Back in 2004, a book called The Wisdom of Crowds attracted a lot of attention. In it the author explored how groups of people can often pool their collective wisdom and make better decisions than individuals. He used case studies and anecdotes from various fields ranging from economics to psychology.
Jesus seemed to think, though, that the wisest or most effective number of people was... two. His theory might be called - 'the wisdom of pairs.' When he sent out his disciples to a new village, he liked to send them out in groups of two (Mark 6:7, Luke 10:1). One might have imagined Jesus, in the name of efficiency, splitting everyone up in order to cover as much ground as possible. But, instead he covers half as much territory by sending them out two-by-two.
Jesus thought that pairs were more fruitful.
One example of the way our team has seen the value in working in pairs is the experience that Jeremy Smith and I have had in the Chiure district. It has been a very rewarding experience... and the decision to work as a pair came partially by accident. It takes over two hours to drive to Chiure, but the churches there were ready for teaching and mentoring - so the decision was made for both of us to go in large part in order to share the burden of fuel costs and wear-and-tear on our cars. We also knew that these churches were primed for growth and working with them alone would have been more than we were ready for.
Over the past few years Jeremy and I have spent dozens of Saturdays making the trek down to Chiure, co-teaching a class for a group of church leaders, and then evaluating that experience on the long ride back home. We don't always work this way - but I often wish we did!
So, what benefits have we experienced by working in pairs?
1. Co-teaching is just plain more effective. Back in college I got to co-teach a class at the Downtown Church with one of my professors, Monte Cox. We spent time preparing the lessons with a small group and then taught the class together. That experience was extremely formative for me. When Jeremy and I co-teach now it is on a peer basis and we have given each other the freedom to jump in and add comments, chase meaningful rabbits, or clarify when it seems that members of the group may not be understanding. It is extremely helpful to have another set of eyes, ears, and hands to help mold the learning experience.
2. Pairs have more authority. My hunch is that Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs because of the common refrain in the Old testament of the need of having two witnesses (ex. Deut. 19:15). Jesus knew that for his message to be received with open arms, it needed to have two testimonies. Working in pairs adds more weight or authority. When one of us is pushing the discussion, challenging the group in a certain way, it is very helpful to have a colleague step in and publicly agree that what the other is saying is true.
3. Two heads are better than one in problem solving. While this would certainly be the case even in one's own hometown, it is even more true when you are attempting to listen through the static of different languages, cultures and communication styles. I don't know how many times we have been presented with a problem or scenario and one of us had to respond because the other couldn't discern the heart of the question.
4. Working as a pair models a plurality in leadership. If the ultimate goal for the churches leaders we work with is to see them become a healthy team of elders shepherding the flock, then there seems to be great value in modeling that kind of teamwork for them even at this stage.
5. Working together is more fun than going it alone. This should be a no brainer. Our time trapped in the car, or in a dark hut eating xima and beans was made infinitely more bearable by having a companion.
So, for the above reasons (and more) I would heartily recommend working in pairs - they are more fruitful - for everyone involved.
Grace and Peace,