There are times when “fewer” is better than “many.” The classic illustration of that is Gideon. You know the story well. Another stark example is Jesus and His twelve disciples. He trained individuals, not crowds. It is intriguing to notice that Jesus, as the creator of the universe, chose to mentor only 12. Surely, as God, he could have handled 1000 at a time. But He deliberately focused on 12. Then as he worked with them, much of the interaction is one-on-one. He did not always treat them as a group.
God designed discipleship and leadership training to take place within the context of a personal relationship. Our tendency may be to think that having a class of 50 potential leaders would be better than mentoring one. But focusing on one may have more impact than having 50 in a group. It is hard to have an close relationship with 50 people at once.
Evangelists cannot be mass produced. Each person has unique strengths and weaknesses that can be corrected or leveraged. But that won’t happen in a large group.
It is possible to disciple a number of new believers people at one time. But if you are going to mentor people in evangelism, you may need to limit yourself. As a missionary in South Africa, I trained pastors in a non-formal, church based program. At one time, I was training 3 men for the pastorate. That was too many. Two of them got the short end of the stick. I found that it was not possible to devote adequate time to all three at the same time.
If we are “now” focused and “me” focused we will struggle with the idea of small numbers. Mentoring is an exercise of delayed gratification. If you are “now” focused, then mentoring is not for you. The results of pouring yourself into others may not show up for years to come. Often, your protégé’s success will occur after you are off the scene. So if you want instant “success,” you don’t want get involved in mentoring. Secondly, the “me” focused person will not mentor others. Mentoring is a commitment to be successful vicariously through others. The mentor must be willing to see other succeed, even if none of the credit comes back to the mentor. There is nothing glamorous about one-on-one mentoring. It is done quietly and often at odd hours. Few people even know you are doing it. Mentoring requires a humility that is satisfied with seeing others succeed.
Don’t under-estimate the potential of training just one person to do evangelism. It doesn’t need to be formalized. No one needs to know you are doing it. It just needs to be intentional. But imagine the impact you would have over a 20 year period of time if you would focus on just person at a time
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