“If you aim at nothing, you will hit it every time.”  Zig Ziglar

For the next few weeks, I wanted to continue my series on FOCUS, specifically looking at FOCUS from an organizational perspective.  The church is an organization, the body of Christ.  FOCUS is just as important for organizations, churches, and businesses as it is for individuals.  In fact, FOCUS is considered to be one of the most important elements for success for any organization.

The quote above is from Zig Ziglar an author and motivational speaker.  I can’t type “motivational speaker” without thinking about Chris Farley and the Saturday Night Live skits about “Matt Foley” the motivational speaker who lives “in a van down by the river”.  Sorry that’s just how my brain works.  Say “in a van down by the river” very loudly.  Go ahead.  It’s fun.

It’s obvious that if you aim at nothing, you will hit nothing every time.  It can also be said that if you don’t aim or focus on a target, you’re not going to hit it either.  I know Michael Jordan used to close his eyes while shooting foul shots during games, but I guarantee he looked at the rim before he closed his eyes to shoot.  I used to do something similar when kicking field goals and extra points in high school and college football.  Before each kick I would look at my first target, which was the middle of the field goal uprights.  Then, I would get my feet and stance set up to kick in that direction.  At this point I would stop looking at the field goal uprights.  My focus shifted from the field goal uprights to the ball.  The #1 rule of kicking is keeping your head down and eyes focused on the ball.  If I didn’t focus on the ball or if I looked up too soon while kicking to see where the ball was going, I could miss.  I wouldn’t look up to see if I was “on target” until a few seconds after I made contact with the ball.  If you play golf, it’s the same principal.

Most businesses, organizations, filmmakers, etc. have a “target audience”, a group of people or demographic that their product or message is aimed or focused on.  To market to any given audience effectively, it is essential to become familiar with your target market, their habits, behaviors, likes, and dislikes.  For example, if I’m trying to sell toys, my target audience is children.  I know some adults like to play with toys, including me, but the target audience is children.  You don’t really see many toy advertisements on TV anymore, but they used to be on all the time.  Toy advertisements would primarily be shown at certain times of the day when kids were home from school or on Saturday mornings during cartoons.  Remember Saturday morning cartoons?

Jesus and the Apostle Paul had a target audience.

These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans” Matthew 10:5 NIV

Jesus answered them, “It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick. I have not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance.”  Luke 5:31-21 NIV

Jesus is very specific about who the disciples are not supposed to be “among” or minister too.  He primarily wanted them to minister to Jews, sinners, and the sick.  The Apostle Paul’s ministry on the other hand was primarily targeted at the gentiles.

As I said earlier, “to market to any given audience effectively, it is essential to become familiar with your target market; their habits, behaviors, likes, and dislikes.”  Jesus was a Jew.  He was born in Bethlehem.  The disciples were Jews, so they focused on the Jews.  The Apostle Paul was a Jew, but his father was a Roman citizen.  Paul was born in Tarsus, which is located in modern day Turkey, but as we know from history was under Greek and then Roman rule, so Paul was heavily influenced by gentile customs and culture.  Jesus and Paul were familiar with their target market, their habits, behaviors, likes, and dislikes.  It helps to know your audience, right?  Apparently, their strategy worked because it spread all over the world and we’re still talking about it 2,000+ years later.

For every organization or movement it’s important to have a purpose, reason for existence, a vision, or mission.  Once they figure that out they have to come up with a plan and details to make it a reality.  Most organizations, even churches come up with a “Mission Statement”.   A mission statement is a concise explanation of the organization’s reason for existence. It describes the organization’s purpose and its overall intention. The mission statement supports the vision and serves to communicate purpose and direction to employees, customers, vendors and other stakeholders.  Andrews UMC has a Missions Statement.   It states that we are a “Welcoming congregation of grace and growth through Jesus Christ”.  As mission’s statements go, it’s a good one.  It describes our overall intent.

Jesus vision, mission, and message are clear throughout His ministry, but He didn’t have a “Mission Statement” per se.  He did however give his followers a mission.  We call it the “Great Commission”.

“Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”  Matthew 28:19-20 NIV

What is the target audience?  THE WORLD!  I have been given some daunting tasks in my career, but it usually doesn’t involve the whole world.  Of course, Jesus is not saying that one person is responsible for the whole world.  He has called all of His followers to carry out the Great Commission wherever they are.  It may be in another country or in our own backyard.  We are also given specific spiritual gifts to carry out our calling.  We’ll talk more about spiritual gifts later, but our specific gifting and calling may lead us to a specific target audience.  My spiritual gifting and calling has led to youth/children’s ministry and leading worship.  In order to reach my target audience, I’ve had familiarize myself with their habits, behaviors, likes, and dislikes.  Therefore, the vision for reaching that target audience included programming that would attract them, or include “stuff” that they liked.  It also included a form of communication that they could relate to or connect with.  Every generation has a unique way of communicating.  That’s why we call it a “generation gap”.

The vision, plan, or formula has worked pretty well, but there are constant generational shifts and cultural changes that require constant tweaking.  Once you figure out one generation of young people they graduate and you have a new group with different behaviors, likes, and dislikes.  It’s in constant flux.  The process of defining your target audience starts all over again with each shift.  There is also one important piece that I didn’t discover until about 10 years ago.  If you want to have the opportunity to reach young people, you have to reach their parents, which is another target audience altogether.  We’ll expand and focus our attention on that a little more next week.

Love y’all!  Have a great weekend!

Weekly Devotional by Robby Morris, Director of Family Ministry & Facility Coordinator @ Andrews UMC.