Jeff Erbskorn, enneagram teacher, leadership coach and pastor

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I enjoy helping organizations, leaders and individuals communicate more effectively utilizing a tool called the enneagram. I can help you listen to the way others speak and tailor your speech to the way they listen. The enneagram has been used by 72 companies  (including Avon, Best Buy, Daimler/ Mitsubishi, Parker Hinneafen and Toyota) from more than 20 countries spanning 5 continents. It suggests that our life is made up of nine "folders" or "portfolios" that we can open at any given time, but that we habitually choose one over the others to expresses ourselves. It is likely that your particular portfolio has opened up many doors to you.  Yet at the same time an over investment in the thoughts, emotions and behaviors contained within your portfolio has likely shut many as well. You want to reach as many people as you can.  You want to reach into their head and their heart.  You want them to sense and understand deep in their gut that what you have to offer is what they need.  Some you will reach easily with the gifts, strengths and competencies within your own portfolio, your own style of speaking and being in the world.  And yet others will miss out for the reason that you were simply not speaking their language.  You missed or miss heard what they were saying.  They will frustrate you or be frustrated by you, and both of you will lose out. I can help.

As you seek to grow and change let me guide you to a deeper understanding of yourself and others through the Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles.  You will learn to "speak to their listening" and "listen to the way they speak.”

I am a trained Healthy Congregations workshop facilitator and a certified leadership coach within the Evangelical Lutheran Church In America through Coachnet Global.  I became certified to teach the enneagram in 2012 and in 2017 completed advanced certification training within the same program (Enneagram Spectrum of Personality Styles Certification Program).  My teacher, Dr. Jerry Wagner, was among the earliest students of the enneagram in the US, being taught by Robert Ochs, a Jesuit Priest and professor at Loyola University Chicago, who studied with Claudio Naranjo (the first person to teach the system in the US).  Dr. Wagner was recently recognized an honorary founder of the International Enneagram Association (IEA).

I became a professional member of the IEA in  2015, completing another certification program the same year, with enneagram teacher Tom Condon.  Tom has taught over 800 workshops in the US, Europe and Asia and focuses on helping people grow and change. As a Lutheran minister for 21 years, I've seen first hand what it costs an organization when things are taken personally.  Leaders make decisions born from their own anxieties and become reactive rather than responsive.  I have also seen the huge dividends paid when decisions are made by a team of persons whose commitment to their own health ensures the health of the organization.  Decisions are intentional, thoughtful and responsive. Whether it's our professional or personal life, sometimes all we need is the support and encouragement of someone who believes in us and is committed to our success. Let me guide you to a deeper understanding or yourself and others through the Enneagram.  You will learn to "speak to their listening" and "listen to their speaking."

Friday, January 12, 2018


“When they (the wise men) had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was. When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy. On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage.” –Matthew 2:9b-11
This is the third of a three part blog series which began as we anticipated and celebrated the birth of Divine Presence into the world. This Advent-Christmas series has looked at discipleship through the lens of the enneagram and a particular day within the church calendar. Each blog within the series takes a look at three of nine possible discipleship portfolios. These “personality portfolios” contain unique investment patterns related to the disciple’s thoughts, feelings and behaviors.  Our first set of three helped us see disciples whose strength of discernment was body or gut based and our second disciples whose strength of discernment was heart based. Today, January 6th, the day the Epiphany of Our Lord we arrive at the manger with the wise men. So it is only fitting that we open the portfolios of the three disciples whose strength of discernment is head based. How might their gifts (pun intended) help us pay homage (i.e. pay attention) to the Divine Presence we have anticipated, celebrated and now see revealed in the manger?
OPENING PORTFOLIO FIVE reveals a disciple who follows the star’s light of wisdom, understanding, knowledge and truth. Their journey seeks to understand the world, to discover what is real and true and to make it more intelligible. As they draw near the manger they pay homage or attention to Divine Presence through the gift of their intellect. Ironically, however, it is likely they would be slow to approach the manger and perhaps the last of the “wise men” to present their gift for the reason that internally they are often plagued by a fear that their knowledge is incomplete or inadequate. As they kneel at the manger, Divine Presence is revealed in the invitation to let go, to trust their feelings and embrace their instincts. Their epiphany / revelation comes as they stay present in the moment and take a deeper look into the manger. This may mean staying longer than perhaps is comfortable for them, but it can allow them to see what at first they do not see, the wisdom hidden in foolishness. The apostle Paul’s words to the Corinthians below reflect this as does what Luke Skywalker (for you Star War fans) misses in this clip of his first encounter with Yoda
“For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe.” – 1 Corinthians 1:21
OPENING PORTFOLIO SIX reveals a disciple who follows the star and is loyal to its light because they know it to be safe, reliable and part of a tradition to which they are loyal. They journey hoping to find that safety and security has finally been brought to the world so as to make it a more reliable, more trustworthy place in which to live. As they draw near the manger they pay homage or attention to Divine Presence through not only the gift of their loyalty, but also, their ability to point out danger. Ironically, this same ability to point out danger and identify what could go wrong could have slowed the journey of the three Magi down to the point that they were actually in danger of missing the manger entirely. Since the three made it, it is likely that either one of the other two Magi led the caravan or that this one led by facing their fear head on, as is the case with some who lead with this portfolio (Counter Phobic SIXES). As they kneel at the manger they see and hear, in the helplessness of the One before them, an invitation to trust that all will be well. Their epiphany / revelation is that in the “space between” running from, running into and being run by fear is Divine Presence. It is a presence that brings peace in spite of the realities we think we see, realities such as tombs that are sealed and doors that are locked.
 “Early on the first day of the week, while it was still dark, Mary Magdalene came to the tomb and saw that the stone had been removed from the tomb.” - John 20:1
“When it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and the doors of the house where the disciples had met were locked for fear of the Jews (i.e. the world outside), Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” – John 20:19
OPENING PORTFOLIO SEVEN – reveals a disciple who follows the star’s light of possibility. They are on a journey to discover the things that make the world a more delightful place in which to live. As they draw near the manger they pay homage or attention to Divine Presence through their gifts of joy and ability to see pleasant possibilities. Ironically, however, they can fail to see the great beauty that lies in the thorns, without which a rose would not be a rose. As Peter’s response to Jesus below reveals, they may not see how their focus on pleasant possibilities can distract, drag down and actually keep them from seeing Divine Presence in ALL of its beauty.
"Then he (Jesus) began to teach them that the Son of Man must undergo great suffering, and be rejected by the elders, the chief priests, and the scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again. He said all this quite openly. And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. But turning and looking at his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, “Get behind me, Satan! For you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.” - Mark 8:31-33
As they kneel at the manger, Divine Presence is revealed in the invitation to see in the cradle the cross. And, their epiphany / revelation is to see in the cross the cradle of life, joy and possibility.
Our three part blog series has now concluded. Hopefully you now see the gifts and the limitations contained in each portfolio. Each contains gifts and competencies when it comes to being “on the watch” for the coming of Divine Presence. Each sees certain things but not others. Each will open the door to certain things but not others. Each can demonstrate compassion. Each can devolve into condemnation. And, finally you can see how each, in its own way, is useful for the journey to the manger. Each of the nine portfolios can help us see more fully the Presence revealed to us all in the manger. If you missed the first two blogs in this series you can go to:
For more on the nine portfolios you want in yours go to What’s in your portfolio?

