Rule #21: There will always be a remnant.

A remnant is a small elite group that holds fast to the its principles when a majority of the group have diverged or abandoned their goal. When I think of this rule I usually get a picture of one of my excited collage roommates saying something like "I'm going to change the world, I'm going get all of Africa saved, I'm going to turn the United States back to the Lord". These are all excellent goals. But they all have the same problem. They appeal to the masses. I love the line from the movie Men in Black "A person is smart, people are dumb, stupid, panicky creatures and you know it." People are fickle, fame, fads, styles change as quickly as painting a piece of abstract art. Going after the world while a noble goal is foolish and a waste of time. The Bible calls it "pearls before swine." No matter how hard you work, no matter how good you are, no matter how receptive your crowd it will always come down to a remnant. Roughly 20% of the people you reach.

I like to pair this with the 80/20 rule. A sort of extension of the commonly called "Butterfly Effect" or the law of sensitivity of initial conditions. The 80/20 rule states that 80% of effects can be traced back to 20% of causes. The rule has scary true implications in every aspect of life. Economics - Money, even if distributed evenly, across a large enough group will always migrate so that 20% of the people have 80% of the money. Physics - Ice when floating in water will sink so that 80% of the block is below the water showing only 20% to the observer (ice burgs for example). Technology - in forums and open source projects 20% of contributors will do 80% of the content. And most relevant to rule #21 sociology - of all that you teach 80% of it will pass to the next generation through 20% of the people you influence. That 20% of effectors is your remnant.

Keep in mind the 80/20 principle is a principle not a rule. Rarely will you have exactly 20% in your remnant. your remnant can range from 1% to 100%. This is a statistical principle meaning as the number of people you influence increases the accuracy of this principle will increase. If you have 5 disciples 4 or even all 5 of them may be your remnant. Not surprising. But if you have 100,000 disciples it is highly likely that your remnant will be much closer to the 20% mark of 20,000 while the other 80,000 are just their for the show, the fad, the appearance, or the shallow rooted excitement.

Does this mean do not reach the crowd? No! obviously not. The greater your inefficiencies the higher that remnant is likely to be. If you reach 1000 people 200 people will be in your remnant. If you reach 1 million people 200 thousand will be your remnant. The real lesson to rule #21 is the following two policies.

Maximize your influence on the remnant. Remember the crowd is not going to carry your legacy. The remnant will. You maximize your influence by finding the remnant and maximizing your influence on them. For Jesus this was accomplished by finding several circles of remnants. First he focused on Israel. While several stories specifically go to the gentiles those were included in the Bible because they were the exception. Everybody knew Jesus came to Israel. Find a target audience you have a passion for, that you can relate too, that you can truly understand and focus your efforts there. Next Jesus had a group of 70 disciples he sent out relatively early in his ministry. The Bible is unclear as to how these 70 got drafted. I theorize these 70 were simply the fan boys, the entourage. The people that followed Jesus everywhere. Most of his sermons seemed to be to large crowds of the local population. But when he moved on he had a new crowd. But these 70 were always there. His event staff. We are all familiar with the next layer. The 12. The 12 were hand picked from the population of Israel.  Note threat 20% of 70 is 14. Jesus picked 12 which is too close to be coincidence. 12 is also an excellent number for a core group. They can evenly divide into smaller groups of 2, 3, or 4. They are small enough as a whole to fit in a single room and around a single (albeit large) table but a table still large enough that no one would have to yell to be heard. With some effort a personal connection can be made with each without being overwhelmed. Despite this their was still one more group. The 3, Peter, James, and John. Again 20% of 12 is 2.4 (close enough to 3 to not be coincidence).  That's 5 circles of influence that Jesus had.

  1. He died for the world. Everyone!
  2. He came to the lost sheep of Israel. His chosen people, target audience, the ones through whom the whole earth would be saved.
  3. The 70. I don't know that these are fan boys but I like that idea so I'm sticking with it. The people who chose him.
  4. The 12. Hand picked core group, with him at all times. Never was Jesus without his disciples.
  5. The 3. Those in the core group that were not just disciples but also friends.

Go after the one. I learned this policy form my missions trips with ORU and Antioch church. The idea is we can spend the 3-6 weeks of our missions trip trying to reach every single person we see or we can maximize our influence on one or two receptive people. A well formed missions trip will form events using the circles of influence listed above. For many of my trips we would focus on Children (our target audience). Several of those children would come every day to our week long VBS style event (the 70). Of those we would each choose one or two receptive children to focus our attention on, our one (the 12). Of those, it never fails that one or 2 of them would follow us home and join us for dinner (the 3). In the end instead of hoping we influence 150 kids over the span of our 1 week VBS we knew that 8-10 children were genuinely change and 1-2 children would never forget the touch they received from God by way of a group of crazy Americans. This takes us back to Rule #16: Frequency is more important than magnitude. Your influence will be much more effective if one child walks away with a solid understanding of Gods love then if 100 children walk away with a hint of it.

A few more smaller principles to take away:

  • Don't waste your time getting frustrated with the church, with society, or politics. Find the remnant.
  • Don't waste your time trying to get an unreceptive crowd to hear. Find the remnant.
  • Don't get disillusioned at the constant changing relationships in your life. Find the remnant.
  • Don't be afraid to love to the point of brokenness even if the loss is guaranteed (and it always is). God is near to the broken hearted.

Love the world, reach the crowds, find the remnant, select your 12, appreciate your 1, and love all of them with selfless broken abandon.

Comments

Probably my favorite of your article so far. Very well done and a message that is attainable, hopeful, and pointed. I hope to be following this Rule 21 closely with our youth ministry.
Your third bullet is one that I've struggled with over the past year (you know the story), all of them are vital to quality ministry, and the last is the very heart and sacrifice of the Father.

Thanks.

I really enjoyed writting this one. I have had much personal experience with it. Both in success and failures in ministry but ultimatly I've seen the best results by going after the one.