Ownership, Coaching and Christianity (145)

In this episode John and Gregg return to John’s positive engagement with coaching and his unfulfilling engagement with Christianity.

Gregg’s hunch is that John’s situation offers an example that is very applicable for many listeners, in that the phenomena of finding one’s faith to be lackluster in comparison with other activities or pursuits seems not only common but normal. Thus the fitting response is one of “investigation,” in order to gain understanding (rather than berating oneself or feeling guilty for one’s current reality). Out of this better understanding one may then be able to leverage valuable insights in other areas that can profitably be applied to one’s faith.

Thus Gregg opens with the notion that Christianity—or at least one’s experience of it—is never “great all the time.” Indeed, he argues that this is a destructive ideology. Questioning John, Gregg wonders what basic aspects of coaching work for John, and how / what about these same aspects don’t work for John when it comes to Christianity.

John compares L’Abri style “tutorials” with coaching, noting that a key similarity is that in neither case is the facilitator “leading with the answers.” John re-emphasizes that he sees progress with coaching that, while not immediate, is steady and noticeable: it doesn’t “take years.” Thus in coaching prole “show up as different people in difficult situations,” and gain clarity on key areas of their lives. So John notes that if his coaching clients found coaching to be as productive as John has found Christianity to be, they would fire him!

John notes that coaching turns the Christian model on its head, because it views the client as coming with his or her own answers—being “creative, resourceful and whole.” The coach’s job is to peel back the layers of the onion to get to their true essence, whereas in Christianity the orientation comes from somewhere else, namely the Bible and God.

Highlighting the difference between believing the Bible because one is a Christian (or being a Christian because of how one was raised, where one lives, etc.) versus being a Christian because one believes the Bible (or being a Christian because one believes the basic tenets of Christianity to be true), Gregg argues that both the coaching perspective and the Christian perspective (as John has explained it) are necessary.

In other words, the remarkably high degree of personal involvement and responsibility that Christians have in interpreting the Bible and in determining the content of their own belief, even when they are ignorant of this process or of much of its content, is directly parallel to the coaching proposition. Thus in its very personalized engagement (where, to a great degree, individuals come with their own answers and primarily with the use of their own resources), Gregg sees much of Protestant Christianity to mirror coaching.

Further, Gregg sees coaching as bounded not simply by the participant’s desires but by reality, regardless of how “resourceful, creative, and whole” the participant may be. Similarly, if Christianity has all of the answers why do we have so many Christian denominations and why is it so common to find a wide variety of understandings of a particular verse / biblical passages (in, for instance, a group Bible study)? Gregg sees the two phenomenon to be intimately—and productively—linked.

Thus Gregg’s view: there are boundaries involved in coaching that have nothing to do with the client; there is flexibility and diversity within Christianity that exceeds purely biblical perspectives / there are possibilities involved based on who the interpreter is.

So where John sees a wide gap between coaching and Christianity, Gregg sees a narrow gap that is actually productive, in the sense that both approaches work together.

Yet John demurs: this is not the real issue. The real issue is that the “rate of change” with Christianity is unacceptably slow when compared with the progress in coaching, particularly where John’s goal is “making Christianity his own.” Gregg wonders: what is a realistic goal for the time this should take? Also, Gregg asks: what is involved in John’s model of “ownership”?

Specifically, similar to coaching, Gregg views Christianity as “a partnership,” albeit a tricky one. Thus with respect to Christianity Gregg typically sees two perspectives: a) my partner “does it all” and b) I do it all or my partner does not exist / does not act. Yet in Gregg view a Christian position falls somewhere between these two extremes, likely falling in different slightly different places depending upon the context.

So Gregg wonders: if truly “owning” one’s Christian beliefs means taking full responsibility for all aspects of that belief system, how does this work out if Christianity is actually a partnership? John describes an ownership model that aims for success by pushing back against a “victim model” by pitching in when the other party needs help with his or her part of the job.

Gregg draws a parallel between partnership in John’s work life (where he is a project manager) and John’s faith life with Christianity, and asks: if partnership on the job “works but is difficult” then why must our expectations of partnership in Christianity be different?

So Gregg again wonders: if John should have already become an owner relative to Christianity, what would that ownership look like? What prompts John’s sense of timing (to indicate that John is “late” or “slow”).

John explains that in his experience Christianity is presented an a binary manner: either you have arrived or you have not—either you are a Christian (and generally satisfied) with your Christian beliefs or your are not. John agrees that the notion of partnership with God seems like it should be both God acting and humans acting, yet this notion is not promoted or explained within John’s Christian past.

Gregg urges John: John is an owner and evangelist for coaching yet the very type of ownership that John seeks relative to Christianity seems broken, and so why not pursue (in the sense of “seeking to understand”) Christianity through coaching? For instance, looking at the “categories” of coaching that are exciting (clear, easy to communicate, easy to track success or failure, etc.).

John sums up coaching as a transformative process, and understands Christianity as essentially the same. Yet Gregg wonders: is John drawing the categories for Christianity (and by which he understands and evaluates the success of his Christianity) from a past experience burdened by false categories and perspectives that are broken?

In Gregg’s view spelling out a true Christianity—one based on a true partnership with God—is tricky and personally involving, requiring not only time and resources but also new categories and new expectations. As John notes: doing this requires the help of another human! Similarly Gregg notes: even if coaching cannot inform John directly about Christianity, it is informing John a lot about himself.

Where John wonders about what others could learn from other interests (such as an interest in softball rather than coaching), Gregg believes that the amount of “content” relative to that interest will be important in determining how much insight one could derive from a given interest, relative to one’s Christian faith. Gregg focuses particularly on understanding the desire and commitment to this interest that ties in to one’s identity, because these elements are key to success also with belief systems (such that one’s identity is both tied to it and derived from it).

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