Jesus Christ was the ultimate Life Coach. In the Gospel of John, He offers this promise: “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (NAS) The Great Commission given to His disciples in Matthew 28:18-20 is both a command and invitation to join Him on one of the greatest adventures in life: building disciples. Spiritual Life Coaching involves “teaching them to observe all that I commanded you.”(NAS) There are two implications to this command that often escape our notice.
Teaching should be comprehensive.
The first is that the teaching should be comprehensive. We are to teach everything, not just the familiar principles or the introductory concepts. Spiritual Life Coaches must ask the question: “Is my coaching part of a larger, comprehensive plan to teach the whole curriculum of Christ?”
“We should help the people we are teaching to actually obey the truth.”
The second implication is that we should help the people we are teaching to actually obey the truth. I like to call this doing truth versus just knowing truth. There is a clear biblical priority to evangelize the nations and plant churches, but we must not forget that the Great Commission includes helping Christ’s followers become “conformed to the likeness of His Son [Christ].” Our spiritual Life Coaching must be intensive and intentional enough to transform lives.
But any parent can tell you this is easier said than done. Teaching others to ‘do’ truth is a complex process that involves the changing of motives, values, and worldview. It also hopes to develop a walk of faith, teaching people how to trust God. This type of training cannot be accomplished in a classroom alone. It must be worked out in the context of real life experiences. Some of the concepts, such as how to develop and demonstrate mature love, are not simple. This is why spiritual Life Coaches are critical to the process. It’s only in the context of a close relationship (where there is encouragement, accountability, prayer, and teaching) that this type of transformation can effectively occur.
The importance of the example and teaching of a spiritual Life Coach cannot be overstated. Paul admonished Timothy to follow him as he followed Christ. In another place the instruction was for Timothy to follow the “pattern of sound teaching” that Paul had taught. Timothy learned these truths from Paul in the context of close relationships. II Timothy 2:2 states, “The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” (NAS) Jesus, after washing His disciples feet as a model of Christian love and leadership, urged them, “Now that you know these things, you will be blessed if you do them” (emphasis mine).
We who build disciples should be encouraged by the importance God places on the Life Coaching process. The Scriptures remind us that anyone who aspires to the office of overseer has an honorable, noble role in the Kingdom. But we should also be sobered by the responsible role God expects us to play. Paul warns the Corinthian church that “each one should be careful how he builds. For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” Paul goes on to explain that we can either build by using temporal materials or eternal materials, but there will be a Day when we must give an account for our work of building up others.
In order to be effective disciple builders, we must realize that God is the author and finisher of the process of sanctification. Paul states, “I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth.” (NAS) In another place Paul asserts that “He who began a good work in you will perfect [complete] it until the Day of Christ Jesus.” (NAS) Spiritual Life Coaches can take heart that God will sovereignly oversee the process.
The role of spiritual Life Coaching is only one part of the disciple building process. For years there has been a debate in disciple building circles about what is the best forum for helping people grow spiritually. The advocates of small groups can list examples of people whose lives have been changed by the intimacy and accountability of this arrangement, while the proponents of one-to-one discipleship (Life Coaching) cite the advantages of this format. Others extol the merits of teaching and preaching, or the benefits of being well-read. Some point out the importance of putting disciples into ministry situations as the best way to facilitate growth and development. The spiritual disciplines such as fasting, solitude, or personal devotions are mentioned by many as being especially beneficial in spiritual formation.
All of these forms constitute healthy approaches to spiritual development. All should be included as part of a disciple building program. Each format has certain advantages and certain limitations. It is valuable to note that Jesus used all of these forms as part of His disciple building training. Because the local church has all of these structures (e.g. small groups, teaching, preaching, etc.), it is the best location for making and training disciples if the structures are utilized strategically. Within the church there is a unique role for a well-equipped Life Coach. This person is able to “meet people where they are, and help them take the next step®.”
