I began coaching in 1988.

Since then, I have logged well over 10,000 hours: coaching leaders at virtually every level of church life: pastors, church planters, network/denominational leaders, missionaries & ministry leaders. I’ve worked with leaders locally, nationally & internationally on 5 continents. That is around 330 hours annually – for 30 years.

I feel blessed to have had the opportunity to coach leaders to start all kinds of churches & pioneer disciple-making movements. Leaders who have been instrumental in raising up leaders, making disciples & starting new ministries. Missional leaders who understand the force when the DNA of multiplication is integrated in the very essence of everything that they do – releasing control into God’s hands!

Recently, while on vacation with my family & working our way down the coast of California, I reflected on the last three decades. My wife, Gina, says that when she read the book entitled “The ONE Thing – Sometimes it’s the only thing you do. But it’s always the ONE Thing that delivers extraordinary results” by Gary Keller & Jay Papasan; that it reminded her of me. That may or may not be true; but I do believe that my primary focus of coaching missional leaders & training coaches to empower missional leaders for the last 30 years, provides a unique opportunity to glean insights, that are worth sharing.

For this reason I would like to share lessons that I’ve learned from coaching the most amazingly gifted, truly faithful & hard-working leaders serving in the Lord’s Church today.

Lesson #1 – Discern the will of the Father

This could be taken as an arrogant statement OR simply what we as followers of Jesus are called to do on a moment-by-moment basis: Abide in Christ (John 15:4).

Recently I was training leaders in the coaching process in Malaga, Spain. We met in a Technology Park where 730 businesses office – from Google, Oracle & Micro-Soft to the one-man, sole proprietor. I was asked to meet the park’s Executive Coach and share our experience in coaching leaders.

As we explained our different approaches to coaching I highlighted the distinctive advantage as a follower of Jesus, in coaching leaders. Simply put, as I understand the literature of secular coaching, the coach relies on intuition when discerning the next step in the conversation vs. Christian coaches, who rely on the direction of the Spirit of God. The still, small voice that sometimes echos in our spirit. I’m not sure how that translated cross-culturally; but my friend acknowledged that this would be an amazing advantage, if this truly was the case.  This has opened a conversation to explore what it means, to be a follower of Jesus, who happens to coach leaders.

Discerning the will of the Father suggests that we submit our will to His, listen and obey.  This is the central teaching of Jesus.  The more we do this ourselves, the better we are able to help others.  Coaching missional leaders is a spiritual discernment process embedded in the best practices of making disciples.

How does a leader Abide in Christ?  For every person that has an answer to this question, you will find as many answers.  Here is how I Abide in Christ.

  1. Exercise.  As I swim, run, bike or hike – I listen to that still small voice and in many instances, discern a key insight for my day ahead.
  2. Reflect.  I think about the upcoming conversation I will have with a leader and ask for the Lord’s wisdom to prevail.
  3. Submit.  I take the posture of a servant who does the will of the Master.

Those might seem superficial or simplistic, but over the last 30 years these habits have served me well.  Of course there are seasons when I have been diligent with the spiritual disciplines of silence, Scripture reading, prayer, fasting, service, etc.  But these three are the most consistent, by far.

Hard to believe that 30 years have passed.  Right now is an important time to reflect as one chapter closes and another opens.  How are you capturing the lessons the Lord is teaching you from your experience?

Next week I will share other lessons that I’ve learned as the Lord has allowed me to partner with leaders who are making a significant contribution to the work of cultivating disciple-making movements & planting churches around the world.


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