Friday, December 22, 2017


“John the baptizer appeared in the wilderness,
proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” – Mark 1:4

This is the second devotional blog in what hopefully will be a three part Advent-Christmas series that takes a unique look at discipleship through the lens of the enneagram and a particular Sunday’s readings.  The above text is from the second Sunday of Advent.

I have to be honest, John the baptizer is not my favorite character in the Bible.  I’ve seen his proclamation as the all too familiar weapon of choice for persons who seem to care more about getting another “notch in their belt” as far as the number of persons they “bring to Jesus” than the individuals themselves.   I could be wrong and I know it is extremely judgmental, but it seems to me that often their way peddling John’s message is more of a threat than an announcement of the good news of divine presence in Jesus.  Maybe it’s just me but I can’t get my mind around how, “Repent or else, face the fiery depths of hell and the lake of fire!” is good news.

So I want to invite you into another way of looking at John’s message, one that reflects compassion NOT condemnation.  This message comes to you in wilderness of your life to point to the coming of a good shepherd who seeks to guide you in a direction opposite that which you sometimes might find yourself heading.  That’s what the word repentance literally means, “To turn around and move in the complete opposite direction.”   This shepherd promises to lead you to the still waters (baptism for Christians) of his presence so that your thirst might be quenched and what is broken in your life might be restored.  This is the sense of the words “Forgiveness of sins” (i.e. restoration of what is broken).

In the third chapter of his letter to the Romans, Paul uses the Greek word “harmartia,” when speaking of sin.  It is an archery term which means “to miss the mark”.  We’re all broken, we all fall short of the mark says Paul (Romans 3:23).  As divine presence comes it comes, not to threaten or condemn, but to help us get back on target.  More often than not (at least for me) that means turning us around so that we are actually facing the right direction. 

Seen in this way, John’s proclamation of a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins is a message of hope.  And, for the reason that each of our discipleship portfolios contain different gifts and competencies which enable us to see and say certain things about this hope but not others, we need one another.  The light (divine presence) with in you helps me see the light (divine presence) within me. 

My enneagram teacher Jerry Wager points out that each enneagram style has a “sweet spot” and “blind spot”.  So, each of the nine portfolios we are opening contain a particular focus of convenience, an intuitive edge, a clarity of vision which enables the person to see some things clearer and sooner than persons invested in other portfolios.  In the first devotional blog we opened three portfolios.  Let’s open three more, shall we?  Whereas the previous three were led by their gut, the following three are led by their heart.  Actually, there is a sense for each that they are led by everyone else’s heart, but we will save that for another time.

OPENING PORTFOLIO TWO reveals a disciple who proclaims divine presence is revealed when we turn away from isolation and connect with others.  They help us see the importance of community and that we are all interconnected.  This person envisions making the world a more loving place to live in.  Their gifts and competencies nurture others and foster relationships.  Their sweet spot is that they see the needs of others.  Their blind spot is that they cannot see what they don’t see, that being that they take an unhealthy pride in believing they know what is needed better the person themselves.  Being overly focused on the needs of others or unconsciously the need to be needed renders them blind to their own needs.  They falsely believe that they cannot be helpers and helpees at the same time.  Ironically if they were on an airplane that lost cabin pressure, their gift would be their curse.  They would not be around long to be much help because they would have ignored instructions and placed the oxygen mask on others first.  The light of divine presence in us can bring compassion to help them find their way out of the wilderness of avoiding their own needs so that they may experience a restoration to wholeness (i.e. the forgiveness of sins).  The light of divine presence in us can help them see that it is just as blessed to receive as it is to give.  Allowing ourselves to be receptive to the divine presence in others is a good thing and is part of a healthy community.

