Jesus surrounded Himself with twelve called-out disciples for special training and ministry; we call them apostles. He trained them and sent them out over a period of, as nearly as we can tell, about three years.
One of the eleven turned on his Master and turned Him in. That left eleven.
What would have happened if each of those eleven, after that three-year period culminating in His death and resurrection, had done the same? Selected twelve people and trained them for three years?
And what if only two out of those twelve had remained followers who would do the same? And at the end of each three-year training period, there were no deaths or losses due to persecution?
Well, in the first three years, you would have 22 new mentors in addition to the original eleven; a total of 33.
At the end of six years, you’d have 99. Nine years? 297. Twelve years: 891. Okay, it’s a slow start compared to Pentecost and 3,000 in one day — but special circumstances intervened there.
What about 18 years? 2,673. And you’re almost up to that 3,000.
Twenty-one years: 8,019. Remember, these are not just baptized believers worshiping and sharing together, but discipling.
Twenty-four years: 24,057. Twenty-seven: 72,171. Thirty: 216,513. Thirty-three: 649,539. Thirty-six: 1,948,617.
That’s a long time, but we’re nearly up to two million in the lifetime of a fairly long-lived adult person.
So let’s drop out the original trainers from now on, and just double the number of believers every three years.
By the thirty-ninth year, there would be 3,897,234 mentors ready for the next generation of 7,794,468 disciples ready to train others after 42 years. With the success rate holding steady, by the forty-fifth year, 15,588,936 mentors.
More than 30 million in 48 years. Sixty-two million in 51 years. One hundred twenty-four million in 54 years. Almost a quarter of a billion in 57 years. A half-billion in 60 years. A billion in 63.
Keep going, and in 72 years, the equivalent of the entire current population of earth could have been reached and discipled.
And in less than a hundred years, the number would be larger than all the souls who are estimated to have ever lived.
Oh, yes; I understand that there are factors that would affect that outcome: travel limitations, disease, war, overlapping of available potential disciples (but the 2-out-of-12 odds might also have improved with more than one witness to each group of twelve, had they seen dedicated mentors persisting year after year with Christ-like lives and will to teach).
Not every mentor would have 24/7 available to do nothing but travel and teach disciples; there are jobs to do and income to earn.
Obviously, things didn’t turn out that way. This is just a math exercise. And math was never my strong suit.
But what if we tried Jesus’ way of doing things?
Just for a generation.