I’m in Denver for the quarterly meeting of the board of Dare2Share Ministries, on which I serve.
One board member raised the question, How can we get Greg Stier, Dare2Share’s Founder and President, in front of more people as a speaker?
Greg is truly one of the most gifted speakers I’ve had the privilege of hearing, and good things happen when Greg’s in front of a crowd. His thinking on youth discipling other youth to share their faith deserves as wide a hearing as possible. How to make that happen?
As the board discussed the question, something interesting began to emerge:
We recognized that spreading a message as widely as possible isn’t synonymous with speaking to more and more people. In fact, we realized, speaking to more and more people often means spreading a message less effectively than sharing that message in great depth with a few passionate apprentices.
Let’s engage in some napkin-based math here:
Greg may speak to 50,000 youth and youth leaders a year. Think of the effort it would take–in organization, administration, time, and money–to double that figure. And what would be the impact of reaching 100,000 youth and youth leaders? Would it be twice as much? Three times as much? Half again as much?
Now head completely in the opposite direction:
What if, instead of attempting to speak to another 50,000 youth and youth leaders each year, Greg identified from the 50,000 to whom he already speaks the most promising twelve among that 50,000? What if instead of adding dozens of new speaking events onto his calendar he poured all that time into intensively training those twelve apprentices who are spilling over with passion and potential?
If all of this sounds a little familiar, it’s likely because the strategy is so familiar from the scriptures. Jesus himself spoke to large crowds but emptied himself into the twelve apostles. Acts 19 reveals Paul doing the very same thing in founding the school of Tyrannus. So successful was this method of pouring intensively into a very few students that after only two years,
all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard the word of the Lord.
2 Timothy 2:2 commends the same exponential progression from a small number of dedicated apprentices to a large and powerful impact:
And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.
If Timothy’s students take the same approach, and Timothy’s students’ students do likewise, the number of people who have heard the message from a qualified teacher reaches staggering proportions in short order.
Sum it up and say:
- Worldly thinking encourages us to seek out more and more speaking venues with greater and greater number of hearers;
- Biblical thinking encourages us to seek out a small number of reliable apprentices from however many we teach in front of, and to invest in them heavily, teaching them each to seek out a small number of reliable apprentices as well, and so on.
A handful of reliable apprentices trained by Jesus reached the world in surprisingly short order. How different would the world be today if the early Christians took the approach we take when seeking to recruit people to our cause? “I need more churches to speak in!” is our constant refrain. Our impatience causes us to “miss the math” of small numbers and to despise the day of small beginnings.