OPENING PORTFOLIO THREE reveals a disciple who proclaims divine presence is revealed when we turn away from idleness and move toward action. They can see and say how divine presence empowers us to do something with the grace in which we stand, rather than simply stand in it.  And, the light of divine presence within them steers us in that direction as well.  Their sweet spot is that they have a natural ability to assess situations and can organize, set goals and motivate themselves and others to work effectively toward them. As, they envision making the world a more efficient place in which to live they help us hear the call to discipleship as one of service in the world.   Their blind spot, however is that they have difficulty experiencing divine presence when they grow idle.   God says, “Be still and know that I am God (Psalm 46) but how can one know God and be still?” they say.  The light of divine presence within us can help them see that they are loved simply for who they are rather than what they do.  As divine presence comes to them it reveals the inefficiency in not slowing down and being so driven by the belief that failure and inefficiency must be avoided at all cost. (Luke 10.41 “But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things;”).

OPENING PORTFOLIO FOUR – reveals a disciple who proclaims divine presence is empowers us turn away from the ordinary and mundane and live as the crème de la crème.  The light of divine presence within them helps us see it is as Yoda says, “luminous beings we are, not this crude matter.”  The force, the energy of divine presence (Christians would say the Holy Spirit) sets us apart as special and unique.  There is something about baptism that is holy indeed.  The sweet spot for persons invested in this portfolio is that they see how divine presence sparks creativity, heightens sensitivity, and allows one to dive deeper into the ocean of life and love than one could ever imagine.  They envision making the world a more beautiful, extraordinary and passionate place.  Their blind spot, however is that they often miss how God uses the ordinary to do the extraordinary.  Ironically they often see themselves as set a part not because God has claimed them as special, but because internally they are plagued by a feeling that they are as Tom Condon, another of my enneagram teachers says, “A cosmic paperwork mistake.”  In their inner most being they wrestle with God saying, “Why have you abandoned me?  Why have you made me like this?” They would do well to reflect on what the apostle Paul says as he writes to the Romans, “But who indeed are you, a human being, to argue with God? Will what is molded say to the one who molds it, “Why have you made me like this?” Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one object for special use and another for ordinary use?” (Romans 9:20-21).  The light of divine presence in us can help them see that it is indeed as Paul says in his second letter to the Corinthians, “But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.” (2 Corinthians 4:7). 

Hopefully now you see how condemnation might rear its ugly head either from within or outside of each of these portfolios.  And, you can see how the message of compassion can make itself known within or outside of each as well.   Compassion or condemnation?  What’s in your portfolio?  For more on the nine portfolios you want in yours you can go to

Saturday, December 9, 2017



“But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his servants in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch.” – Mark 13:32-35 NRSV

Jesus is talking to the disciples Peter, James, John & Andrew on the Mount of Olives opposite the temple.  Their location is important, for the reason that it juxtaposes one location for divine presence (the temple) with another (Jesus).  By the time Mark had written his Gospel the temple (destroyed in 70 AD) was no more.  Mark’s community, like many Christian communities since, yearned for the return of divine presence….the return of Jesus.  Confidence in Jesus’ promise to return was waning to say the least.  Mark wrote his account of the story of Jesus to encourage disciples in his community (and by default ours) to “stay the course” and continue living out their faith / discipleship (“each with his work”) with hopeful expectation of that coming presence (note the command for the doorkeeper to be on the watch).

So imagine if you will that we are the ones who will continue focusing on our duties and we are going to be interviewing other disciples applying for the position of doorkeeper.  Nine portfolios have come across our desk.  However, three of the nine have risen to the top.  Each shows an incredible ability to hold the space, extraordinary awareness to detail and just seems to know in their gut what is needed.  How might each of these disciples help us?  How might they hinder us?  Let’s take a look at their portfolios shall we?

}  OPENING PORTFOLIO EIGHT reveals a disciple “on the watch” for strength, influence and authenticity as far as that which can bring about a more just world where power and resources are equitably distributed.  Their self-image is “I am strong and powerful.” They are strong, confident, direct, tough, self-sufficient, and tend to keep the door closed to what they perceive as soft, phony, needy or weak.   Surely these attributes could help us watch for divine presence that comes “with great power and glory” (Mark 13:26).  Yet at the same time such vigilance could lead us to see slights, abuses, and manipulations where there are none.  The tendency to downplay, deny or dispute the sincere motivation of any affection or kindness shown them might actually be a blind spot that keeps this candidate from seeing divine presence in what to them seems weak and vulnerable.  Since they may not hear the Jesus who said to Peter, “Put your sword back into its sheath…” John 18:11 they may not see the strength it takes to stand down. They may miss the importance of what Paul points out to the Corinthians, that “the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Corinthians 1:18) and have a hard time swallowing what he says about boastingall the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me. (2 Corinthians 12:9).

}  OPENING PORTFOLIO NINE reveals a disciple “on the watch” for peace, harmony and unity.  Their self-image is “I am settled.”  This is a disciple whose gifts will keep the door closed to that which is unsettling, conflicted, pushy or exclusive.  They will help us see the blessedness of peace (“Blessed are the peacemakers…” – Matthew 5:9) and the importance of reconciliation (“first be reconciled to your brother or sister” - Matthew 5:24).  Yet, their tendency to succumb to distractions and downplay rather than deal with may be a blind spot that could actually leave the door wide open to the very disruption they seek to avoid.  Their avoidance of conflict might actually create conflict.  And, they may not see divine presence when it seeks to make itself known through division (“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the Lord.” – Isaiah 55:8) and disruption (“Making a whip of cords, he drove all of them out of the temple, both the sheep and the cattle. He also poured out the coins of the money changers and overturned their tables.” - John 2:15)

