An Engagement with Robert E. Coleman’s Work, The Master Plan of Evangelism, Part I
When Jesus called a few people to follow him and share God’s message with their neighbors. We are called to do the same. However, evangelism can be difficult, and can even be intimidating. With all the evangelism resources available, where should you turn to find sound advice on how to share the Good News with others? This is the biggest question confronting mankind today. The issue of the Great Commission is that there is an ever-expanding company of people dedicated to reaching the world with the gospel on account of our ministry. Coleman argues, is a carefully constructed strategy that entails day-by-day movement toward this long-range goal. That is why Coleman has engaged in this study of the principles of evangelism that oriented and determined the methodology of Jesus’s earthly ministry.
The Process of Jesus’ Earthly Ministry
This is the same process we are supposed to follow as we go about doing evangelism in our various ministries:
The first method of Jesus for winning the world was to choose average men who were teachable, honest, and willing to confess their needs. Jesus intentionally kept the group small enough to work effectively with them and mold them. Jesus had many disciples, but He concentrated on the twelve and gave special attention to three. The principle here is that the more concentrated the size of the group, which requires selectivity, the more potential there is for effective training. He focused these efforts as part of a genius strategy to ultimately reach the masses.
Having selected His concentrated group, the essence of Jesus’s training program was to be with them and to let them follow him. For Jesus, association preceded explanation as a means of imparting knowledge. It was in the context of association that knowledge and faith could be enlarged. He gave them constant personal attention, like a father with his children. It would be insufficient for a father to raise his child only seeing him once a week, so we must imitate our Savior in staying with new believers as much as possible to model the Christian life, clarify the truth, and answer questions.
Jesus valued loyalty before intelligence. Willingness to obey, count the cost, and pay the price was the very means by which they learned more truth. This desire to dedicate oneself to Christ and to deny one’s self is in contrast to the indifference and complacency of many today within the church. Obedience is essential before conquest.
Jesus gave away all that he had to His disciples, including His peace, His joy, the keys to the kingdom, His glory, and even His life. Jesus’s sanctification was His constant renewal of Himself to His Father through loving service to others. His evangelistic strategy hinged upon this, designed so that His disciples would follow the way of their master and similarly impart the love of God to others. Therefore, our service and devotion to God must issue forth in love for others. Jesus’s disciples came to see that all of their work was altogether the work of the Spirit, to whom they must yield complete charge of their lives.
Jesus demonstrated to His disciples how to live, including how to pray, how to use Scripture, and how to win souls. His method was to conceal that He had a method, for the method was Himself. It was real, practical, and came naturally. Jesus never required them to do something He had not done Himself.
At the beginning of Jesus’s ministry, His disciples did little more than follow Him and observe Him. But towards the end, Jesus began to push them out of the nest, as it were. They were to follow His evangelistic method of concentrating their time on various individuals in surrounding towns and connecting with follow-up leaders. They were to expect hardship in their ambassadorial roles as they were sent out in pairs to accomplish the mission. Evangelism, we should recognize, is not an optional part of being a disciple but a divine command, and we should be giving practical work assignments today and expect them to be followed out.
Jesus’s interactions with His disciples involved a dynamic interplay of instruction and assignments. They were required to report back to Him on what they did, and He saw their failures as teaching opportunities, using on-the-job training to show them what spiritual discernment looks like and correcting their faulty attitudes and perspectives in the process. He interacted with them constantly and rebuked them when required to redirect them. Likewise, we must engage in personal, deliberate, and patient supervision of those we are training to be like Christ.
Jesus’s strategy was to produce disciples who would reproduce. The Great Commission culminates in teaching all people to observe and obey all that Christ commanded us. We can convert many people, but unless they become reproducing disciples, we are doing it wrongly. We only achieve success when we are assured that our work will continue in the life of the redeemed.
In conclusion, programs can never take the place of the Holy Spirit. When His plan is carried out as He intends, the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church.
Martin H. Kamaidan