God Likes to Stretch Us

by Joel Comiskey, Spring 2020

The Coronavirus crisis has stretched me emotionally and in my faith. I’ve found myself praying, “God, I need you to provide financially. Help me to avoid worry.” If you are like me, you’re being stretched during this time of unprecedented trial. The good news is that God is always stretching and testing us so that might be more like Jesus.

God is more interested in a purified faith than our being comfortable. And to strengthen our faith, he stretches us. Peter says, “though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” (1 Peter 1:6-7).

So what does this have to do with coaching? One key role of the coach is to be an instrument in God’s hand to stretch the leader. Great coaches go beyond maintenance to transformation. In other words, effective coaches want the leaders under their care to be transformed into the image of Christ, and this means helping them stretch out to take the next step.

Stretching the leader toward transformation is both personal and ministerial. If a leader tells me, for example, that they are not taking a day off, I ask the leader if I can bring the topic up again in the future. I’ll go back to this value again and again because it’s a biblical principle that the leader needs to practice for long-term effectiveness. The same applies to having a daily quiet time or spending time with spouse/family. My role as coach, in other words, is to be God’s instrument to help the leader become more like Jesus in the personal realm. And helping the leader become more like Jesus can be painful when the leader prefers stagnation over transformation. 

This is also true in ministry. God wants leaders to stretch their muscles and believe him for new disciples. After all, Jesus told us to “make disciples of all peoples” (Matthew 28:18-20). The role of the coach is to help the leader identify and prepare new disciples. If you’re coaching a leader, ask him or her about group multiplication, whether they have identified a new leader, and who is currently being equipped. Effective coaches keep the leader moving forward, rather than stagnating in the status quo.  Healthy, balanced goals for new disciples greatly helps in this process. 

I like to use the word “coach” because we have so many visible examples in the Sports world. Coaches are always moving their players forward and trying to win the game. The difference is that the Christian game is eternal, and the consequences are far more important than mere sports. Christian coaches, therefore, need to wisely and consistently challenge the leaders to take the next step and to stretch their muscles.