}  Opening PORTFOLIO ONE: Portfolio One reveals a disciple “on the watch” for the presence of goodness and that which can improve and make the world a better place in which to live.  Their self-image is “I am good, I am right”.  This is a good, right, intense and serious disciple who has high standards.  They will keep the door closed to anything bad, wrong or imperfect cracking it only to point out what is needed for admittance.  For the reason that they can be overly focused on what’s bad, wrong or imperfect their blind spot can be seeing what is right in the situation and how imperfections often give rather than detract from value.  Jesus’ words, “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matthew 5:48) can be toxic for them, for they can create an internal turmoil that can live itself out as external irritation.  Though this disciple sees her/himself as a “doorkeeper”, they are never really certain of which side of the door they are on.  They may have a hard time watching for the Jesus who says “My grace is sufficient for you.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Though these portfolios have risen to the top, close examination of the remaining six reveals that all nine have the gifts and competencies required for being “on the watch” for the divine presence.  Each sees certain things but not others.  Each will open the door to certain things but not others.  Perhaps the doorkeeper we are looking for needs all nine of these portfolios in theirs?  Perhaps each of our candidates already has all nine within theirs and doesn’t know it?  Standing in the grip of God’s grace let us pray they discover just that.

Saturday, December 17, 2016


"As they went away, Jesus began to speak to the crowds about John: "What did you go out into the wilderness to look at? A reed shaken by the wind? What then did you go out to see? Someone dressed in soft robes? Look, those who wear soft robes are in royal palaces. What then did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and more than a prophet. 10This is the one about whom it is written, 'See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.'  - Matthew 11:7-10

What disciples go out to see is motivated by their focus of attention.  Since energy follows attention each disciple expends his or her energy (thoughts, feelings and behaviors) pursuing one of nine paths representative of a vision of the world they are hoping to see actualized. Their vision IS their focus of attention (i.e. what it is that they see when they view the world, their situation, their circumstances, others or the very calling to discipleship). 

In this passage from Matthew Jesus seems to get that.  He well understands that the human heart is searching for something only he can provide, a wholeness that comes only when it merges with the essence of the divine.

For the Christian holding the mind, body and spirit together is a feat only possible through Christ.  The enneagram provides a useful tool to see how Christ's presence brings nine paths together to move the life of the disciple in the direction of the integration of mind, body & spirit.  As this happens the disciple discovers balance as well as love and compassion for self and others.  Truly as Jesus speaks there is a reunification (i.e. a restoration, completion, reconciliation) of that which had been broken off or separated from the whole.  And that brings joy. "I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in you, and that your joy may be complete." (John 15:11)

Each of the nine discipleship stances falls within one of three triads.  Stances 8, 9 & 1 overly utilize instincts of the gut / body.  Stances 5, 6 & 7 overly utilize instincts of the head / mind. And, stances 2, 3 & 4 overly utilize instincts of the heart / spirit.  The following outlines what each disciple might go out to see (the vision each disciple is hoping to see actualized):

THE  BODY TRIAD – Ironically these disciples have difficulty seeing what is happening within their own body.

Discipleship Stance EIGHTSeeking Justice & Strength: This disciple likely went out to see if it was true that John was the kind of leader who would tell it like it is and speak truth to power.  As John blasts the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to him for baptism with, "You brood of vipers!" (Matthew 3:7), it is likely that he scored points with this disciple in this regard.  This is the disciple who is quick to draw the sword and slow to show weakness.  Having a quick temper and short fuse, especially in the face of injustice, they expend their efforts to bring strength to a weakened world.  They have difficulty seeing that the strength they express through their bodies can actually weaken their relationships and position in the world.  Yet, even Jesus who says, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth; I have not come to bring peace, but a sword." in the 10th chapter of Matthew (vs 34) seems to have had a change of heart by the 26th chapter as he says to one of those with him, "Put your sword back into its place; for all who take the sword will perish by the sword." (vs 52).

Discipleship Stance NINE - Seeking Peace & Harmony: This disciple likely heard the Pharisees and Sadducees (who had real differences) were going together to be baptized by John and went out to see if it were possible for John to bring them together.  The whole, "You brood of vipers" thing probably blew that out of the water and they left thinking that either John was not about setting aside differences for the sake of unity or that he was on to the Pharisees and Sadducees and knew they had no interest in living in harmony with anyone.  Uncertain of or out of touch with what they wanted this disciple would have blended in with the crowd and tried not to make a big seen or call attention to themselves.  Their bodies would not show irritation, discontent or anger as such energies would be contained….until they weren't.

Discipleship Stance ONE - Seeking To Perfect: This disciple likely was greatly disturbed by reports that John wore "clothing of camel's hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey." (Matthew 3:4) and went out to see if it were true.  If it were true (and it was) it is likely that this disciple immediately noticed something particular about John's disheveled appearance and felt the need to correct it.  Perhaps it was that little piece of locust wing lodged in the honey stuck to the very bottom right corner of John's chin that needed to be wiped off.  Having a bit of a reformers streak and a picture of how the world "should" be, this disciple went out hoping that John was the one who would set what was wrong with the world right.  Unconscious of the prim and proper disposition of their body this disciple would not have realized they were communicating an inability to accept the fact that John was perfectly imperfect as are we all.  They would have been irritated and missed the fact that imperfection IS capable of pointing to the One who IS perfect. The Divine works in, through and in spite of us all.

THE HEAD / MIND TRIAD – Ironically these disciples have difficulty seeing what is happening within their own mind.

