An Overlooked People Group

About 20-30 years ago, missiologists reframed our efforts at reaching the world with the life-transforming message of Jesus by pointing us towards people groups. The efforts of Wycliffe, Pioneers, Frontiers, the International Mission Board, and the U.S. Center for World Mission among others called the Church to focus our efforts and resources on the people groups which had yet to hear the Gospel. These people groups were connected by language and cultural affinity. As a result of their efforts, missionaries began to think in terms of reaching Kurds, Shiites, and Sunnis rather than assuming all Iraqis were the same (for example).

Another people group has gone overlooked. There are many in this people group living right here among us in the United States. We need churches which will focus on reaching the intuitives.

Approximately 75% of all people in the U.S. who have taken the Myers Briggs Temperament Indicator were considered Sensing. These men and women gather information based on their senses – what they see, hear, taste, touch, and smell. They see facts and details. We need sensing people to fly our planes and teach our classes and do our taxes, among many other things. In fact, growing up we are graded in our schools by how well we can adjust to a predominantly Sensing society.

Only 25% are considered Intuitive. Intuitive people gather information based on the implications, the possibilities, the connections. In other words, if I were to hold a rose in the air in front of a crowd and asked a Sensing person to describe what they see, they would answer “red petals,” “green stem,” “thorns,” etc.. An Intuitive person would respond with answers such as “The Bachelor,” “my prom date,” “love,” and so on. They genuinely see the rose, and then their mind reminds them of a person, an experience, a story, an abstract idea, or another object.

You can imagine the conflict we have based on this simple exercise. Sensing people think Intuitive people are lying (or crazy). Intuitive people think Sensing people lack imagination. Neither are correct. We need both Intuitive and Sensing people to make the world go around. (For a movie which deals with this “battle” between Sensing and Intuition go see The Bridge to Teribithia. The main character’s dad is sensing. The girl who lives next door is intuitive).

So often our churches which are led by Sensing leaders reach out in ways that make sense to connect with Sensing people. Intuitive leaders do the same, speaking in ways that make sense to Intuitive people. We need both types of churches happening! If we were to guess, I would imagine 95% of our churches across the U.S. are geared more towards Sensing rather than Intuitive. We need to strategize new ways to communicate the truth of the Gospel in ways all can grasp and live out.

Showing 9 comments
  • Larry

    Now you’re talking, Eric. Put this together and maybe I’ll come back.

  • paul richardson

    Hi Eric, Just a few thoughts to add here on the intuitive/sensing theme.

    I love this quote from Van Gogh. “I think if Father understood my real intentions, I could often be of some use to him, even with his sermons, because I sometimes see a text in quite a different light. But Father thinks my opinion entirely wrong, considers it contraband, and systematically rejects it.”

    I do agree that the intuitives are an unreached people group. The irony is that the Bible is filled with writing designed specifically for them! Apostle John’s writings portray an almost laughable struggle between Jesus communicating with language that demanded right brain intuitive thinking from people who were for the most part listening through only their sensing left brains. Jesus often ignored peoples’ requests for visual proof, and he gave long symbolic dissertations knowing full well that they just weren’t willing to make the courageous leap across the brain into the intuitive dimension. Their frustration with Jesus grew to such an extent that they gathered around him, saying “How long will you hold us in suspense?” This word translated suspense is the word psuche. The soul. These people were literally asking Jesus, How much longer are you going to suspend us in the language of the soul? Please, we beg you to tell us in plain rational language, without any more symbolic pictures, if you are the Messiah!

    The culmination of this intuitive right brain theme in John’s Gospel is unwrapped for us in his final chapter. After his resurrection, Jesus finds his friends Peter, Thomas, James and John fishing early in the morning on the Sea of Galilee. From the shore Jesus calls out to them, “Friends, haven’t you caught any fish?” Here John specifically wants us readers to understand that they did not know that it was Jesus who was speaking to them. Perhaps the early morning fog was blocking their view of him. From the perspective of the men on the boat, the man speaking to them from the shore is a total stranger. In other words, John wants us to understand that what these four men are about to hear this stranger say and their response to this stranger is unrelated to the conscious understanding that this man is Jesus himself. The Voice of the stranger standing on the shore echoes out across the waters with an idea that is strikingly irrational. It is an idea that defies reason. “Throw your net on the right side of the boat and you will find some.”

