My Dad's Impromptu Challenge

Nancy Leigh DeMoss

Nancy Leigh DeMoss | 06.14.13
Twitter: @NancyDeMoss


The scene is indelibly etched in my memory. I was 19 years old. My family was on a mission trip in Haiti—my parents’ (and my) favorite type of family “vacation.” We were worshiping in a small Haitian church, sitting on hard wood benches. In the middle of the service, my dad leaned over to me and whispered, “Honey, what are your 50-year goals?”

Now, I’ll confess I hadn’t given a lot of thought to my 50-year goals, prior to that moment. But over the next weeks, I set out to respond to his question. Of course, I didn’t know things like whether I would be married or single or what my specific ministry path would look like. But I tried to record what I wanted to be true of my life in 50 years—by the time I was 69—if the Lord was pleased to give me that many years.

Periodically I’ve gone back and reviewed the document that resulted from that exercise more than 35 years ago. It has proved to be a valuable reminder to be intentional, stay the course, and focus on the things that matter most.

While I would no doubt craft these goals a bit differently today, these are the same basic categories that I still believe are important. Even this week, in re-reading this list, I’ve been challenged to recalibrate my thinking in one particular area.

As a teen sitting in that Haitian church, 50 years seemed like an eternity away. I could not have imagined how quickly those years would pass—or how easy it would be to fritter away days, months, years—a lifetime.

Today, with less than 15 years left till I turn 69, I wish I were a whole lot further along toward these goals. I haven’t even come close to attaining all of them. But I’m confident I have grown more in these areas than I might have if it hadn’t been for my dad’s question. So for challenging me to this exercise—and for so much more—thank you, Dad!

I believe there is value in doing this kind of thinking at various points in life. And not only for yourself . . . don’t underestimate the potential impact of encouraging your children, grandchildren, and young friends to think through these kinds of big-picture questions.

Less than two years after I wrote these goals, on the weekend of my 21st birthday, my dad died suddenly of a heart attack. I’m so thankful for his efforts to encourage me to live a purposeful life to the glory of God. And that he didn’t think the teen years were too young to challenge me to seek and embrace God’s vision for my future.

Nancy Leigh
December 1977


1st Priority: To love God with all my heart, soul, mind, body.

2nd Priority: To love God’s people (encouraging, affirming, exhorting)—building them into committed reproducers.

3rd Priority: To love God’s work in the world (i.e., evangelism)—to build disciples (committed reproducers) in every nation.


  1. Love God
    • Learn/practice the art of public, corporate worship.
    • Learn/practice the art of consistent, aggressive private worship (response to God’s revelation of Himself).
    • Know every part of the Word thoroughly and intimately (i.e., be able to maturely teach any book/major topics of the Bible).
    • Become one who prays prayers of faith.
    • Conscious, moment-by-moment practice of the presence of God—intimate friendship with God—enjoyment of Him above all others—singular love for Him that makes all other attachments seem as hate in comparison.
    • To mirror His sweet beauty in a gentle, gracious spirit.
  2. Love God's People
    • Always have a “Jonathan”—souls knit together in love; one who encourages my heart in the Lord.
    • Always have a group of “Timothy’s”—i.e., people whom I am teaching all that I understand of the Christian life and ministry—who are faithful, available, and teachable—who will in turn reproduce this commitment in “faithful men who will in turn pass it on to others.”
    • Be a sweet-spirited, habitual encourager of God’s people; shepherd carefully those whom He puts under my care (following principles of 1 Thess. 2:1–12)—being willing to give my life for any of them.
    • Always be a committed member of a local Church that is committed to these three priorities.
    • Always have a team (loose sense) that ministers supportively and/or alongside of me.
  3. Love God's Work in the World
    • Be a consistent, aggressive, effective soulwinner locally; always be training a soulwinner(s).
    • Become a “World Christian”:
      • Pray regularly over all countries of the world.
      • Develop basic understanding of major cultural/religious divisions in the world; keep abreast of their attitudes toward the gospel (i.e. resistant/ receptive, etc.).
      • Regular financial support of other “World Christians.”
      • Regular visits to significant world areas of need or missionary effort.
      • Read 6–12 missionary biographies/year.
    • Develop a personal, worldwide ministry:
      • Develop committed reproducers—“World Christians”—(i.e., those committed to these same three priorities and equipped to reproduce that commitment in others).
      • Strategize with Christian leaders worldwide (in the relay of world evangelization, pick up the baton from today’s leaders; before I die, pass on the baton to the next generation).
      • Develop and start implementation of a comprehensive strategy to accomplish some aspect of world evangelization (e.g., discipling children)—this strategy must require the local church for fulfillment.

      P.S. All these commitments: to death (i.e., no retirement!)


Topics: Relationship with God


  1. I just printed this page so my husband and I can discuss it as we leave today on a road trip. He's a planner who keeps a "10 year goals" plan. Now that we are in our 60's and nearing retirement and more unknowns, I really appreciate your P.S. statement, "no retirement"! Throughout our almost 42 years of marriage we always said we didn't want to retire and move to FL or AZ, but that's about all we said. Now that it's nearing there is so much more to think and pray about.

    Thanks for this post, it's very timely for us!
    posted by Julie
    on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 8:05 am
  2. Could you further discuss you missionary reading list, please?

    I love reading aloud to my sons and we have read many of the Heroes Then and Now series.

    Are there some titles that are not as well known which you have found beneficial?

