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042 Three Ways to Focus Your Life, with Tony Campolo

Picture credit: Evan Kirby

I’ve interviewed speaker, sociologist, Baptist minister and prolific author Tony Campolo numerous times over the years. In 2001 we talked about leadership, in 2004 on why Jesus wouldn’t drive a BMW, in 2008 on Christians and politics (and why he was voting for his friend Hilary Clinton as the next US President), in 2010 about love and power. In this podcast you’ll hear a 2006 conversation with Tony about his life, work, shaping influences, and how we can focus our lives to leave a profound impact on many.

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In the Interview

Tony Campolo

Tony Campolo is professor emeritus of sociology at Eastern University, author of more than 35 books, and one of the founders of the Red Letter Christian movement. After it first aired on the Open House show, I wasn’t surprised to hear this interview was being replayed in theological colleges and small groups to help people focus their lives. As we continue our Discover Your Calling series, you’ll find there’s lots to learn from Tony’s story. In it we explore:

  • The importance of accountability and being planted somewhere
  • The time he nearly lost control of his busy schedule and responsibilities
  • Tony’s life mission in a sentence
  • The exercise he did at the age of 40 that helped him focus his life
  • How his mother and father individually shaped who he became
  • How Tony responds to the significant criticism he generates
  • His controversial teaching that Christ mystically dwells in each person
  • What a true Christian really is

Three Exercises to Focus Your Life

1. Your life mission in a sentence

When I ask Tony how he’d some up his life, he gives this third-person reply: ‘He challenged young men and women to minister to the poor holistically; preaching the good news of Christ and ministering to the needs of the poor, socially and economically.’ In one sentence he distilled what his sense of purpose is.

What is your life mission in a single sentence?

2. A life goal to achieve

‘When I was forty,’ Tony says, ‘my friends and I took two days off by ourselves. We said to ourselves, we’re forty years old and if we live to be eighty that will be wonderful. We’re at the halfway mark. What do we hope to achieve in the next forty years? We talked and then we eventually wrote our responses down.

‘What I concluded that I needed to be doing the rest of my life was this: I wanted to so live and so give myself to other people that when I hung up my sneakers when life was over, there would be at least 200 young men and women working among the poor in urban America and in Third World countries doing holistic ministry—bringing people to Christ, carrying on programs of education and cultural enrichment, carrying on programs that would enable the people they were serving to live the kinds of lives that God had called them to live.

‘That’s what has kept me ticking all these years. We were very specific.’

What specific goal would you like to achieve by the end of your life?

3. What they’ll say at your funeral

‘I think it’s important for every person to take a tablet of paper and a pencil and go off somewhere and ask a very simple question. Here it is: When my life is over and I’m lying in the casket, and they’re having the funeral service and people are talking about me, what do I hope they are saying? Write those things down.

  • What is your family saying?
  • What are your friends saying?
  • What are people at your church saying?
  • What are people in your neighbourhood saying?
  • What are people around the world saying?

‘Write those things down, then put them up on a wall and everyday ask yourself if you’re becoming the kind of person that people will say these things about. Define your goals, define your purpose, know what it is that you want to become—not just what you want to do, but the kind of person you want to become.’

What would you like people to say at your funeral?

Are you becoming that kind of person today?

Your Response

What do you think of what Tony’s shared? Have you done these kind of exercises before? How could they help you? Leave me a comment now or call me using the ‘Send Voicemail’ button, lease also rate and share this podcast on iTunes to help others discover it.

Episode Resources

You may find the following links and resources helpful:

  • Book: [amazon_link id=”B00NB3LMGY” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Red Letter Christians[/amazon_link] by Tony Campolo
  • Book: [amazon_link id=”080101753X” target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Choose Love Not Power[/amazon_link] by Tony Campolo
  • Book: [amazon_link id=”0849942055″ target=”_blank” container=”” container_class=”” ]Let Me Tell You a Story[/amazon_link] by Tony Campolo
  • Book: Open House Volume 1 features Tony and 24 other luminaries 


  1. Have you gotten your FREE ebook When God Doesn’t HealGet it now!
  2. The countdown is on to my US Resurrection Year speaking tour! Here are the dates and locations
  3. I’m starting to take speaking bookings for 2015 with Spring Harvest, St John’s College Durham and Scargill House events already planned

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With Tony Campolo in 2004

With Tony Campolo in 2004

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