If disciple building is the overall process in which more mature believers assist younger believers as they grow, then spiritual Life Coaching is the “one-to-one” part of the process. A Life Coach is able to help a disciple integrate and incorporate all the other growth processes into a unified whole. The Life Coach is responsible for tracking and overseeing the progress of the individual believers entrusted to his care. This individual encouragement and accountability is invaluable. As we will see later, this is best accomplished when the Life Coach works in concert with a team of others in a ministry context. One of the purposes of this manual is to offer assistance and coaching skills to help make the task of Life Coaching more manageable and successful.
Where have you seen a “one-on-one” or Life Coaching process have an impact on others? Have you ever considered learning how to be life coach?
WDA Life Coaching Manual will train leaders to coach others as Spiritual Life Coaches. If you are a Discipleship Professional or Leader, you can use the WDA Life Coaching Manual to train a team of Life Coaches for you church.
Not long ago, I had coffee with an old acquaintance. It had been years since we’d seen each other. We first met while our children were active in the same church youth group. We co-hosted sleepovers, car-pooled to retreats, and even co-vacuumed popcorn from the youth room carpet. As he sipped a latte, he reminisced, “Those were fun times, but now that the kids are grown, I’ve stopped going to church.”
Sensing my confusion, he went on to say that after decades of faithful attendance, he wasn’t leaving a particular church. Instead, he was leaving church altogether.
“I’m sure it’s great for some people, but it never worked for me. It seemed like all the church leaders wanted me to do was show up, pay up, and shut up.” He added, “I’m tired of playing that game.”
The sad truth? He’s not alone. Recent surveys reveal that most churches are either losing members or membership is not keeping pace with population growth.  As my friend put it, “Those church leaders never really cared about my family or me. They just wanted me to care about them, their programs, their agendas, their budgets, and their building campaigns. Now, many of those buildings are sitting empty.”
I understand his frustration and confusion, but I disagree with my friend’s conclusion. I meet often with church leaders from a variety of traditions. Most show deep concern for their flocks and agonize over the best ways to address needs. The current problems stem not from lack of concern or commitment. The underlying issue is about a lack of discipleship. According to one survey among reformed and evangelical pastors, eighty-one percent said there was “no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church.” 
Today’s church leaders know how to teach the Scriptures, but they often don’t know how to help people like my friend grow to maturity. Unfortunately, immature people are self-centered. They can only see the world from their own narrow perspective. They fail to see the challenges and obstacles others face. And when things don’t go their way, they take their Bibles and go to another church—or, like my friend, stay home.
And sadly, church leaders often give up hope of seeing parishioners grow to maturity. John Ortberg tells the story of a church member who exhibited immature behavior most of his adult life. “He was once a cranky young guy, and he grew up to be a cranky old man. But even more troubling than his lack of change was the fact that nobody was surprised by it. It was as if everyone simply expected that his soul would remain withered and sour year after year, decade after decade. No one seemed bothered by the condition. It was not an anomaly that caused head-scratching bewilderment. No church consultants were called in. No emergency meetings were held to probe the case of this person who followed the church’s general guidelines for spiritual life and yet was nontransformed.” 
As we mature, we are transformed. We develop the capacity to see others’ needs and display the courage and wisdom to help them—even if it means sacrifice and suffering. God demonstrated this type of love for us, and it’s also what He expects from us.
Jesus summed it up by saying, “This is My command: love each other” (John 15:17). And later, “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends” (John 15:13). Even among Christians, that sort of love is hard to find.
In his enduring passage on the superiority of love, the Apostle Paul links the capacity to love others to an adult (mature) perspective:
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self- seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It al- ways protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres… When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man [mature], I put the ways of childhood behind me” (1 Corinthians 13:4- 7, 11).
The Scriptures clearly teach that believers need to be trained and equipped to grow up—to become more and more like Christ and able to love as He loved. Paul urged young Timothy and the other leaders in Ephesus to keep this in mind as they discipled their fellow believers:
“As I urged you when I went into Macedonia, stay there in Ephesus so that you may command certain people not to teach false doctrines any longer or to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies. Such things promote controversial speculations rather than advancing God’s work— which is by faith. The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith” (1 Timothy 1:3-5).
