Author AJ Sherrill still remembers the moment when his life was forever changed by a word he didn't even understand at the time: Enneagram. A personality theory that includes nine different "types," the Enneagram has become a popular tool for self-awareness and improvement.
But in this book, Sherrill goes deeper, exploring with Christians how the Enneagram can be a pathway to profound spiritual transformation. Sherrill reveals the Enneagram as a tool to unlock new ways of viewing identity, personality, discipleship, spiritual practices, evangelism, and the Bible.
Using this fresh approach, Sherrill shows how our true identity is that of a beloved child of God. Recognizing that, we can move confidently into the world expressing this identity through our unique personality.
Through Sherrill's detailed spiritual exploration of each type, readers will emerge viewing the Enneagram as a precious gift to following Jesus more closely. Foreword by Chuck DeGroat.
Summary: Explores how the Enneagram may be used as a tool for self-understanding that may serve as a guide on one’s discipleship pathway.
There is a spate of books on the Enneagram, which seems to be one of the latest “hot” things. Equally, there is a good deal of pushback around the use of the Enneagram, considering it more of a “New Age” or pagan approach that may lead Christians astray. One thing I appreciated about this book from the get-go is that A.J. Sherrill is cautious about both of these extremes. He writes:
People often ask me how I defend the Enneagram against such accusations. I tell them not to get sucked into defending it. One either finds it helpful or doesn’t. It is neither salvific nor soul-destroying. It’s simply a tool. From that standpoint it can be leveraged just as Paul leveraged “an unknown god” in Acts 17 to spur his listeners on to accept the claims of the gospel. God uses every square inch. If God can use an unknown god to amplify the name of Jesus, God can use the Enneagram. SHERRILL, PP. 13-14.
He goes on to mention four agreements he asks workshop participants to make:
1. Remember you are not a number. 2. Refuse to become branded as the Enneagram person, church, or organization. 3. Resist the urge to type another person. 4. Reclaim the Enneagram as a means and not an end.
Sherrill believes that the Enneagram is a tool to help offer self understanding that allows for the formation of our personality growing out of rooting our identity in Christ. He goes into each of the types of the Enneagram, the characteristic fault or sin of each, the lies we believe, and the truth we need for our personalities to be shaped by that identity in Christ. Sherrill argues that self-understanding rooted in Christ must lead to discipleship, which is the distinctive message of this book.
Sherrill believes that the self-understanding that comes from learning about one’s type enables us to move beyond a cookie-cutter discipleship to something that reflects both the flat sides and redeemed strengths of each type. He offers “downstream” and “upstream” spiritual practices that reflect each type. For example, for Fives (my type) he suggests downstream practices that go with the flow of the type of inductive Bible study and reading (both things I in fact love doing). The upstream practice for Fives is service projects on a regular basis to get out of our heads and use our hands. It’s probably why working in a garden, pulling weeds, or even digging post holes can be quite satisfying. For each type, Sherrill also includes a day or season of the church year that fits the type.
Sherrill proposes that while we cannot “type” biblical characters, we may find aspects of our types in them and so better understand how people like us encounter God. For example, he points to Nicodemus as an Investigator, like those of us who identify as Fives. We walk with him as he visits Jesus at night to investigate his teaching in John 3. In John 7:51, he vocalizes his thoughts with the chief priests and Pharisees, taking a risk. By John 19, he helps prepare the body of Jesus for burial, the act of a close follower, identifying himself closely with Jesus. Nicodemus needs time to process what he has heard, and then act, first vocally and then bodily.
One of the most interesting proposals in this book is that the Enneagram also may serve as a tool in evangelism, given the interest in the Enneagram in wider cultural circles including the corporate setting, in work teams for example. The Enneagram builds on the biblical insight of a world both beautiful and broken, exposing our need for redemption and transformation. We all have “holdings,” ways we try to stabilize reality so that we can cope with it, ways that reflect our brokenness. The Enneagram creates bridges for exploration with people turned off by or inured to churchy language but who are coming to realize that in some way, they are part of what is not right in the world.
The book concludes with a chapter on developing a rule of life based on character aspirations and practices that fit one’s type. Then the conclusion reiterates Sherrill’s approach of neither rejecting or making the Enneagram all encompassing. It isn’t Jesus, it won’t save our marriages, serve as a parenting guide, increase our profits, or save us. It can help us become Christ-like, give us insights into our relational dynamics, help us understand the uniqueness of our children, help us lead more effectively, and open conversations with those who do not yet know Christ.
