Staying Under the Umbrella
Do you know what you are called to do?
Staying Under the Umbrella
Mark: I've had my stories where somebody will come along and want to hire us for a very nice sum of money for something that's really not – it's not in our sweet spot, and the interesting thing about it, when it involves money, you can usually make a pretty good case for getting out of your sweet spot, and I think once you veer out, you diminish what you're good at.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Tuesday, June 12th. Our host is the president of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. When you think about your life in the community and your family and your job, do you know where your sweet spot is?
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us.
Dennis: Bob, I almost brought an umbrella to the studio today.
Bob: For what?
Dennis: Well, I think our guest needs to explain why I should have brought an umbrella to work. It's symbolic of something very important if you want to live a wise life.
Bob: You need an umbrella to live a wise life?
Dennis: Well, according to our guest, Mark DeMoss. What do you think, Mark?
Mark: I know exactly what you're talking about.
Dennis: You do?
Mark: I do.
Dennis: What do you think? Do you think we need an umbrella if we're going to live wise lives?
Mark: I think everybody needs an umbrella, and …
Bob: And you can go to our website at FamilyLife.com. We have …
Dennis: No, no, no, no, we're not …
Bob: We're not selling umbrellas? Okay.
Dennis: Well, I'll tell you, we are – we are offering people a perspective that can really protect them, and wisdom, as Proverbs presents it, is skill in everyday living, which will protect you from a lot of harmful things in life.
Bob: Oh, you're talking about that kind of an umbrella, and ideological umbrella, is that what you're talking about?
Mark: Yeah, should I tell you about it?
Dennis: I think you should.
Mark: I have a longtime friend named John who has spent much of his life as a missionary in Hong Kong and that part of the world, and just about a year or so ago was talking and reminiscing with him about some of his experiences, and he told the story of how he was so well connected that businesses from America and other parts of the world would come to Hong Kong looking to get a foothold in that market, and he was always being recruited by one company or another.
Mark: So he told the story of how a business tycoon took him out to lunch …
Dennis: Dropped a lot of money on lunch.
Mark: Dropped a lot of money on lunch and on a maitre d' to get them a table when the place was full, and he said this guy got right to the point, and he said, "John, I'll give you $200,000, an office, a car, and a driver if you'll come work for us." And John said he looked at him and immediately said, "I'm not interested." Just like – didn't even want to know what the rest of the offer was, or what the job was. He said, "I'm not interested."
And he said, "Mark, I call it staying under the umbrella. You get out from under the umbrella, and you get wet." And he said, "I knew what my purpose was, what I was there to do. I was there, in his case, serving God as a missionary. That's what I was supposed to do, and nothing else was going to get me out from under my umbrella."
This businessman was, I think, sort of taken aback, and he said, "How much are you making now?" And John said, "$8,000."
Dennis: A year.
Mark: A year, but he said, "I'm not interested." And that stuck with me because you look around at …
Bob: Hang on, do you know if the job's still available? Just curious. I guess that would be out from under my umbrella, wouldn't it?
Mark: It was a long time ago, and it was a squirt gun manufacturer, if that appeals to you.
Dennis: So he was trading the call of God to go to work …
Bob: Making squirt guns.
Mark: Making squirt guns in …
Dennis: Hong Kong.
Mark: The Asian market, yeah. And that impressed me, and John is now in his 70s and has never still gotten out from under his umbrella, and he's – he knew what he was supposed to do, and I think that's a good lesson for us and sometimes it may take a while to find out what we're supposed to do or to realize where we belong, but once you realize it, I would encourage you to stay there and be satisfied with it.
And I think this goes for organizations, it goes for companies, it goes for individuals.
Dennis: And for families.
Mark: And for families.
Bob: I've had guys who are young in their professional life sit down with me and talk about job opportunities or what should I do or where should I go, and I've kind of refined what you're saying. I'd put it this way – I've said, "You need to figure out how God has wired you, what your gifts, talents, abilities, personality, interests, all of those, figure out what that is and then ask the question, "How can I leverage that for maximum kingdom impact?"
Because, in my mind, however you can do that, and I don't mean that means you have to be in ministry, I don't think that means you've got to be a pastor, or you've got to be at a church, or you've got to be in a parachurch, but whatever that is, however God's made you, however He's gift you, if you're using that in some way to advance the kingdom, that's kind of your umbrella and stay there because that's the sweet spot of life for you.
