The power of one and the possibility of exponential multiplication

Peter preaching after Pentecost
Peter preaching after Pentecost

The first message of Peter to a crowd right after Pentecost brought about the conversion and baptism of 3,000. (Acts 2:41)  This big catch is presented not as a sign of his human eloquence but as a sign of his renewed spirit and conviction, fruit of the Holy Spirit in his life.  At times, followers of Jesus ask themselves whether God is interested in numbers.  They ask themselves, What is more important, quantity or quality?  Is God interested in having large numbers of people converted?

Seeing the people, he felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd.  Then He said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few.  Therefore beseech the Lord of the harvest to send out workers into his harvest.”  (Matt. 9:37)

It is clear that God wants both, quantity and quality.  He does not want mediocrity, he wants a devoted heart not only in one person but in many.  “Just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many”.  (Matt. 20:28)  Hence, we could say that God does want us to reach many and to bring a big catch of men and women.

However, God also understands the power of one and the possibility of exponential multiplication.  Didn’t Jesus devote the prime of his time to the twelve.  Didn’t he send them to the entire world?

I have certainly been blessed in my years in ministry to witness the power of one and the possibility of exponential multiplication.  It was a small group of people who helped me create a sports club with over 200 kids active in faith formation (an essential element of the club).  With the help of a small group of people I was also able to establish a school coop for over 150 students.  This allowed us to work in greater depth in the faith formation of the children and their parents.  With a small group of people we established a Catholic Radio Station.  With a small group of people we launched over 100 small groups of christian life with over 800 participants.  In my experience, it took faith but it took a faith open to God’s work in the world.

What I mean is that a “fortress mentality” faith is no faith at all.  A “fortress mentality” faith is one that rejects all that is modern and seeks the refuge of the past.  A manifestation of this is the rejection of introducing “business leadership development” into the work of ministry.  Some church people are afraid that our “spiritual” work could be compromised by the filth of “business”.  This attitude has been a danger that the primitive Church had to deal with:  should the wisdom of the pagan philosophies be accepted in the Church?

One of the Fathers of the Church, Justin, praised the truth found in Socrates and other Greek philosophers as containing seeds of the Word, “semina verbi”.  I believe that today’s culture also contains seeds of the Word that we are still to discover.  Of course, this requires discernment since not all of it is according to the Spirit of the Lord: “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect” (Rom. 12:1)  

During all those years of apostolic effectiveness, I always tried to learn from some of the best authors in leadership development.  I read Peter Druker, Jim Collins, Pat Lencioni, Adizes, Henry Mintzberg, Rick Warren, among many others.  I put their lessons on leadership into practice.  The result?  I learned how to form a good working environment with my coworkers.  I learned to be sensitive to their needs.  We formed a cohesive team.  With that cohesive team we achieved wonders.

May I suggest that properly shepherding the people of God requires being open to these “semina verbi” hidden among the research that some of the best organizational theorists of our time have come up with.  Careful though!  It is not just the science that will bring about the fruit.  It is the conversion of the heart.  Leadership requires virtue.  It is virtue what underlies all of the science behind these authors.  Henry Mintzberg describes the challenges of managing in terms of conundrums:  


The Syndrome of Superficiality  –  How to get in deep when there is so much pressure to get it done?

The Predicament of Planning – How to plan, strategize, just plain think, let alone think ahead, in such a hectic job?

The Labyrinth of Decomposition – Where to find synthesis in a world so decomposed by analysis?


The Quandary of Connecting – How to keep informed when managing by its own nature removes the manager from the very things being managed?

The Dilemma of Delegating – How to delegate when so much of the relevant information is personal, oral, and often privileged?

The Mysteries of Measuring – How to manage it when you can’t rely on measuring it?


The Enigma of Order – How to bring order to the work of others when the work of managing is itself so disorderly?

The Paradox of Control – How to maintain the necessary state of controlled disorder when one’s own manager is imposing order?

The Clutch of Confidence – How to maintain a sufficient level of confidence without crossing over into arrogance?


The Ambiguity of Acting – How to act decisively in a complicated, nuanced world?

The Riddle of Change – How to manage change when there is the need to maintain continuity?


The Ultimate Conundrum – How can any manager possibly cope with all these conundrums concurrently?

My Own Conundrum – How do I reconcile that fact that , while all of these conundrums can be stated apart, they all seem to be the same?

Managing, according to the best theorists, is about keeping a balance and avoiding extremes.  This is what excellence is all about.   Excellent, virtue, requires conversion of the heart.  The conversion of the heart has two dimensions:  conversion from our pride and conversion from a closed mind that rejects the “semina verbi” in today’s world.  It is this openness that characterizes the catholicity of our Church.

Discussion Questions:

  1.  Have I witnessed a “fortress mentality” against the best research regarding leadership development among my fellow coworkers?
  2. What is my experience regarding leadership development?
  3. How willing am I to invest time and effort into my own leadership development?
  4. Do I believe that God wants apostolic effectiveness in my work?
  5. What would apostolic impact mean in my area of work?



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