The Enneagram Goes to Church, Wisdom for Leadership, Worship, and Congregational Life by Todd Wilson

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Todd Wilson, former senior pastor of Calvary Memorial Church and currently president of the Center for Pastor Theologians, is perhaps best known for his book The Pastor Theologian, which he coauthored with Gerald Hiestand.  In that volume, (see my review here – https://tottministries.org/?s=the+pastor+theologian) Wilson emphasized the need for pastors to be serious theologians. The Center for Pastor Theologians was established to promote this emphasis and, while my review of the book reveals some differences, overall I applauded (and still do) the importance he places on the role of pastors as theologians. Therefore it was with considerable consternation that I discovered that a man who had placed so much stress on doctrine had written a book celebrating the trendy, pseudo-psychological, personality typing system – the Enneagram. I have written at length about the Enneagram exposing its cultic, even occultic, origin, lack of any scientific validity, its hopeless complexity, and its overall unbiblical teachings (see my papers here – https://tottministries.org/category/articles/?s=enneagram. See book reviews here – https://tottministries.org/category/book-reviews/?s=enneagram).

While I will not repeat those comments in this review, I will say that Wilson has essentially taken all the worst elements of the Enneagram, attempted to convince his readership of the necessary for incorporating it into church life, and has devised ways to do so.

After two chapters about the significance and value of the Enneagram, Wilson devotes a chapter each to incorporating it into various layers of church life: pastors (chapter 3), leaders (chapter 4), preaching (chapter 5), worship (chapter 6), congregational care (chapter 7), teamwork (chapter 8), and churches (chapter 9). My only comment concerning these chapters is to note that the sources for Wilson’s instructions are secular leaders, psychology, Enneagram experts, and personal experience, not Scripture. Indeed, it would be impossible to support the Enneagram from the Bible since nothing remotely like it is found on the pages of Divine Revelation. Had the author taken his own advice: “The last thing most American Christians need is another fad to fixate on” (p. 15), this book would never have been written.

Given all the Enneagram negatives listed above (reference also my articles and book reviews), why would a pastor and scholar of Wilson’s caliber fixate on this fad, and why does he want the evangelical church to follow his lead? His motivation seems to lie in the weaknesses he recognizes in his own life and pastoral ministry. On the first page he writes, “If I would have known the Enneagram, I would have been a much better pastor.” He believes “that the Enneagram [has] some game-changing wisdom for” him and others (p. 4). When he discovered The Road Back to You: An Enneagram Journey to Self-Discovery by Morgan Cron and Suzanne Stabile (see my review here – https://tottministries.org/?s=the+road+back+to+you) written in 2016, his interest was piqued. He came to believe that it would enable Christians to increasingly become devoted followers of Jesus and help them empower others (p. 9). It is for these reasons that Wilson believes the Enneagram should go to church.

Wilson is aware of the dubious origin of the Enneagram (p. 16) and he makes no biblical argument for the system. As a matter of fact, he lists some of the key contrasts between the Enneagram and Christianity, along with its dangers:

  1. From sharing in the divine essence to being made in the image of God.
  2. From sleepwalking through life to being dead in trespasses and sins.
  3. From compassion toward ourselves and others to humility before God and our neighbor.
  4. From discovering your true self to putting on the new self.
  5. From focus of attention/chief passion to signature sins/characteristic idols (pp. 21-25).

Nevertheless, Wilson believes, despite the unbiblical nature of the Enneagram that “The work of transposing the Enneagram is well worth it” (p. 26). Why would this be so? Because, while it is not Christian, and it is extremely complex (pp. 31, 37, 43, 47), it offers insight (p. 26) and is a means of wisdom whereby we can understand ourselves better (pp. 16-18). Wilson’s foundational principle, which he was taught at Wheaton College, is that “All truth is God’s truth” (pp. 11-13). Since the Enneagram teaches truth (according to Wilson, although not drawn from Scripture) then it is God’s truth – even when it contradicts biblical truth (see five contrasts above). Of course, this begs the question, if the Enneagram is God’s truth, why are its foundational teachings contrary to biblical truth and why is it not found in Scripture? Wilson’s readers must ask, if the Enneagram is so essential in discipleship and church life, and to knowing God and self, then why did the Lord wait until recently to reveal these insights to unregenerate people and only in 2016 expose the evangelical church to its wisdom?

The Enneagram Goes to Church is a seriously flawed attempt to take an unbiblical fad and incorporate it into the church. It is all the more disappointing that a man who should know better has authored this book.

The Enneagram Goes to Church, Wisdom for Leadership, Worship, and Congregational Life by Todd Wilson (Downers Grove, IL: Varsity Press, 2021) 166 pp., paper $17.99.

Reviewed by Gary E. Gilley, Pastor/teacher at Southern View Chapel.

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