When did you figure out what your umbrella was, how did you figure it out, and how have you stayed under it?
Dennis: Yeah, I think our listeners need to know, Mark, heads up a public relations firm that really has targeted Christian organizations. You're headquartered out of Atlanta and is really making a difference helping some high-visibility organizations maximize their kingdom impact just like you're talking about, Bob.
Mark: Well, I've sort of applied it this way – nobody and no organization, Christian or secular, can do everything, and most of us can't even do a lot of things very well. And yet, for some reason, there's something in a lot of us that wants to try to do a lot of things. And in our company, as a public relations firm, I decided early on that there were a lot of things we weren't going to do.
And I said, "We're not going to do fundraising, we're not going to do direct mail, we're not going to be a graphic design shop, we're not going to be an advertising agency, we're not going to produce videos – all good things, and all things that ministries need.
But there were two reasons I decided we weren't going to do them – one was there were lots of people and agencies already providing those services and, two, I wasn't good at them. It wasn't my …
Bob: Your sweet spot.
Mark: It wasn't my sweet spot. So we just drew those lines, and for 15 years really haven't ventured outside of them, and I think once you veer out, you diminish what you're good at.
Dennis: One of the things that I know you believe in is when you draw that line, and it's a demarcation of what you're going to do and not going to do. It represents your focus, what your focus is going to be. And you gave some statistics about how often people switch jobs that, to me, was a real eye-opener, because, it seems to me, in this culture, we're a discontented lot, for the most part.
We're looking for that ideal job, that ideal employer, which doesn't exist on this side of eternity. And I think we're trying to get out of our job what God never designed for us to get out of it, and what you're saying is, find your purpose, find your focus, roll up your sleeves and go to work in that situation and find somebody you can work with or work for and do it well and add value to that company, add value to that organization, that switch, and, as Bob said, do it so that it furthers the kingdom of God's work on this planet.
Mark: Right. It's a rare thing that you see somebody stay in one place for five years, let along 10 or 20, and that I think was more common, probably, years ago, and it's as an employer, you know, I look at resumes now, and I think a lot of people in the workforce consider it a strength or a badge of honor that they've worked at six or eight different places in a handful of years, as if that shows some kind of well-roundedness or flexibility.
I really look at it quite the opposite – that they haven't found their focus or their strength or their sweet spot, and there are exceptions, of course, to all of this, but, in a way, it's very liberating or freeing to know that you are there, and you're not entertaining other things – like John, it wasn't a salary of 20 times what he was making. He didn't even want to think about it.
Bob: Didn't flinch at it.
Dennis: I want to share some advice I shared with my sons. I said, "You know, you have until you're 30 to try out a lot of things. I think it's okay if you have some varied work experiences when you're in your 20s, different people to work for, different causes to roll up your sleeves about, but by the time you turn 30, you need to have your focus fairly in place, and you need to get after it. View yourself in training until you're 30 and at 30 find what you're committed to, your cause, what's your best gifted to do, and with the strength God supplies, go to it."
And I look at my own life, I tried a lot of different things in my 20s, and it wasn't until I was 28, 29, that, along with some other couples, we started FamilyLife, and I found my niche, I found my umbrella. I got under it and, for 30 years, it's been a real privilege.
Now, the temptation to quit when it gets tough under the umbrella, or the allure of some, as you used it, more money or more prestige or whatever it may be, whatever your temptation is, that's where you have to have the staying power to stick with it.
Bob: I've read business books that talk about sticking to your knitting or one book calls it "the hedgehog principle," you know, you focus in on certain things, and they all say this is a key to long-term success. And yet personally, individually, you get into something, and you start looking around. I know where I am, I'll see some guy who is 35, and I'll see him in some high-profile, high-dollar position, and I go, "Now, wait a sec, he's 35, I'm older than that. I should" – you know, you can get lured out by $200,000 plus a car, plus a chauffeur. What would have been wrong with John saying, "Hey, it's time. I can take that job and fund missionaries for the rest of my life?"
Mark: Well, I'm not going to say, and I don't say that it would have been wrong. I think, though, knowing him as I do, what would have been wrong is he would not have been doing what he knew he was called to do. He wasn't called to sell squirt guns or to open up a new market for toys.
I can tell you this – his impact for the Gospel has been – you couldn't count it. Probably tens and tens and tens of millions of dollars, one way or another, impact he's had by doing what he was called to do.