This isn’t the best book to introduce one to the Enneagram or help one discover one’s own type. Sherrill offers an overview of the types and an appendix with some helpful background. He mentions other helpful works along the way, including Suzanne Stabile and Ian Cron’s The Road Back to You, which I would commend as the best place to begin if you want to understand the Enneagram. The gap this book fills is addressing how the Enneagram may be used in Christian discipleship, how it helps us not only understand ourselves but also how we may, as unique people follow Jesus as we seek the glory of God and the good of the world.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received a complimentary review copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
This is a great book for anyone who is looking to integrate spiritual practices into their daily life (Rule of Life) and is also a fan of the enneagram. I think it can be helpful for those who identify with the enneagram in deciding which habits and practices might be most helpful to implement. The down-stream and up-stream practices for each type are awesome! And I personally greatly appreciated the introduction chapter on identity as being God’s beloved. That’s a great place to start the conversation.
The last few chapters however, let me down a bit. The chapter on characters from scripture was essentially just quoting another book on the subject.
AJ Sherrill writes with a realistic view of the Enneagram, supporting it as a tool for self-knowledge without idolizing it. He pushes back against the idea that the Enneagram is necessary for life and human flourishing, and even though he makes a strong case for how helpful it can be, he encourages Christians to avoid reducing themselves to their type number, projecting types onto others, or using this personality system as a secret inner language that creates insiders and outsiders. I appreciate his honest assessment and heartfelt warnings, and because he sets guardrails around the topic, he is able to make a convincing case for how the Enneagram can support Christian discipleship without being an end unto itself.
Identity and Discipleship
At the beginning of the book, Sherrill writes about the mystery of personality and identity, emphasizing that we are all made in the image of God and beloved by Him. Our Enneagram types reflect the adaptive strategies that we have adopted to live in a broken world, but regardless of nature or nurture, our fundamental identity lies in how God sees us, not in our life experiences or how we type ourselves. Then, after Sherrill lays this foundation, he further describes the Enneagram system and explores the nine types. He keeps this fairly simple, and relegates more complex information to an appendix in the back. The appendix also provides more information about the disputed origins of the Enneagram. Throughout the book, he explains that most Christian objections to the Enneagram are based in unfounded suspicion and misunderstanding, and the appendix addresses this in greater detail.
Throughout the rest of the book, he focuses on how Christians can deepen their discipleship experiences through an understanding of their Enneagram type. This could raise a red flag for some readers, since discipleship should not happen in isolation, but Sherrill avoids this trap. He encourages people to adopt spiritual practices that challenge them, along with those that come naturally, and emphasizes the importance of walking this out in community. He argues that because each type reflects a different aspect of God's divine nature, if we do not engage with other believers in the life of the church, we will miss out on the full, embodied display of God's character.
Other Spiritual Connections
A later chapter addresses how we can identify aspects of our types in biblical characters and narratives, but Sherrill writes about this with the expectation that we will engage with Scripture as a whole, rather than just emphasizing the parts that we relate to. I found this section enlightening, and can see how my Enneagram One tendencies are part of why I have always deeply connected with Paul's testimony and letters. This section of the book encourages deeper thinking, and even though someone could take it too far, I found it helpful.
Sherrill also encourages Christians to consider the value of the Enneagram in their evangelistic efforts. Even though the Enneagram cannot and will not save anyone, it has become an increasingly widespread conversation topic and area of interest, providing an opportunity for Christians to talk with others about the brokenness that we see in ourselves and in the world. The Enneagram provides a common vocabulary for people from different belief backgrounds, and Sherrill writes from personal experience about how it can open the door to deep spiritual conversations.
This is an effective introduction to the Enneagram for some, and can help others see beyond their already identified number to consider ways that they can grow and leverage their self-knowledge towards the ongoing process of Christian discipleship. This book can also help Enneagram skeptics understand this current trend and see how it connects to Christianity. As Sherrill explains, the Enneagram is not a religious construct, but is a human tool that can help us see ourselves in all our beauty and brokenness. This clear, well-written book illustrates its transformative potential.
I received a free copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation is an insightful read for those who want to use the Enneagram as a tool for spiritual growth. A.J. Sherrill spends the first couple of chapters explaining the Enneagram for those who are unfamiliar with the concept. He also goes to some lengths to explain that the Enneagram is merely a tool which is helpful but not salvific. He addresses the concerns of Christians who believe the Enneagram is based on New Age thinking. He does repeat this a couple of times throughout the book.
