Mission, purpose, and vision statements seem to be critical to the success of every organization, whether they are selling coffee, chicken sandwiches, or describing a church. These statements have always been a challenge for me.
I did not grow up in a world that required such statements. Maybe it was not so much that mission statements weren't around in my teenage or college days; maybe I didn’t notice them. I never knew I needed one.
Parents helped kids develop strengths by encouraging participation in sports, piano lessons, or by learning to play a musical instrument--all of which stoked the fire of interests and talents. Report cards revealed both our strengths and weaknesses.
A few weeks ago, I had to move some boxes out of a closet so our electrician could place a much-needed light fixture in that space. One of the boxes held decades of photos, trophies, and letters all describing various seasons of my life. If I had to label that box, it would be called: “Marty - ages 12-22.”
Some of the contents of the box had long been forgotten. I forgot how successful I was as a paperboy for the Dayton Daily News. I won all kinds of awards for the most new subscribers, the best customer service, and so on. In those days, we did not throw the paper on the driveway; that would have brought a swift reprimand. We had to place the paper between the screen door and the door to the house, or in a secure place chosen by the customer. We had to be sure the paper would not be exposed to the weather and that it was protected from the wind. The mailbox was not an option.
My parents entered me into speech contests hosted by the local Civitan Club. I’d forgotten how many first or second place trophies I received. The box contained reminders of piano recitals, trumpet recitals, guitar lessons, and long-hair, rock-n-roll, bass-guitar-playing days.
By the time I headed off to Anderson University in the fall of 1981, I was fairly in-tune with what I did well, what I needed to work to improve, areas of weakness, and subjects that just never resulted in grades I was proud of.
I was never good at any type of math beyond basic addition, subtraction, division, and multiplication. Algebra was a killer. I just didn’t see why I needed to know it. It was math that gave me my only “C” in college. I graduated with a respectable GPA, which consisted of all “A’s” and “B’s” except for that one ridiculous math class.
I arrived on the AU campus to focus on three areas of study: Music, Business Management, and Religious Studies. While music was my first love, I really enjoyed the business classes, particularly an investment class taught by Dr. Glen Falls.
There’s no way to adequately describe the privilege of having Dr. James Earl Massey or Dr. Gloria Gaither teach worship and music classes. You might find it surprising how much I enjoyed the study of New Testament Greek with Dr. Shoot, or the study of archaeology with Dr. Gustav Jenniga.
Being the 18-year-old genius who knew the future, I had a brilliant plan for my life. Religious Studies would prepare me for service in the church, should that be an option. Business Management would prepare me to own my own business, which was a dream of mine at the time. And Music would allow me to pursue my passion of not just playing music, but also of being a part of the music business. I never wanted to be on a stage, but the business side behind the scenes fascinated me.
Had you asked me to rate my three interests in order of preference, the list would have looked like this:
- Business Management
- Church Ministry
Now, nearly four decades later, God reordered those three things and used them in different ways. The business degree has been invaluable as my leadership foundation in the church. Music is still the fuel for my soul. I love, love, love the worship of Crossings. I love Don Peslis who leads our Chapel service in readings, hymns, the cello, and occasional string quartet.
I love Larry Harrison who leads our Sanctuary service with a great and growing choir, orchestra, worship team. He is an extremely talented and extremely humble man. I love Josh Edington and our Oklahoma City Venue worship. Josh is also extremely talented and humble, and he leads us with tremendous grace and love.
And, without apology, I love Cole Grubbs, who leads the Edmond Venue worship. Yes, he’s my son, but I am thankful that God is using him to humbly and graciously lead a growing new campus in Edmond. Each of these men are standing on our stages with their wives, Sandi Patty-Peslis, Kim Harrison, Kylie Edington, and Karlie Grubbs, often next to them. There are no adequate words to describe the overwhelming joy they bring to my life and to the life of our church.
Back to those speech contests back in the day: while I may have won the trophies, I knew that was never something I wanted to do very often. And to this day, it is an assignment that brings more anxiety than joy. But, when God has a plan, you roll with it, and this was and still is God’s plan for me.
Every Sunday, I walk out of my office down the back hallway of our office area into another hallway that leads backstage in our worship environments. Most Sundays, I mumble a prayer that goes something like this: “God, thank you for this privilege, and I hope you are getting your grins watching this all happen.”
It was at a conference in Atlanta where I was asked to write my life mission statement. We were coached to not spend time thinking about it, but just to write down what came to our minds. I was shocked at how easily a few sentences appeared on the paper.
Here’s what came out of that pen: “My purpose in life is to create environments where hurts can be healed, questions can be answered, and the unlimited love and grace of Christ can be discovered.”
I was a bit surprised how easily those words came through the pen. One of these days, I will refine it, or, truthfully, have a great writer help make it sound more inspiring than the first draft.
But I’ve always preferred the mission statement made famous by author Bob Goff: “Love God, and go do stuff.”