If the 45 year old Greg Stier could visit the 25 year old Greg Stier for one day the third thing I would tell him/me would be...
3. Find your one thing and focus on it.
I love BSOs (Bright Shiny Objects.) They get me distracted because they are pretty and fun to chase. Over the last two decades of ministry I have chased many of these BSOs much to the chagrin of my staff and board.
For several years I was the preaching pastor of a church while running Dare 2 Share, a national ministry that trains teenagers to relationally and relentlessly share their faith. I started all sorts of fundraising initiatives, ministry initiatives and other initiatives.
The good news? I was showing a lot of initiative! The bad news? Much of that initiative got me distracted from my core calling. If I could get in a time machine and tell the younger Greg one more thing it would be to focus on one less thing.
In the movie City Slickers a small group of friends from the big city decide to go on a cattle drive to break the monotony of city life and celebrate one of their birthdays.
Billy Crystal plays the role of Mitch, the city licked and slicked birthday boy who is turning 40 and looking for meaning in life. Jack Palance plays the role of Curly, the rough and tough cattle driving cowboy who is doing what he loves.
This unlikely duo have an interesting conversation riding side by side on horseback as Mitch complains about not knowing his purpose in life. Hereâ€™s how the conversation goes,
Curly: â€œDo you know what the secret of life is?â€ [points index finger skyward] â€œThis.â€
Mitch: â€œYour finger?â€
Curly: â€œOne thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and the rest don't mean @#!x!.â€
Mitch: â€œBut, what is the â€˜one thing?â€™â€
Curly: [smiles and points his finger at Mitch] â€œThat's what you have to find out.â€
Whatâ€™s true of Curly and Mitch is true of you and me as well. I finally began to realize this in 1999 after almost a decade of running Dare 2 Share and being a preaching pastor to adults at a church I had planted with my lifelong friend Rick Long. After the Columbine tragedy on April 20th God helped me to find my one audience...teenagers. I resigned from the church to focus on this one demographic.
But, although my target audience was clear, the focus of my ministry to them began to rapidly expand. Because of my love for BSOs and for teenagers I started adding more and more to our mission statement at Dare 2 Share. It wasn't enough to just train teens to share the gospel. We had to equip them to live the message. And that wasn't enough, we had to prepare them to own their faith for the long haul. And that wasn't enough....
Soon the mission statement had gotten fat instead of focused. Rick Montera, the chairman of the Dare 2 Share board (and a real cowboy to boot) realized this one day and had a Curly-type-of-conversation with me at one of our board meetings.
Rick looked down at our one page strategic plan and began to study our mission statement, which at the time had grown to include all of the BSOs that were dear to me. It wasâ€œenergizing and equipping teenagers to know, live, share and own their faith.â€ Finally, Rick looked up and said, â€œThatâ€™s too many priorities! Equipping teens to know, live, share and own their faith. That mission statement has four bullâ€™s eyes! We have one arrow! Greg, pick which one of these priorities you want to focus on and let's rebuild the whole ministry around that one thing.â€
I protested at first but eventually relented. Down deep inside I knew he was right.
For the last three years we have been rebuilding Dare 2 Share around one thing, teen evangelism training. As a result we have seen Godâ€™s blessing on this laser like focus. Our new mission statement is "Mobilizing teenagers to relationally and relentlessly reach their generation for Christ."
What do you need to focus on? So many times we are tempted to focus on too many things and then spin our wheels trying to do them all. But the more we can focus on one thing and use our strengths to do what we are best at doing, the more effective we will be in life and ministry.
If I could get in a time machine I would tell myself the importance of focus in ministry. But, knowing the younger me, I probably would have told the older me to get back in my Delorean and go back to the future.
I guess that sometimes experience is the best teacher. Some of us learn through revelation. Some of us learn through tribulation.
I am of the second tribe.
But, even if the lessons from my last three blogs may not have been received by the younger Greg, I hope they are some benefit to you. Pray, don't let your ministry become your mistress and focus on your one thing in ministry.
Hey, by the way, what would you tell your younger self if you could get in a time machine?