    Thanks so much =)
    posted by Amanda
    on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 9:41 am
  3. I just printed this ... and I'm using it to evaluate my life, since - as I read through them - I kept saying "Amen" to your goals. I have a few others (being a wife, mom and "Grammy"), but these resonate with me as a Christ-follower.

    My own dad never expressed much, spiritually or any other way. The only thing I have from him is a Bible reference, scrawled in the front of my new Bible when I went off to college: Proverbs 3:5-6. An evangelist, Del Fehsenfeld Jr., encouraged me to add verse 7. Those three verses have served as a grid throughout life, helping me evaluate my choices.

    Thank you for being faithful to your calling, Nancy. And I praise God for your dad's loving foresight and spiritual encouragement in your life. You'll have to introduce us someday in heaven.
    posted by Dawn Wilson
    on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 11:37 am
  4. Printing this now and hope to discuss with my 21 and 19 year old daughters this weekend. Thank you for posting this!
    posted by Annette
    on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 2:06 pm
  5. @Amanda...Thank you for your interest in Nancy's recommended reading list! Here is an excerpt from Nancy's booklet "Up Close and Personal" that gives help in answering your question, as well as a list of books she loves.

    "Reading biographies of godly men and women and classic devotional books is also greatly encouraging. George Mueller’s Autobiography has been an enormous encouragement to me over the past couple years. This year I’ve been reading through Charles Spurgeon’s Morning by Morning and Evening by Evening, as well as using the journal version of My Utmost for His Highest by Oswald Chambers. Andree Seu, columnist for WORLD magazine, is a woman whose writing has challenged and blessed me in recent years."

    The following biographies and Christian Classics are good reads:

    The Hiding Place – Corrie TenBoom

    Living Sacrifice – Helen Roseveare

    Hudson Taylor’s Spiritual Secret

    Mary Jones and Her Bible

    My Utmost for His Highest – Oswald Chambers

    Passion and Purity – Elisabeth Elliot

    Glenda’s Story – Glenda Revell

    Dorie: The Girl Nobody Loved – Dorie VanStone

    George Mueller: He Dared to Trust God for the Needs of Orphans

    A Brief Account of the Life and Labors of George Mueller

    Autobiography of George Mueller – Note: this is a harder read

    You might also want to check out the biographies listed on Mark Hamby’s Lamp Lighter Ministries web page. Nancy interviewed him in a series entitled "Reading Great Books, with Mark Hamby" (

    God bless you, Amanda, as you shepherd your sons' hearts.
    posted by Sarah, with the TW Team
    on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 2:21 pm
  6. Wow! That was great to read through. I am almost 19 years old, and I feel as though I am not even able to think such goals for myself. This past year, I had one-year goals for my senior year of high school, and when I was finished, I knew that I grew in some areas, but I knew I still needed to grow in others. This is a good idea.. thanks for posting!
    posted by Emily Kropidlowski
    on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 3:00 pm
  7. @Sarah and TW Team,

    Thanks so much for your suggestions and taking time to answer my question! =)
    posted by Amanda
    on Friday, June 14, 2013 at 11:36 pm
  8. I don't know if this is the appropriate place to post something like this...But I would like to ask you to pray for me. I have had a heart for ministry since I was 13 and known (in some strange way) that I wanted to devote my life to it. I am now 26 (turning 27 next month) and there is no prospect of this coming to pass. I am struggling greatly with what a "call to ministry" actually is as I believe in the priesthood of all believers. I want specifically to help women understand how Jesus impacts their daily lives. I have a heart for counseling, mentoring and teaching. I'm not sure these things will ever come to pass in a full time capacity and that is a depressing thought. I know that I should trust the Lord and be content in Him alone. But sitting at my comfy desk each day, knowing that people are hurting and need help is a mental battle.

    Lastly, thank you for the wonderful article and for your ministry, Nancy. It has been a blessing to me for many years.
    posted by Lorrie Beth
    on Tuesday, June 18, 2013 at 12:40 pm
  9. @Lorrie Beth …Your kind words to Nancy are greatly appreciated; we are grateful the Lord has used Nancy's ministry to bless you and encourage you. We consider it a great privilege to pray for you. Our Prayer Team takes each request individually and specifically before the throne of grace (Heb. 4:16).

    Don’t give up, Lorrie; continue with a heart set toward His service. “ So that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to Him, bearing fruit in every good work and growing in the knowledge of God.” (Col. 1:10) As God called you, He will enable you to serve. This post was meaningful to me; I trust it will be to you “How to be Used by God in Great Ways” at

    Keep on praying; keep on looking for opportunities to serve. Talk with your pastor and/or women in leadership in your church, denomination, community. Look for a crises pregnancy center, or a women's shelter, or a food bank to begin serving. Be a part of a ladies' Bible study to have opportunity to grow in God's Word and speak truth into other women's lives. Let God open opportunities for you to serve Him with gladness! (Ps. 100:2) Praying for you this day!
    posted by Sarah, with the TW Team
    on Wednesday, June 19, 2013 at 4:59 pm
  10. Wow! I can't thank you enough for your response, Sarah! It was great encouragement to read this.
    posted by Lorrie Beth
    on Friday, June 21, 2013 at 10:14 am
  11. Really encouraged to read this. Thank you for posting it.

    I especially liked this goal:

    Conscious, moment-by-moment practice of the presence of God—intimate friendship with God—enjoyment of Him above all others—singular love for Him that makes all other attachments seem as hate in comparison.

    And this one:

    Be a consistent, aggressive, effective soulwinner locally; always be training a soulwinner(s).
    posted by Fish With Trish
    on Saturday, June 22, 2013 at 10:57 am

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