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Introduction to the Present Future

Mar 16th, 2009 | By | Category: Coaching and the Church

Introduction to The Present Future

By Russ Rainey, Ph.D.

Can the Church See It?

Can the Church See It?

 Wouldn’t it be refreshing to hear someone who is an experienced, well-known  expert on church leadership development talk about why coaching should be the spiritual growth methodology of choice?  Wouldn’t it be almost too good to believe if that someone came out and said, unequivocally, that, “I am recommending that churches provide life coaching for people.  We need to view this as spiritual formation.”  Wouldn’t that be amazing?

 That someone has already done that in a book titled The Present Future.  The author is Reggie McNeal who has for many years served as the director of leadership development for the South Carolina Baptist Convention and counseled churches, denominational groups, seminaries, and para-church organizations in leadership matters.  Reggie is now also associated with Leadership Network.  And, he has graciously consented to allow his book to be quoted at length for this blog.

 In a chapter entitled “The Return to Spiritual Formation”, McNeal states that:

“Christians (evangelicals especially) emphasize that our connectivity to God is through a relationship with Jesus…Then, as soon as the deal is done, we switch language and go to head stuff.  We go over what we believe, information about the church, and so on.”  Isn’t this the main obstacle to the acceptance of coaching as a methodology for the church?  Churches may know better than to do this, but what they often project to a believer is that it’s all about what you know – not about your relationships and your experiences.  Knowledge trumps everything else.

 The author continues to hit the nail on the head when he says, “…we have turned our churches into groups of people who are studying God as though they were taking a course at school or attending a business seminar.  We aim at the head.  We don’t deal in relationship.  And we wonder why there is no passion for Jesus and his mission?”  Yes, church has gotten academic instead of personal, but that can be changed.  Coaching, I believe, is God-sent to help the pendulum swing back the other way.

 Reggie goes on to illuminate the cause of the academic (versus relationship) approach taken by many churches: we have been asking the wrong question.  Instead of asking, “How do we develop church members?” (which is asked for the sake of the institution) we should be asking, “How do we develop followers of Jesus?” (for the sake of the kingdom and the individual).  “The kingdom”, he says, ” is people…When the kingdom fully comes, people will finally realize their full potential as beings created in the image of God.  Jesus hinted at this when He spoke about abundant life.”

And here is just one of the quotes that makes Reggie’s book very much worth the read: “This means that helping people develop emotionally, physically, and relationally is all spiritual (emphasis mine).  There is no sacred-secular dichotomy when it comes to spiritual formation.  It includes personal spiritual disciplines, but it also includes the stewardship of our relationships, our work, and our life mission.”  How wonderful would it be if believers (mature or immature) could access a safe relationship that encourages authentic discussion of all things spiritual?

 I want to say a big “thank you” to Reggie for saying what many Christian coaches have been thinking for a long time.  Basically, all human needs and desires and dilemmas are spiritual questions, and life is too complicated and people are all too unique for a one-size-fits-all solution taught in the context of a church program. 

 The solutions to human problems are found in relationship and experience with the Father and His children.  Information definitely has a vaunted place in spiritual formation, but it is just the beginning point.  Let’s you and I stay focused on bringing the Church what it’s missing – the kind of loving, accepting, walk with you, believe in you, challenge you, bring out the best in you, and support you RELATIONSHIP that the original disciples were accustomed to.

Russ Rainey, Ph.D.,, 817-479-3231

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