More than any other generation in recent history (and maybe all of history), today’s young adults want to change the world. It is one of the defining characteristics of Generation Y. Almost all (96%) of this generation believe that they will do “something great” with their lives, and a majority feel personally responsible for making a difference in the world.
Some might argue that this is a flaw—that young adults have too high an opinion of themselves for thinking that they, or that any single person, could change the world.
But I believe that it is possible. One person—or, at least, a small group of people—can change the world. And history backs me up on that.
The best example of this is Jesus. Of course, though Jesus was a man, He was also God. But the men and women who followed Him? They were nothing special. They were not powerful, not well-connected, and honestly not all that smart (Matthew 15:16). But it was this small group of people, following the example of Jesus, who changed the world to such an extent that the calendar of history reset.
So how do you change the world? The process can be broken down into 3 steps:
1. Be changed.
Before you can cause change, you have to be changed yourself. Change follows change. You have to be different.
I’m not sure that anyone can really change themselves, though; there has to be some outside catalyst. The catalyst for real, positive, lasting change is Jesus and the power of the gospel. Even non-Christian organizations that exist to help people change their lives say that you must call on a “higher power.” They are afraid to even use the word “God,” but they admit that your life cannot be changed without Him working in you.
One of the biggest reasons why the apostle Paul had such a huge impact is because people could see that he had been hugely changed. The #1 persecutor of Christians was now the #1 evangelist, willing to suffer persecution himself because he knew firsthand the truth about Jesus. If you think that your past somehow makes you unworthy of being a leader, think again; it can actually make you more effective.
2. Invest deeply into a small number of people.
One person can change the world—but you can’t do it by yourself.
There is the danger, however, of thinking that the key is to mass-broadcast and personally convince the entire world to change. That doesn’t work, unless you happen to be Oprah—and even then, it would only work with some really minor change. Getting someone to really change, in a big way, requires time and a personal connection.
Jesus preached to many thousands of people, but invested deeply and personally into only 12. Most all of those thousands of people left Him (John 6:66), or even turned on Him in the end. But the 12 (or, actually, just 11 of the 12) followed Him and truly knew Him. After Jesus left, they were the ones who continued His work and eventually changed the lives of billions. How? Why? Because of the third thing Jesus did, which is:
3. Encourage those few people to repeat the process with others.
You can only change a few people by your example, but those few can then also do the same with a few others. And those few others can do the same with a few others. And so on and so on…
Let’s say you invest deeply into just 2 people for a full year. They observe how you do things, and you teach them everything that you have learned. You basically replicate yourself, or at least replicate the positive change that you want to see in the world.
At the end of that year, you encourage each of them to go out and do exactly the same thing by discipling 2 others, while you again start discipling another 2 yourself.
Can that really make a difference? And will you be able to see that difference in your lifetime? Let’s look at the math:
After 2 years, there would only be 9 people changed—yourself, the 2 you discipled the first year, and the 6 people that you and your 2 friends discipled the second year.
The next year those 9 people would add 18 more, for a total of 27.
After 5 years, there would be a total of 243 people changed.
In 10 years, the number would be just over 59,000.
In 20 years, you will reach almost 3.5 billion.
And sometime in the 21st year—the year 2033, if you start today—you will have reached every single person on the planet.
So what are you waiting for?