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Coaching and the Abundant Life by Tony Stoltzfus

Sep 10th, 2012 | By | Category: Featured Content, Transformational Coaching, [None]

One of the beauties of Christianity is that the important things are pretty simple. The on-purpose Christian life simply reflects God’s purposes: to love God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength and to love your neighbor as yourself—exactly what Jesus said when asked what was most important in life.

Think about it: wouldn’t the best possible life be one with the freedom, power and goodness to offer the gifts of love, right relationship, justice, compassion, and service to everyone you meet, without needing to get something back? Imagine living that way: full instead of needy; free from any craving for security, significance or acceptance; unencumbered by anger and inner wrestlings, with the internal resources to always offer the best to those around you. That would be an overflowing, abundant life!

In general, the leading figures in the coaching movement agree with Jesus on this picture of life lived out of an overflow as the good life. They urge creating a superabundance that lets you live free from worry and stress, enjoy security, give to others, and pursue the opportunities that life gives. We all agree that having more than enough and not being needy are key ingredients for a great life.

Mainstream coaching has taught a concept called “extreme self-care” as the road to a maximized, abundant life. It starts with you. Take responsibility for your life. Find your energy drains and plug them. Learn to say, “No.” Align with your values. Get rid of unhealthy relationships that drag you down. Don’t tolerate things—change them. Find what matters most to you, and pursue it. Give yourself what you’d want the person you love most to have. Take superb care of yourself.

Taken individually, these can all be appropriate steps. The problem comes when we try to align this way of thinking with God’s purposes. Mainstream life coaching has said, if you treat yourself really well, like you’d treat your best friend, you’ll have a great life, and others around you will feel well-treated, too. In other words, take care of yourself first to live a great life. And this is where mainstream coaching and Christianity diverge. Jesus says exactly the opposite: die to yourself first to have a great life.

For Jesus, the way to a life of overflow is not to get more, but to give up everything for Him, and live to serve. “Give and it will be given to you, pressed down, shaken together and running over” (Luke 6:38 RSV). Instead of getting in order to give, you give and find that somehow it comes back to you. A surplus in the Kingdom of God is not something you acquire—it simply flows through the hands of stewards that God gives it to precisely because they have shown they won’t keep it all for themselves. Learning to love like Jesus is the path to a life of overflow that fills others—and in the process produces fulfillment within us as well.

There is nothing wrong with coaching people to remove energy drains, learn to say “No” or align with their values. The things that bring health and satisfaction to us in life are an integral part of God’s purposes. The problem comes when we make those ends our primary pursuit, and fail to hold them in proper balance with God’s higher purposes.

When the primary focus is on objectives like provision, happiness and success, Christian life purpose becomes simply a new version of the Prosperity Doctrine. The fundamental error of the success and prosperity stream is not in saying that God wants to bless us in the here and now, but in elevating the pursuit of that blessing above being with and becoming like Christ. God does want us to enjoy health, happiness and success in life. Any Father loves to see their child do well, and is grieved when that child is hungry, sick or hurting. But God’s ultimate purpose is to unite all things in him, and he will accept less of these good things in order to give us the best. When living your destiny becomes mainly about the here-and-now, you’ve lost sight of what is most important.

Here’s the coaching application. Coaches help people grow and move toward great futures. For Christian coaches, the picture of that great future is drawn in terms of nothing less than God’s eternal purposes. And to God, being united with him in Christ forever is such a big priority that everything on earth is a distant second. Therefore, I’ve got to coach as if heaven is real and it is the only future that matters.

If I coach an unbeliever to a success so big that the world is her oyster, and in the process miss the opportunity to help her grapple with how she is losing her soul in the process, what have I accomplished? And if I coach a fellow Christian toward happiness, health, career success and financial security, but that individual is not growing in Christ, am I truly helping? Or has our coaching relationship actually become a hindrance to living out the on-purpose Christian life?

The greatest challenge Christian life coaches face is learning how to coach people toward heaven, not just a great life on earth. This is the coach’s vocation—to have such a profound understanding of the purposes of God, and to so dynamically live those purposes out, that everyone you work with finds themselves coming into fuller alignment with God’s purposes than they ever thought possible.

Tony Stoltzfus is a master coach, author and coach trainer. A presentation of a thorough, practical toolkit for coaching Christian leaders to discover their identity can be found in his book the Christian Life Coaching Handbook.

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