3 Tools for Self-Knowledge

I recently returned from a conference in Nashville where several hundred church employees gathered to become better at their craft, and a common theme I heard throughout the week was know yourself. We live in an age where every other link on our feed is some personality quiz or #relatable meme. But is knowing yourself really as simple as taking a Buzzfeed quiz about which Disney princess you are and joining Pottermore to learn all about you Hogwarts house? (If you’re not Gen-Z or Millennial, I may have lost you with that last paragraph… just bear with me.) A while back I was talking to a friend about identity. There are so many stories lately of people making public statements proclaiming they find their identity in “_________.” Maybe it’s their sexuality, their race, their occupation, their neighborhood, their politics, or any other number of things that the world deems important. Through the conversation we realized that while all of those markers may be a part of who we are (and many of them are a small part), where we should really find our identity is in Jesus. So before I dive deeper into self-knowledge and self-discovery, I want to lead with this: Let your identity be found first and foremost in who Jesus says you are. The rest is just flavoring. If you’re on board at this point, you know your identity is found in Jesus, but maybe there are other aspects to who you are that seem to be a mystery. Ian Morgan Cron said, “We are fundamentally mysteries to ourselves.” We know who we want to be, and often what’s standing in the way of becoming that person is, well, ourselves. While Buzfeed quizzes and Facebook groups can tell you something about yourself (well, maybe), I think there are better tools. So here they are.


APEST is an inventory that categorizes your gifting as one of these five: Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd, and Teacher (APEST). Brad Brisco has a great article about APEST and Church Planting, explaining that each of these gifts is vital to the health of the church, so it is important to recognize your own gifting as well as empower others in their gifting. Brisco writes this:

Ephesians 4 is not the only passage APEST is mentioned. Apostle (“sent one”) is used over 80 times in the New Testament. Prophet is used nearly 800 times in Scripture, over 150 times in the New Testament. Evangelist is also used in Acts and 2 Timothy. Shepherd is used 23 times in the New Testament. Teacher is used 129 times in the New Testament. Compare that with the use of the word Pastor (which we have no problem using as the catch-all word for leadership) is used once.

As pastors and church leaders, our tendency is to settle for categorizing our leadership as just that–leadership. APEST breaks it down, helping you navigate your own gifting, and freeing you up to do what you do best, allowing others to do the same. How are you working within your gifting? What things are you doing that you could release to someone else so you can focus on what you do best? What steps can you take to grow in areas in which you are not naturally gifted? If you’ve never taken the APEST, you can do so here.

2. Love Languages

I remember sitting in counseling as a teenager, having required reading assigned to me. I thought, Why are you giving me homework? This isn’t school! But there’s a reason my counselor and so many others recommend 5 Love Languages. Learning how we (and others) give and receive love allows us to better understand our relationships and grow together. But this starts with understanding ourselves. If you’re unfamiliar, the 5 Love Languages are these: Words of Affirmation, Quality Time, Physical Touch, Gifts, and Acts of Service. Do you feel loved when someone hugs you, or does it sort of make your skin crawl? Do compliments make you feel all warm and fuzzy, or super uncomfortable? Do you find it easy or difficult to pick out a gift for someone? To learn your Love Languages, take one of these quizzes.

3. Enneagram

While the Enneagram is not a new concept, it recently gained popularity, especially in Christian circles. Enneagram is made up of 9 distinct personality types. Unlike DISC or Myers Briggs which explore behavior, Enneagram explores core motivations and fears. So rather than looking at what you do, Enneagram looks at why you do it. Reading about your Enneagram number can be challenging, and even scary. The system points out all of your flaws with terrifying specificity. But, as Relevant Magazine puts it, “the Enneagram makes sanctification specific by giving us a roadmap to where we most need God’s healing.” What are your fears? What are your motivations? Do you feel the need to be perfect? To be needed? To be successful? To be special? To understand everything? To be safe? To avoid pain? To hide your weaknesses? To be at peace? These needs drive us, motivate us to act the way we do. If we gives these needs over to God, we will grow closer to him and to who he desires for us to be. It can be tempting to use Enneagram as an excuse for why we are the way we are; instead, use it as a tool to be transformed, as Paul calls us in Romans 12:2. You can take the Enneagram test here, but the best way to find your type is to learn about all 9 and test each description against yourself (I recommend The Road Back to You). You’ll be amazed at what you discover.

Now What?

Take time this week to look back at how you acted and reacted in various situations. Were you operating in your gifting? Did you show love the way others needed it? Were you motivated by fear? Make a plan for how to improve next week. Then go back and do the same. Use tools like APEST, Love Languages, and Enneagram to articulate, understand, and transform what used to be mysterious.