With whom are you doing life? What I mean is, with whom do you spend time hanging out and talking about the deepest things of life? Whom do you sharpen, and who sharpens you?
Jesus lived toward the cross and the resurrection, and his singular focus on his end game motivated him to live very intentionally. He depended on God for constant guidance and made choices rather strategically. For example …
One day soon afterward, Jesus went up on a mountain to pray, and he prayed to God all night. At daybreak he called together all of his disciples and chose 12 of them to be apostles.
—Luke 6:12-13 NLT
Jesus had thousands of followers.
He had dozens of disciples.
He picked 12 to train more deeply and send out.
And he had three that were with him even more often.
I think there’s a pattern there for us to follow when it comes to the goal of our lives as Christians. Whether you want to call it discipleship, leadership development or just plain friendship, I’m convinced we need to intentionally develop relationships with these circles of people in our lives. We need to pour ourselves into others, and we need to be poured into ourselves by others.
We need to gather with our “thousands.” I don’t think this is about the number, I think it’s about the environment. To put it more simply, we need to be part of a weekly gathering with other followers of Jesus, some of whom we might know personally, but many of whom simply share our common bond of being part of God’s forever family together. We can sing together, be taught and equipped together, and serve together, but we can’t go deep together. Therefore …
We need to have a network of “dozens.” Beyond attending a weekly worship service with a large group of friends and acquaintances, we need to get to know people by name. This is our network. Whether you attend a church of 100 or 100,000, you’ll never go deeper with the entire body. But you can go deeper with a network of people with whom you intentionally stay in touch. Anthropologist Robin Dunbar proposed that the average human cannot cognitively maintain friendship with more than approximately 150 people. I think he was onto something. We may have thousands of “friends” via social networks, but we probably only maintain actual friendship with a small percentage of those.
We need a small group. There isn’t anything magical about the number 12, but there does seem to be an interesting correlation to the average small group that gathers for a weekly time of Bible study and prayer. This is the circle of people with whom we will pray together, talk about life on a personal level and mutually encourage one another. It’s where accountability begins in an informal sense. People who tend to “stick” to a church are usually those who have tied themselves to a small group.
We need a handful of close friends. Jesus spent more time with Peter, James and John than the rest of the disciples, and this was intentional on Jesus’ part. He wasn’t showing favoritism. Rather, Jesus knew that there needed to be a tightly knit core of friends in his life. This is the circle of people with whom we hang out to talk about our spiritual growth and development on the deepest levels. We pour wisdom into them, and they pour it right back into us.
If you want to grow in any sense—spiritually, intellectually, professionally, etc.—you’re going to need to intentionally develop and foster a close relationship with a few grace-oriented truth-tellers. Who are your handful?
So, who are your three?
Who are your 12?
Who is your network of dozens?
And with whom do you gather as a larger body?
If you can’t spit the names of your few or your dozen out pretty quickly, start working today on developing relationships. How? Well, not by passively waiting for friendship to happen. Reach out. Encourage. Invest. Give. And BE a friend, a mentor and a leader.
And if you want to read the best book ever written on this subject, check out Robert the Master Plan of Evangelism.