Discipleship Stance FIVE - Seeking Knowledge & Information: This disciple had likely studied John extensively yet was plagued by obsessive thoughts that he did not know enough about him or his teachings.  It is likely he went out to gain more information and he probably found a safe place to stand or something to place between he and either the crowd and / or John's energy and forcefulness.  This would have allowed him to observe, to take in energy without having to expend it.  John's energy would either have been admired as something the disciple had within himself but was out of touch with (Enneagram teacher Tom Condon, calls this a "light shadow") or criticized as something draining to the disciple.  The criticism is ironic in light of the fact that others can find their energy drained by this disciple's style.  A person who receives information from or about others but shares in such a limited way can be a draining presence for other to be around.  Again, the disciple is out of touch with this so Condon calls this a "dark shadow".

Discipleship Stance SIX - Seeking Security: This disciple, by nature impelled by or impeded by fear, likely went out a bit skeptical about who John was and what John had to offer.  If there was any fear in John as he confronted the Pharisees and Sadducees with their lack of sincerity this disciple would have understood why it didn't show.  He would have understood that John's attitude towards them was John running into his fear rather than away from it. With a mind constantly scanning for danger this disciple would have been so focused on what could go wrong that he likely missed what was going or could go right.  He would have been focused on the danger John was putting himself in by speaking truth to power and might have even gone out to apply for a position on John's security detail.   It is likely he was scanning intently for a response to John from these "experts" (Pharisees & Sadducees) or others.

Discipleship Stance SEVEN - Seeking Options & Possibilities: This disciple likely went out seeking a fresh new perspective on life and faith, perhaps an experience with someone who offered other possibilities than the same old same old of the establishment.  Hoping for possibilities that would free rather than limit, this disciple likely dashed headlong into the crowd to splash in the bath of a new possibilities.  Yet, as soon as he heard John speak the following words to the Pharisees and Sadducees, "Bear fruit worthy of repentance," he would have moved on.  Even if the words were meant to free, the possibility that there was some sort of "worthiness" scale or requirement would have had this disciple's mind either developing an exit strategy or redefining the way in which worthiness was measured.  This is referred to as reframing and this disciple's mind is unaware that it does this a lot.

THE HEART / SPIRIT TRIAD – Ironically these disciples have difficulty seeing what is happening within their own heart.

Discipleship Stance TWO - Seeking To Connect: This disciple likely went out seeking a connection with John or those in those in the crowd.  The desire of his heart would have been to find love for who he was rather than what he could do for others.  Yet, ironically we'd find this disciple putting others before self as a way of getting his own needs met.  He'd probably be helping people into and out of the water but all the while hoping someone would help him into the water.  Ironically if that help came this disciple would likely refuse.  Connections are built on what this disciple is able to give not receive.  Receiving is hard.  To get love this disciple feels he must give love.  He likely offered to take over the baptisms for John so as to give him a break and walked away sad when John refused.  Concerned with the emotions of others, this disciple is out of touch with their own.   The heart beats for the needs of the external world such that it loses touch with its own.

Discipleship Stance THREE - Seeking Success & Efficiency: This disciple likely went out seeking someone who had a more efficient way of doing baptisms or was making a name for himself.  He would have seen a diet of locusts and wild honey as the most efficient way to eat.  Less time eating means more time for work.  And if the locusts were a certain breed, the kind stylish well accomplished people ate even better.  This disciple would have been looking for something he could model, something he could market, something that he could do that would gain the attention and admiration of others.  John's words (You brood of vipers!) cut to the heart of the inauthenticity of the Pharisees and Sadducees.  It was not that they were all show and no go.  It was that they were all show IN their go.  This disciple would have had difficulty seeing where the same could have been said of him.  Hiding behind his accomplishments, achievements, who he knew, what he had done or was going to do this disciple would have hoped John had a name or reputation he could identify with or model.  Again, enneagram teacher Tom Condo says about heart types that, "in order to be loved for who they are in some way they have to pretend to be who they're not."  This disciple often gets so overly identified with having to do something (their role, status or achievements) that they cannot simply be. They cannot be a person who is simply loved for doing nothing, so they find other "masks" to wear so as to pretend they are not that person.   They cannot rest in the God who knew and loved them fully even before they were known by others.

Discipleship Stance FOUR - Seeking To Be Understood: This disciple likely went out seeking someone who was in touch with the world's pain and suffering.  Prophets comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable and this disciple would have resonated with the full emotional range of what that means.  Appreciating the finer things in life it might have disappointed this disciple that John was not found in a "soft robe and a royal place".  At the same time John was not your average Joe (or John in this case).  He was unique.  He stood out. He did not fit the status quo. These are things this disciple would have appreciated about John.  This disciple would have likely gone out to see John because she was plagued by a sense that something was missing.  She had a deep yearning for someone who could understand, appreciate and be present to the pain painted on the canvas of her life.  Would it be, could it be John?  She would have appreciated John's passion and hoped for an encounter that would have involved a time of sharing in which she felt understood on a deep level.  It is likely that she left still feeling something was missing in the encounter. This disciple would not have seen herself as just an "average" person in the crowd.  She would not have been wearing what others were wearing.  Something about her appearance would have been unique, something to show she was not "ordinary".  And it would have been a way she unconsciously pretended that she was not held in the heart of the divine like everyone else is held….loved just for being ordinary…an ordinary child of God…loved unconditionally. 

