Why You Need a Coach

A few years ago my job title at Final Command Ministries was changed. It actually happened while I was out of the country and I had no input on the shift. To be perfectly transparent I was a little miffed.

Regretfully my upbringing did not prepare me well for that kind of situation. I earned my strokes as a people pleaser for decades. This was surely a contributor to me staying in school for so many years. Read the assigned material, participate in group discussions, study hard for tests and then write papers–the path to academic success and educational strokes.

But most formal education does not really reward disagreeing. Yes, I know it should, but it rarely does.

My former job title was Director of Training and Strategic Access. It was long and I helped craft it. The first half fit a lot of what Western Christians get–the need for training. But the second half was a bit mysterious and if someone asked me about it, their curiosity gave me permission to peel back the onion layers at least a little.

But who needs a coach?

Sure, we all want our children to have the benefit of a good coach when they participate in sports. Ideally, she/he will have played the sport in high school or college and have a good ability to model and drill the team toward greater cohesion and improved abilities.

I had coached basketball and baseball for my son, since I had lettered in both at my small high school. Later I coached my daughter’s soccer team even though I really had no personal experience to draw on (thankfully a good coach of my son’s soccer team suggested the strategy is much like basketball).

Yes, we all want our kids to have good coaches. But what adult wants to admit they need a coach?

Global Coach, that’s my job title. It was picked because that is really what I try to do, regardless of where I am. Even when I hold training events I am really sifting through the group looking for the few who sense they will need a coach.

It takes a special measure and variety of humility to acknowledge the need for a coach. There is a vulnerability needed that most adults prefer to avoid by acting out our best two-year-old selves–“I do it myself!” Then there is the challenge of knowing whether or not a particular candidate is the right coach for me. Maybe I sense I need one, but I will feel foolish if I pay him lots of money, invest time and energy and still don’t succeed.

Global Coach sounds grander. But who is going to believe that? If I get these disciple making principles so well, then where is the proof? Where are the people who’ve taken my coaching and their fruit is evident? Those are the unspoken questions I always anticipate.

But how do you answer those questions with integrity and not “blow your own horn?” How do you tell the ways God has used you without taking credit for works he accomplished?

Why do you need a coach? That’s a great question. You don’t need one to start lots of first generation Discovery Groups–a half-decent trainer can get you started doing that in about two hours if you will recruit a group with whom to experience it.

But you will need a coach if your goal is generations of groups starting groups where some of them become churches planting churches.

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Is There Anything New Here?

One person who read my last blog responded, “Is there anything new here? This is something I have been saying for the past 40 years, and I heard it from others before me…” My response was, “While it is not new, the priorities of churches (house or legacy) indicate most reject this reality.”

Let me give you a little of my story as background. I have spent most of my life worshipping with congregations in the 100-150 range. I have served as a preaching minister in three of those for a combined 31 years. But almost ten years ago God invited me on a journey exploring the great need of people who have never had the opportunity to hear the gospel once. “What will it take to get the gospel into regions where the power brokers do not want it?” became a compelling question for me.

But what about 50+ years of spiritual journey? Juxtapose those two questions.

Being a “both/and” guy, I tried to do both. Amazingly, God gave me several years of knowing where he was taking me before he called me make the change. I am so thankful for his patience with me and wish I would have done a better job of extending the same to others around me (oh, well, that is “water under the bridge”).

But, most people who came to the Lord like me, still want to take the church with us when we believe God has called us on a new journey. We want their prayers. We want their money. We want their approval. We want their manpower. We keep thinking it would be so much easier if they would join us in this transition. And some of us do everything we can to “shoe-horn” them into it. And then we wonder why they resist us and resent our tactics.

Just because God called me does not mean he called Stones River Church. It was easier for me to see that truth for someone else than for myself.

Out With The Old!

Not wanting to deconstruct, contributes to resistance. While not like the actual weight of the concrete on those large posts, other concerns create emotional resistance. I must confess that I had mixed feelings about taking out a tree. You see, we planted that maple the fall of 1992. We wanted shade and it gave us in the back yard. But the problem is its roots grew along the top of the ground and within three years would be cracking the foundation of the new construction, so it had to go.

Many changes are never undertaken because of what has to go. Bad-mouthing what other people are invested in is no way to encourage them to change. Helping them see that the new strategy actually helps them do what they already want better is more likely to get a positive outcome.

People selling new curriculum rarely count the cost of discontinuing the old. Yes, some people have likely tired of it long ago. But what about the teachers who have grown comfortable with it? Some may have taught its cycles enough that their prep time is significantly decreased. Will they stop teaching because they feel they no longer have the time to properly prepare? If so, who will replace them?

