In Unity we often call Jesus a master teacher, but he was also a master engager. Some even call him the first life coach. To grow his ministry, Jesus did not tell people what to do. He engaged them in the process of growth by asking meaningful questions. Author John Dear notes that the Gospels record over 300 questions posed by Jesus. This approach provided a living example of Proverbs 20:5 that states, “The purposes of a person’s heart are deep waters, but one who has insight draws them out.”
There is a concept in coaching called “powerful questioning.” That is where Jesus excelled. Powerful questions are really just heart checks, but they force people to examine their own desires or motivations at a very deep level. With his spiritual insight, Jesus could have simply told people how to change their thinking in order to grow in wisdom, but he knew that would not have lasting impact or encourage people to take responsibility for their lives. Instead, he asked direct questions that gave others ownership. This is how he grew his ministry and engaged his disciples, such as in John 1:38 when he asked, “What do you seek?” It was up to his followers to find their own answers and, if they chose, commit to following his teachings.
After inquiring, Jesus also listened deeply before providing support and encouragement to help others along their spiritual journey. He didn’t use guilt or shame as negative motivators, but instead attempted to create a new vision regarding what could be, reminding others that with faith all things are possible. He honored people by hearing their fears and concerns, but instead of dwelling on what they did not want, helped them chart a road forward.
To become a transformational coach and to truly engage people in the life of a spiritual community, it is necessary to stop simply giving answers and instructions and invite people to reflect and respond with their own truth. While coaching does contain a certain amount of “push,” it ultimately focuses on helping people find their internal “spiritual pull” to deepen their life experience. As Randy McKinney, pastor of Longview Baptist Church in Raleigh, North Carolina, says, “Congregational coaching is more like a compass than a map.” Jesus grew his ministry by engaging people through challenging their thinking and helping them bring forth untapped potential in order to truly connect with the Christ within.