church communities, we created a list of resources to leverage:
- The Sacred Enneagram: Finding Your Unique Path to Spiritual Growth by Christopher Heuertz
- The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Ian Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile
- Motions of the Soul: The Enneagram meets St Ignatius by Clare Loughrige
- Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram: A Handbook for Harmony and TransformationAdele and Doug Calhoun, Scott and Clare Loughrige. Release February 2019 Intervarsity Press
- Self to Lose – Self to Find: A Biblical Approach to the 9 Enneagram Types by Marilyn Vancil
- The Path Between Us by Susan Stabile
- The Enneagram: A Christian PerspectivebyRichard Rohr
We bless you and leave you with the winsome words of Ralph Ellison; Education is all a matter of building bridges.