How Jesus Grew A Movement of Millions (Infographic)

Written by Ben Cheek on .

Last week we presented at the Velocity church planting conference on "The Four Rules" of vision.  The Four Rules are the basis of a book and mini-course we're working on called Vision Can Do Anything. We developed The Four Rules over the last several years working with dozens of ministries, business start-ups, church plants, churches, and established organizations.  Over and over again our clients and collaborators were encountering a common problem: complexity was getting in the way of turning vision into reality.  Our presentation described a system-savvy paradigm shift that can make the complexity manageable and give vision the traction everyone needs.  We were very pleased that many of the church planters who attended — people who naturally lean towards innovation — repeatedly called it "mind popping" and said it was one of the most powerful moments of the conference for them.

Below is an infographic based on just part of that presentation: from what we call Rule One: People over systems (full explanation below).  It takes a very practical resource-based approach to explain how Jesus was able to create a movement that grew by 300% a year for 250 years while modern missions struggles to keep pace with population growth and reach 3% a year.  While this is just one perspective in an issue with a lot more spiritual, social, and systemic factors, we think it's still pretty enlightening.  Take a look for yourself and if you like, download a per-release preview copy of the book and sign up for the mini-course which will begin in less than two weeks (March 11).

Infographic: How Jesus Grew A Movement of Millions

Explanation From Vision Can Do Anything, Chapter 3:

Consider this: the typical “giving unit” – usually a household or family – gives $1,240.00 a year in tithes and offerings.i If only 27.5% of this revenue will contribute to discipleship, that means each unit will only contribute $341.00 annually to people development – including the people included in their own giving unit. Compare this figure to other investments in people development. For example, families putting a child through college would laugh at that figure. It doesn't even cover books. In-state public college tuition for 2013-2014 reached $22,826 per year on the average. A year at the average private college is almost exactly twice that.ii For the most part, we believe college is a worthwhile investment for a successful economic life. What should we consider a worthwhile investment in our spiritual and eternal life (Matthew 13:44)?


Effort is another way to think about our investment in discipleship. In economics, effort is generally measured in work-hours, which can, in turn, be converted into dollars or vice-versa. Jesus invested the better part of three years in his ministry. He lived and worked with his disciples pretty much anytime he was awake (though many outside of the Twelve were only seasonally or occasionally present). Just by rough estimate, Jesus invested something like 12,600 hours in developing the people in his movement. This investment would have been spread unequally between Jesus' inner circle, the Twelve, and the larger group (sometimes called the 72). Also, some additional work hours were contributed by the disciples themselves, for example when they were sent to evangelize in Luke 10. Both of these factors would be true in almost any discipleship community. Taking this into account, we can take the total hours Jesus invested and divide it by the 120 disciples present in Acts 1:15. This leads to the estimate that Jesus invested 105 work-hours per disciple. Converted to dollars, this would be roughly $2,535.75 per disciple.iii


The work accomplished by any effort is limited by the efficiency of the work-system. If two laborers of equal ability are given the task of digging a ditch, but one is given a shovel and the other a spoon, you know who will finish first. This is very important when considering effort. Experts who study adult learning have found that not all systems of adult development are equally efficient at the work of growing people. In one such study, Bob Pike found that people retain 20% of what they only hear, 50% of what they both hear and see, and 90% of what they hear, see, and immediately do themselves.iv The methods of people development most used in the typical church are lecture format and would fit in the 20% efficient category. Hipper churches still rely heavily on lecture but put more effort in adding visuals, so they might fit into the 50% efficient category. Jesus' way of growing people – direct discipleship – fits in the 90% category.


