Nurturing Ministry: One or One Thousand


A Christian cannot use numbers as a measure of his or her "success" as an evangelist; the one who appears to make a "big splash" may not be as effective in heaven's eye as the one obscure but faithful saint.

While Jesus ministered to the masses, He focused His time and training on a small number of disciples. He was closer to the twelve than to the seventy, and closer to the three (Peter, James, and John) than to the rest of the twelve. Instead of dissipating the bulk of His energy on the curious multitudes, our Lord concentrated on a handful of people who were teachable and committed. By building His life into these men, He was equipping them to reach an ever-widening circle of people through multiplication rather than addition. As Robert E. Coleman put it in the book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, “Better to give a year or so to one or two people who learn what it means to conquer for Christ than to spend a lifetime with a congregation just keeping the program going.” We would do well to invite God to raise up and send us the people He wants us to nurture instead of recruiting people on our own. Prayerful and patient discernment on the front end will make us far more effective in the long term. True discipleship requires a significant investment of time and energy, and we want our limited resources to bear as much fruit as possible.

Reproduction Is a Mark of Discipleship

“The things which you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses, entrust these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Timothy 2:2). Just as Timothy and “many witnesses” were recipients of the apostle’s teaching and training, Paul exhorts them to transmit these things to a third generation of “faithful men.” But the process of reception and transmission is still not complete until these “faithful men” learn how to teach yet a fourth generation of “others.” Biblical discipleship equips people to dig their own wells and to develop the skills to minister to others. We become generational links when we show disciples how to train people who will in turn reach others.

We Cannot Measure Our Ministries

Although people often try, the real essence of nurturing ministry cannot be appraised in this life. Human attempts to count converts and quantify discipleship miss the point that the bulk of our impact in this world is hidden, and that only God knows the true nature of our ministries. Many who appear to make a “big splash” in this world may be far less effective from heaven’s viewpoint than many obscure but faithful saints. We can participate in the work of God, but we cannot measure or control what He is doing in us and through us. Thus, it is always unwise to determine effectiveness by comparing one person with another or one ministry with another.

From a human vantage point, evangelism and discipleship ministries are less visible and quantifiable than social service ministries and therefore harder to fund. But even with nurturing ministries, people often make the unbiblical assumption that bigger is better. This is why people are more impressed by ministries that adapt top-down corporate models from the business world than by ministries that are more relationally oriented. This is not to say that one is better than another, since the Lord can use both models. But on this side of eternity, we cannot measure the ultimate impact of a person or ministry. Instead, we are called to live with an ambiguity that drives us to walk by faith and not by sight. Every so often, God in His kindness may give us a glimpse that we are moving in the right direction through a word of encouragement or an expression of gratitude, but if we get too much feedback, we will be in danger of living for the results and using our impact on people to justify our existence. When we redefine our view of success in light of what will count for eternity, we are more motivated by what is pleasing to the heart of God than by what is impressive in the eyes of people.

Taken from Ken Boa's Handbook to Spiritual Growth


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