Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Open Personality to the body of Christ

Written by: on April 7, 2022

In this book Personality : What makes you the way you are, Daniel Nettle explores the psychology of our human personality. He writes to “vindicate the idea that people have enduring personality dispositions which partly predict what they will do, and which stem from the way their nervous systems are wired up.”[1] Nettle introduces the readers to the science behind understanding personality psychology. In chapter 1, he uses the five dimensions of personality – extraversion, neuroticism, conscientiousness, agreeableness, and openness to establish his key point that biological personality traits will influence a person to make consistent and predictive choices in life events. He claims that “there are (at least) five broad personality dimensions along which we all differ, and which cause us to behave in certain ways rather than other ways.”[2] Then, the author takes the following chapters to further discuss and describe five categories of personalities titled under Wanderers, Worriers, Controllers, Empathizers, and Poets. The book gives rich and new insights using illustrations of true life stories and recent research findings in order to help readers to gain a better understanding of self to make wiser choices in life.


The curiosity to find oneself has been around ever since the birth of civilization. Famous quotes such as “To know thy self by Socrates” and “Man know thyself; then thou shalt know the universe and God by Pythagoras” have always triggered people to find out who they are in life to seek greater wisdom. This was my first time looking at personality through the lenses of Daniel Nettle to think about people as Wanderers, Worriers, Controllers, Empathizers, and Poets. I am the one who forgets what my personality type was and takes some time to recollect my memory. According to Myers-Briggs, I am ENFJ type. According to Enneagram, I am a 7 wing 8 – the opportunist. And from Daniel’s book Personality, I was drawn to chapter 7 describing the dimension of ‘Openness to experience.’ The author gives different perspectives to define the trait of openness in a personality. He wrote, “One recent study concludes that Openness is a reflection of individual differences in the efficiency of a suite of cognitive circuits in the frontal lobes of the brain…Many studies have shown that Openness is specially associated with flair for, and production of, imaginative and artistic endeavors.”[3] Nettle further digs into psychology and connects Openness into four themes in Howl and Ginsberg – “namely, broad associations of meaning, restless unconventionality, supernatural beliefs, and psychosis-like experiences.”[4]


The complexity in the psychosis of a human mind surfaced many questions for me:


  • At what age, can you be formed enough to say that you have a strong or preferential personality?
  • Our modern age of media is constantly triggering and stimulating the frontal lobes of our young generation. What kind of impact does this bring to their personality of Openness?
  • What is the spiritual and biblical guidance in considering the weight of our personalities into our identity formation and leadership development?
  • How does the world address and direct these personality differences within friends, family, and countries?


In the world of fragmentation where cognitive minds are being shattered, family relationships are traumatized, and traditional cornerstones of a society are overthrown, the church must model a stronger unity of a spiritual family that unifies differences of personalities, personal preferences, political perspectives, and cultural backgrounds. Joseph Hellerman, the author of When the Church was a family, implies that as God’s church, “we share our hearts with one another. This is the emotional attachment, the affective sense of closeness and intimacy that the Holy Spirit weaves into the lives of brothers and sisters in Christ who spend time together and share life and ministry together.”[5] Just simply looking into ourselves and gaining a better understanding of ourselves will not bring wholeness and fulfillment. The Bible directs the believers to look into your personality and identity to find yourself in God, but also to belong to a body of Christ in order to bring edification and sanctification through a united community.

[1] Daniel Nettle, Personality: What Makes You the Way You Are (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009), 8.

[2] Nettle, Personality, 234.

[3] Ibid, 185.

[4] Ibid, 189.

[5] Joseph H. Hellerman, When the Church Was a Family: Recapturing Jesus’ Vision for Authentic Christian Community (Nashville, Tenn: B&H Academic, 2009), 148.

About the Author


Jonathan Lee

President of Streamside Ministry Lead Pastor of EM @ San Jose Korean Presbyterian Church in Sunnyvale, CA

7 responses to “Open Personality to the body of Christ”

  1. Kayli Hillebrand says:

    Jonthan: I think the questions you pose are really insightful. In your work with youth, have you seen that there are certain aspects of the personality that are ‘locked in’ early? I’m also interested to know if this book made you consider adding a personality component to your NPO or not.

  2. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Jonathan: I too have taken a battery of personality tests over the years. They all have something to offer and insights about ourselves and others can happen. I thought this book did a good job as an introduction to this kind of research. You ask good questions about personality dynamics. And what about when we continue to age and grow and learn? My personality has changed a little since I was in high school, graduate school, and now. We can’t allow ourselves to be pigeon-holed for the rest of our life just because we scored in one way when we took a test at age 22. But it remains for me so interesting, especially when it comes to ministry.

  3. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Jonathan, you make so many good connections in this post. In your last paragraph, you note how this is a time of disruption with “shattered families.” Nettle argues that environment impacts personality to a great degree. What do you see as the impacts of disruption and dysfunction on the personality of today’s youth and its culture? Do you believe it leads many/most toward the negative side of the five personality traits?

  4. mm Eric Basye says:

    Jonathan, we are nearly the same personality type – ENFJ, but then I am an 8 wing 7. I did not take the Nettle Big Five assessment, but my guess is that I would fall in the extrovert campt.

    I like your considerations at the end. The “age” question is of particular interest to me now that I have a 15 year old, as well as a 13, 11, and 10 year old. I certainly see a stronger personality type in the two older kids, but see glimpses of the other two as well. Will they change in the next 10 years? We will see!

  5. mm Andy Hale says:

    My God, Jonathan. We have more in common than I realized on the Enneagram spectrum. Traditionally, I am an eight winging to a 7. However, I have broken the mold to discover I am more of an eight-winging to 3. Of course, this drives the Enneagram purist crazy, saying, “You can’t do that.” All I know is what I read about a 7 and 3, finding that they describe me to a T. I will hold my comments of what I think of those purists from an Eight’s perspective.

    However, I appreciate your connection of Nettle to the greater conversation around temperament and personality.

  6. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Jonathan, I appreciate you so much!

    How might you adapt Nettles 5 personality traits to inform a theology of meaning making?

  7. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Jonathan, I agree with Nicole’s sentiments of appreciation! I am going to jump on her question as well. In what ways do Nettles 5 personality traits cross into the South Korean culture? Are there any aspects that create a culture clash?

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