I’ll never forget the day that Char, my wife, came home and told me that she’d taken on a new accounting client: a company that does online nutrition coaching.

Online nutrition coaching? Really? I couldn’t think of many things that sounded shadier than that. I wondered what she’d gotten herself into.

It turns out that I needn’t have worried. The company was as legitimate as could be, led by some of the smartest and most educated people in the field of nutrition. Char ended up becoming an employee for a few years, and we not only took their coaching program, but took their coaching certification programs too.

Surprisingly, I learned some lessons from them that have spilled into the rest of my life and even my work as a pastor. Here’s some of what I’ve learned.

  1. Go deep. The content creators in the nutrition company have Ph.D.’s in their field. They research. They write substantial textbooks and articles. They have paid the price for going deep in their field. We need access to solid, well researched material in every area — including in our walk with God.
  2. Go simple. It’s not enough to go deep. We need to take deep material and translate it into simple, actionable information that helps people. The nutrition company translated research into steps that anyone could take. We need to do the same when it comes to following Jesus with all of our lives.
  3. Build habits. We live a good chunk of our lives by habit. We don’t just need more knowledge. We don’t even need a list of more things to do. We need simple habits that become part of our regular lives. This is true with our physical health; it’s true in every other area of life. When we change our habits, we change our lives.
  4. Start small. We often know where we need to go. We just can’t see a way to get there from here. We need to know that it’s okay to start small and make incremental progress in the direction we’d like to go. Small changes add up to big results over time. Never be frustrated with a small beginning.
  5. Design for life. Sure, we could all quit our jobs and spend all day in the gym. That’s not going to happen, though. We need to learn how to be healthy in the middle of our already busy and complicated lives. It’s the same with following Jesus. We could quit our jobs and go to seminary, but we also need to figure out how to follow Jesus in the middle of ordinary life.
  6. Give grace. We’re not perfect. We stumble. We don’t always do what we need to do. That’s okay. When you fail, pick yourself up and take the next step. That’s true in nutrition. It’s even more true for those of us who understand God’s grace for those who need it.
  7. Serve and love. It’s hard to describe, but the nutrition coaching company had a great culture. They loved to serve people, and they were generous in how they interacted with staff and customers. Focus on serving others and treating them better than they deserve to be treated, which is the way that Jesus has treated us.

We learned some important lessons. Go deep, but go simple. Build habits that fit into our regular, complicated lives. Smart small, and keep going when you stumble. Keep serving and loving.

We’re still applying the lessons we learned from a very unlikely source.