The Few and the Many

By Matt Henslee

If I’m honest, when there’s a crowd on Sunday, I’m pumped! Where there isn’t, I’m in the dumps. It’s frustrating, and it’s an area where God has been working on me.

I don’t know that I can peg anything sinfully wrong with being excited about a spike in attendance, but I do know, as I look at Jesus’ ministry, far more emphasis is on the few than the many.

For example, in Mark 6:45, we read, “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd,” and we next seem Him walking on water toward the disciples.

There’s also the time when he left the crowd after teaching them parables, only to retire to a home where He explained them to his disciples: “Then he left the crowds and went into the house. His disciples approached him and said, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds in the field’” (Matthew 13:36 CSB).

The gospels are replete with examples of Jesus leaving the many to focus on the few. Just look at passages like Matthew 5:1, 8:18, 9:25, and 14:22. Look at Mark 7:33 and 8:10. There are others as well.

That isn’t to say Jesus hated crowds, but many among the crowds were there for a show. (I mean, who wouldn’t want to watch a bearded dude raise someone from the dead?) After all, He fed them, He healed them, He taught them, and more.

However, with an early ministry of only a few years, His primary focus was on the few — the men He’d ultimately send to launch the Church at Pentecost. He set out to make those few years with the few count, and one of the reasons we’re here today is because of their success!

When I think about that, at least in terms of my finite time on earth, it also moves me to focus on the few. Again, not in the sense that we ignore the crowds or “mail it in” on Sunday. But if we are sent to be spent here, what ought to be our primary focus?

Is it the 100 or more people who will hear a 25-30 minute sermon two or three times (if I’m lucky) a month? Or is it the two or three people I can pour into weekly?

Let’s say I pour into three people a week, and train them to do the same. We feast on the Word, sip on coffee, hold one another accountable, and set a disciple-making movement in motion.

By the end of the year, those three will have done the same with three more, while I send out another three — one year with the result of 12 disciple-making disciples set for a second year. Then 36. Then 108. Two whole years. 972 by the end of three years.

Of course, this is in a perfect world on paper with my calculator (and I’m not even sure I did the math right), but I think you get the idea.

If I want to live like Jesus and set something in motion that’ll long outlast me, my primary objective must be on the few I’m discipling to be disciple-making disciples. Building a church or ministry on a personality that’ll eventually leave is shortsighted at best.

So yes, if you’re a pastor, preach the Word faithfully and passionately every Sunday. If you’re a teacher, do the same in your group. But as you aim to live like Jesus, don’t forget the priceless value of spending time with a few to set in motion a movement that can continue long after you retire or die. Who knows what’ll happen if we do?!

This post originally appeared at 1Disciple.

Published June 26, 2020

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Matt Henslee

Matt Henslee (@mhenslee) is the pastor of Mayhill Baptist Church in Mayhill, New Mexico, D.Min student of the Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and author of a few books, including Evangelize to Revitalize and Text-Driven Invitation.