    If the men in the boat had not been trained by Jesus to think with their intuitive right brains, they might have told the stranger on the shore to go check himself into the mental ward of the Nazareth Hospital. In the left brain dimension, there is absolutely no rational connection between catching fish and whichever side of the boat the nets enter into the water. Fish just don’t care which side of the boat the net has come from. But the four men in the boat (including Thomas) have minds trained by the Master Activator himself. For three years they have been learning how to exercise their right brained muscles and to explore dimensions that sensing-only thinkers rarely have the joy of touching, tasting or seeing. Here in a boat suspended over the early morning waters they are presented with an idea that for most of us is shameless idiocy. It is a rebellious idea that shouts defiance at the very legacy of Socrates.

    Shockingly, without even blinking the followers of Jesus give this irrational idea a chance to prove itself. With a little bit of poetic license, we might even say that they activated the right side of their brains in order to lift up their nets out of the left side of the water and then plunge their nets into the right side of their brains. Then it was after they experienced a miracle, an explosion of what we in the modern era might call “supernatural productivity” that they realized that this wild idea originated from the VOICE of the Master Artist himself.

    Jesus came to establish his Kingdom and to advance that same Kingdom to the ends of the earth. But as the ultimate visionary leader, he looked ahead into the future. He understood that this magnificent Kingdom of his would need to be spread out like a net. Advanced. Unleashed. Generated. Launched. Carried into diverse and varied environments with radically different cultures. Jesus understood that his Kingdom would take on different shapes and colors depending on what villages and continents it flowed into. For this to happen, Jesus needed to teach his students to innovate, to be able to adapt their expressions of his Spirit in diverse environments and radically different times, to different generations, to the rich and to the poor, to fishing communities and to desert nomads. In other words, his Kingdom would need to be created by really creative people. Jesus understood that in order for all this to happen, he would need to call forth the right brains of the men and women he would call to advance his Kingdom.

    As we advance into movement, we encounter dimensions of reality that can only be understood through the language of the soul. Stretching our minds in the gap between concrete and abstract or symbolic language is healthy for our brains, just as stretching before you play basketball is healthy for your body. And in the stretching of our minds beyond the world of the five senses we are given the opportunity to strengthen our faith muscles as well as propel ourselves up and forward into the power of prayer.

    God bless you brother!

  • John Williford

    That makes sense that 75% of Americans rely on their senses to determine their reality- we often focus on the “here and now” and take only what we need from the situations we’re presented with. I was reminded of Mosaic, and Irwin’s approach to ministry. I’ve certainly never been to Mosaic, L.A., or even California, but I have a general feel for what the culture entails. I assume that there is a larger focus on the arts and that music, dance, and film all captivate the hearts of the people in that particular city. So Mosaic, in one of its innovative moves, decided to do worship a little differently than normal and allowed its members to dance instead of worship typically.

    In many churches, this would be unacceptable and outright debaucherous. Dancing in the church? Sinful! Many would take this approach as we’ve been raised to believe that Church is the place you come to reflect upon God quietly, while at the same to keeping your own struggles and your relationship with others at surface level. This is fine, but it’s not really what Christ has in mind. Many Churches have simply chosen a time period in history and have adopted the culture of that period (the Amish are an example). Instead, we need to listen to the Intuitive when they try to bring the ideas that they can so easily identify to the forefront. Then, we can look at music, dance, and worship as a whole for what it represents: worship. It’s not simply “A+B=C”, but rather “Get to C. You’re going to have to use A and B to get there, and the rest is up to you!” We need the Intuitive to help translate this dilemma.

  • Naomi Grether

    what I think most about the article is that I am intuitive. I am one of those people who sensing people looked down on at church, including the Christians in my family. Alot of relational conflict stems from love language and personality differences that are never discussed. I remember moments in college of feeling like I belonged some in a group of Christians and the more usual feeling of being the odd duck around people fine with the words odd duck or other put downs as long as it was not a cuss word. I was the one in photos with the long tree hugger hair and hippie skirts, so therefore I was the rebel because of my personality. Too often the church judges personality instead of sin. It has taken alot of one step up, two steps back then trying to get my footing to get to get up again moments to

  • Matt

    Great points Eric, thanks for sharing this information. Simply knowing about and being conscious of the difference in how people receive and interpret information is key to maximize the chance that the message will be truly heard. When preparing a message, either written or spoken, it would only take a few adjustments to incorporate methods that would speak, no pun intended, to both sensing and intuitive types.

  • Chrissy

    I never thought of this perspective before. Being a sensor myself, I’m curious how you incorporate both sensing & intuitive into one message. Also, it brings up the question of do you need to be aware of what message you are trying to relay and make sure both sensing & intuitive would eventually end up in the same place to get the point you are wanting to relay? Is the Bible Project videos an example of intuitive?

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