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Life Coaches and Leadership in the Church

What is a Life Coach? I heard about people having one, so I was curious about what they did.


"A life coach helps guide clients to reach their ultimate goals. A life coach can help individuals in different areas of their life. But because each human being is different, so will their goals. Oftentimes, a life coach counsels clients in personal and professional arenas.”


I know there are people who say that everyone should have a personal mentor, and I suppose that is a life coach, in a way. I am not opposed to life coaches or mentors, but is your pastor a mentor in your life? To some I suppose, the pastor is a life coach, who works toward getting you better situated with God in your spiritual life. There is nothing wrong with that, right? Well, let's take a closer look at that thought.


Words are important and words can mean different things to different people, so I want to be clear and careful that I don’t get misunderstood with my thoughts. To me, there is a fine line between a pastor and a life coach. Both are trying to coach a person to become the best person they can be and often take the same paths to get someone there. However, a life coach could have a spiritual component to their coaching, and a pastor could have some practical advice to a person beyond a spiritual perspective. Yet, for the longest time, I tried to identify the kind of message I was hearing in most of the churches that I attended. I finally realized that many pastors today are less prophets, so to speak, and are more life coaches. You might say, "Well is that bad?” Yes and no. People definitely need good counsel today in how they run their personal lives and manage family life. The practical sells … look at Dr Phil! Plus, some of the top best-selling books in the New York Times are about themes dealing with self-help or relational issues. So, everyone needs a person to talk through the details of daily life and get healthy and honest feedback.


The problem I see for the Church is that spiritual life has another dimension to it that the every day doesn't. I heard one preacher say, "There are two streams flowing side by side simultaneously, and we are being invited continually to join one or the other. Often people like to experience both streams from time to time. When you think about a person’s life, there is this duality of personal life and spiritual life, and one often affects the other.” A life coach can tell us how to better ourselves by:


•          Creating better habits

•          Hanging out with successful people

•          Taking inventory of goals and objectives

•          Making your bed every day

•          Training your mind to stay positive and reject the negative

•          Journalizing your thoughts more

•          Ridding yourselves of toxic people and environments

•          Reading books with big ideas and big accomplishments

•          Eating well and exercising more

•          Rewarding yourself when you accomplish a goal


There are thousands of tips on good advice from life coaches, but the pastor's advice is different. A pastor will talk about:


•          Prayer

•          Studying the Bible

•          Finding a place where you can invest your talents and treasures

•          Knowing the difference between evil and good

•          Sin is an issue only God can forgive

•          Satan and the evil empire

•          The end times and how to face it

•          Heaven and salvation

•          Hell and eternal punishment

•          Judgment day


Again, we could go on forever with a list of spiritual themes a pastor could engage in teaching, that would detail the difference from a life coach. What I am concerned about, however, is how pastors today connect more along the line of a life coach than they do a pastor. When I think of a pastor, I think of a priestly type of person whose position in the Church is being a mediator between God and mankind. A life coach will speak into a person's life from the best practices of successful people, and what works best for most people. Pastors, on the other hand, must speak on behalf of Christ and the values of His Word.


So, at the end of the day, here is what I find troubling … pastors who are more life coaches in their approach to doing ministry, than they are pastors listening to God and following His leading in doing ministry. I realize that the principles of both a life coach and a pastor can overlap, but the pastor must know that the Cross is where His message must begin and end. It was because of the Cross that we received the Holy Spirit who leads us into all truth … not just best practices. The Word of God is a manual on knowing God and living according to His values and practices. At the end of the day, we have to know the difference between what is good and what is best. Life coaches are good, no question, but the best is what comes from our spiritual coach, the Holy Spirit.


The message from the Church must be a practical reflection of a heavenly agenda of His Kingdom coming one day to earth to be established forever. Take time today to allow the Holy Spirit to lead you into the truth of God’s Word, and teach you how to pray and to believe in a merciful God who wants none to perish but all to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.


Challenging the Culture with Truth … Larry Kutzler



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