The impact of these different efficiencies on the effort required to make a disciple is extreme. If Jesus invested 105 work-hours or $2,535 per disciple, a hip church, at 50% efficiency would need to invest 189 work-hours or $4,564. The typical 20% efficient lecture-format church would need to pour in 473 work-hours or $11,410. As mentioned in our ditch-digging example, work-system efficiency has a great impact on the time it takes to get anything done. If we look at the $4,564 worth of work a hip church needs to invest in a disciple, and we divide this by the $341.22 that each giving unit contributes to discipleship on an annual basis, we get the estimate that it will take a hip church 13.4 years to produce a disciple. In a typical church, it would take 33.4 years! While calculations like these naturally involve a lot of assumptions and estimates, the timelines from the personal stories I've collected during my ministry experience seem to back up these estimates.


It takes two years of pregnancy to make an elephant, but only 20 days to make a mouse. It's not hard to see why one species numbers in the billions and has spread around the entire world while the other is limited to some thousands in a few small corners of the world. When we think the same way about the different systems that create disciples in the Early and contemporary church, some of the factors behind the 300% and 3% growth rates of Christianity become more clear.


i ECCU, 2013.

ii “What's the Price Tag for a College Education?” College Data. 2013. accessed 02-12-14.

iii I didn't have a source to estimate the dollar value of a current work hour, so I used something close: The US Bureau of Labor Statistics regularly lists the average hourly pay of employees, so I used this, although it does not include the cost of benefits and overhead that might otherwise be included in the value of a work-hour. The hourly figure I used was $24.15/hr published in September 2013. See: "Economic News Release" Bureau of Labor Statistics, December 06, 2013. Accessed 12-16-2013.

iv Christine Edmunds, Kip Lowe, Morna Murray, and Anne Seymour (eds.). "Chapter 3: Ultimate Adult Learning" The Ultimate Educator. National Victim Assistance Academy: Advanced Topic Series, 2002. Pgs. 3-6 - 3-7. Accessed 12-17-2013. Citing Pike's famous 1989 study.

Also, some people have asked how I got my figures.  You can see a table of stats, calculations and sources on my wiki.  Annual Average Growth percentages were figured by taking the growth percentage for a period and dividing it by the number of years in that period (note some periods in the chart and table are less than 200 years -- the most common interval).


Do You Know Your "Why?"

Written by Joe Schlosser on .

I discovered some great content today.  It's the blog of Paul Sohn and it's called Salt + Light.  Paul Sohn(  Paul Sohn describes himself as an organizational chiropractor, purpose weaver, and kingdom-minded catalyst. Paul currently serves at The Boeing Company as a LEAN practitioner, providing expertise in continuous improvement initiatives, building high-performing teams and processes to create effective organizations. Paul also serves as an organizational consultant and Board Director at the Portland Leadership Foundation. He is writing his forthcoming book on how to live intentionally as a twenty-something.

One of his blog posts was a review of Simon Sinek's Ted talk on How Great Leaders Inspire Action. In that post he pulls out the essence of Simon's talk.

The why-centered thinking is best explained by the Golden Circle:The What How and Why diagram - Simon Sinek

WHAT: Every single person on this planet knows WHAT they do.

HOW: Some people know HOW they do WHAT they do. HOWs are often given to explain how something is different or better.

WHY: Very few people can clearly articulate (i.e., why do you get out of bed every morning?)

The Golden Circle shows that the conventional thought-process of most people are:

 What –> How –> Why

Leaders like Apple, Martin Luther King Jr, and the Wright Brothers have started inside out:

Why –> How –>What

By starting with Why, Sinket means starting with purpose, cause, or belief that drives your What. Your What may change over time, but your Why doesn’t.

Paul states:

This new paradigm shift of thinking follows my thought-process of living with intentionality. I define living intentionally as living today as God intends you to live tomorrow. That is, you must discover your purpose in life, how to utilize your spiritual gifts, talents, and potential to achieve your vision. Life must be seen from a larger scheme rather than from a focus solely on your career, family, or personal life.