The chapters I found most helpful were those about choosing spiritual disciplines which will help us grow in the virtues connected with our Enneagram number. When I first read about the Enneagram thirty years ago, this was the area I was most interested in. However, many Enneagram books I’ve read in recent times tend to focus on the Enneagram as a way of becoming more self-aware or as a tool for getting along with others. It was refreshing to read about using the Enneagram as a means to becoming more Christ-like.
I also enjoyed the chapter on evangelism and found it thought-provoking but with less application in Australia as the Enneagram isn’t widely known here.
Overall a beneficial read.
Thanks to Baker Publishing and NetGalley for providing a free ebook for review.
As a six, I'm skeptical of the Enneagram, but it doesn't help that Sherrill knew that about me when he wrote this book. Sherrill is a pastor who uses the Enneagram as a tool to better understand how to pastor people who are different from him. He uses the Enneagram as a way to type people (which sounds constricting, but doesn't have to be). We have to use some kind of categorizing to work with people and I think Sherrill wisely uses the Enneagram in this book. The things I found most helpful from this book were the encouragements to spiritual disciplines specific to my type. Based on data gained from his study and others, he gave natural and against the grain practices for the spiritual formation of each type. These were very helpful. He also talked about the ways each type will gravitate towards sinfulness and the ways they need to push against their type to develop into the character of Christ. This book is short and easy to read. It's a good resource for anyone who knows their Enneagram type and wants to think through that lens in order to grow in Christ.
This book is a helpful introduction or primer on the enneagram for Christians.
It seems that the author's main purpose is to provide an apologetic for this useful psychological tool. On one hand, he responds to those who oppose the enneagram as a scary new age thing or a passing fad. On the other hand, he responds to those who assign it too much importance, becoming obsessed or elitist with it. In response, he reminds us that the enneagram is not Jesus, nor is it evil. It is simply a human tool for self knowledge that can help people become more informed as they seek spiritual growth.
This point is valid and helpful, but the book certainly falls short of explaining the finer and deeper points of this personality paradigm. While he provides some initial suggestions for spiritual practices for each type, I would recommend going to the authors that he references to find more information - especially Riso & Hudson, and the enneagram institute, which has a user-friendly website and assessment test.
"The Enneagram isn't Jesus, but it can help you learn how to be more like him."
Sherrill brings a unique perspective to this enneagram book by focusing solely on how the enneagram can be a tool for discipleship and growing in Christ-likeness. I enjoyed the chapters tying specific Bible stories and particular spiritual disciplines to each type. If you're an enneagram beginner, then start somewhere else first. If you already know your type and are curious about how to go deeper and apply the enneagram to your spiritual journey, then I think this is a good resource! I do wish this book went a bit deeper and had more content though.
The enneagram book I've been looking for. Contrary to over-emphasizing the enneagram or dismissing it as a horoscope for Christians, this book argues for what it is: a self awareness tool for personal and spiritual development. A really helpful one at that. The chapter on upstream and downstream spiritual practices for each type is pure gold.
The danger of many books about the enneagram is that they overly emphasize our number on some levels, to the exclusion of other factors. The thing I loved about this book is the focus on our identity in Christ before our identity as a number.
I expected the book to launch right into telling me about my specific enneagram type and all the others, but it didn’t. It started talking about overall identity. I was nervous at first. I thought the book was going to tell me that the enneagram was a good tool, but nervous it wouldn’t tell me how to use the tool and that I just wasted my money. Luckily, the opposite happened. Overall, the book was a great message about both the overall usage of the enneagram, but also had a few chapters that lit up specific areas relating to my type that I can use everyday. It was a quick read once I got the time to get into it and I enjoyed it.
Was pleasantly surprised by this. I've still got skeptical hippo eyes on the Enneagram but this had some traction in terms of actually helping people become better based on certain patterns the Enneagram has identified. Not life-changing, but helpful, especially with putting some meat on the concept of "heart motives." Richard Rohr still gives me the willies, but Sherrill seems to be good people.
I am fascinated by the enneagram. It’s been a helpful tool in my journey of growth and health. I’ve read several books on the topic but this was that first that drew parallels to spiritual development from a Christian perspective. I enjoyed this book and found many of the ideas to be fresh and inspiring.
Everyone has a particular image that comes to mind when they envision spiritual formation. What exactly does it look like? And what about evangelism–maybe you picture buttonholing strangers for uncomfortable conversations?