“So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-15, emphases added)
My friend’s been a Christian since high school, but he still needs to grow to maturity. If he does, he’ll develop a better understanding of how the kingdom of God functions. He’ll recognize his need to remain committed to and involved with a community of believers.
As we address the matter of immaturity in the church, more believers will grow in the faith and knowledge of God. And as the church becomes filled with mature Christ-followers, we’ll do a better job of addressing the issues in the surrounding culture. After all, Christians are “the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14) and “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). But if we want all these things to occur, church leaders also need to make some changes.
Unless believers grow to maturity we tend to become more like the Pharisees than like Christ. Ortberg warns, “The great danger that arises when we don’t experience authentic transformation is that we settle for what might be called pseudo-transformation. We know that as Christians we are called to ‘come out and be separate,’ that our faith and spiritual commitment should make us different somehow. But if we are not marked by greater and greater amounts of love and joy, we will inevitably look for substitute ways of distinguishing our- selves from those who are not Christians. This deep pattern is almost inescapable for religious people: If we do not become changed from the inside-out – if we don’t morph – we will be tempted to find external methods to satisfy our need to feel that we’re different from those outside the faith.”  According to one survey this “pseudo- transformation” characterizes most Christians in America and explains the problem many non-believers have with the church. 
For decades, Worldwide Discipleship Association (WDA) focused on discipling college students. Our staff poured their lives into young men and women to help them apply biblical truth. We’re grateful most of our alumni are walking with Christ and providing spiritual leadership in their homes and churches. But after graduation, they share a common lament: “Our local church doesn’t seem to know how to help people grow to maturity. Can you help?”
After sensing the Lord’s prompting, we launched The 28/20® Project, an effort to help local church leaders teach people to put Christ’s commands into practice. Its name came from what the church calls The Great Commission, our Lord’s charge to discipleship in Matthew 28:20a, “And teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.”
As we began the project, we knew we’d heard from the Lord be- cause we experienced a sudden, dramatic increase in spiritual war- fare. In spite of the fierce opposition, we knew God had taught us many truths that will help local churches facilitate maturity. Our plan of action looked like this:
• We began with a maturity philosophy. We knew Jesus had a plan for building mature leaders. His Great Commission assumed this “pattern of sound teaching” (2 Tim. 1:13), and the early church employed it to help people grow in Christ-like- ness. Of course His plan would apply to the contemporary church, as well.
• Using Jesus’ approach as a template, we designed a process for producing maturity in the church that included a progressive, intentional architecture for growth.
• Building on this process, we developed practical programs to support maturity. These can be implemented in local churches through lay leaders.
• Next, we produced a progressive curriculum that provides the content and training needed to support the programs.
• Finally, we built partnership prototypes in a few local churches that have implemented our process.
This book represents an explanation and overview of what we’ve learned so far. We’ve reached a critical intersection. Christians need to be trained to think, feel, and act like Jesus (Luke 6:40).
God commands this for the glory of His name. In addition, our culture has a desperate need for mature people.
This project is much larger than our small organization. It will require collaboration and cooperation among all believers, especially Christian leaders. The declining Western Church needs restoration. The Church in other nations needs to be better equipped. If we hope to achieve these goals and follow Christ’s commands, we must work together.
The maturation process may seem daunting and uninviting. After all, we don’t like it when someone says, “Grow up!” But living a mature life of service to others is essential. Remember the last time you encountered that rude driver or the over-zealous rival fan? What about the surly shopkeeper or the mud-slinging politician?
We know maturity is important. But we don’t always understand the best way to harness the processes that produce it.
We know maturity is important. But we don’t always understand the best way to harness the processes that produce it. If you’re a church leader who feels this way, you’re not alone. In this book, we’ll present practical, biblical approaches for producing maturity. As you read and study this material, we hope you’ll grow—and join a movement that urges others to do the same.
Everybody needs to grow and mature, but this book is aimed at Christians who realize something has gone terribly wrong in the Western societies that once embraced biblical Christianity. These believers sense, even suspect, that underlying issues exist within the church that connect to the cultural decay and the shift of worldviews.
And they’re right. God has placed the church—along with the family—at the center of the maturation process. By strengthening the church, we bolster the family and, in turn, our society.
