Maybe you’ve heard of the legend of the chessboard. The way this story goes is that the game of chess was invented by a man in India and the ruler of India at that time loved the game. He wanted to reward this man who had invented this game, so he gave him a choice.
He said, “I’ll either give you a big bag of rice every day from now until the day you die, or I’ll give you a chessboard and we’ll put one grain on the first square, two grains on the second square, four grains on the third square, and so on until we filled the board. Which would you rather have?”
To his surprise the man chose the second option. (Unfortunately the ruler was unable to come through with his promised reward.)
You see, if you do that, multiplying out the grains of rice on the squares of a chessboard, you will end up with enough rice to cover the entire subcontinent of India –16 meters deep in rice.
It’s more rice than has been produced around the entire world in all of history. That’s the power of multiplication.
We get excited about big numbers and so we seek to achieve those numbers by adding big numbers. So we love big stadium events where thousands of people come to Christ. We love big broadcast events where tens of thousands of people come to Christ. This isn’t how Jesus tended to operate.
Jesus tended to operate by focusing the majority of his efforts on a small number of people. He did some ministry with the multitudes. Those, in a sense, were almost like sifting events, where he’s trying to filter and find people to invest more in.
He spent a little more time with a group of about 500. And still more with a group of 70 or 72. Still more time with the 12. That’s where he invested the most time. And then even more with the three: Peter, James, and John.
So he was investing deeply in a few who were faithful, and in large movements that we see even to this day, that’s the pattern.
If you go and look at movements, at least ones that sustain themselves, it’s a result of someone investing deeply in a few … in a few faithful people, who will then invest in a few others deeply.
It’s a matter of finding these faithful people. That’s another reason why keeping these three elements of knowledge, obedience, and sharing in balance. It is important — because if we had that kind of dual accountability regularly in place — we can locate those faithful people that are worth investing in deeply.
Jesus was a terrible marketer. He was really bad. I mean think about some of the things he said– like the first one that pops into my mind is when he said — “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you can have no part in me.”
It says all of those people who had been following him left. Leaving just the twelve.
Then he says, “How about you are gonna leave too?” — and you just wanna say, “Jesus, be quiet! They might leave. Don’t say things like that. Don’t you understand you’re going to alienate people? They won’t understand.” But he does it anyway.
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Another time when he does it is in Luke 14. Jesus has been going around teaching, performing miracles, healing people, and so he’s got this huge crowd following him. You think, “That’s great!” So in verse 25, it says, “Now great multitudes were following along with him.” So, that looks promising. Then it says Jesus turned and said to them,
“If anyone comes after me and does not hate his father and mother and wife and children and brothers and sisters, yes, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple, for what man when he wants to build a tower does not first sit down and calculate the cost to see if he has enough to complete it, or else when he has begun to build and is not able to finish. All who observe it will begin to ridicule him, saying “This man began to build and was not able to finish.” Or what king when he sets out to do battle with another King does not first sit down and take counsel if he is able with ten thousand men to encounter the one coming against him with twenty thousand. Or else while the other is still far away he sends a delegation to ask terms of peace. So, therefore, no one of you can be my disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. Therefore, salt is good, but if even salt loses its flavor with what will it be seasoned. It is useless either for the soil or for the manure pile it is thrown out. He who has ears to hear let him hear.”
What was Jesus thinking? I mean, this is crazy. He’s got all of these people following him and then he turns and he basically says to them:
“Look, if you come after me, I have to be far more important to you than every relationship in your life, everyone of them, by far. I have to be more important to you than your life is. So you need to be ready to die for me every day. And think about it because it’s a huge cost, in fact, everything you have belongs to me. You’re forfeiting all your possessions, if you follow me. It’s all mine and you know what, if you don’t follow me like that, you are worthless as a follower. You’re not even worth throwing onto the manure pile. You need to just be completely thrown away because you are not worth a thing. That kind of following is worthless. Listen to me. Are you paying attention?”
Wow, he needs some marketing lessons. The only thing that I can imagine that could explain why he did that and what he was doing was he was testing to see why people were following him. Were they following him for entertainment? For healing? For profit? For some other selfish reason? Or were they following him because they recognized who he was?
He is the king of all creation. He is the ruler of everything. He is the infinite, wise, perfect, eternal king, and that’s why they’re following him. That is the only way those demands make any sense. Only if they recognized who he was … and if they did recognize that … then of course those demands make perfect sense. That’s completely reasonable and appropriate and I believe that’s what he was doing.
So often I think we get so interested in the big numbers that then we want to soften the message, we want to make it more attractive, we want to make it about the person we’re speaking to rather than about God and who he is. I think that’s a mistake.
We’re interested in adding large numbers rather than investing in a few who will be faithful to multiply. I think this is something that we need to get over because it is all about Him. Our conception of who God is and our appropriate response to God is the most important thing about us.
It determines everything in our life. It determines our values, our priorities, what we know is real, true, beautiful, valuable. It determines our actions and our attitudes. Everything is determined by our view of who God is and an appropriate response to that.
So, if we’re sharing the gospel, the reason it’s good news is because it’s about Him and the fact that we can know him.
It’s not about, oh your life will be easier, or you know something else. It’s not about us, it’s about Him. If we will share the good news of the kingdom, the good news of the king with that in mind — and it changes everything! It helps make sure that we place the focus on Him and place the emphasis of our labors for the kingdom on multiplication not addition.
We don’t just want everyone to come for any and every reason. We want everyone to come … who recognizes who he is. So, the most important task is that we make that clear … we make clear who he is.
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More Multiplication Concepts
This concept is part of the “Multiplication Concepts” series by Curtis Sergeant. Consider working through the entire series and challenging someone you know to do it with you. See an entire list of the concepts in the article titled “Multiplication Concepts”.
This same concept is taught in the Zúme Training course using video animation and is translated into 40 languages. You can find this same encouragement in session 2 of Zúme Training called Consumer vs Producer Lifestyle.
Zúme Training is an on-line and in-life learning experience designed for small groups who follow Jesus to learn how to obey His Great Commission and make disciples who multiply.