When I have facilitated leadership or council retreats I have often noted that many of the communication issues stem from an imbalance of one triad or another and / or a lack of representation / awareness of the other discipleship stances found within the congregation.  If you would like help speaking to the way other disciples listen or listening to the way they speak contact me.  Or to learn more simply visit my website at

Wednesday, December 7, 2016



"In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness
of Judea, proclaiming, 2"Repent, for the kingdom of heaven
has come near." 3This is the one of whom the prophet
Isaiah spoke when he said,
 "The voice of one crying out in the wilderness:
 'Prepare the way of the Lord,
  make his paths straight.' " Matthew 3:1-3

Many books have been written on discipleship. This is not
surprising given Jesus' instructions for his followers
to," Go therefore and make disciples of all nations..."
(Matthew 28:19a). Yet after 20 years of ordained
ministry, I have come to believe the voice crying out in
the wilderness of all the books is the voice of Jesus
himself reminding us that the words were not, "Go
therefore and make followers…," or even "Go therefore and
make members..." I will even be as bold as to suggest
that that voice would point out that the words were not,
"Go therefore and make Christians…" Yet often, this has
been the approach.

It is an approach though that has totally missed something
crucial about Jesus' voice / Jesus' word, that being that
everything Jesus says is so that a person's joy may be
made complete. His exact words were, "As the Father has
loved me, so I have loved you; abide in my love. If you
keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I
have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love.
I have said these things to you so that my joy may be in
you, and that your joy may be complete." – John 15:9-11

So, you see discipleship is something entirely different
than making members, followers or even Christians. It is
about abiding in, being present to something that is
already abiding deep within each of us. The words of
Howard Thurman illustrate the point: "Don't ask what the
world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it.
Because what the world needs is people who have come

To do this we need a shift in the patterns of our
thoughts, feelings and behaviors. But "the shift" is not
something we do. It is something God does. Discipleship
involves God in Christ bring us to life, reminding us that
His word of love so abides with each of us that we already
have that which we seek.

Yet within each of us (and within the organizations to
which we belong) there is a restlessness that gets played
out in one of nine particular ways of seeking security and
stability. We take a stance. We develop a way of
standing, often with arms crossed and a certitude of mind
and heart which says, "My way of looking at something is
the only way or best way of looking at something. My
approach is the best approach."

But there is a different way of standing, that being in
the grip of God's grace. Standing in the grip of God's
grace we begin to examine the patterns of mind and heart
which we often get stuck within. We move in a different
direction. No matter which of the nine discipleship
stances a person finds themselves stuck within, as Jesus'
joy comes to them, what they begin realize is that they
are both "saint" and "sinner" at the very same time.

Within each discipleship stance the Holy Spirit reveals
that repentance is simply God helping a person catch
themselves in patterns of thought, feeling or behavior
that simply do not bring them to life. They begin to see
the concrete specific ways that they have "missed the
mark" and a more excellent way is revealed.

The spiritual journey after all is GOD waking us up to the
concrete specific ways that we have "missed the mark" so
that in becoming aware of them we might make the journey
back to who we've always been in God's eyes.

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see
face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know
fully, even as I have been fully known. 13 And now faith,
hope, and love abide, these three; and the greatest of
these is love." – 1 Corinthians 13:12-13

Here is a brief outline of what this looks like within
each of the nine discipleship stances.

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE ONE: Restlessness involves a mind that
so constantly scans for error (correct / incorrect) that
the heart is filled with irritation. God is doing a
shoddy job within the world and it's up to them to make
things as they should be. Coming to life the disciple
finds herself standing in the grip of God's grace as she
embraces the serenity prayer "God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to
change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the
difference. Amen." With relaxed focus they can point to
what is right as much as what is wrong. There is balance.
Good is good enough. God works in through and in spite
of the imperfection in all of us.

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE TWO: Restlessness involves a mind that
so constantly scans for what others need that the disciple
suppresses his own needs and finds his heart filling with
resentment and longing. God is doing a shoddy job of
meeting the needs of the people around them and it's up to
them to help make up for God's deficiencies. As the
disciple find himself standing in the grip of God's grace
he finds that like a stopped clock when it comes to
knowing what people need he can be right twice a day. In
humility, he falls into the arms of Christ whose embrace
reminds him that not only does he have needs but that God
IS meeting them. Coming to life he realizes that it is
more blessed to give AND receive. God can get along just
fine without his giving.

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE THREE: Restlessness involves a mind
that so constantly scans for how they can have value in
the eyes of others that it over identifies with an image
or a role. Their heart then loses touch with their own
feelings and agendas and they show others what they
believe others want to see. God is doing such a shoddy
job that if they stop doing what they are doing the
universe (whatever that "universe" is for them) will come
off if it's fly wheel. Coming to life the disciple finds
himself standing in the grip of God's grace as he hears
Christ's voice come through the wisdom of Shakespeare "To
thine own self be true." (Act-I, Scene-III, lines 78-82 of
his play, Hamlet). And standing in the grip of God's grace
he falls into the arms of Christ whose embrace reminds him
that the universe is naturally efficient. God gets along
just fine without their efforts. His Savior speaks, "You
are loved for yourself not for what you can do."

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE FOUR: Restlessness involves a mind
that so constantly scans for what is lacking, deficient,
flawed or missing that it under identifies with what is
not. There is a yearning to be understood and in the
heart a feeling that they never will be, even by God. God
is doing such a shoddy job of showing up in fact that this
disciple lives as if it is up to them to help others see
and understand what they would not otherwise. Yet, when
this disciple lives in the grip of God's grace God we see
inner balance and outer harmony. Their Savior speaks to
their heart and mind saying, "Right now you have
everything you need to be perfectly happy as does everyone
else. Because I am nothing is missing." This brings the
wisdom of Psalm 138 where the Psalmist writes, "13For it
was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together
in my mother's womb. 14I praise you, for I am fearfully
and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; that I
know very well."

