As I reflected on my most memorable conversations, one came to mind that I had not thought about for many years. It was a conversation that I had with myself. A little personal history will set the stage for why this internal conversation was so crucial for my life.
After moving to Grass Valley, I started several weekly Bible reading/discussion groups with the leaders of our community. It eventually grew to fifteen men’s groups comprised of ten individuals in each one. They met in coffee shops, hotels, the hospital, pizza restaurants, two dental offices and three country clubs. There were also two women’s groups that I initiated but did not attend. For details about the history of these groups, read the article I wrote called, “Grass Valley Groups.” At the same time, I was also involved with a weekly Bible study for legislators at the state capitol, bi-weekly groups in San Francisco, plus twice-a-year trips to Seoul, South Korea. All of these were contributing factors to the following.
One Wednesday morning I attended the 6 a.m. doctors’ group at the hospital, then moved to a coffee shop for my eight o’clock meeting with another group. Later that morning I was driving to San Francisco to meet with a group in the board room of Bank of America. As I passed Alta Sierra Country Club, which has one of the most vital groups, I was praying for a friend in Korea. This concentrated combination of activities caused me to think of a phrase that I had heard many times. So I asked myself, “Am I a mile wide and an inch deep?” The possibly that this could be true was a tremendously sobering thought that really troubled me. As I mentally assessed how varied and full my schedule had become, the internal conversation began.
At first, my thoughts were self-justifying because of all the positive things that were happening in people’s lives. Then I began to think about the possibility that it might be better to devote my time to fewer people with more depth. I was especially close to the doctors and the group that met in the conference room at the country club, so that idea seemed appealing. It also had a certain logic to it because it would mean a lot less traveling. So I admitted to God that I was now very confused about the way forward. I began to earnestly ask Him for wisdom and clarification about how He wanted me to invest my life.
An internal/external dialog followed that lasted a full three months. It involved discussions with my wife, the men in my core group and an ongoing conversation with God. Within the first few days, I remembered that Paul warned the Galatians; “Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?”(Gal. 3:3 NIV) Even though I believed all my current activities were prompted by God when I started them, I was now questioning if that were true.
About half way through this process I began to be impatient because I was not any closer to understanding what God wanted me to focus on. Then I started to realize that my thought process was flawed. I had been trying to decide which approach to ministry is best, but that was the wrong question. The idea that there is a “best way” came because I had been heavily influenced by two para-church ministries. They insisted that giving your life to a few is the Biblical model and backed it up with verses. I agree there is great value in having a lifestyle of going deep with a few, but I began to ask a radical question, “Is that what God wants as the lifestyle of every believer?” I value my brothers who operate like that, but the resolution to my dilemma came when the Lord convinced me that the answer is a definite no.
Paul has a beautiful description of how all the parts of our physical body are different and how each is necessary. He emphasizes that the hand has a role to play that is different from the foot, etc. Then he uses that as an illustration of how the Body of Christ operates. (1 Cor. 12:12-27 NIV) He is definitely speaking of spiritual gifts here, and to the best of my knowledge, I was operating in my spiritual gift. But God also created every individual with unique personality characteristics. As I thought about that analogy, I became convinced that God had created me with the personality and motivation to be a catalyst rather than a maintainer. Then He called me to paint on a broad canvas, and I was enjoying it immensely. While doing so, it still left the possibility of going very deep with each individual. And that has been my experience hundreds of times, often even in the first meeting.
So I thank God for that drive to San Francisco in which He graciously initiated the process that caused me to be confident about the direction of my life. Using Paul’s illustrations from 1 Cor. 12 helped me confirm who I am in Christ, and I am trying to be that on a daily basis. Since that time many years ago, He has provided me with the opportunity of speak to thousands of people in a majority of the states and more than seventy countries.
So now I can acknowledge to myself, “Yes, I’m a mile wide but not an inch deep.” In fact, my life seems to be in sync with a famous quote, “If you want to irrigate broadly, dig a deep well.” I have deep relationships with a few close friends, and they confirm my calling and release me to have a broad ministry.