We recently received the following email question: “Have you any articles/opinions on Christians taking tests to determine their spiritual gifts? The local church here would like everyone to take one of these tests and then be given a ‘job’/ministry based on what the results show.”
Most of these tests have more to do with natural gifts and natural propensities and interests than with what are identified as spiritual gifts in Scripture. Nevertheless, such inventories are unnecessary means of getting people actively involved in serving the congregation. Do such tests do what they purport to do: reveal spiritual gifts? Or are they “innocent” means of getting people interested in service?
Numerous personality tests having to do with types, temperaments, traits, interests, values, and attitudes are being used and trusted. Some tests are quick and casual; others are complex and detailed. Some are interest inventories designed to assist in career choices and employment. Others are designed for self-knowledge. Because of the trust placed in these tests and inventories, Christians have developed tests to measure spiritual gifts as well.
Just as the church emulates the world in using and promoting psychological counseling theories and therapies, it emulates the world in psychological testing. Especially popular among Christians are spiritual gift inventories and tests. These are often used by church leaders who are trying to inspire Christians to serve and by those Christians who desire to serve the Lord. These various spiritual gift tests (combinations of interest and personality inventories) falsely purport to reveal a Christian’s particular spiritual gifts.
Back in 1992 our book Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing was published. It is currently a free pdf ebook on our website. The book included a section on the Enneagram, which we expanded for a recent PsychoHeresy Awareness article titled “The Enneagram: An Occultic Psychoheresy?” Also included in that book was a section on “Spiritual Gifts Inventories.” Because what we wrote in 1992 still applies, we include those pages here.
Spiritual Gifts Inventories
The idea behind the inventories is the same as behind career tests—personality traits and types match certain activities and preferences. Line up the traits, preferences, and activities and you end up with a possible career choice. Such tests reduce spiritual gifts and service in the Body of Christ to career interest inventories and a job in the marketplace.
Since those who create and promote such tests are copying the business world, they at least ought to follow the academic guidelines for validation. In none of these inventories have we seen anything resembling the minimum requirements needed for a statistically valid (trustworthy) instrument. People are looking to an unproven, extrabiblical instrument to determine God’s will and God’s call to service. However, the lack of statistical validity is not the most serious problem with using spiritual gifts inventories.
In essence such inventories deny Paul’s declaration that he was “made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power” (Ephesians 3:7). Was he made a minister “according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power” or by his natural personality traits?
If people are following career-choice types of inventories to learn how to fit into the Body of Christ, they may be serving from the wrong power base (personality “strengths”) and their own self-interests, rather than from the “effectual working” of God’s power and from obedience to His will and plan.
While God may indeed use a person’s natural talents for His service, He is obviously not limited to that. Nor would he be using His children according to any pagan temperament type. He is sovereign and may sanctify natural talents into spiritual gifts. He may also curb the use of natural talents to prevent pride from swallowing the soul. He may also endue people with power that goes far beyond their natural abilities and inclinations. While people like to think that God used Paul because of his natural talents, Paul counted all that he was and had according to the flesh “dung.” He knew the power of the resurrection of Christ indwelling him for service.
How did the Church throughout the ages, from its inception, ever function without these inventories? Very well! Spiritual gifts were recognized and exercised totally without the help of the modern-day testing movement and the penchant to worship numbers. The gifts are spiritual, not mathematical! They cannot be identified by psychological instruments except in the most superficial and erroneous way.
Although we mention one of the spiritual gifts inventories by name in our book, we are not singling that one out as any worse than the rest. We are opposed to the use of all such tests and inventories that purport to identify spiritual gifts. While the Bible does not speak to the issue of such tests, it does warn us about following “philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Colossians 2:8). Rather than using the ways of the world to identify spiritual gifts and callings, the New Testament believers resorted to prayer and guidance by the Holy Spirit.
Pastors have told us that spiritual gift inventories are useful to get their people to serve. They use the devices to motivate people to serve. However, to use an instrument that purports to identify spiritual gifts when there is a high probability for error, since there has been no validation (proof) of results, is dishonest. Truth is too important an issue in the Body of Christ.
Furthermore, what happens when an inventory gives Christians the idea that they can (yea, should!) serve in a particular way that would be detrimental to the Body of Christ? What if a test taker is aggressive and demands to hold a particular position based upon test performance? Getting a high score on any gift is no reason for a person to be placed in a particular ministry, since there is no proven validity (proof for the results).
Spiritual gifts inventories may lead people not only to serve in the flesh, but also to depend upon their natural “strengths” rather than on the Lord in the process of serving Him. There is also the danger of focusing on self and self’s gifts rather than on the Lord who is the Giver of gifts. For both biblical and academic reasons, we strongly recommend against the use of all such spiritual gifts inventories.
Personality Tests in the Church.
The use of various personality tests is becoming prolific among Christians. Those preparing for the pastorate and missionary work are often required to take such tests. As a result of such tests, many have been rejected from such service. However, we find nothing in the research literature that would warrant such a conclusion.
In his article “The Trouble with Testing,” Martin Lasden quotes George Dudley, a test researcher and president of Behavioral Science Research Press of Dallas:
Testing is a way to get at the truth sideways, and if you believe that the only way to get at the truth about another person is to administer a test, then you’re not only fooling yourself, but you’re also demonstrating a very negative view of mankind. You’re saying that truth cannot be determined by asking the subject, or those who know the subject, but only by asking a testing expert.
