Coaching is essential for a sustained missional community movement. If you are committed to decentralized discipleship, you must make ongoing investments in leaders. We call this coaching.

Why Coaching?

Classroom equipping and observation can only take you so far

Eventually, leaders have to start taking steps and lead away from the training ground. As they do this, they need accountability, encouragement, and equipping around real scenarios when they are in the position of responsibility and servant leadership.

I will never forget when our community sent Kory and Emily out to start a new community in their neighborhood. They were incredibly equipped. Seminary trained, church staff history, summer mission work in China, they had read all the books by Hirsch and Cole. They had been to conferences and been imbedded in our GC for over a year. And then they were sent out to be a gospel community on mission. Suddenly, our conversations took on a whole new dynamic. We weren’t talking theory anymore. There were no hypotheticals. They had real people with real stories when we got together. They didn’t have to think about praying and following the Spirit, they had to actually do it. It was in this environment that they began to listen and obey like never before and they learned to pray all over again.

They began throwing the books out the window. Their lives became messy as disciples came into their midst with issues. Their community ended up looking nothing like the ideal or any other missional community Bread&Wine had ever had. Their core consisted of families scattered across the suburbs. Their neighborhood and community wasn’t walkable. Their neighbors didn’t value BBQs or Art Camps. Kory had to work nights four days a week. Yet, they took steps forward. They opened themselves up to the possibility of failure. They tried different things and prayed prayers like: “Help us be the church here…we want to be the church.” In the end, through prayer, patience, and listening to the Spirit, they established a thriving family of servant missionaries that cared for homeless teenage moms, foster babies, and help each other speak the gospel to their kiddos. They are a diverse community, declaring the gospel, and demonstrating it on the outskirts of the city. Their lives are immersed in the needs, pains, and blessings of community. They got started with books, but moved forward through prayer, faithfulness, and processing with coaches.

Every missional community and leader is different

There is a wide range of cultural contexts within each city, differing relational dynamics, and each missional community’s shared mission brings unique barriers and opportunities for the gospel. In other words, disciple making is not a reproducible formula or recipe. Forming and developing a discipleship environment like a missional community is very different from making a cake. Primers, books, curriculum, and resources are all helpful in getting you started and laying a solid foundation, but you can’t just follow the instructions. You simply can’t write a step-by-step guide and hand it to people.

Why? This is real life, with real people. The challenges, opportunities, and growth curve for every group of people is different. Each leader is uniquely gifted and called. Also, in real-life missional community the Holy Spirit leads a group of people not a book. Missional Coaches come alongside leaders to be a sounding board, source of gospel truth, partner, and real-time advocate for your missional community. That means, a coaching relationship enables the leader to stay focused and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit forward through its dynamic hurdles and calling. Coaches help leaders discover and take the next step in faithfulness. Coaches force leaders to ask this question: What does God want us to do now? Coaching is a relationship where unique next steps are discovered and followed.

Leaders need to be reminded of the gospel & the power of the Holy Spirit

Kory and Emily experienced barrier after barrier (like all missional community leaders) our job as coaches was to remind them of the gospel. We were a voice calling leaders to remember who they are, what they are called to, and how discipleship is an act of endurance. As a coach, I spend 40% of my time with leaders reminding them of Jesus, who they are in Christ, and what it means to be a leader of disciples. In the chaos and mess of community, mission, work, and family it is unnaturally easy to forget where you are and what you are doing. It is also easy to forget what is in your control and what isn’t.  This is why some coaches see their primary role is to remind leaders of their own calling and its limitations. Coaches ask the questions: Who does God say you are? Why are you doing this? What is true about God today?

Leaders need to know they aren’t alone and their community isn’t a silo

Coaches force leaders to meet with them and talk. Within the coaching relationship leaders are supported, cared for, and experience friendship. In a coaching relationship, leaders learn that someone else cares about these disciples, and prays for them.

Coaching is essential because obedience is expected

Make no mistake, we are all called to live in obedience to who we are and what God has called us to. The gospel propels us into a new identity where our work doesn’t save us or make us acceptable. Instead, we are free to obey our one true Savior-King. Not just in activities and events. All of life is re-shaped by the gospel–both being and doing. Everything. From the mundane, formal and organized to the major, informal and impromptu. All of life belongs to God and he expects obedience in faith to the things he has prepared for us to do.

  • Matthew 28:20: Teaching them to obey everything I have commanded.
  • James 1:22-25: Being no hearer who forgets, but a doer who acts.
  • Ephesians 2:10: For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

Coaching is the crucial discipleship element of a missional movement that asks: What does obedience look like? What is required to obey? How can I help you? How will you obey?

What is Coaching?

Original definitions of a Coach: 1. A horse-drawn carriage, that takes passengers from point A to point B. 2. A railroad car that takes people from point A to B.

Coaching is a relationship and a conversation that helps people get where they are headed. Missional communities want to make disciples and be used in forming communities centered around the gospel and on mission. This is a long process with many steps. A leader starts at point A and is looking forward to point Z. The silver bullet to skip all the mess, suffering, and growth hasn’t been discovered. A coach helps leaders take one step.

Missional coaching is helping leaders live what they already believe. Coaches do this by listening, offering gospel truth, resources, and challenging leaders to move forward into what God is calling them to do by asking simple questions. Coaches help leaders grow in clarity, perspective, and awareness.

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Coaching is Leading Leaders

My wife and I have multiplied communities three times in four years of leading, and will multiply again in a few weeks. Each time is filled with joy and pain. Joy in the excitement of what God is doing and how he is sending people into new corners of the city we love. Also, pain knowing we don’t get to share life like we used to with all the people we sent out. The hardest is the leaders. We have a special bond with the leaders. We loved alongside them them, shared life with them, and shared responsibility for making disciples with them. Over the last several years we have discovered a new piece of our calling and giftedness: leading leaders.

Coaching is leading leaders from the background–leading with questions, accountability, encouragement, and friendship. We have released leaders to go and start new gospel families.

This is post 1 in a long series on coaching and leading leaders. The goal is that leaders from a diversity of contexts will be able to start coaching with confidence and awareness. Continue reading or subscribe to the blog to be update with each new installment.

Brad A. Watson serves as a pastor of Bread&Wine Communities in Portland, Oregon where he develops, coaches, and trains leaders to form communities that love God and serve the city. Brad is passionate about helping people live lives that reflect their belief and hope in Jesus. He lives in southeast Portland with his wife and their three kids.