Pastoral Coaching Through Paul's Eyes
On the day of Pentecost, as the Holy Spirit was poured upon the earliest believers, those gathered experienced something undeniably new. They heard unschooled people standing and teaching with power—in languages they had never been taught! They saw this small, gathering of Jesus-followers united in message, proclaiming the mighty works of God.
In an instant, something had changed for these people. And yet, Peter had the God-given wisdom to recognise that although this was new—it was also ancient.
So, as he stood to address the bewildered crowd, Peter describes this unique event—before saying, “This is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel.” (Acts 2:16)
This is that.
Peter looks closely at the ‘This’ which is occurring around him. He describes it and explains it to those listening.
But then, guided by the Spirit, he reaches back in to God’s story to show how ‘This’ is ‘That’. What is happening is building off what has happened before. Although new, ‘this’ isn’t unplanned by God, but is the fullness of what was hinted at in the past.
This is that.
As churches, leaders and individuals seek to discern what God is doing around us, we do well to follow Peter’s example. We want to be people with a thoroughly Scripture-soaked imagination, who see and interpret the world through a biblical lens.
I’ve been delighted to discover stories of biblical coaching around our New Zealand Open Brethren heritage churches. Across both islands, in churches big and small, leaders are taking their formative task seriously and are seeking to journey members in their church further along in their walk with Christ.
I love this. And I also love that “This” is part of the “That” which is at the heart of the New Testament.
As we read Paul’s letters to Timothy, it can be easy to forget the story and the heart-beat behind them. According to tradition, Paul was twelve years older than Timothy, and saw a call on his life that could take the gospel further than Paul could alone. So, he coached Timothy, taking him on missionary journeys, sharing every-day life together and seeing Timothy grow into a fellow evangelist and leader for Jesus.
This—the coaching we’re seeing in New Zealand today—Is that. Christian men and women shepherding, praying and leading other men and women along in their walk. And, although not prescriptive, when we read 1 Timothy with coaching eyes, we get a glimpse into the coaching life of Paul.
In the first chapter, Paul begins by greeting Timothy with a beautiful phrase: “My true son in the faith” (1:2). We see that this is no formulaic, methodical coaching program, but is a deep relationship built on knowledge and care.
Paul then reminds Timothy of what he has said to him before—regarding the practice of engaging with false teachers (1:3-7). We see that coaching is not a one-off encounter for Paul but an ongoing relationship. Paul has been teaching Timothy for years now and continues to review and remind him of the key lessons he needs for the journey ahead.
In a beautiful move, Paul then transitions from this specific advice to theological training (1:8-11). He doesn’t want Timothy to follow mindlessly, but for his life to be grounded on the truth of Scripture. From the specific to the general, Paul coaches Timothy for future scenarios, continually teaching him how to be one equipped to lead.
And it just gets better. After a greeting and this urgent reminder, Paul provides heartfelt worship of Jesus and a foundation on Christ’s gospel. We get the glimpse here: This isn’t about Paul or Timothy. It’s about Jesus, and his name becoming great. Paul is overwhelmed by the grace of Christ shown to him and wants Timothy to grasp this. It’s all about the gospel—whether church leadership, theological engagement, community building or discipleship—it’s all centred on the gospel.
Finally, in this first section, Paul re-charges Timothy with the words and call that has been spoken over his life (1:18). In a world that seeks to make us forget about that which is most important, Paul coaches Timothy to hold onto and revisit those moments of clear conviction, which set Timothy’s life on this God-following adventure.
This is that, and that is this.
Paul shows his deep care for Timothy, provides practical advice, advises on the deeper things, reminds him of the gospel and encourages him based on his core convictions.
What might our churches and country look like if more of us seek to embody that in our world today?
With God’s help and by the Spirit, perhaps we await more leaders to see this is that, and to join in God’s movement of coaching leaders, disciples and followers of Christ who will coach into the future.
By Jeremy Suisted, CCCNZ Coaching Coordinator.
To find out more about what Jeremy does and how he can serve your church and leaders, click here.