About 5 years ago I went through a management seminar and learned a lot. Their foundational statement for the program was, “concentrate on the vital few and ignore the trivial many.” It sounds simple enough and it can be applied across many different subjects and venues. They taught us to establish and measure our vital factors; the key elements of business that let you know how you are doing. I just finished pushing down vital factors to the members of my staff for a new initiative we are launching and couldn’t help but think about how the church could use vital factors.
Discipleship – it’s God’s method of focusing on the Vital Few.
“And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses the same commit thou to faithful men who shall be able to teach others also,” (2 Timothy 2:2).
Many churches have large congregations. Large congregations are awesome (small ones and medium ones are great too) – Jesus died for the entire world and we want them all to be in the church. However, not everyone in the church is a believer. Not everyone in the church is Spirit-filled. Not everyone in the church is a disciple. Not everyone in the church is a member of the vital few. These are statistical facts. They are not the perfect plan of God, but they are the reality of who sits in our pews or chairs. The church’s mission is to turn the masses into disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. This must happen on purpose, it doesn’t happen by accident.
Churches can begin to discover their vital few by slicing off layers of commitment. When you move from attenders to members you lose a portion of the congregation. When you move from members to tithe paying members you lose a greater portion of the congregation. When you move from tithe paying members to tithers who volunteer at the church you lose another portion of the congregation. When you move from volunteering tithe payers to volunteering tithe payers who witness their faith to non-believers you lose another portion of the congregation. The faith and maturity of each person walking in the door of a church varies according to their own experience with God, knowledge and faith of the Word and their commitment to follow Christ.
What portion of our churches are true disciples of Jesus; “faithful men who are able to teach others also?”
Do we have a system in place to take new believers and turn them into disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ? The Great Commissions commands, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matthew 29:19)
Disciple (μαθητεύω) is defined as “to follow his precepts and instructions” or “to teach, instruct”. The concept of discipleship goes far beyond the born again experience. It is the ongoing process of becoming less like ourselves and more like Jesus. It is the process of moving from milk to meat. It is the graduation from being primarily a receiver to becoming primarily a giver. True maturity in Christ comes when we are capable of giving or imparting into others what we have received of the Lord.
The apex of maturity in a church is its ability to send. At what level is your church sending? Sending can be done at many levels:
- Donating to support relief efforts in response to a need
- Donating or sponsoring an ongoing missions effort
- Sending members on short-term mission trips
- Releasing members who have been called to go and fulfill the call of God on their lives
- Establishing a system to develop disciples who can be used to plant churches
- The list could go on
“How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?” (Romans 10:14-15).
The call to send begins with the call to prepare those who will be sent. There is no clear path to maturity in Christ; there are no prerequisites of classes attended, books read or services attended. Each believer’s relationship with God and understanding of the Word is unique. While each Christian will grow and develop individually the church can engage the believer with a plan, a structure and goals. We do not call, we do not anoint, and we do not qualify. We can provide resources. We can invest time. We can establish relationship. We can establish accountability. We can provide opportunity for growth, opportunity to be used by God and opportunity to serve our neighbors.
Jesus preached in cities, synagogues and the temple in Jerusalem. He held meetings in houses, on hillsides and even on the sea-shore. He drew crowds wherever he went; healing the sick, preaching the gospel of the kingdom and teaching in parables. He was sought after by regular people, politicians, military officials and social outcasts. He was loved and hated; respected and despised. He was and remains the greatest divider of humanity. His ministry was very public.
However, His lasting effectiveness was not a result of His sermons or His miracles. His lasting effectiveness was found in His preparation of 120 believers to receive the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost and take the Gospel to the ends of the earth.
“I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12). Our Savior focused the majority of his time on 12 men during his 3.5 year ministry. He maintained a larger group of 70 disciples (beyond the 12) of whom we do not know many of their names. The greater works are possible because the one became many.
Focusing on the vital few means establishing the word and works of God into the believers. Focusing on the vital few means laying the foundation of principles of the doctrine of Christ (Hebrews 6:1-2). Focusing on the vital few means developing and empowering the believer to be the person God has called them to be.
Too many of our ministries have volunteers who only exist to support the ministry of “THE Minister”. “THE Minister” exists to support the growth and discipleship of the volunteers. The primary outreach of the body of Christ is done by the believer and not the five-fold ministry gift. This is not my opinion its scripture:
“Now these are the gifts Christ gave to the church: the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, and the pastors and teachers. Their responsibility is to equip God’s people to do his work and build up the church, the body of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:11-12).
Dear Pastor or Church Leader:
Jesus himself focused on the vital few. “And he ordained twelve, that they should be with him, and that he might send them forth to preach,” (Mark 3:14). Please make the focus of your ministry the developing and equipping of the saints. God has called them to fulfill the Great Commission, to go into all the world and preach the Gospel. They need to know the Gospel. They need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. They need to be trained on how to minister. They need the gifts of God activated in their life. They need to learn from you.
Please make the focus of your faith becoming like Jesus. You were born again to become like Him. Think, act and love like Him. Preach, teach, deliver and heal like Him. “And you know that God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. Then Jesus went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him,” (Acts 10:38). I’ll re-quote it, “I tell you the truth, anyone who believes in me will do the same works I have done, and even greater works, because I am going to be with the Father.” (John 14:12). You have been saved to be sent. Grow in grace. Grow in love. Grow in the knowledge of the word and of the Spirit. Invest in your faith, become a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Many preachers have said this, but it bears repeating. Everyone needs a Paul (Someone who mentors you) in their lives, a Barnabas (someone who is your peer) and a Timothy (someone you impart into). Christianity will take you through all three of these phases. You will find that you will never graduate from any of these phases. You will always be learning, always be working and should always be imparting to others. These are your vital few. If you focus on them, you won’t have to sweat the little stuff.