Dennis: Let's talk about a mom for a second. You and your wife, April, have three children, and you start talking about maximizing a woman's life when she's in the throes of raising three teenagers. Now, April, hopefully, as she finishes the job of helping you raise your family, is under that umbrella for her as well?
Mark: Yeah, that's a good point, because she could tell you what her umbrella is as clearly as I could tell you what mine is, and, you know, there are days when she might say, "Boy, it would sure be fun to have a little boutique, a little dress shop," or "it would be fun to" – she's a coffee drinker. I don't drink coffee, but she says – there's not a Starbuck's close enough to our house to …
Dennis: You know, I'm looking out in the studio. Is April out there?
Bob: Should we bring her in here?
Dennis: I just kind of …
Bob: Does she want to open the franchise …
Dennis: I want to find out how she views this. Can we get her in the studio? She just, all of a sudden, has broken into a terror.
Mark: She probably did just [inaudible].
Bob: She just ran out screaming. Somebody get April.
Dennis: Make sure she stays under the umbrella if she runs. April, come on in here, come on in here. Just sit down right over here. April, tell us, what does the umbrella look like for you?
April: The umbrella, for me, is being a wife and a mother, and I love it, absolutely love being a wife and a mother. Every now and then I will get very over-committed at our Christian school or other ministries, and I will tell my husband, "Thank you so much for encouraging me to be a stay-at-home mom, because I know when I do get over-committed, I'm just – it doesn't work." You know, something has to give, there's a sacrifice there, and usually the family is the first to go, and I know what I'm meant to do right now at this time in my life.
Bob: What about the Starbuck's thing that we're talking about, though? Are you open to that?
April: You know, every now and then I think it would be fun to have me a little something on the side, and I do love coffee, and there is not a Starbuck's close enough to where we live. So I'll talk to Mark and say, "Mark, what do you think about let's opening a Starbuck's?" And he'll say, "Honey, when are you going to fit that in your daily schedule? How much time do you have in the day to go work at Starbuck's?" And he keeps me in balance and helps me see that, realistically, there is not enough time in my day to go open a Starbuck's.
Bob: There is a temptation, though, to wander outside the umbrella, you're saying?
April: There is, very much so.
Dennis: Yeah, with three teenagers? I mean, come on. You have to flee the umbrella some days.
April: Absolutely, you do.
Bob: Well, you are a good sport for letting us …
Dennis: I agree.
Bob: Letting us …
Dennis: … she may never forgive me …
Bob: … tap you on the shoulder here. Mark, this whole idea of the umbrella, everything kind of falls underneath it. I'm looking at all these other things in your book. Once purpose, once direction and focus is established, other things kind of fall into place, don't they?
Mark: It sure simplifies your life quite a bit, because you don't spend time agonizing or analyzing other opportunities, but rather you spend your time doing what you're good at, what you're called to do. You really preserve a lot of energy that's otherwise wasted.
Bob: I have to tell you a story. I was managing a Christian radio station like the one that folks are listening to FamilyLife Today on today, and I was approached one month by a pastor from a local church who wanted to know about buying time on our station on Saturday nights from 10:30 to midnight.
Now, I have to tell you, there aren't a whole lot of people standing in line at the door wanting to buy time on your station on Saturday night from 10:30 to midnight, right? So when somebody comes along and says, "I'm interested in that particular time," you think, "Well, gee, yeah, that sounds like that might be a smart deal."
The one problem here was that the particular church was non-Trinitarian. That church doesn't believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, okay? Now, where I come from, that's a fairly big deal, the doctrine of the Trinity, and I know it's controversial in some circles; there may be some folks listening to us who go, "Oh, now he's picking a fight."
Well, that's kind of core orthodoxy for me, and so here I was on this particular month, the pastor of a local church, fairly large congregation, wanting to buy time that nobody else wants on Saturday night. I'm thinking to myself, "There aren't even that many people listening at that time. Hardly anybody is going to know if I do it," and he was ready to write out the check that day.
And, like you, I'm thinking "This could enable us to – this would make it possible" – but I also knew where the umbrella line was, I knew what our focus needed to be, and the decision was made before the guy ever walked in the door to ask about Saturday nights at 10:30, and I was glad it was, because it helped me face down a temptation that I otherwise might have given into.