According to A.J. Sherrill, each of us has been hardwired by God to grow into a deeper discipleship in ways that are unique to our personality, and as we come to understand our own brokenness, we are more effective in every single facet of spiritual formation (including soul winning). These gifts come with an understanding of the Enneagram, a tool that promotes self-knowledge and greater understanding of the people in our lives.
In The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation: How Knowing Ourselves Can Make Us More Like Jesus, Sherrill pushes against both ends of the Enneagram opinion spectrum, for it is neither a tool of the devil nor an end in itself. Light on theory and heavy on practical application, he travels through both testaments with numbered sticky notes, lightly attached to biblical figures. I found most helpful his description of each number’s “subconscious strategy employed to fix the world,” (115) and his recommended spiritual practices to promote wholeness in the reader.
I also discovered that while reading and study are my favorite spiritual disciplines, I may need to press harder into practices that don’t feel as natural such as contemplative prayer and solitude. I’m encouraged to develop habits, a rule of life that draws me nearer to Jesus as I am continually transformed through faithful reflection and engagement.
Many thanks to Brazos Press for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.
Of the Enneagram books I've read, this one is probably my favorite. He definitely goes at the enneagram from a distinct discipleship perspective, and I appreciated how he focused on finding our God-given purpose through understanding our core motivations and behaviors. He has some defense of the Enneagram for those who believe it's of the devil or Eastern philosophy, but the majority of his writing is connecting the Biblical principles of identity through the 9 different enneagram personalities. He had a few interesting tidbits that I hadn't read before (for example, the "8" is the most misunderstood of the 9 types!). Like Robert Mulholland's "Invitation to a Journey," AJ Sherrill recommends learning to connect to God through disciplines outside of our natural inclination, and I appreciate the challenge to our preconceptions of the way to relate to God and others. What he calls the "upstream" disciplines are what we would naturally want to avoid or even hide from, but growth comes from pushing through that "front" of our enneagram number and learning to explore what we fear so God can bring growth and healing in those areas.
I also noted a single line about the "wings," in which he noted that other enneagram researchers believe we change wings in the first and second halves of our lives. This felt particularly relevant because I had a discussion with a friend recently about how I thought I'd changed wings but I didn't think that was possible. Now I see I was about due for it, being middle-aged now.
For believers, this is a good book to understand how to apply the enneagram info to our ministry and service to the Lord.
An exploration of the Enneagram and its place in the life of faith.
The author speaks of his own story in terms of coming to understand the Enneagram and supplies many ancedotes about the application thereof in his ministry.
This book is at its best when it speaks about the Enneagram and its application in various aspects of the life in the faith: identity, personality, discipleship, and character. One can tell the author has been compelled to defend the use of the Enneagram and has proven circumspect about what it is and the limitations thereof.
The book gets iffy when it starts playing loose and fast with the Enneagram. One hard rule of the Enneagram is that you ought not try to type anyone else; yet the author would suggest possible types for Biblical characters. The author attempts to "type" churches with the assumption that a given local congregation will often reflect the type of its leadership; wherever that might be accurate is unfortunate, since a local congregation should reflect many aspects of many types as its members contribute and manifest their particular strengths and weaknesses.
The book is at its worst when the author spends a lot of time talking about himself.
There are some interesting ideas and applications here, but this probably shouldn't be your gateway into the Enneagram.
**--galley received as part of early review program
I've been following AJ Sherrill's writings (and speaking) on the Enneagram around the internet ever since I stumbled on his dissertation online. I remember thinking to myself then that this guy should write a book!
I am honored to be able to preview AJ Sherrill's book, The Enneagram for Spiritual Formation.
The Enneagram is a tool and that our identity cannot be distilled down to a number are two very important themes that run throughout the book. One can sense AJ's commitment to our understanding of this in the way that the book always brings the reader back to The Maker and how he busts down the Enneagram myths from the jump. You also won't find the nuances of wings and subtypes to distract you from making the connection between how understanding ourselves as imago Dei helps us understand that our significance is because of whose we are, not who we are. AJ invites us to experience the tool of the Enneagram as aid in getting off the treadmill of competence, comparison and control.. A highly recommended read!
[I received an electronic review copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own.]
3 stars = Good/solid/fine I was hoping for a rich spiritual growth resource, but this didn't deliver like I hoped. There were a couple chapters I enjoyed where the information felt new/different. One chapter was on spiritual practices for each type, one that would be a natural fit and another that was designed to challenge the type in a way that was important for growth. The other chapter I liked was Bible stories and passages that would be good for each type and the reason they were chosen. I could see those chapters being part of a spiritual director or therapist's repertoire for counseling. The rest was fine, but not anything really new that I don't already have in other resources.
