In our house, we have pretty decent broadband Internet speed. However, it’s still definitely possible to saturate the connection, whether through queued downloads, watching videos, or just installing updates. Whenever things seem slow, it’s customary to call out, “Who’s using up all of my bandwidth?” (In my family, this is important for the sake of tradition, even when you know that you’re the only one using significant capacity at the moment.)
From that perspective, we only get a certain amount of bandwidth in life, too. Despite leap seconds and the ability to chase the sun across time zones in a plane, life still nets out around 24 hours per day. More than that, though, we have only a certain amount of mental, intellectual, and social energy. God does provide us the strength we need to serve in the role for which He has made for each of us, but – on this side of eternity – we are each still only a finite part of His plan .
Within the limits that constrain us, there are only so many real relationships that each of us can have with other humans. The kind of close, personal relationships – those that have a certain kind of value not found elsewhere – require time, and we can only maintain a limited number of them. (Don’t get me wrong – I think it’s great when we can have connections – whether through social media or just crossing paths with acquaintances – to many, many other people in this world. That’s just a separate kind of relationship – a different “level” from the sharing and investment that we make with close friends and/or family members.)
In the same way that my home router only has access to a certain rate of data from the Internet, good activities – whether service, ministry, or relationships – consume some of our own bandwidth, and we only get so much to work with. The Bible gives us multiple examples of those who may have influenced many, but invested more specifically in just a few:
- While Jesus taught many crowds (sometimes thousands at a time), He invested in 12 men in particular (see Luke 6:13-16, Matthew 10:1, Matthew 26:20), and 3 of these seemed to be especially key to His ministry (see Mark 14:33, Luke 9:28).
- Moses was chosen by God to lead the 12 tribes of Israel out of Egypt, and then through the wilderness. He had one protege in particular, though, named Joshua. God selected Joshua to succeed Moses as leader of the people of Israel (see Numbers 27:18-19).
- Paul taught countless people in his various journeys around the Mediterranean region about Jesus. However, he made a special point of mentoring a preacher named Timothy, including writing (at least) two letters to him, which we have in the Bible today.
Imagine if any of these people had tried to invest – at the same level – to everyone they were teaching:
- If they chose to provide just high-level teaching to everyone, their protégés would not have received the depth of instruction and guidance necessary for later transforming the people around them (after their mentors had moved on).
- If these leaders had tried to invest in everyone they met to a deep level, I imagine that they would have gotten burned out, and wouldn’t have been able to disciple anyone sufficiently.
- Or, if reaching out to the masses was overlooked, in favor of more focused discipleship, thousands would have missed out on the opportunity to learn from the lives of each of these men.
If each of these people was “just” a good leader (even one inspired by God), we might revert to human teachings on leadership, and pick and choose which elements of their lives that we should emulate. But, since this list includes Jesus (who was also God Himself), we must acknowledge that this precedent is worthy of imitation.
So, if you feel that you are spread too thinly with the relationships that you value, or if you find that you seem to have only surface relationships, consider the impact you want to make. Maybe you aren’t sharing what you’ve learned about God with anyone. Trust me, if you’re learning about Him, there are others who can learn from you (no seminary degree is required).
Just like I need to do regularly, I encourage you to ask God to show you where He would have you invest. Take the time to focus on making a difference with key people He places in your life, while still blessing others in a wider circle of acquaintances. Also, understand that while you may not be able to give everyone the same level of help, you can make the biggest difference to a few select people that God has placed in your life.
Make the best use of your bandwidth.