Our enemy understands this. That’s why, in our postmodern culture, all these institutions find themselves under siege. We need mature leaders who will stand against the evil one and retake lost territory in our homes and churches.
I believe God is allowing time for Western cultures to repent, or at least time for His Church to prepare for hardship and increasing persecution. But since time is short and precious, we must act wisely.
Most Christian leaders lead busy lives. That’s why we designed this book to be read in a few hours, providing an overview of core concepts. The Epilogue shares an invitation to join an ongoing conversation about implementing the suggested programs. Information- packed Appendices will meet the needs of those who want still more information. If you want to learn even more, we hope you’ll contact us.
Today, many believers hope and pray for an outpouring of God’s grace and mercy to yield a worldwide spiritual awakening. I join them in asking God to bring into churches the kind of revival that spills into the surrounding culture.
But while we wait and pray, we can also act by installing processes and programs that produce maturity. And we don’t need to choose between prayer and action. As Scripture reminds us, “The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory rests with the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31; cf. 1 Corinthians 3:6).
The solution to the widespread immaturity found among believers today is achievable, but not simple. A clear display of God’s sovereign rule in the hearts and lives of His followers requires wisdom and knowledge, a realignment of priorities, and an application of Kingdom principles.
Leaders must understand, balance, and apply all the dynamics that contribute to progressive growth and sanctification. This requires both a strong faith and a new focus. As we fix our eyes on things un- seen, the outcome will be a deeper faith, drawn in part from church leaders who consistently equip believers. As we help them put truth into practice, faith grows. The rewards are both temporal and eternal.
Unfortunately, some church leaders don’t invest the necessary effort to “equip his people for works of service” (Ephesians 4:12). Others have their own leadership agenda, one that doesn’t include maturity.
When Christ returns, He will hold all leaders accountable for their stewardship. That will spell blessing for some and embarrassment (or worse) for others.
But many leaders have made a commitment to honor Christ by helping His people grow to maturity. These men and women have “ears to hear” (Mark 4:9). They’ll discover and implement maturation processes within their local churches that produce Christ-like followers. They’ll celebrate the traditions that support such growth and help change any that don’t.
To accomplish this maturity-minded goal, wise leaders are willing to embrace the challenge of intense spiritual warfare. I’m praying God will sound His trumpet of restoration in these dark days, calling people to “rebuild the ancient ruins and restore the places long devastated” (Isaiah 61:4).
I hope you’re one of those He calls. May His grace and power rest upon you for the glory of His name.
Bob Dukes –
from the Introduction
Maturity Matters: The Priority and Process for Disciple Building in the Church
WDA has developed a unique way to help you meet people where they are and know where the discipleship process is going. The Christian Growth Checklist provides a tool to identify where a person is spiritually and emotionally. It lets people have a starting point in thinking about what they should learn, what areas of their growth might need to be improved. Many people find that as they grow in their faith, life happens! I have the opportunity to learn and grow but I don’t have as much time to commit as I desire to that particular area. Evangelism might be a good example. Your church might be offering a class in evangelism and how to share your testimony. Yet the week that you were to do that task you miss and never get that one skill down. The Christian Growth Checklist would help you remember that. You would be able to go back and learn how to share you story.
The checklist isn’t a tool for spiritual arrogance or a method to make us feel bad about things we haven’t applied. It is a map that shows the places we have journeyed on our spiritual walk and gives us ideas where we can go next. The checklist isn’t a way for me to look at my friend and compare grades like we might have on a spelling test in elementary school. This works well when you have a Life Coach who helps you understand and works with you make a plan and create situations to learn together.
We all know the Christian life is a long walk toward being more like Jesus. Eugene Peterson wrote a book called “A long obedience in the same direction.” I like that idea. We are learning to grow in obedience to all the things Jesus wants for us today. Tomorrow I continue to learn and then the day following. The Christian Growth Checklist helps me take the first steps by knowing where I have gone and looking toward next steps.
