Jesus had many followers. He often spoke to multitudes of people, and we have identified some members of those crowds previously. Many came out to hear Jesus because they were curious. His fame spread quickly in the early days of his ministry. Some followed Jesus from town to town eager to hear and learn more. Some of those “following” Jesus were not interesting in learning from him, but were seeking incriminating evidence with which to accuse him. Among the throng of those listening were people that loved Jesus, hated Jesus, and various levels in between.
Jesus had many disciples (students) but from a large group he choose 12. After the crowds went away – or Jesus escaped from them – he would offer explanation or answer questions in a more intimate setting. Think of it as the difference between the church sanctuary and a small group. We are commanded to meet together as a group of believers. Singing hymns, praying together, reading scripture and preaching/ listening to sermons are all biblical components of a worship service. If your congregation is 15 members or 2,000 we need to meet together as a church family. We also need small groups in which we study the scriptures and pray for one another. It may be in Sunday school, a person’s home, or in the local coffee shop any morning (or every morning) of the week. Small groups allow a large church in particular to maintain close relationships that are sometimes lost in a crowd.
Jesus taught and preached to the multitudes. Worship service is good. Jesus meet in people’s homes and with “the twelve,” and sometimes took only three or four of that group aside. Small groups are good. There is one more number we need to discuss. The number one.
Jesus set aside time to spend alone with God. He often started each day in prayer before daybreak. Sometimes the disciples were sent on ahead and he caught up with them. Even with huge multitudes following him around, Jesus made time to spend with the disciples and time to spend with God. We need those three types of experience; personal devotion, small group and corporate worship. I believe each is outlined in the New Testament, with Jesus being our prime example. Just as our missions being with our city, then our region, and then to the ends of the earth, so must our time with God be tiered. Each increment, each layer, will be used differently to our benefit and God’s glory.
An actor learning a script will spend time alone or practicing in the mirror outside of scheduled rehearsal. It also helps to have a friend read the other lines, or just to give cues. A basketball player may spend hours shooting hoops alone, playing one-on-one, and running drills. There’s a lot more to preparing for a game than running scrimmage. We cannot be used to God for something great if the only time “allotted” to him is 11 a.m. on Sunday morning. It starts with a spiritual army of one.