Pastor Matt Brown explores this ancient tool of wisdom in A Book Called YOU.
Posted in , Nov 8, 2021
Self-knowledge is not always easy to come by, even for the most faithful. Take Matt Brown, the founding pastor of a megachurch—Sandals Church—in Riverside, California. He’s engaging and passionate, a true follower of Christ.
But as successful as he was in his ministry, years went by before he realized he was still missing something, knowing God but not really knowing himself. As he says in his engaging new book, A Book Called YOU: Understanding the Enneagram from a Grace-Filled, Biblical Perspective, “If you don’t know yourself, how on earth are you going to know God?”
What made the difference? An ancient tool of wisdom, the Enneagram. “Understanding the Enneagram has helped me understand my wife. It’s helped me understand my kids. It’s helped me understand other people. Most of all, it has helped me understand myself.”
I asked him how he first came upon the Enneagram, and it sounded like one of those Holy Spirit moments. A professor, someone he enormously respected, thrust a book in Matt’s hands. “I feel like you’re supposed to read this,” the man said. “God meant you to read it.”
It was a tome about the Enneagram.
The whole thing happened at just the right moment. For Matt, at the time, even though he trusted the wisdom of Jesus, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest,” felt burdened and weary.
“I kept lying to myself,” he says. “I kept minimizing things, telling myself that I wasn’t hurt when people were critical or that I wasn’t offended when someone said something harmful or left the church. ‘Stick and stones…’ I’d say. ‘I’ll prove them wrong, and that will heal me.’”
He was, as he says, “emotionally detached” from how he felt. “I was aware of my giftedness but completely blind to my brokenness.” It had gotten so bad he was having panic attacks and wanted to quit the ministry. “I had a false image of myself.” It couldn’t last forever.
That book on the Enneagram, the professor’s gift, opened windows and doors. He felt compelled to do the self-assessment and saw himself in a new light. “It was like a pair of glasses that helps you look in.” God meant you to read it? Not only read it, but learn from it.
“We talk a lot about sin in the church,” Matt says, “but we don’t necessarily help people find their sin. We don’t think about what you need to preach to yourself.”
The Enneagram breaks us all down into nine different categories. I’ve heard people talk about it and blithely declare that they were a One, Two, Six or Nine…things like that. Quite frankly, it’s always seemed too schematic. Aren’t we more complicated than that?
But what Matt makes clear is that when you learn about the Enneagram and do a self-assessment, you discover the rich truth behind things that might be veiled. The true self is revealed.
“It helped me talk to my son, see my daughters as individuals,” he says. “It helped me understand what my wife was saying.”
Matt knows Scripture well and for each Enneagram category he chooses one or two or three biblical examples. If you’ve ever read a Bible story and thought to yourself, “Well, I’m sort of like Martha rather than Mary,” you’ll understand exactly what he’s saying.
Some Christians have objected to Matt’s defense of the Enneagram, saying it’s not Christian or not in the Bible. As he’s quick to point out, even the first followers of Jesus were not necessarily Christian. “Look at the wise men who came to Bethlehem.”
What he shows is how it can be helpful in our faith journey, revealing not only our strengths but our weaknesses. “We want to be well,” Matt says, “but too often we get stuck seeing ourselves as victims. We want to just sit and complain.” As he says about himself, “I’m driven by fear. My anger comes from a need of perfection.”
That kind of self-honesty is really refreshing. It made me want to take the Enneagram. You can—anyone can—by going online and spending about 40 minutes answering a series of questions for a small fee (I did it through enneagraminstitute.com and it cost 12 bucks). But as a preface, wanting to know what you’re getting into, pick up Matt’s book. He convinced me.
PS: I discovered that I’m a Two, the helper—with a bit of Three, the achiever. Matt is all Three.