Dudley believes there should be more humility about testing.
Consider a man preparing for the mission field with a well-known and highly respected missionary organization. He was given one of the well-known personality tests. On the basis of the results, he was rejected from service. This is one of thousands of examples of personality testing at its worst. While one can only speculate, it does raise a question as to what would have happened to the great missionaries of the past if they had been subjected to taking personality tests before going to the mission field. God only knows! No one should ever be rejected from the pastorate or from missionary work on the basis of a personality test score or even on a battery of personality tests. Nevertheless, our book Missions & PsychoHeresy reveals that missionary candidates are rejected if they do not fit certain profiles, even though such profiles have never been verified as predictive of success by scientific means.
In our Four Temperaments book we have a chapter titled “Why All the Deception?” in which we answer the question of why Christians are running after the personality, temperaments, and spiritual gifts inventories with nine different reasons. One of the most powerful reasons is self-deception. The Bible says, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Research does support the self-deception of individuals. We know that it is very common for people to distort reality and to have very inaccurate perceptions of themselves, their world (environment), and the future. Dr. Shelley Taylor’s Positive Illusions: Creative Self-Deception and the Healthy Mind documents research that demonstrates how individuals are deceived about themselves, their environments, and their futures. Much of this self-deception can so easily be carried over into personality inventories, temperament tests, and spiritual gifts inventories.
This is not a matter of faking; it is a matter of communicating our own self-deceptions while filling out the inventory or taking the test. For example, a person may think of himself as a great leader and aspire for leadership in a church. He takes a test for spiritual gifts and would naturally communicate this on the test. However, in reality he might be the worst possible choice as a leader. But once having communicated his self-deception on the test and finding a confirmation there, he becomes an ardent test promoter.
The American Psychological Association defines psychometrics as:
The branch of psychology concerned with the quantification and measurement of mental attributes, behavior, performance, and the like, as well as with the design, analysis, and improvement of the tests, questionnaires, and other instruments used in such measurement.
After searching all the academic data bases for spiritual gifts inventories, we found none had been psychometrically evaluated. All personality tests, including spiritual gifts inventories, that have not been subjected to the usual critical review should never be trusted.
Not only are there academic reasons for rejecting all such tests and inventories, but there are serious spiritual reasons for regarding them as psychoheresy. Those Christians who devise and promote such tests are appealing to the psychological mind of the flesh (the old nature), not the spiritual soul of the new creation in Christ. They will eventually be held accountable for promoting such heretical deception among God’s people (James 3:1). Those Christians who imbibe this tainted cocktail are subject not only to self-deception, but to self-focus, self-affirmation, and pride. As such, they are also accountable to God. Instead of using such tests and evaluating oneself from these deceptive self-made devices, believers need to study the Word of God, walk according to their new life in Christ, and trust God to give and to reveal spiritual gifts to His children according to the needs of the Body of Christ.
Biblical Categories of Individual Differences and Spiritual Gifts
Our creator did not make a series of paper dolls or robots. He created each person, whom he knew prior to birth (Psalm 139:14-19). He created individuals in His own image to reflect Himself according to each individual’s uniqueness. At the same time there are two categories of humankind: those who have only been born once (with the Adamic nature) and those who have been born twice by grace through faith and given new life in Christ: “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).
Furthermore, all who have been born again constitute the Body of Christ and are called to serve His Body according to what they have received in all humility, honoring and preferring one another and not high-minded because of any gift of grace that Christ has allowed them to exercise for the edifying of His Body. Since God has provided no spiritual gifts inventory test in Scripture, how does God reveal a gift of grace and service to each individual Christian?
However, there are preliminaries to discovering one’s gift of ministry. Paul says, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God (Romans 12:1-2).
Paul further declares: “For I say, through the grace given unto me, to every man that is among you, not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think; but to think soberly, according as God hath dealt to every man the measure of faith” (Romans 12:3). One believer may be given a gift of ministry (service) that can be exercised cleaning the bathroom facilities or tending to other seemingly mundane duties. Another may exercise the gift of ministry through caring for babies in the nursery or extending pastoral care. Another may be given the gift of teaching and or preaching. The purpose of the gifts is for the sake of the body, not the one who is gifted. Because God has created each vessel and each gift of ministry, we must leave all of this to God and remember that “we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us (2 Cor. 4:7).
As believers walk according to their new life in Christ by grace through faith, they will discover their gifts and exercise them in many different ways. Believers do not need the help of a worldly system based on personality types and tests to discover what only God knows about them and about their usefulness to the Body of Christ. Therefore, may we all pray as Paul did for the Colossians:
For this cause we also, since the day we heard [of your faith in the Lord Jesus], do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that ye might be filled with the knowledge of his will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; That ye might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God; Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness (Col. 1:9-11)
After presenting their bodies to God for service, believers can trust God to reveal to them what gift He has given them along with opportunities to exercise that gift. A spiritual gift cannot be discerned through carnal means, but rather by trusting and obeying God.
We welcome your response to this topic of spiritual gifts inventories or any others personality test experience you may have had.
 Martin and Deidre Bobgan. Four Temperaments, Astrology & Personality Testing. Santa Barbara, CA: EastGate Publishers, 1992, https://pamweb.org.
 “Psychometrics,” https://dictionary.apa.org/psychometrics.