I’m going to start with a random question: What makes a story newsworthy? What type of events do the press pick up on? Here’s my answer:
1) Stories that affect one or a few people a lot – Headline Examples:
"Hiker falls in volcano"
"Miners trapped after explosion"
2) Stories that affect many people significantly – Headline Examples:
"Tsunami leaves millions homeless"
"Haiti Earthquake creates humanitarian crisis"
3) Stories that affect a lot of people a little – Headline Examples:
"Road construction causes delays"
"State approves sales tax increase"
Too, the weird, bizarre news (or scandalous, salacious news) is also interesting because it fits into one of the categories above (usually #1). For example, "Two-Headed Man Can’t Sneeze From Both Mouths at Once, Scientists Say," is fascinating because it affects one man peculiarly.
So, how does all this tie in with making a big difference in the world? Because: analogously, the same logic applies. To make a big impact we must either make a little impact on a lot of people (start a blog) or a huge impact on one person (raise a kid).
Seriously, as Christians, this affects how we do ministry. Are we going to have a transient impact on everyone, or deeply invest in several? What did Jesus do? He did both. Many of the stories of his life describe brief encounters: a woman at a well, a man who came by night, a blind man healed. Jesus always had time for them. Yet Christ also invested deeply in several strategic men. They did everything together, shared life.
As Followers of Jesus, I suggest we follow His model of diversifying.
And in the process of following His model of ministry, we shouldn’t forget the outwork of His ministry: sending. Jesus was always sending, even those he had the briefest contact with. Consider the possessed man named “Legion,” because he was many:
As Jesus was getting into the boat, the man who had been demon-possessed begged to go with him. Jesus did not let him, but said, "Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed. (Mark 5:18-20)
Jesus also sent those He invested in most, the twelve:
He appointed twelve–designating them apostles –that they might be with him and that he might send them out to preach. (Mar 3:14)
After his Resurrection, Jesus commissioned these same 12 as International Harvesters:
Therefore go and make disciples of all nations… (Matthew 28:19)
As mentors, it’s easy to let relationships stagnate. As mentorees, we oft grow comfortable soaking instead of applying. There comes a point though when it’s time to cut the ties and send those we’re discipling, or, in the reverse case, send ourselves.
Another application is with parenting. Sometimes parents hang on to their kids when they should send them:
Like arrows in the hands of a warrior are sons born in one’s youth. (Psalms 127:4)
Arrows are meant to be shot. At a target. I’ve owned nice arrows before and they were fun to sit around and admire. But the purpose of the arrows was not to admire them, but to string them in a bow, draw it back taut (I’m comparing this to Jesus spending three years with his disciples or parents raising their children) and then release that arrow on a target.
To sum things up, we will make a big difference in the world when we are willing to make a big investment in people. We will, however, only gain a pure desire to serve as we draw close to God and are Spirit led. Because investing deeply in people whom we entertain no thought of return from is contrary to every fiber of our being.