Dennis: Bob, as you're sharing that story, James, chapter 4, verses 13 through 17, comes to mind, and it's really a good passage for anyone who has been – well, in the throes of making a decision about their life's purpose, maybe a choice that's before them that may represent a compromise, and maybe the compromise is represented by continuing to do what you're presently doing. Maybe you need to step out of it and answer that call of God and step under the umbrella rather than staying out in the rain.
The Apostle James writes in chapter 4, verse 13 – "Come now you who say today or tomorrow we shall go to such-and-such a city and spend a year there and engage in business and make a profit. Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away."
"Instead, you ought to say, 'If the Lord wills, we shall live and also do this or that.' But as it is, you boast in your arrogance. All such boasting is evil. Therefore, to one who knows the right thing to do and does not do it, to him it is sin."
I have to wonder, and I'm going to pick on a very narrow segment of people at this point – but I have to wonder if there aren't people who are listening to our broadcast right now who God has called to go do a certain thing, a specific task. Maybe in it's a ministry, maybe it's in a business, maybe it's for a nonprofit organization, maybe for your church, maybe for a child. But the struggle is, will I go do what God wants me to do because it's going to involve sacrifice, cost, hard work, it's going to be tough, it's going to demand focus. And they need to hear that last verse – "To him who knows the right thing to do and does not do it. To him it is sin."
And personally I wonder how many who God has called into full-time Christian work, I'm going to narrow it even further here, many who have been called into full-time Christian work never answer the call because they're afraid of that focus, they're afraid of what it will mean, they're afraid of the sacrifice they're going to have to make.
And, you know, as you used at the beginning of today's broadcast, Mark, your story about John who worked for $8,000 a year, I'm sure he would say what Jim Elliot said – "I never made a sacrifice for God. I was doing what I was supposed to be doing," and that $8,000 was adequate compensation for what I needed to do.
Bob: And, you know, as we've been talking about this umbrella principle on today's program, I've been thinking about a book that you and Barbara wrote a few years ago called "Pressure-Proof Your Marriage," and one of the things that you provide in that book is a project that you encourage couples to do together, that you call the "core values project," where you encourage a husband and a wife to sit down and catalog what's important to them for their family – what are the core values, what are the core things you want your family to be known for? Or what are the core things that you think should be important as you raise your children, as you construct your family.
And that project will help you determine what your umbrella needs to be as a family, and what kinds of things you're going to say yes to and what kind of things you're going to say no to, and how you stay underneath the umbrella.
I want to encourage our listeners to go to our website, FamilyLife.com, and if they'll click the red button in the middle of the home page that says "Go," on it, it will take them to an area of the site where they can get more information about the book, "Pressure-Proof Your Marriage," and about "The Little Red Book of Wisdom." Again, our website is FamilyLife.com.
You can click the red button you see in the center of the page that says "Go," or if you'd prefer, you can call 1-800-FLTODAY, 1-800-358-6329, and someone on our team can let you know how you can get either or both of these books sent to you, and if you're interested in getting both books, we are happy to send out at no additional cost the CD audio of our visit this week with Mark DeMoss. Again, you can get more information about that on our website at FamilyLife.com or when you call 1-800-FLTODAY.
By the way, when you do get in touch with us, can I ask you to consider making a donation to FamilyLife Today, a financial contribution to our ministry? We're listener-supported, and it's folks like you who support the ministry that help keep us on the air not only in this city but in cities all across the country.
We appreciate those of you who have partnered with us financially, and this month we'd like to make available a thank you gift, a DVD that has a message from Dennis Rainey speaking dads about being a dad. This comes from a Weekend to Remember conference, and we're happy to make the DVD available as a thank you gift to those of you who can help support the ministry this month with a donation of any amount. This would be an ideal DVD to watch with a group of guys or to pass along to someone who may be a brand-new dad, a first-time dad.
When you make your donation to FamilyLife Today this month, as you're filling out the donation form online, just type in the word "dads," and we'll know to send you a copy of the DVD, or if you're calling 1-800-FLTODAY to make a donation, just mention that you'd like the Dennis Rainey DVD as your thank you gift and, again, we're happy to send it out to you. We appreciate your financial partnership with us in the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
Well, tomorrow we're going to keep talking about wisdom – things that may not be wrong to do but may not be wise to do, and one of the things we're going to talk about tomorrow is spending time with persons of the opposite sex, people to whom you are not married. That's coming up tomorrow; I hope you can be with us for that.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas, a ministry of Campus Crusade for Christ.
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