Posts Tagged ‘Taylor Johnson test and Christian leaders’

Thirty some years ago, I attended an all-day seminar taught by H. Norman Wright designed to help pastors give, score, and interpret the Taylor Johnson Temperament Analysis “test.”

The test measured nine character traits like depression/lightheartedness, sympathy/indifference, and discipline/impulsiveness.

Mr. Wright said that one trait was the most important one on the test – objective/subjective – because it provided a prism through which to view the other traits.

When a person is objective, they are able to look at life events and interpret them accurately.

When a person is subjective, they look at life events and interpret them inaccurately.

The same events can happen to the same people at the same time, but the way they interpret those events determines how emotionally healthy they are.

Here’s an example:

Let’s say that you receive your bank statement and you notice a charge you’ve never seen before.

The objective person might say, “Hmm.  I wonder what that charge is for.  I’ll need to ask the next time I go to the bank.”

The subjective person might say, “Oh, no!  Another unauthorized charge!  My bank is ripping me off!  It’s time to find a new bank!”

My wife runs a preschool in our home, and I see this trait demonstrated in some of the children.

If she has to correct one child, the child will immediately do what she says without batting an eye.

But if she has to correct another child, he or she will start crying uncontrollably.

Same teacher … same words … same attitude … varying responses.

The same traits are seen in pastors … staff members … church leaders … and regular attendees.

Let’s say that a pastor receives an anonymous letter in the mail.  (I’ve received a few of those in my time.)

The best thing to do with an anonymous letter is throw it in the trash without reading it.

You can’t answer it … weigh the criticisms … or respond to it because you don’t know who sent it.

So the objective pastor says to his office manager, “The letter is unsigned.  It’s not worth reading.  Please shred it … now!”

But the subjective pastor might say, “Uh oh.  These criticisms and threats worry me.  This person claims that he’s going to leave the church unless we change the music to his liking … and that he’s going to take as many people out of the church as he can.  I wonder who this is … and if I’ll have a job in six months!”

Then he proceeds to call the associate pastor … board chairman … and his wife, scared to death his career is over.

Or take the board member who meets with the pastor about the church’s finances.  While the board member is worried that the church might not meet the budget for that fiscal year, the pastor doesn’t seem all that worried.

In fact, the pastor tells the board member, “I remember a time like this in my first church.  We were much further behind budget than we are right now, but God brought us through with flying colors.  It always pays to trust Him.”

But the board member focuses on the idea that the pastor let his first church get behind budget … wonders if he’s doing the same thing now … and begins to doubt that his pastor can pull the church through its donation crisis.

Then there’s the regular attendee who visited the pastor one day for marriage counseling two years ago.  The pastor is now doing a series on marriage, and makes a strong statement about what Scripture says about how wives should treat their husbands.

She becomes convinced that the pastor is preaching directly at her, so she tells five of her friends that she doesn’t like the pastor and wishes he would leave.

Church conflicts sometimes start when individual believers misinterpret the statements … actions … and motives of others, especially church leaders.

I hate to say this, but most pastors fall into the subjective camp.  It’s wonderful that pastors are sensitive to the needs and struggles of others … but not so wonderful when pastors become hypersensitive to everything that is said to them or about them.

Pastors do need to be on their guard … after all, it’s the job of a shepherd to protect his flock from wolves … but sometimes pastors – especially if they’ve been wounded in the past – find opposition where it doesn’t exist.

This is why it’s crucial for a subjective pastor to surround himself with a few staff/board members who are much more objective.

I’ve been blessed to serve with a few board chairmen who could tell me:

“Hey, Jim, you’re worrying about something that isn’t really a big deal.  Don’t give it another thought.  I’ll take care of it.”

“She’s spoken with me, and her real concern is that her son stays in the youth group.  Address that problem, and she’ll be fine.”

“I agree with you.  I don’t think Bart is doing a good job as a staff member, so we need to find a way to ease him out in the next few months.”

When I used to give the Taylor Johnson test, I was surprised at how many people fell into the strongly subjective category … and I was alarmed to discover that was my bent as well.

There’s nothing wrong with being this way … it just leads to a lot of drama for those who know and love you.  (Jesus’ disciple Peter was definitely more subjective than objective!)

I don’t think we should expect subjective pastors to suddenly become more objective … it would probably take three lifetimes to pull that off … but it’s smart for pastors to identify and recruit several people as advisers who see people … and church life … in more objective terms.  (Brit Hume, the political commentator on Fox News, strikes me as an objective person who would make a great pastoral consultant … and he is a believer.)

When subjective leaders become anxious … the objective leader calls for calm.

When subjective leaders avoid their critics … the objective leader prefers engagement.

When subjective leaders grow pessimistic … the objective leader remains realistic.

When subjective leaders want to quit … the objective leader counsels perseverance.

If a church is filled with objective leaders, it might not have much heart.  But if a church is filled with subjective leaders, then their changing feelings might make things chaotic.

The body of Christ needs both objective and subjective leaders.

Which one are you?









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