One word defined my vision when our family lived in Asia: Multitudes! It is not difficult to feel the reality of the masses in Asia. South East Asia, where we spent our missionary career, is the most densely populated region on earth. Roughly fifty percent of global humanity lives there. I was first exposed to these burgeoning multitudes when I was twenty-two years old. It shook me to the core, beckoned me by the Holy Spirit to respond, and defined my life for almost twenty years.
Our little family worked among the multitudes in evangelistic ministry. In our training years, we worked with crusade evangelists who preached to hundreds of thousands of people in Thailand and India. I often preached to thousands in those years. Once I preached to a crowd of one hundred thousand people in India! Beth preached to over 60,000 that same week. Those experiences changed our lives! You feel the compassion of Jesus – and some human exhilaration – when you stand before tens of thousands to proclaim the Message of Jesus Christ!
But, there is an empty anonymity in the crowds too. We just can’t know that many people. God knows them. He knows their names. He knows where they live. He even knows how many hairs are on the top of each head. But we don’t. We can’t. We only know a few people. We have neither the capacity nor the time to know more than a few. The older I get the more I am impacted by that reality.
God always wants to increase our capacity to love people. Sometimes, especially in prayer, we feel His compassion for millions, for a world lost without Christ. But, it is not within us to know and love so many all the time. Our limited capacities are not a bad thing! God built us to experience only a few deeply personal and authentic human relationships. We need those connections, and others need to be connected to us! I learned this powerfully as a young parent. My children needed their Dad – they needed my love, my attention, my guidance, my patient discipline, and my encouragement. They needed me to set boundaries and help them dream big dreams. They needed me to play games with them on the living room floor, to tuck them into bed at night and pray with them, to point them to Jesus as their Savior, and to give them confidence to grab hold of their destiny.
In middle age I have come to realize that my parents did the same for me. My pastors did this for me. My friends have been this to me. I am what I am because a few people believed in me, made me feel valued, and showed me what love looked like. I’m not the product of the anonymous multitude. Oh, I gave my life to Christ in a crowd of fifteen thousand people, and have since preached Jesus to crowds. But, even that is the result of another evangelist taking me under his wing and showing me the way. While the journey of faith might begin in a crowd, the daily walk happens with a few friends and mentors. No one arrives to maturity and stability without the gentle coaching and loving guidance of a few trusted people – parents, friends, teachers, pastors, mentors, coaches – who show us the way by their wisdom and example.
Our challenge… and opportunity… is to BE JESUS to a FEW people. Our children must be first on the list. People sometimes wear wristbands that ask “WWJD?” What Would Jesus Do? Indeed! But, whenever I ask that question, I’m picturing Jesus with a human face. The face I see is someone I respect and love, who has impacted my life. I’m wondering, what would that person do in this situation. In that way, only a few people have been Jesus to me! And, their example and influence still guides me! I want to do THE SAME THING for others! I want to BE JESUS to a few people!
On earth, Jesus had only twelve close friends. He ministered to the multitudes, but only twelve, and perhaps a few more who hung around, had a personal connection with Him. I don’t make a big deal about the number twelve. I do make a big deal about the impact Jesus had on those people! They were not without flaws. But He transformed their lives, and they did remarkable things as a result.
The power of a few! We can change the world by being Christ-like to a few people around us!