On August 29, 2005, the flood waters of Katrina destroyed my copy of Robert Coleman’s book, The Master Plan of Evangelism. Recently, I overheard a few of my younger ministry colleagues talking about how much the book had meant to them, so I found a copy and devoured it within a days. I had read it decades earlier, but don’t remember it having the same impact on me as a younger man.
Robert Coleman uses the life and ministry of Jesus as his example, demonstrating to the reader that the master plan of evangelism is really discipleship. The author, in the preface, states: “This is one of the marvels of his (Jesus’) strategy. It is so unassuming and silent that it is unnoticed by the hurried churchman. But when the realization of his controlling method finally dawns on the open mind of the disciple, he will be amazed at its simplicity and will wonder how he could have ever failed to see it before.”
I’ve heard it said that many methods of evangelism focus on people rather than on Jesus. I’m not sure if that’s true or not, but I do know that when we focus on making disciples, we keep Jesus as the center. One person even remarked to me that Robert Coleman should have titled his book The Master Plan of Discipleship. I beg to differ. I think he should have titled it The Master’s Plan of Evangelism.
Robert Coleman breaks down Jesus’ plan for world evangelization into eight parts:
- Selection – Jesus planned to use His disciples as His method of reaching the world.
- Association – The disciples learned from Jesus by doing life and ministry with Him.
- Consecration – The greatest understanding of truth is learned through a life of obedience.
- Impartation – Disciples of Jesus must have the Holy Spirit within them to follow Jesus completely.
- Demonstration – Jesus demonstrated to His disciples His method of evangelism. He was the method and He wanted them to be as well.
- Delegation – Disciples of Jesus must be given practical work assignments with the expectation that they be carried out.
- Supervision – When discipling people, the leader or mentor must supervise and guide the disciple to minister as Jesus did.
- Reproduction – Jesus expects His disciples to produce other disciples.
Sounds pretty simple, yet brilliant at the same time. Where else but from Jesus Himself can you find a plan for one on one mentoring, personal ministry and leadership development, and lifelong friendship resulting in a changed world. Simply amazing.
However, for this to work for most people, things have to change.
First, Christian leaders must be willing to invest in people rather than in programs. Jesus called people to serve Him and emulate Him. Programming is important but secondary to this investment.
Second, Christian leaders must be patient as new disciples develop into new creatures of Christ. There is no instant Christian maturity pill people can take. True Christian growth that lasts often takes years of trusting and following Jesus with guidance from other Christians.
Finally, Christian leaders must be willing to invest in others for the long haul, even if ministry positions change. It doesn’t matter if your job (or ministry calling) leads you across the country, to follow this example, you must continue to disciple your mentee as he grows into the image of Christ.
I don’t know about you, but this challenges me, a lot.
In the foreword to The Master Plan of Evangelism, Billy Graham states that “Few books have had as great an impact on the cause of world evangelization in our generation as The Master Plan of Evangelism.” Even though that statement was referring to those doing ministry in the 20th century, the book has the potential to impact us in the 21st century as well.
I highly recommend this book.
The above is a review of:
The Master Plan of Evangelism
Copyright 1963, 1964, 1993 by Robert E. Coleman
Revell Books, A Division of Baker Publishing
Grand Rapids, Michigan
*Opening photo courtesy of Raghu Nayyar and Unsplash