To build others up, we pour ourselves out.
I love that concept.
While not the point of this article, the idea is my backdrop while I paint another picture for you.
As Christ followers, we are called to reach the masses. He called us to reach for everyone—the normal and the needy, the well and the sick, the pretty and the not-so-pretty. I’m sold on the fact every one of us has an obligation to reach the many—we are challenged by Christ Himself to make a difference in the multitudes.
These twin concepts—to reach out and to pour out—are the basis of discipleship. To be a disciple of Christ means to teach a person about Him and His teachings.
But here’s the thing: you can’t ‘disciple’ the masses.
You don’t have to look further than the Gospels to see how Jesus changed the world. His method was simple: build the team, train the team, release the team. He handpicked each person, then spent the majority of His time ‘pouring Himself’ into them. Sure, He poured Himself into the masses, but he slowly, consistently, strategically, poured Himself into the few.
Jesus worked along relationship “lines.” Author Rick Zachary points out how this flowed with the twelve disciples:
Andrew, a disciple of John the Baptist, witnessed Jesus’ baptism. Andrew moved along family lines and brought in his brother, Peter. Peter moved along vocational lines and brought the fishermen brothers, James and John. Andrew and Peter then moved along community lines and found Philip, who lived in their hometown of Bethsaida. The development of the Twelve reflects the development of the kingdom.
Isn’t that good stuff? Do you see how the “lines” were leveraged? Here’s the point: healthy, meaningful, fruitful relationships don’t just happen—they are strategically built over time, on purpose.
Not everyone wants to experience this high-value, high-level relationship. Jesus was closer to some people than others. If you think of his relationships as a ring of circles, on the outskirts were the multitudes; closer in were a large group of followers; closer still were the twelve disciples; and closest of all were the ‘inner three,’ Peter, James, and John.
The more intimate the relationship, the more impact He had on their lives. The more a person interacted with Christ, the more Christ-like they became. The more Christ-like they became, the more they advanced His vision. Eventually, enough disciples advanced His vision and changed history. Relationships were critical in the process then, and they are critical in the same process now.
Here’s what I’ve learned from His example: I can influence a crowd with a message, but I impact a person through a relationship. The closer I pull a person towards me, the more opportunity I have to impact their life.
Jesus taught us we are called to reach the many just as we are called to reach the one. (Matthew 18)
Or as one author put it, “The multitudes are important, but they are not the priority.”
There are many empty individual cups out there.