When I finally “got” disciple making it really changed my world. It changed the way I followed Jesus, and it changed the way I viewed successful ministry.
One day I was reading an example of how the math of disciple-making worked. Unfortunately, their math was wrong, or at least it didn’t make sense to me. So, in order to flesh out the idea a little more, I built an excel spreadsheet that would model the effect focusing on disciple-making could have. Today, I’m making it available for you to use as well.
Here is how the Discipleship Multiplier spreadsheet works. In the spreadsheet, you can currently change three different variables. The first variable you can adjust is your age. Now, you can’t really adjust your age, but you can set up the spreadsheet to model your life as it is right now. How ever old you are, that is what you are. Many times I have wished I understood this earlier, but that isn’t something I can go back and change. What you and I can do, though, is to make sure our remaining years count, how ever many they may be.
Second, you can change the variable of how long, on average, you think it will take you to disciple someone to maturity in Christ. Maturity in Christ can be a bit nebulous, so for this my definition is they are mature in Christ when they can disciple someone else to the point of maturity basically without your help. In thinking about this number I’ll give you a couple of thoughts. One, Jesus used 3 years with His disciples, so don’t underestimate how long it will take. Two, while you may not be Jesus, remember that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are very actively involved in turning this person into a mature disciple of Jesus, so also don’t overestimate. I would suggest that it would normally be between 3 and 8 years. Obviously, your children will take longer than that, and if you already have someone who is mature and faithful it will be shorter just to teach them the disciple making portion. Anyway, one of the beauties of Excel is you can play with the numbers and see how they change.
The last varaible you can change is how many people you can disciple at one time. Again, lets look to Jesus. Jesus had lots of people he preached to, healed, taught, etc. However, He specifically limited His inner circle to 12 men, and some would argue there was another even closer circle of 3. So I would suggest limiting yourself to no more than 12 at one time. Also, I would suggest that we can pretty well always disciple at least 1. So, keep your numbers in between those areas.
As you adjust those numbers to fit what you believe to be your reality,
take a look at what happens below. You’ll find 4 output columns for you to consider.
The first, is how many years have passed since you started focusing on disciple making. This is a function of how many years you think it will take to disciple someone to maturity.
The second column is the total number of disciple makers. This column increases exponentionally as the people we disciple now begin joining us in making disciples.
I added a feature that will highlight certain numbers, or population points. When you see a light red background, that number indicates the total number of disciples makers has now exceeded the population of the United States. When you see a light yellow background, the total number of disciple makers has now exceeded the population of the highest populated country in the world, China. When the background turns gray, the current population of the world has been exceeded.
Think about that. That is crazy. How could something you do affect the entire population of the world? It’s too big isn’t it? You are too small and weak, aren’t you? This is why the 3rd column is how many people you personally disciple in the course of your life. When you look at that number you will find it is amazingly small in comparison. If I asked you if you thought you could disciple the whole world, or even just America, the answer would clearly be no. However, when you look at the total number of people you personally disciple it doesn’t need to be big to reach the world.
Lastly, there is your age. I designed it to stop when your age reaches 100. Obviously, many will die before that. The greater danger though, is not that you will die earlier, it is that you will either never get started or you will kick back and “retire” when you get older and waste those precious years.
Take a little time and explore how changing those numbers works. What I think you will find surprising and encouraging is how few people you really have to disciple well to make a huge impact for the Kingdom of God. And, remember you aren’t doing it by yourself. Jesus, and others in His church, are working along side you.
Yes, I know the model isn’t perfect. Mathematically it is, but real life rarely follows pure math. Still, take a look at the number of disciple makers when you die and ask yourself, “Even if the number was only half of that would I still be satisfied?” I think you would. While it isn’t perfect, I hope it will inspire you to focus your life on obeying the command to make disciples (Matthew 28:19-20)
Second caveat, we also don’t make our disciples wait until they are fully mature before they start discipling someone. They should be beginning to do it with us very early in their own being discipled experience.
(If you have suggestions for how the model could be improved leave a comment below, or email us at podcast @ Lukefive.com)