Many people have said — and I fully agree with the reality — that it’s very possible to plant a church and not make disciples of Jesus Christ. Many churches have been started as (primarily) a Sunday morning event and success is measured by how many people attend weekend services.
The same can be said of leading an established church. It is possible to pastor a church, even have a wonderful Sunday morning worship experience; engage the community in deeds of mercy; have a Nickelodeon type children’s ministry with live music and puppets; and still not be creating intentional paths for people “to hear the call of Jesus, respond to that call by repenting, believing his good news and following him in all that entails (“From S. Smallman, The Walk, p. 26).
No matter if you are planting a new church or pastoring an existing one, if you commit yourself to making disciples, you will grow a church. This must be the new metric we use in discerning if God is working. Are we involved in his call to make disciples?
I suspect that much of your disciple-making approach is being done by either (1) exactly following the method by which you were discipled (or by reaction against how you were discipled) or (2) you have no disciple-making intentionality whatsoever, perhaps because you have had no experience in any intentional approach.
Let’s assume you need to begin or continue the work of creating a discipleship process for your church. What do you do if you either don't have any experience or do not value what you had? You might, like many, default to a pre-programmed disciple-making course or you might continue to meet with a small group of guys to “talk about life.”
But, what if there could be a different way? Something with intentionality yet, not pre-packaged?
I understand that Jesus calls specific people with specific abilities, affinities, and aptitudes for specific ministry contexts. Not all contexts, cultures, or times are the same. But we can agree that God’s calling is God’s enabling, and his call is for you, as a leader, to be intentional in inviting others to turn away from their self-saving strategies, believe in Christ’s saving Strategy (the gospel), and follow after him, allowing him to conform them into their original design.
A Different Path to Develop a Process of Discipleship
“What is coaching and how is it different from mentoring?”
“How do you define coaching?”
These are common questions I am typically asked when I tell people that I lead a ministry for coaching leaders. Coaching may be a modern word and unused in the church, but the practice of coaching is not new. Coaching is regularly used in business, education, fitness, medicine, finances, and in what some call “Life Coaching.” There are as many definitions of coaching as there are books and seminars on coaching.
Gary Collins explains the background of the word coach: "In the 1500s, the word coach described a horse-drawn vehicle that would get people from where they were to where they wanted to be. Many years later, in the 1880s, coach was given an athletic meaning, identifying the person who tutored university students in their rowing on the Cam River in Cambridge. That use of the word stuck and coaches become known as people who help athletes move from one place to another. Over time the word also became associated with musicians, public speakers, and actors who rely on coaches to improve their skills, overcome obstacles, remain focused, and get to where they want to be."
Collins defines coaching as “the art and practice of guiding a person or group from where they are toward the greater competence and fulfillment that they desire.”
In their book, Connecting: The Mentoring Relationships You Need to Succeed in Life, Robert Clinton and Paul Stanley suggest there are six types of relationships that are keys to having life success: discipler, spiritual guide, coach, counselor, teacher, and sponsor. Regarding coaching, they write, “Coaching is a process of imparting encouragement and skills to succeed in a task through a relationship” (1992:76). They helpfully explain that a “key to good coaching is observation, feedback, and evaluation. An experienced coach does not try to control the player (or mentoree), but rather he seeks to inspire and equip him with the necessary motivation, perspective and skills to enable him to excellent performance and effectiveness.”
From these varied definitions, we see that a coach is someone who has a relationship with another person whom he or she encourages and assists in developing the skills necessary to advance in a particular area.
Coaching a church leader includes encouraging, equipping, and empowering him/her with the necessary skills and competencies for leading others in a local church or ministry.
Gospel-centered coaching, however, adds another dimension noted by Thompson as “…continual gospel renewal and character deepening.”
Coaching by the gospel is an approach that moves beyond the outward, methodologically-driven process, to the motivational level of the planter. A gospel-saturated coach is in relationship, using varied appropriate means as the situation demands with the leader. The gospel-oriented approach to coaching a leader is biblically sound and theologically rich.
What is Gospel-centered coaching?
C.R.O.S.S. Coaching is an intentional gospel conversation with focused discussions about a leader's Relational, Personal, Missional, and Spiritual like (RPMS). For a leader in a local church or ministry role, it is a process of imparting encouragement and skills in order to succeed in the task of leading, renewing and strengthening others in the church, in the context of a gospel friendship.
We can clearly see from Scripture that coaching leaders and emerging leaders was a fundamental activity in the lives of various leaders. It was one of the pathways in how they did ministry. These godly men understood that one of the keys to the formation of missional communities and churches was the ongoing coaching of new leadership.
Remember, the gospel not only has power, it is the power to bring about renewal, change and growth, individually, and corporately. Let the gospel do its work through a coaching relationship.
At CMM, we believe every pastor, church planter, ministry leader, and missionary is created to thrive in ministry and they deserve to have a gospel coach alongside them as they ministry. No matter what leadership role you have, we suggest getting a CMM C.R.O.S.S. Gospel Coach to help walk with you through the challenges you’ve never faced before. You don’t have to pastor, plant or lead alone. A CMM C.R.O.S.S. Coach will help encourage and equip you every step along the way.
Have you ever thought, “I think I might have taken this church as far as I can? Maybe I need to leave and let the next guy take it to the next level?”
If you are in (or have been in) the critical 5-7 years post launch of your church I suspect you have. I completely understand the why for thinking this way. In fact, there may be many reasons.
Some Planters experience discouragement. The church you now lead is not the one you envisioned six years ago. You had hoped for people to be more engaged, committed and generous. You thought there would be more conversions to Christ. People you loved and helped have left.
For other Planters it is just plain tiredness. Let’s face it. Starting a church is hard work. For some it’s the new challenges of managing people and things that have to get done. Maybe you are better at vision and ideas, and managing people is boring and difficult for you.
I suspect that you are probably in the weekly grind of sermon and services prep, and there’s little margin for thinking and visioning. You grab ideas here and there from podcasts or articles in Church Planter Magazine, but you don’t have time for thinking and praying.
So what can a Planter do?
First, get a Gospel Coach.
Our friend, Omar Ortiz said, “I first began using a Gospel coach during a very difficult season of ministry in church renewal. My coach helped me to have a renewed sense of purpose and direction in my ministry. More than that, however, my coach helped me to see my own need to repent of sinful patterns in my life. He helped me to move beyond simply paying lip service to applying the gospel to my life and actually led me there. Gospel coaching has been one of the most profound experiences I have had in ministry.”
Your health and the health and thriveability of your family is most important.
Dr. Tom Wood
I've been in the Church Planting business my entire career. I want you to know, you don't have to plant a church alone!