For readers looking for spiritual growth recommendations by type, I would go with Spiritual Rhythms for the Enneagram instead.
This Enneagram field guide for Christian spiritual formation is an indispensable tool for disciples of Jesus who wish to utilize the Enneagram's wisdom for their spiritual journey. I’ve read a few books and attended a couple workshops on the Enneagram, and I really liked AJ Sherrill’s writing style and personality that came through in this book; he has a shepherd's heart to help shape the reader into the likeness of Christ. He shed light on some things I hadn’t encountered before, helping me to see with greater clarity the ways that I get tripped up by the pitfalls and motivations of my own personality (which is a strategy we each develop for relating to and coping with a broken world). The Enneagram is not biblical, or Christian, or a silver bullet, but is a worthy dialogue partner for any disciple of Jesus who wants to intentionally pursue transformation in partnership with the grace of God.
This book starts with emphasizing that we are loved full stop. That is a message too many people forget, and important to be reminded of when reading a book that gives you a framework to pin your personality off.
What I liked about this book was that it had practical exercises and advice related to each type. I also liked that everything was underpinned by a Christian framework. No matter which Church you go to, I think you would find something in this book that would help you - it's not geared to a specific denomination.
In full disclosure, I got this book for free. My only part to play is this honest review. Worth a read - I've got multiple highlights in it. I think it would fit well in a Church library.
I mean, Enneagram...what I'd ever heard of it, I wasn't going to pay much attention. But I think what happened the other day is that a different book by this author came across my life? And somehow I ended up looking into this one? I can't remember. Anyway, in the particular context of what he says, I did have some thoughts sparked, of things I sort of had on a mental to-do list recentishly, and I remembered that oh yeah, I really need to get on those...etc. And, his takes on Job and King Solomon were interesting...but I have to say, if you want to peg those men the way he did, I feel like they might make just a bit more sense to me as real people with real ways they tick, than they had kind of seemed to me before. Very interesting.
AJ Sherrill does a great job approaching the Enneagram from a pastoral perspective. He gives thoughtful insight into each Enneagram type from his years of experience and helps the reader to identify with the type most likely to fit. Common strengths and weakness are laid out with care to help readers grow not only as individuals, but also in their relationships to others and God. He provides the commentary you would expect from a spiritual director for each type, giving the reader reason to return again and again to info that’s relevant at different points along the never ending path of spiritual development.
Thanks to NetGalley and Brazos Press for an advanced copy of this book.
A helpful look into identity, personality, discipleship, Scripture, evangelism, and character using the enneagram. One of the most insightful parts for me was a list of spiritual practices in the appendix according to triads:
Head--intellectual (types 8, 9, and 1): liturgy, fixed-hour prayer, bible study, scripture memory, museums, book study, journaling.
This is the best book on the Enneagram’s purpose in both the church and the Christian’s life that I have ever read. Aj starts every chapter with a skeptic’s hesitant question towards the enneagram and proceeds to answer each with Gospel-Truth, Grace, and Wisdom. As a certified Enneagram Coach myself, I will be using examples from Aj’s book in my coaching/presentations; recommend his book to anyone interested in learning more about the Enneagram; and gift it to others. Truly an invaluable resource!!
There wasn't much to take away from this book. The first half focuses on what the Enneagram is and a little bit about who God is. It seems like wasted real estate, since this book is so niche. There were really only three practical application of how to lean into spiritual growth for your enneagram type. I wish this book was more developed.
Thank you to NetGalley and Brazos Press for an advanced copy.
AJ Sherrill does an excellent job of placing the Enneagram in its proper place. It is a human tool that can be used to help us grow in self-awareness for the sake of transformation. We should use it as such.
If you are well read on the Enneagram some of the earlier chapters will feel like review. If you are simply going to use this as a personal tool and not as a teaching tool, you may find that which isn’t about your number superfluous. But I found it interesting and helpful. The appendixes were really useful as well.
This is a great book for any Christian who already has some knowledge of the Enneagram and would like to dive deeper in using it as a means of spiritual formation. I found it to be accessible and helpful.
2021.08: Liked the concept of using the enneagram with practical application but found the content light on substance. “No one becomes like Jesus by accident. It is always as a result of radical intention.”
Great book... first chapter alone is worth the price of the book. Great practical hand-holds are provided for how to engage the Enneagram. I think I would recommend 'Road Back to You' first... and then to move to this book as a great way to go deeper into the topic.