The Power of Coaching in Spiritual Formation
Healing our image of God heals our image of ourselves.
We carry within ourselves all our yesterdays, the experiences and influences that have happened from our birth (and maybe before) to this present moment. These yesterdays can powerfully affect today, the right-now, and dominate our relationships, our choices, our view of ourselves, even our understanding of God. If our yesterdays are in a state of good repair, they provide strength for today. If not repaired, they create havoc.
These are helpful quotes that convince me that we hardly know what is in our hearts. We carry on dutifully, but it seems a crisis is what makes the important questions come to the surface. Can we go to the questions before they come to us—before the crisis?
I have been working overseas for almost three decades and have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly of spiritual formation. We are all unformed and need forming into the image of our Creator. Much of that forming happens in relation to difficulties and challenges in community. However, a productive response to these things does not simply happen. We can just as easily resist—unaware of the opportunity for change. I am finding that with intentional work on my own formation, where I cooperate with God and seek to learn from the exact circumstances of my life while taking in His words to me, I can accelerate my growth. Furthermore, when I am being coached by someone who is tracking with me and observing His work and my agreeable or non-agreeable responses, I seem to progress more readily and change from glory-to-glory.
We all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord (2 Corinthians 3:18 NKJV).
We can cooperate with God and build on the foundation of our salvation, or we can decide that we are not going to change. The coaching packet that I use states that if a person gets the help of coaching to reach goals that he or she has set in place, they will more definitively reach them.
It is true. I see transformation happening—the “visible signs of invisible grace.”
Spiritual goals can be non-tangible and illusive. There are ways to work toward and measure progress, especially when a coach comes alongside, bringing in encouragement and perspective while also raising new awareness and ideas. As I coach, I see progress being made in struggles with communication. I get to witness growth as people understand the beliefs that limit them—when these are loosened, a whole new world of possibilities opens. I see people facing the truth about themselves, which opens up depths of understanding and forgiveness. I see them getting to the roots of what they really believe and then letting go to take on new beliefs, based on Truth.
Coaching is a form of discipleship, of walking with someone in their brokenness or “stuck-ness” and getting them to look up and out and around and even down, for the sake of growth and freedom. I love the self-discovery that happens and the expansion of soul and spirit that this kind of relationship can bring.
Spiritual formation entails more than just spiritual things. We live in a physical world and deal with internal and relational issues that can be greatly affected by our spiritual state. Coaching, with its flexible, customizable quality, enables the coach to discern and draw out what areas of life are needing work and if there indeed is a spiritual element to it. We are multi-dimensional beings made of spirit, soul, and body.
Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 5:23 ESV).
Our spirit informs our soul, which informs our body. So if we are listening to God with our spirits then our souls are aligning with truth and thus our bodies can follow suit. Our souls—including mind, will, and emotions—can go awry in many areas, which point to things going awry in our spirits. Our bodies and their ailments can also be great indicators of soul or spiritual misleading.
Recently I met with a woman wanting to improve her relationship with her husband. As we talked about honing that down into actionable steps she realized that her husband is going through an intense time, and she articulated several things she wanted to do to support him. At first, in her busy-ness she did not necessarily see this, but as we talked, it became evident to her what she could do. Then came the “measure” question: “How will you know this actually helped him?” At first her answer had to do with checking off the things she had done for him. Then, as I probed, she came up with deeper indicators of the effects of her efforts, including responses from him that could indicate his appreciation and her effectiveness in supporting him in specific ways. I love the intentionality she is putting into this. I think that is what the apostle Peter meant when he said we should love one another earnestly (1 Peter 1:22 ESV). That takes thought, prayer, and action.
In your efforts to grow, what indicators can you look for in your own attitudes or reactions that would show that transformation is taking place? In working on my own critical attitude toward someone, I realized that the sin was bigger than I could handle. I thought there were plenty of reasons to treat that person that way and to have a nasty response—they deserved it! Recognizing my own powerlessness in light of this was a first, important step. I need God’s power to see my own sin and to turn from it to His resources. As I gladly did that, knowing it was going to mean freedom and a willingness to love this person rather than judge, I visualized a response to that person that would be right and full of mercy. I asked God to forgive my contempt and pride and work His compassion in me, especially in my thought life. Upon seeing the person a while later, I was actually surprised by the caring attitude coming from me. God had done a work in me! It takes time to see the stuff in us that needs work. That is where coaching can be so helpful, if we are ready to face ourselves. We do have to be ready and become convinced of God’s gentleness and mercy toward us. He loves when we want to cooperate with Him in our growth. He is in the business of gently remodeling our souls!
Other ways I see people marking progress are:
- Monitoring their reactions, triggers, and results (internal and external) that are causing dissonance in a relationship.
- Charting arguments—what leads up to them, what the reactions were—and then praying through better ways to respond.
- Logging positive words, appreciation, and the effects they bring. These can identify tangible results that can turn the tide of the conversations that make up the relationship.
- Bringing the body under control of the spirit and the soul through establishing healthy patterns—starting right where they are.
- Renewing minds by beginning new habits of taking in Truth and bringing transformative change.
Be transformed by the renewal of your mind (Romans 12:2).
These are effective tools used as we work out [our] salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12). With the wisdom and guidance of a coach, these can be encouraged with a variety of measuring tools. For example, asking those close to us to let us know if they notice attitude or mood changes can indicate to us that we are learning to choose the Spirit over the flesh.
Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress (1 Timothy 4:15).
This is not earning our salvation—this is building on it, making progress that others can actually see. What one thing in your life would shout to your world that you are letting God do His cleansing, beautifying, and powerful work in you? Perhaps that is a good question to ask those close to you, or for a coach to explore with you. Much of our life has to do with our concept of who God is. If we react in fear to the notion of asking Him to change us, we need to explore our core beliefs about Him! That will certainly lead to spiritual transformation.
Question to consider: “What one thing in your life would shout to your world that you are letting God do His cleansing, beautifying, and powerful work in you?”
About the author
I grew up in the US in a Ukrainian Catholic family, was captivated by God at age 12; became an RN, got my BS, then some years later my MA in Leadership Studies. We started our cross cultural lives in South America in 1986, then lived in Central Asia, then Thailand. We now base out of Central Asia. Recently certified by the International Coach Federation as a Life Coach, I lead small groups (on-line and face to face) doing “Journey coaching”. Presently, I’m privileged with co-leading a non-profit in the Mid-Asia region with my husband. We have 4 adult kids living and working in the US.View all articles by: Jackie Scott
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