New Math

Yesterday in the mail, I received a newsletter from an old friend.  This guy is a key figure in my spiritual development.  I was in a Bible study that met at his house on Sunday evenings for about 3 1/2 years.  Not only that, I took his class, worked out with him a few times a week, and spent one on one time with him regularly.  

I remember one day, he came to my apartment and said that we were cleaning my car.  I used to be pretty messy.  Not that I am the picture of tidiness now, but I do my share of chores (reluctantly) and generally keep things in decent order today.  Back then it was a different story and for over two hours we cleaned my car.  Mind you, this was a 1986 Mazda 323 so it wasn't a very big car and it took us two hours to clean it.  I was delivering pizza at the time and my car was disgusting.  Evan's point wasn't for me to have a clean car.  His point was that, as a grown up... a "man of God" if you will..., I needed to start being responsible.  I needed to put myself in a position where I could have credibility when representing Jesus.  If I was to impact the world, I had to be in the world AND I had to be some one the world would listen to.  The world I was trying to reach probably wouldn't pay attention to some one who kept 3 week old pizza under their passenger seat.

Evan practiced incarnational ministry.  Although he is a fantastic teacher with a lot of head knowledge, he knows that life-on-life interaction is what really shapes some one else.  The ministry he runs at the University of Cincinnati is the Navigators.  They value discipleship over big programming.  Don't get me wrong, they run meetings and events for people to come check them out, but those are not the focus and certainly NOT where the leaders and staff spend the majority of their time.  It is in meeting with individuals and small groups.  Iron sharpening iron as proverbs tells it.

Evan shared an example with me once and it has stuck (and sticking to it has caused friction for me in ministries that don't have an easy time getting past the big meetings).  This is the new math.  If you take a preacher who runs around and converts 1,000 people a year and compare him/her to a "discipler" who converts 1 person a year but then teaches that person to do the same thing with 1 person the next year (then the two of them do the same thing the next year... etc.), the numbers are astounding.  After 5 years: the preacher has 5,001 (including themselves) and the discipler has 32.  The preacher is kicking some ass!  After 10: preacher = 10,001 and discipler = 1,024 (didn't the preacher have that after 1 year??  Sheesh, what is this person doing??).  After 15: preacher = 15,001 and discipler = 32,768.  What the hell just happened?  The discipler has now impacted double what the preacher has impacted.  The discipler might not be as famous, but he/she is having a far deeper impact on the world.  Incidentally, after 30 years the preacher has reached 30,001 while the discipler has reached over 5 billion.

Now, I know that is an extreme example.  There are very few "preachers" out there who don't desire their converts to go off and  share the gospel with others.  But where are we putting the majority of our time?  Is it in preaching or discipling?  The latter cannot happen in large group meetings.  It is in one on one, small groups, life-on-life, iron sharpening iron, etc.  My friend taught me that and his recent newsletter reminded me of it in a powerful way.

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