This affords coaching a useful model to clarify the role and requirements of clients in a spiritually designed coaching relationship.
Coaches, like the Jesus figure need to be present and empowered in their relationship with clients. Ken Blanchard highlighted the need for spiritual preparation when he asked some 300 coaches and mentors to examine their top-of-the-morning habits that support them in being masterful professionals (in Belf 2002:548). Building on this, Belf goes on to write that we need to create structures to set ourselves up each day as integrated spiritual people (2002:548). Coaches need to prepare and be fit to impart, through spiritually guided holistic engagement, Spirit to their clients. Like Jesus, they need often to withdraw from the crowds and their disciples in order to prepare for their ‘sessions’.
The coaching relationship must be created with the express intent to support clients to initiate their own authentic action plans to encounter Spirit and bring about change. This must be viewed as a gift rather than a reward for moral obedience, Spirit, being present for all who seek it through authentically faith in action. Faith itself must also not be regarded as an obstacle to encounter. When asked by his disciple how they might increase their faith, Jesus explained that faith as small as a mustard seed was enough to move mountains. It’s not the amount of faith that matters, but the fact of faith, expressed in action (Lk.17:5-6).
This model further highlights the centrality of the clients’ agenda, Spirit following faith-action. While busy teaching Jesus is called away by a father whose daughter has died (Mt.9:18). The fathers’ faith-action plan requires that Jesus “come and lay your hand on her and she will live”. He immediately gets up and begins to follow him. En route he encounters the touch of faith in the crowd and addresses himself to this. After restoring life to the young woman he encounters two blind men and meets them at their point of faith and so the story continues as if Jesus had no agenda other than that of his ‘clients’.
2.2. Coaching With Spirit as Empowerment
Empowering the coaching relationships is all the more important for those specializing as spiritual coaches. To this end, the spirituality developed within the Johannine tradition offers a helpful model. As long ago as 150 CE, Clement of Alexandria noted the difference between the Synoptic gospels and what he calls John’s ‘Spiritual Gospel’ (Hunter 1972:61). As the scope of this paper does not allowing extensive debate on the matter, we’ll assume the original recipients of John’s gospel were a specific Johannine community (see: du Rand 1994:60). Against this background, Spirit actively empowers members of the community to love and serve one another.
Two metaphors are used to develop our model; those of Spirit as water and Spirit as seed. The first is illustrated by the story (Jn.4:7-13) of a Samaritan woman Jesus meets at a well. Being thirsty, but without a bucket to draw water, he asks the woman for a drink. His request is met with shock as Jews regarded Samaritans as defiled and seldom had any dealings with them. Jesus demonstrates a different attitude by offering to serve her water from ‘his well’. This water, he explains, would become in her an eternal fountain of life. She is given a choice but struggles to understand the spiritual meaning of his words. Further in the gospel, Jesus promises Spirit to all who believe, speaking of it as bringing forth rivers of living water flowing from their innermost being (Jn.7:38-39).
In addition to an inner wellspring, John likens the work of Spirit to the seed (Greek: spe.µ. – ‘sperma’) of God, which once received through faith generates the divine nature through spiritual birth (1Jn.3:9). The dialogue between a Pharisee and Jesus (Jn.3:1-8) regarding his need to be ‘born again’ further develops this. Nicodemus like the Samaritan woman struggles to understand his need not only to be born of water (natural birth) but also of [seed] Spirit and fails to make the right choice.
These two metaphors share the same structural components and serve to develop a model of Spirit as empowerment. The components are as follows:
- Jesus is always present to empower with Spirit. (Woman at well & Pharisee at night)
- Spirit is a gift available to all (Samarians & Pharisees).
- Spirit requires faith rather than reason to understand and receive it.
- Spirit empowers recipient to gift others (to give ‘life’ and ‘divine love’).
- Spirit is imparted from within (an ‘artesian well’ and a ‘spiritual nature’)
From this Spiritual Coaching can extrapolate that:
- Spirit empowerment must be sought out and chosen.
- The locus of Spirit empowerment is within.
- Spiritual impartation streams (like a river) from within.
- Faith rather than reason is needed operate in the Spirit.
This affords coaching a useful model to clarify the role and requirements of coaches in a spiritually designed coaching relationship.
For a coaching relationship to be truly spiritual, the coach needs to purpose it to be so. By setting their intention to seek Spirit, coaches open themselves up and invite Spirit in. This requires less the observation of a religious ritual than it does the willingness to yield to inner Spirit. Coaching with Spirit cannot only be seen as a state of mind entered into before a session. Rather, it needs to be a mode of being that requires cultivation and practiced as a way of living. In the language of John this requires that weabide in the vine” (Jn.15:1-7), that we ‘live’ connected to Spirit. The sooner coaches cease trying to predict a coaching outcome and yield rather to the voice of Spirit the greater the empowerment they’ll bring to their coaching relationships. Donald Guthrie (1990: 249) writes that “it is as impossible to predict the operation of the Spirit as that of the wind (Jn.3:8).
The best we can do is to be present in the moment and work with Spirit to facilitate encounters for clients. Julia A Walz (in Belf 2002:552- 562) explains:
I rely on connection to something greater than myself and the client, something encompassing both of us … in addition to listening to a client, I also listen to the information provided by my intuition … These insights get to the heart of any issue or challenge and provide the opportunity to reach a new level of awareness. Dr Elaine Gagn (in Belf 2002:578) adds how “this brilliant part of me, the part that never sleeps, is Spirit; the voice of Spirit is intuition.
Having explored spiritual coaching from a New Testament perspective we conclude that it’s a rich source of inspirational guidance. The Synoptic model of encounter demonstrates greater masculine characteristics and is useful to help clients gain clarity around how they can encounter Spirit through the coaching relationship. The softer Johannine model of inner empowerment offers rich imagery to coaches seeking to empower themselves in order to bring Spirit to their clients through the relationship.
4.1 Belf, ET. 2002 Coaching with Spirit San Francisco: Jossey-Bass/Pfeiffer
4.2 Deist, FE. 1984 A Concise Dictionary of Theological Terms Pretoria: J.L Van Schaik.
4.3 Dulles, A. 1985 Models of Revelation New York: Image Books.
4.4 Du Rand, JA. 1994 Johannine Perspectives Johannesburg: Orion.
4.5 Guthrie, D. 1990 New Testament Introduction England: Apollos
4.6 House, HK; House, KK & Sandahl, P. 2011 Co-Active Coaching London: Nicholas Brealey Publishing.
4.7 Hunter, AM. 1972 Philosophy Of Science London: SCM Press.