There is a “new brand” of Christianity on the rise, one that is neither Christian nor new. This version is not Christian because it promotes the experiential over fact. Truth is what you want it to be and the Bible is not necessarily authoritative. It is not new either, for it encourages the original sin in Eden, that man can become “like the Most High.” This paganized version is being promoted within the church through mystical practices and attitudes.
My newly released book, Mystic Seduction: Awakening Christians to a Real and Present Danger, deals with this rising influence of mysticism within the church and its promotion of an unbiblical, Gnostic/New Age/Eastern distortion of Christianity. The primary attack on the church by this new Christianity is against God’s created order. In other words, it intends to turn His created order upside down, teaching the experiential views of man as truth and elevating man to equality with God. Ultimately, it questions the validity and authority of God’s Word and historical Christianity.
I believe this issue is critical to the future of the church because this mystical approach to Christianity has become popular with the under-thirty age group. As a campus minister I have had the opportunity to work with this age group for several years. These young people will be the future leaders of the church, and what they believe will determine what the church will become.
If left unchecked, the insidious growth of this new brand of Christianity will affect Christian apologetics as well as discipleship. The reason for this is clear. First, whatever the church believes to be true (polemics) will affect the message it shares with non-believers (apologetics). In other words, if it embraces a skewed view of the truth, it will share this skewed view with the world.
Second, we know that the method used in discipleship is effective, because even the corporate world uses some of the same principles in training their leaders. Therefore, it is imperative that the historical truth of the Bible is the anchor in the process of discipleship, for the method could be equally effective in promoting the skewed version of it.
As we have encountered students on campus, we have had the privilege to work with many who are rock solid in their faith and view of the Bible. However, many come to the university unprepared to articulate their faith or defend it. And unfortunately, many who come from solid backgrounds are unable or unwilling to take a stand on issues that God clearly is opposed to (e.g. alternate lifestyle issues). This is either because they lack the confidence or knowledge to do so, or they actually think those issues are non-issues with God. The answer is biblical discipleship, the sooner the better with a solid mentor. Linking truth with the process is key to solving these problems and will result in helping to check the rapid growth of this rising, skewed version of the truth.
I was blessed to have this book taken through the publication process by Dave Bellis and edited by Thomas Williams. Each of these men have authored several books on their own as well as co-written with Josh McDowell, David Jeremiah, Beth Moore, Cloud and Townsend and Gary Smalley, among others.
The hardcopy version of the book can be obtained by going to the website www.bealertministry.com or through Amazon. The e-book version is in most e-bookstores, including Amazon.
WDA recommends using Amazon Smile as we receive a donation from all amazon purchases.
What would you do if you were in another country when you received an email that your first born child, your precious13 year old daughter, would be kidnapped, raped and murdered? E. A. Abraham was in the US seeking to raise funds for his ministry of church planting, Bible training, schooling and orphan care in India when the email came. As he frantically sought the Lord, an idea hit him…he should send his daughter away immediately to a boarding school in anther part of India.
Unable to give their young child an adequate explanation, her mother quickly packed their daughter up and put her on a two-day train ride with two of her uncles as escorts. Understandably, her daughter was miserable, sad and confused. The language and customs in this new place were very different from her own, and how she missed her mother, father and brother!
When Abraham came to visit as soon as he got home, there were many tears shed, and his daughter followed him to the gates of the hostel weeping loudly. As Abraham rode the rail home, his own heart was aching and breaking. “There is such suffering for my whole family because I preach the gospel of Jesus Christ,” he thought. Abraham too wept bitterly, yet found comfort in the Lord after he yielded the matter to God’s care.
His daughter stayed and graduated from higher secondary school, then went back to enroll in seminary in the same city. She graduated with two bachelor degrees, and God “turned the curse into a blessing,” because of His love for Abraham and his family. (Deut. 23:5) Today, she’s added a counseling degree to her list of accomplishments and is working with her parents’ ministry in India.
Abraham meanwhile has been seeking the Lord regarding how to disciple the many young men and women who look to him for leadership. Two couples just returned from India after teaching the first installment of WDA’s 28/20 discipleship process. Please pray that God will lead and guide us as we seek to develop a strategic partnership in this land of mystery and miracle.