Jesus spent most of his time with twelve average men: fishermen, tax collectors, and the like. While he was with them for three years, they were undependable, slow to learn, and, at times, self-absorbed. Yet Jesus' plan was to disciple these twelve men and then to turn them loose to take the most important message of all time to the entire world.
What if they failed? What was Plan B? There was no other plan. Jesus could have devoted his time to the masses so that they would be saved, but he could not have developed the kind of intimate relationships with them that he had with his apostles. That is the genius of his strategy. By spending time intensely discipling a few, they would be equipped to multiply his message over and over again.
Jesus did spend some time with the multitudes, but he concentrated on the smaller groups, particularly the twelve, and especially the three—Peter, James, and John. After Pentecost, the apostles also spent some time with the multitudes, but they spent a considerable amount of time in smaller groups. In years past, the church has stressed reaching out to the multitudes through rallies, revivals, and crusades. Not as much attention has been placed on conserving the harvest, assimilating new members into the body, and helping them to become healthy, growing disciples. This was not the strategy of Jesus or the early church.
The need is to place greater stress on smaller groups of people, but certainly not at the expense of the multitudes. The church must first build the foundation, and that foundation is the small group, just as Jesus' primary ministry was with his small group. Small groups themselves, however, do not make disciples. Neither do Sunday schools, evangelism programs, or worship ...