Ministry Personality Types: the Extroptomist Index

What sort of person is most suitable, most stable,  and most successful for ministry leadership? I spoke not long ago with the CEO of a large and successful church planting organization who answered this with one word: pragmatist. He was speaking of the type of person his organization was looking for to plant and lead successful churches. They were not necessarily looking for people with correct theology or even good people skills, but leaders who would follow the path that leads to proven success.

I know it is not this simple (and wasn’t for him either). Brutal pragmatism may have its place in church leadership, but if it is the only criterion, it tends to leave piles of damaged persons in its wake. Yet church leadership does need to be smart enough to quit doing things that are not working, especially if they are consuming enormous amounts of energy and resources. Church leaders need to be willing to plow new ground and claim new territory, and this means doing new things.

I want to suggest another evaluation. My colleagues and I have been joking around recently concerning which among us is an extrovert and which is an introvert. Colleges tend to collect a lot of introverts as teachers, and this is not bad, but a mix of the two types is more healthy. I think our faculty at Nebraska Christian College does have a mix, and I intend to continue this balance in the future

But there is another factor I have toyed with for a long time: the optimist/pessimist scale. We might connect introversion with pessimism, but that has not always been my experience. I have known both optimistic introverts and pessimistic extroverts.

I would like to suggest that there are limits, though, to define a healthy church leader. Too optimistic and plans will never be realistic or successful. Too pessimistic, and no risks will ever be taken. Too introverted and effective leadership will be difficult. Too extroverted and the danger of coasting on personality rather than hard work will always be a temptation.

Bear with me. I’m suggesting a combination of the two that I call the Extroptimst Index. Don’t laugh yet. Hey, people have written best-selling leadership books with less substance than this!

There are many online tests that will give results for Introversion/Extroversion on a 100 point scale. That is also true for Optimism/Pessimism. If we combine them, it might look like this:



If we define a sweet spot within this continuum, excluding the 20% extremes, it would look like this:


Where would you fit on this grid? Where do you think the pastor of your church would be? Where do you wish your pastor was? I will admit that I score high on both extroversion (75) and optimism (72). My place on the grade would look like this:

MK point

Fortunately, I am within the recommended inner grid. This is especially good since I am the one who cooked this whole thing up! But I do think this index shows a certain leadership type, perhaps one that is not really measured in other indices.

It might be fun to think of where biblical persons would be on this scale. I would think that David would be high on both extroversion and optimism. Jeremiah would have been high on introversion and pessimism. I tend to think that Paul was something of an introvert, but very much an optimist. Solomon seems to have had extrovert qualities, but a strong pessimist streak (if Ecclesiastes is any indication). God used all of these persons, but in different ways. Where are you on the Extroptimist Scale?

Mark Krause
Nebraska Christian College

Fred Phelps, R.I.P. Mr. Westboro Baptist Church

Pastor Fred Phelps pictured in 1998I often pose a question to my classes based on the old James Kennedy book, Evangelism Explosion, “If you were to die tonight and stand before a holy God, what would you say?” (I know this isn’t exactly the question Kennedy used, just my version.) I don’t think it will work this way, but it is a clarifying question, and can bring focus to several things. I causes us to evaluate our relationship with God. If we were to stand under judgment before God tonight, would we be terrified or assured? Would we have a lot to say, or would our mouths be stopped?

I can’t help but think about this today after learning of the death of “Pastor” Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church yesterday at age 84 in Topeka KS, about 200 miles from where I sit. Phelps brought international notoriety to his tiny congregation. It was not because of its phenomenal growth. It was not because of its reputation for good deeds in the community. It was not because it was a beacon of hope in a dreary and weary world. It was for one thing: the congregation’s protests at various events in a brazenly hateful manner. This can be seen in the name of the group’s web site, Phelps was so disgusted and repulsed by homosexuals that he believed all of the bad things happening to America were a result of God’s judgment against our country due to toleration of anything gay.

This led Phelps and his followers to stage protests at military funerals, claiming that the death of American soldiers was a result of God’s judicial wrath against the USA. I encountered such a protest myself at the North American Christian Convention a few years ago in Cincinnati. When exiting my hotel to go to the convention center across the street, I found it necessary to walk through a Westboro protest line. I asked one of the young women carrying a “God Hates Fags” sign (or something similar) why they were there, and received no answer. I cannot tell you why the NACC was targeted. I never learned why.

So if Fred Phelps is standing before a holy God right about now, what would he say? Will he claim to have been God’s most faithful servant, willing to endure the world’s scorn for the sake of biblical truth? I certainly don’t know what he would say.

Why is it that our zeal for truth is sometimes tipped to become intolerance? Is it possible to love truth and hate others? I think these are tough questions worth asking.

Do I approve of homosexual behavior? No. Do I hate homosexuals? No. Do I love truth? Yes, Was I embarrassed and disappointed by the activities of the Westboro Church? Yes. I regret them using the label “Christian.” I even regret them using the label “Baptist,” and I am not even a Baptist, but have many brothers and sisters who are.

So Rest In Peace, Fred Phelps. It is not any sort of game for you any more. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the Living God.

Mark Krause