I encourage you to check out the full article at and then come up with your own "Why?" and how it applies to you life and business.  I encourage you to share what you come up with us in the comment section below.  Have you ever stopped and thought about that?  Take a few moments and do that, you may be surprised at what you discover.


thumb 6bcc28161047b8e92b36746cJoe Schlosser is a creative faith-driven strategist who teaches entrepreneurs how to turn their passion into profit using social media, web-based platforms and soul-based communication.  His approach integrates proven strategic analysis and intuitive discernment so each client can identify their specific life purpose, the right resources to use, and how to advance God’s kingdom in a powerful and sustaining way.


Join Us In Celebrating!

Written by Joe Schlosser on .

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!


“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” 

Matthew 1:23 NKJ


Thanksgiving: Virtue and Restraint

Written by Ben Cheek on .

I pledge not to shop on ThanksgivingBlack Friday is bleeding into Thursday as retailers open on Thanksgiving -- and many shoppers are mad about it.  Why?  Aren't these businesses just trying to serve their customers?  Shouldn't people be free to shopp whenever they feel like it?

Many of the protests have to do with what kind of Thanksgiving the workers at these retail giants are likely to have.  But I think there is something to say on a deeper level.

Sometimes we kill the things we love. Businesses love the holidays, and rightly so. The spirit of celebration and generousity can really mean a boost for business as people show love to those around them. But when we encourage greed and glutunous consumption, we exchange vice for virtue and destroy the very power that produces the adundance of the holidays. It's time for businesses to see they've gone too far!

At the heart of the issue is the same thing that often has made it difficult for me to be thankful on Thanksgiving.  If I make it a focus on all my cravings and the over-satifaction of every possible visceral desire, I've destroyed it.  You cannot be thankful if you let vice rein over virtue. 

Even if the story is just a myth, the picture of the first celebration of Thanksgiving in Plymouth was one of virtue.  After barely surviving their transition to the New World, and after the rescue at the hands of the compassionate First Nations, true virtue -- what was really important and valuable -- was crystal clear to the colonists.  And so they were purely thankful.

We as people, organizations, businesses and corporations must always fight to protect virtue.  Without it, there is nothing worth having.  Celebration becomes gluttony.  Gifts become stuff.  And we become a little less human.  Want to stand up for the virtue of Thinksgiving?  Like the FB page of Say No to Shopping on Thanksgiving!



The Velocity Conference Is Coming!

Written by Joe Schlosser on .

Velocity is one of the most exciting conferences for church planters.  It combines 10 top speakers with 7 breakout tracks and several preconference offerings for one of the best two-day charge-ups around.  We'll be attending in Atlanta on Feb 17 & 18 and presenting one of the break-out sessions.  This year, Velocity will be looking at staying in step with the Lord: church planting in way that keeps up with Gospel opportunities, but that doesn't out-run the richness of life that Jesus provides.



Our Breakout Session will look at how church planters can use Participatory Vision-casting Practices to keep pace with God while discipling leaders in their church and surrounding community at the same time.  We believe that church planters are positioned by God to be masters of Vision Know-How, and that this asset is one to the best resources to disciple leaders, reach nieghbors, and transform communities.  We'll tell stories about our vision work with churches, non-profits, businesses, and even the Occupy Wall Street youth movement which shows that a church-planter's Vision-casting skills can spread Life-giving Gospel light in every direction.


It's Official: Everyone is Broke

Written by Ben Cheek on .

The Huffington Post writes, "more than half of U.S. wage earners made less than $30,000 last year, according to an analysis released by the Social Security Administration on Tuesday." (See info graphic below.)

I think it's no longer controversial to say that the economic system is broken. At some point, the great machine that is pumping the resources of the many into the hands of the few is going to start having crippling costs for everyone.

The solution is the mind of Christ. Paul says this: "Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others" [Phil 2:4 ESV]. This is the beginning of the mind of Christ, that joins him in becoming the servant of humanity to enjoy and deploy the power of the resurrection to the glory of God (vs. 5-11). Our economic system needs a resurrection, and Jesus knows exactly how the church can bring one.

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