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE FIVE: Restlessness involves a mind
that constantly scans for intrusion. Holding and
withholding information holds people off. After all God
does such a shoddy job imparting enduring wisdom upon a
thirsty world that were it not for this disciple finding
her own way to the well of wisdom and helping others to do
the same, people would die of thirst. As God brings them
to life they stand in the grip of God's grace realizing
that the "Water of Life" (divine presence) flows freely
and comes to all. They have all that they need, can share
freely and develop an appreciation of the fact that the
heart of God (just as the human heart) has reasons the
mind knows not of.

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE SIX: Restlessness involves a mind
constantly scanning for danger and arguing from a position
of possibility rather than actuality. The heart finds
itself either inhibited or impelled by its fears.
Increased self-doubt and suspicion of others is lived out
by being overly prudent, cautious and deferential one
minute and impulsive, reckless and challenging and the
next. God does such a shoddy job protecting humanity that
he even sends his only son to die. So it is up to this
disciple to make sure the rest of us don't. Coming to
life and standing in the grip of God's grace for this
disciple entails the Holy Spirit quieting the mind enough
for the disciple to understand that it is their mistrust
of self and others that actually threatens their security.
Led by an inner compass rather than outer realities they
can then go in a different direction. God gives them a
courage which is not fight or flight. It just is.

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE SEVEN: Restlessness involves a mind
that so constantly scans for pleasant options that it has
extreme difficulty settling on just one. The heart finds
itself with a yearning for more and more and more and more
(did I say more?) of whatever will bring the satisfaction
the disciple believes will fill the void. God is doing
such a shoddy job of filling that void in fact that they
become deaf to the words "I am the bread of life" when
there are so many varieties of bread to choose from. Yet
as God brings them to life and they stand in the grip of
God's grace they discover there is joy in staying focused
vs. being distracted and pulled in numerous directions.
They wisely do the right thing vs. what feels good.

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE EIGHT Restlessness involves a mind
that constantly scans for the stewardship of power,
control and justice. The heart feels the need to do
everything intensely and excessively. It holds a jaded
expectation of trouble and insult. It wells up with
energy & aggression to get what the disciple wants, defend
what he or she has and help those in weaker positions do
the same. Scripture say, "He has told you, O mortal, what
is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do
justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with
your God?" (Micah 6:8). But God is doing such a shoddy
job of the whole justice thing that it's up to this
disciple to get out ahead of God and do it for him. As
the power of the Holy Spirit over takes this stance, the
grip of grace tightens around this disciple so that they
can look back toward the God they love and realized they
are too far ahead. Realizing they missed the word, "with"
("…walk humbly WITH your God"), they return to innocence,
a dependency on God and respond to each moment without
judgment or expectation. From this position, the heart
repairs what the gut has neglected or destroyed –
relationships. And, feeling satisfied and fulfilled in
the present they see interdependence as a strength rather
than weakness.

DISCIPLESHIP STANCE NINE Restlessness involves a mind that
constantly scans for other people's agendas and evades
their own. The heart is inattentive to itself which leads
this disciple to not know what she needs or wants.
Purpose, meaning and direction is tied to the environment,
a relationship or a group and must be in line with or not
upset same. After all, God is doing such a shoddy job of
keeping the peace and bringing people together, that it is
up to this peace maker to hold things together by making
sure they cannot be blamed for tearing them apart. As
this disciple find herself standing in the grip of God's
grace their actions flow from a genuine engagement with
others and the world. Standing in grace, heart and mind
are in sync as they see, say and do the right thing for
the right reasons knowing that it will likely upset
someone's status quo and that's not a bad thing.
Relationship, system and group development, much like
muscle development often needs resistance to grow

For an example presentation on the nine discipleship
stances go to
If you would like to explore how your discipleship stance
and the stance of those around you might impact group
dynamics and the achievement of your mission objectives or
simply to learn more contact me through my website at

Thursday, November 24, 2016


"Keep awake therefore, for you do not know on what day
your Lord is coming. 43But understand this: if the owner
of the house had known in what part of the night the thief
was coming, he would have stayed awake and would not have
let his house be broken into. 44Therefore you also must be
ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an unexpected
hour." – Matthew 24:42-44

First, what thief is going to announce when they are going
to break into your home? They are not! Second, what sense
does it make to prepare for a break in by staying awake
all night? None! You need locks and alarms because you
need your sleep. The point is that readiness for the Son
of Man (i.e. divine presence) is not so much about staying
awake as it is about being present. You can be awake and
not be present to your guests. A Christocentric view of
the enneagram shows that there are nine stances disciples
of Christ can take to stay awake which actually lead to
sleep (i.e. not being present).

Discipleship stance ONE stays awake to improvement
opportunities. They can find themselves so focused making
sure everything is right, as it should be and as they
envision it for their guest that they can fall asleep to
the importance of relaxing enough to simply "be" with
their guest.

"But the Lord answered her, "Martha, Martha, you are
worried and distracted by many things…" – Luke 10:41

Discipleship stance TWO stays awake to the needs of others
and asleep to their own. They can find themselves so
focused on providing for the needs of their guests that
they fall asleep to the presence of the One who provides
for their needs. This Thanksgiving they fell asleep to the
fact that by doing it all by themselves they denied others
the joy of helping them with the dishes, etc.

Discipleship stance THREE stays awake to achievement
opportunities. They can find themselves so focused on
trying to accomplish things that they fall asleep to what
can be accomplished (particularly in their relationships
with others) when they stop.

"But he answered his father, 'Listen! For all these years
I have been working like a slave for you…" – Luke 15

"For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this
is not your own doing; it is the gift of God— 9not the
result of works, so that no one may boast." – Ephesians

Discipleship stance FOUR stays awake to enhancement
opportunities. They can find themselves so focused on
what's missing that they fall asleep to what's there.