Finding new teachers is one of the great challenges for any education program. Starting a new series of classes almost always requires killing an existing set. New coordinators don’t get that. Old ones have paid this high price so often they are unwilling to go through it again. Inertia is a powerful force.

“Just do it!” is rarely said by someone who will actually help make the change.

Deconstruction Costs

Coupling a vision for something new with dissatisfaction can be powerful fuel for the proper first steps. Recently Debra and I needed to prepare our back yard for an upcoming construction project. The Friday and Saturday after Thanksgiving provided perfect weather and we had time off. We needed to remove several sections of privacy fence, the posts that held them, a swing set frame and a twenty-year-old maple tree.

Thankfully, I had learned that a fence jack would easily lift 4″x 4″ fence posts out of the ground. Our vision of a detached shop and dissatisfaction over the clutter and persistent dust in our garage fueled our dream. Yes, I knew the first steps that were adequate for overcoming the resistance of the concrete that had been placed around those fence posts more than fifteen years ago. Removing the fence just took time and persistence. But late Friday afternoon we attempted to remove one of the two 6″x 6″ posts that supported the swing. This resistance was much greater.

My grandfather’s fence jack was not able to budge either of these posts. I suspected there were tree roots that were helping hold the extra weight of the larger posts and concrete down. But the reality was, it was going to take more force to push that pole out of the ground. A 12-ton hydraulic jack and the fence jack were able to provide the force. It took some ingenuity to apply that force in the right places, but Saturday ended with the site prepared.

Now we wait for the building to begin. All our hard work was just getting things out of the way that had to go. What will you need to demolish to create a capacity to build new strategies? Too often we do not count the cost of what has to go before new building begins.

C = (D x V x F) > R

Recently, I was introduced to The Change Formula:  C = (D x V x F) > R. This business principle affirms that  Change equals Dissatisfaction x Vision x First Steps that is greater than the Resistance. Without being able to envision a new reality, being dissatisfied with status quo and armed with a knowledge of how to get started, change will never happen. But these three must all be present and their combined force must be greater than the resistance that is present.

When I first heard this I thought, “Oh, well, that is interesting.” But a couple of weeks later I found myself referring to the formula. What I began to notice is that failed attempts to produce real change lack at least one of the three being present in sufficient quantities. Most change agents appear to assume that presenting a new vision is enough to produce change. Often, when they find that to be inadequate, they will attack the status quo in an attempt to produce dissatisfaction. But it is possible that people will become dissatisfied with the pressure being placed on them to produce change and the net result is the resistance is actually increased.

But the piece of the equation that has really grabbed my attention is the call for “First Steps.” When I first encountered the vision of Church Planting Movements, I lacked clear First Steps to model, coach and mentor others to take who caught the vision and felt the dissatisfaction. Without being able to suggest first steps, I could not catalyze change.

White Unto Harvest

In John 4:35 Jesus tells the twelve, “Don’t you have a saying, ‘It’s still four months until harvest’? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.”

Little did they know that he had opened the heart of a Samaritan woman. They could never anticipate that they were about to spend two days watching many of these spiritual outcasts come to faith in Jesus as the Messiah. Many believed because of the testimony of this woman. Many more came to believe because of their time spent with Jesus.

It is estimated that more Muslims have come to faith in Jesus in the last thirty years than all the previous centuries combined. Just like John 4, much of the sowing and harvesting is being done by people within the communities. Yes, they too are being visited by Jesus and some of his disciples. He is appearing to many through dreams and visions. Believers from Muslim backgrounds are leading the charge to get the Gospel out to those who have never heard.

Fear-mongers have too little faith in God to believe what is taking place. Their agendas are advanced by stirring up paranoia and hatred. What they call diligence is disobedience. Tragically, they miss the harvest God is providing.

The Good Muslim?

Yes, these recently settled people were at great risk. Their situation was dire.

The king of Assyria ordered, “Send back some priests who were taken into exile from there. They can go back and live there and instruct the people in what the god of the land expects of them….They honored and worshiped God, but not exclusively—they also appointed all sorts of priests, regardless of qualification, to conduct a variety of rites at the local fertility shrines. They honored and worshiped God, but they also kept up their devotions to the old gods of the places they had come from” (2 Kings 17:27,32-33, The Message).

The Samaritans of Jesus’ day were descended from these peoples. This is the historical-cultural background behind Jesus’ parable we call “The Good Samaritan.” It also informs his interactions with the woman at the well and people from her village. Jews considered the Samaritans spiritual mutts. While they claimed to worship the God of Israel, the religious purists knew their sordid spiritual lineage.

Sounds remarkably similar to Islam.

Would Jesus shock us with the modern-day Parable of the Good Muslim? Would he spend a couple of days with Muslims who want to hear about the Messiah?