Ever since Kent Coates was a young boy, he has known that the Lord called him to preach the Word. As he grew however, Kent chose to pursue other avenues—any other avenue really. "All I could see from my experience with preachers was that they were broke and would be fired when the people in the church disagreed with them. I also did not want to go to Africa and live in a mud hut. So I ran from God and just asked Him to bless what I wanted to do." Many years and many careers later, Kent chose to embrace the Lord's call on his life. He and his wife of 40 years, Sheila, now lead Life Giving Church International in Raleigh/Durham, North Carolina.
"I responded to His call on my life because I knew that nothing else would be fulfilling for me. My other careers had provided an income, but not fulfillment," said Kent.
Making the choice to follow the Lord's call led Kent away from a carpet and upholstery cleaning business that he and Sheila owned and operated. After 19 years in the business, Kent took the step of faith toward full-time ministry by enrolling in a two year minister's training school. In 2005, just a short time after completing the program, Kent found Andrew's Gospel Truth program on television. Taken by Andrew's teaching of God's unconditional love and the balance of grace and faith, Kent realized he needed to be immersed in the grace message before going into ministry.
In May of 2005, Kent and Sheila agreed they would attend CBC, and they began sharing the news that they were moving to Colorado Springs in the fall. At the time, the Coates had a business to sell and several other concerns to address before they could attend. "In one week in September, all those concerns were answered. Our business had a buyer, our son, who was living with us at the time, was relocated, and a piece of property we owned sold without ever listing it," Kent said.
In November of the Coates' second year in Colorado, Kent had a conversation with his daughter Christy's husband, Bryan. During their talk, they discussed Christy and Bryan's struggle to find a church in Raleigh/Durham which taught the gospel of grace. Immediately, as Kent and Bryan spoke, a verse from the book of Matthew rose up in Kent's spirit, “But when He saw the multitudes, He was moved with compassion on them, because they fainted and were scattered abroad, as sheep having no shepherd,” (Matthew 9:36). It was then that Kent knew he and Sheila were to plant a church in his old hometown.
After graduation the Coates moved back to North Carolina and planted Life Giving Church International in the heart of the Research Triangle area. The couple has also established a network of grace ministries and Bible study leaders in the region called the GraceLife Network. Kent said it was formed to encourage those who wanted to experience the gospel, but felt like they were all alone. "We provide information on what churches, ministries, and Bible studies are available in the area which would assist them in their belief in the finished work of Christ," said Kent. The network hosts two conferences a year, which feature international ministers, and they also distribute an internet magazine promoting the availability of groups in the area who teach the grace of God. The new Charis Bible College extension school opening in Raleigh/Durham this fall was among the groups recently mentioned in the magazine.
Similar to Lord's word to Andrew, the Lord impressed upon Kent that 2 Timothy 2:2 would be the model for the Coates' ministry to impact the world. "Jesus poured His life into training 12 men, and it changed the world. We can disciple those who are sent to us and duplicate our efforts through them," said Kent. The Coates are using various ways to disciple people; the church on Sundays, weekly in home Bible studies, GraceLife Network functions, and soon through unity with CBC-Raleigh/Durham.
"I see our church as an internship partner with CBC, where those who are called to ministry can get on-the-job-training and be equipped to perform what they have learned in the school. I have a great desire to assemble teams of trained people for the purpose of planting grace based churches here in the United States and around the world. Everywhere they go, disciples will disciple disciples. I believe this is how the Good News will be duplicated around the world, said Kent enthusiastically.
Unfulfilled in his pursuits prior to ministry, Kent is now satisfied in life. This is not to say that the fulfillment Kent had been seeking his whole life was made complete simply because he became a preacher. Fulfillment came after receiving true revelation of the Gospel of grace. "I realized that my relationship with God had been based on untrue assumptions. I didn’t think He was pleased with me when I was not in ministry. Since soaking in His unconditional love and grace, I found that He was pleased with me, no matter what profession I chose. His love and blessings were not conditional upon my obedience," said Kent.
After Kent could see God the Father through how Jesus revealed Him in the Gospels, the guilt of disobedience to the call on his life was gone. "I then had a relationship with Him without any conditions— only love. It was then that my life was fulfilled," Kent shared.
Kent knows that the Lord is living through him, working to affect the lives of those around him in a positive way. "That is living life in abundance to me—imparting to people that they are unconditionally loved by Him," said Kent.
For more information about Life Giving Church International, the GraceLife Network or the Coates' online publication, visit the Coates' website.