I am now rejoicing in my sufferings for your sake, and in
my flesh I am completing what is lacking in Christ's
afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.
– Colossians 1:24

Discipleship stance FIVE stays awake to holding and
hording opportunities. They can find themselves so focused
on acquiring & accumulating that they fall asleep to how
much can be held by letting go.

"16Then he told them a parable: "The land of a rich man
produced abundantly. 17And he thought to himself, 'What
should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?'
18Then he said, 'I will do this: I will pull down my barns
and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain
and my goods." – Luke 12:16-17

Discipleship stance SIX stays awake to protection and
provision opportunities. They can find themselves so
focused on what could happen or might happen that they
fall asleep to what is happening.

22He said to his disciples, "Therefore I tell you, do not
worry about your life, what you will eat, or about your
body, what you will wear…Consider the ravens: they neither
sow nor reap, they have neither storehouse nor barn, and
yet God feeds them." – Luke 12:22 & 24

Discipleship stance SEVEN stays awake to options and
opportunities. They can find themselves so focused on
exploring positive possibilities and experiences with
their guests that they fall asleep by living outside of
the moment rather than in it.

"Now Peter and his companions were weighed down with
sleep; but since they had stayed awake, they saw his glory
and the two men who stood with him. 33Just as they were
leaving him, Peter said to Jesus, "Master, it is good for
us to be here; let us make three dwellings, one for you,
one for Moses, and one for Elijah" —not knowing what he
said." – Luke 9:32-33

Discipleship stance EIGHT stays awake to muscle flexing
opportunities. They can find themselves so focused on
being strong for those they perceive to be vulnerable that
they fall asleep to the fact that there is nothing
stronger than true gentleness and nothing gentler than
true strength.

"Three times I appealed to the Lord about this, that it
would leave me, 9but he said to me, "My grace is
sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in
weakness." So, I will boast all the more gladly of my
weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
10Therefore I am content with weaknesses, insults,
hardships, persecutions, and calamities for the sake of
Christ; for whenever I am weak, then I am strong." – 2
Corinthians 12:8-10

Discipleship stance NINE stays awake to accommodation
opportunities. They can find themselves so focused on
going along to get along with others that they fall asleep
to the fact that there is something holy about stepping
out to stand out.

"Then one of them, when he saw that he was healed, turned
back, praising God with a loud voice. 16He prostrated
himself at Jesus' feet and thanked him. And he was a
Samaritan. 17Then Jesus asked, "Were not ten made clean?
But the other nine, where are they? 18Was none of them
found to return and give praise to God except this
foreigner?" 19Then he said to him, "Get up and go on your
way; your faith has made you well." – Luke 17:15-19

For more on the enneagram check out particularly the Spiritual
But Not Religious Tab

A Christocentric View of The Enneagram that Stands In the Grip Of God's Grace

Tom Condon, one of my enneagram teachers, in a recent post
alluded to the proverbial devil we all have on one
shoulder and angel on the other. He goes on to say that
"In many ways the Enneagram challenges us to educate our
"little storytellers." It asks the question, "How do we
update our version of the world and begin to live a new

As I read his post I thought of the struggle of the human
condition to which St. Paul alludes in Romans 7 where
beginning at verse 15 he says, " I do not understand my
own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the
very thing I hate." Paul goes on to say that he can will
what is right, but cannot do it. He says in fact, "For I
do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is
what I do. 20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no
longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 21So I
find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good,
evil lies close at hand. 22For I delight in the law of God
in my inmost self, 23but I see in my members another law
at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the
law of sin that dwells in my members."

As folks get to know the enneagram they see this reflected
in the system. In fact in the same post Tom Condon goes on
to say, "People new to the Enneagram often wonder if it's
possible to completely change from one Enneagram style to
another. They'll ask, "I know I'm a Seven but can I
someday change into a Two?" Just as you can't change your
true nationality, your core Enneagram style stays the
same. You don't stop perceiving the world through the same
basic filter; your physiology and body chemistry will
express one Enneagram style over the others. Your thoughts
will incline in a specific direction and your strengths
and talents will arise from that fact. When the poet
Robert Frost was asked why he still rhymed his poetry when
rhyming had gone out of fashion, he replied that writing
unstructured poetry felt "like playing tennis without a
net." Frost added that "freedom means being easy in your
harness." When he embraced the constraint of rhyming,
Frost found great freedom. Even as you successfully work
on the excesses of your Enneagram style, there's no
escaping your personality entirely. There is little point
in my trying to get over being an American or "curing" my
Swiss friend Werner of being Swiss, but we both can become
much more than our nationalities. If you work at it, you
can transform (I would say that as God in Christ works on
you GOD WILL & GOD DOES transform) your Enneagram style
from a restrictive cage into a flexible harness. The gifts
and resources locked inside your most dysfunctional
behavior can be freed and used to improve life today. As
you loosen your personality defenses, you will develop a
wider range of behavior and become less compulsive,
defensive and "nationalistic" in your responses. As you
waken from the bad – or even good – dream of being only
your self-image, you can shed old roles and identities
that have little to do with who you are now. As you grow
easy in your personality harness, the essential "you" will
have more room to express itself. Your true individuality
and a sense of your own soulfulness will emerge and
thrive." - Tom Condon

I do not disagree and I do echo St. Paul who as he
continues to wrestle with these issues asks, "Who will
rescue me from this body of death?" and then answers his
own question by proclaiming, "Thanks be to God through
Jesus Christ our Lord!" And thank you Jesus for leading me
to and working on me through my work with my enneagram
style. Looking for a Christocentric View of the Enneagram
focused on discipleship development? I'd love to present
for you. Contact me at