Many years ago, I was taught a useful little motto that has stuck with me ever since: Do few things, and do them well. In other words, it’s better to be truly effective with a few key plans than to try to do everything and end up doing nothing well.
Jesus didn’t teach this motto per se, but His strategy of making disciples operated by this principle. He selected twelve men to be with Him and learn from Him, and He invested the majority of His time in equipping those few to carry on His work after He was gone. And that strategy was so effective that we who follow Jesus today are the direct result of its genius.
Robert Coleman says it this way in his excellent book The Master Plan of Evangelism: “Though [Jesus] did what he could to help the multitudes, he had to devote himself primarily to a few men, rather than the masses, so that the masses could at last be saved. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.”
What is perhaps perplexing, though, is that the men Jesus selected–the men on whom hinged the success of His whole strategy–did not at first glance appear to be the best qualified for the job. They had no academic degrees, nor any professional training. None of them belonged to the priesthood. Only a few had perhaps some considerable means, but none would be considered wealthy. Most of them came from the despised section of the country–the region of Galilee. They were impulsive and petty and prejudiced. Not exactly the most promising bunch of world-changers.
Coleman says: “Yet Jesus saw in these simple men the potential of leadership for the Kingdom. They were indeed ‘unlearned and ignorant’ according to the world’s standard (Acts 4:13), but they were teachable. Though often mistaken in their judgments and slow to comprehend spiritual things, they were honest men, willing to confess their need. Such men, pliable in the hands of the Master, could be molded into a new image–Jesus can use anyone who wants to be used.”
The same principle holds true today for we who would follow Jesus in His grand disciple-making mission. “We must decide where we want our ministry to count–in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. It will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don’t live to see it. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.”
So if you are following Jesus, who are the few that you will strategically select to pour your life into and train up to do the same?