The task of this paper is to explore New Testament models for spiritual coaching. For this purpose a model is understood to be:
a relatively simple, artificially constructed case which is found to be useful and illuminating for dealing with realities that are more complex and differentiated (Dulles 1985:30).
As this is a vast field of research we will limit our attention to one model from the Synoptic and a second from Johannine traditions. In so doing, we acknowledge that the New Testament is not a single text, but a collection of spiritual traditions each with a common yet unique interpretation of the Jesus event. It is also important to note that this research does not reflect a necessarily Christian perspective or that of any Christian movement or church. These too are dynamic interpretations of the same New Testament we are referencing.
By the Synoptic tradition we understand the three gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke, which all draw upon the Q-Source
a hypothetical source believed to have been at the disposal of the Synoptic gospels. The similarities among these three gospels are then explained as due to their common use of the same source (Deist 1984:139)
The Johannine writing includes all those texts attributed to the apostle John. The distinctions cited by textual and historic criticism between those written by the hand of John and those written by another hand in the tradition of John are not observed as these hold no value for our research.
Spiritual Encounter & Empowerment for Coaching
In their book Co-Active Coaching, the authors suggest that the coaching relationship should be seen as a triangle with the relationship at its apex. Both the coach and client are seen in this power triangle to energize the relationship with a view to the client drawing the power, not directly from the coach, but from the relationship. (House, House & Sandahl 2011:15-16).
Spiritual coaching is about consciously recognizing, stepping into and staying in the energy flow of the universe, the cosmos or in the language of the New Testament, the Spirit in order to support and facilitate change for clients.
From the Synoptic tradition, we develop a model of ‘encounter’, focusing on how clients can experience Spirit through the coaching relationship. The Johannine tradition yields a model of ‘empowerment’ employing rich imagery to inspire coaches to bring Spirit to the relationship for their clients to encounter.
2.1. Coaching With Spirit as Encounter
The work of Spirit within the Synoptic gospels is set against the background of conflict. The cultural and religious struggle between the powerful Roman Empire and the disenfranchised Jewish people is seen as a reflection of the real spiritual battle between God and the forces of evil. Jesus enters this drama as God’s champion, the Spirit through him challenging people to make choices, to take action and to commit themselves in order to secure change.
Exemplifying this is the story (Lk.5:17-20) of a group of men, who take action by lowering their paralytic friend through the roof into the room below them in order to present him to the Spirit present Jesus. This action is immediately rewarded and their faith acknowledged. They do not wait to be selected or given instruction, but initiated their own, authentic action plan and in so doing encountered the transforming power of Spirit.
In Mk.5:25-34, Jesus, in the midst of a crowd of people, bumped and pushed about identifies a singular connection, different from all the others as it draws power from him. When he asks who touched him, a woman identifies herself and the action plan she had formed and initiated in order to change her life. Her actions are quite different from those of the first story and yet similar in their authenticity. She too is transformed through her encounter with Sprit and has her faith acknowledged.
These are two of many stories throughout this tradition, all with the same structural components serving to develop our spiritual model of encounter. These components are as follows:
- Jesus is present with people and empowered with Spirit.
- Random people initiate authentic action plans to change their lives.
- Yielding to their agenda, Jesus engages them and they encounter Spirit.
- Their encounter with Spirit changes their lives.
- Their action is equated to true and great faith
From this we extrapolate that:
- Spiritual encounter is facilitated by a person present in a relationship.
- The transfer of Spirit is impartial and impersonal.
- Encounters with Spirit are initiated through authentic faith in action.