The Penny Principle

Finding a penny on the ground is not a big deal. It’s hardly worth picking up.

But imagine if one of those pennies was special, and every day it doubled on itself. After 30 days, you would have 10 million dollars. This is what investors call compounding interest, and it works in the kingdom of God just like it does in economics.

Jesus even used compounding interest as part of his discipleship ministry during his time earth. He didn’t travel around speaking to big crowds all the time. Sure, it happened on occasion, but his standard strategy, his MO, was focusing on a small group of followers: his disciples.

He changed their lives, and they changed other people. Eventually, they even started a global church. Christ’s work compounded, so we follow that same model here at Milagros. Our leaders get deeply invested in the lives of their students. We walk shoulder to shoulder and knee and knee with them because we believe discipleship will change the world.

It starts with one person at a time, but it spreads throughout the entire globe. I’ve seen this play out in my own life. When I was in high school, I played soccer, and a Wake Forest University student, Jim, began coming to our games and pursuing me and my brother as friends. His goal was to share his life with us and communicate Jesus’ love for us.

I was a difficult kid, but that didn’t deter Jim. He was steady and committed to consistently being an encouraging voice in my life.

One summer, he invited me to a Christian camp put on by Young Life. I had some other friends going, so I figured I would join them. I got on the bus with 5 bottles of whisky in my suitcase on the way.

While I was there, I heard the story of Jesus for the first time, but I did not receive it well. I made sure to let Jim know, too. The whole sin and redemption thing really didn’t work for me, and I took my anger out on Jim.

After we returned from the camp, Jim reached out a few more times, but then he graduated and moved on from Wake Forest. The next year, I was reading the Gospel of Mark and gave my life to Jesus. I doubt Jim felt like his penny doubled very much with me, and that’s one of the challenges with discipleship. The process is so simple and mundane that most of the time, it doesn’t feel like you’re doing anything.

The same thing is true with the penny. After 7 doubles, the penny is only worth $1.28. At midway, the penny only grows to $327.68, far shy of $10 million. Jim experienced that same struggle with me. He gave a little of his life to me and didn’t see immediate results. It probably felt like a waste of time, but it wasn’t.

In college, I followed his example and became a leader that reached out to other high school students. Later, I moved to the Dominican Republic and helped start a mission there and in Haiti. Today, 12,000 high school students on that island attend meetings every week.

Since starting Milagros, I’ve seen hundreds of college students in over 45 countries receive a college education and 2-4 years of solid discipleship. Despite Jim spending 2 long years with me with little return, the compounding interest proved otherwise. His efforts spread farther than even he thought they would.

Everyone can disciple. It is not some super spiritual exercise. It is having dinner, building trust to levels where you can speak truth in someone’s life. It is being generous when people don’t deserve it. It’s being prayerful.

This little, unimpressive work builds upon itself and will eventually change the world.