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Finding faith

Life coach or Christian community?

By Christopher Passante

With the rapid growth of life coaches being employed in the United States in the last decade, there has been much comment and criticism in and from the Church over whether pastors should get in on the life-coaching game.

After all, aren’t pastors “life coaches” in many regards?

A $9.9 billion personal development and self-improvement industry in 2018, life coaches help individuals reach goals in everything from relationships and weight loss to career goals and spirituality needs for a fee, according to MarketResearch.com a web-based market intelligence service.

It stands to reason that in today’s consumer society and the subsequent personal improvement mentality that has further isolated people in what were healthy communities, that a “self”-focused industry would proliferate in a culture that continues to shift away from community.

Blame it on the Industrial Revolution and the resulting dissolution of familial and communal interdependence — simply longhand for “we no longer live in communities in which each person is dependent on another” — we are a more isolated people than ever before.

Metropolitan areas and communities with large universities tend to see more transient residents, and a sense of “community” can seem elusive. Save a few thriving “Purpose-Driven” church models, which have been dramatically intentional about building communities, many houses of worship suffer from a lack of cohesive community. A Sunday morning worship hour and a handful of people who gather for a midweek Bible study or small group doesn’t connect a community, let alone a congregation to its fullest potential.

It’s no wonder people have shifted away from (free) pastoral care in favor of paid, and not always “professional” life coaches.

Certainly, pastors aren’t personal fitness coaches, and we often don’t have the credentials to help kick a substance dependency, but in terms of spirituality, wholeness, relationships, finance, and even career goals, pastors are abundantly qualified because they are faith leaders (that is, God-oriented) have training in pastoral care and an array of life experiences.

The source of happiness is not self; it is God. Without a God-focused plan — one that starts with prayer, meditation, discernment and community, goals will center on filling that “God-shaped hole” with ourselves — or worse, things of the world.

Romans 12:2 tells us: “Don’t be conformed to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds so that you can figure out what God’s will is — what is good and pleasing and mature” (CEB).

Certainly, a life coach can be a Christian disciple, and many with specialized training in certain fields; however, your church has more than a pastor. It is a community. Its very existence is, as the Body of Christ, a supernatural and dynamic assembly of people with an array of spiritual gifts and talents. A community built to be interdependent, healing, growing, nurturing, loving and caring.

And the only price for this resource is to embrace our callings as parts of the Body.

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Christopher Passante serves as Pastor at Mount Nittany United Methodist Church and Centre Spirituality in Nature in State College. Contact him at cpassante@susumc.org

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