The Master Plan of Evangelism is a book written by Robert E. Coleman back in the 1960s. Remarkably, over 3.5 million copies have been sold. And it was a wise purchase in every case!
Perhaps, given the current understanding of the word “evangelism”, it would be better to substitute the word “discipleship”. That is because we think of evangelism as a narrow range of activities connected with getting people started on their Christian journey. But Coleman has a broader life scope than that. We usually think of that full scope of leading others to grow over a lifetime as “discipleship.” Coleman starts at the beginning but delineates how Jesus worked with the whole of life in mind.
Jesus was present with his disciples. He concentrated on a few in order to reach the many.
For Jesus, men were his method. He concentrated on a few who were willing to learn while at the same time not neglecting the masses. He took the initiative to invite them to follow.
He stayed with the ones he chose and invested time with them knowing that it takes time to see change.
Jesus required obedience of those who followed. Few were willing to look at the cost and pay the price to learn from Jesus’ example.
Jesus gave himself away and demonstrated the compulsion of reaching the lost. He promised the Holy Spirit to supply comfort after he was gone to keep the disciples going.
Jesus showed his disciples how to live. He demonstrated how to teach naturally and without a formal context. He set an example in prayer and using the Scriptures as he placed the emphasis on soul winning.
Jesus assigned them work to do in evangelism. He gave them a briefing before they went out and told them to expect hardship. He sent them out in teams of two and expected the 70 to carry the global load.
Jesus checked up on the disciples he sent and gave continuous review and fine-tuning. He taught the necessity of exercising patient as they worked for a clear vision of the harvest.
Jesus expected his disciples to get results. This would not be a futile exercise if they stayed faithful to the mission. There would be no shortcuts.
That is the pattern espoused in the book. It is clearly stated. And Coleman backs up his ideas with 444 Bible references from the New Testament.
So with that pattern, explanation, and exposition over nearly 60 years how are we doing? You can see by the math that if each book on a shelf turned into an average of four each there would be many millions of new leaders developed. Is it fair to ask, “What has gone wrong?” To be more specific, “Which step in this chain of development is the weakest? Where do things break down most often?”
I have my personal observations. What are yours?
I see this as a pyramid starting at the beginning (Step 0) with a narrowing at each slab moving up the pyramid to the final top slab at Step 8. Each slab depends on the width of the one below. Therefore, for example, one can only provide supervision to those to whom tasks have been delegated. And it is a sad reality that we can expect fallout as people fade away and won’t accept the supervision supplied.
Is that level of dropout the greatest or is there some other that we need to focus on first? Think about that. Then create a plan for how you will be part of the solution and not perpetuate the problem.
In all honesty, we have watched the dismantling of Christianity in this country for the past 15 years. Because of the mindsets and eyes of greed—the word of God has become more of a vehicle to finance expensive homes, cars, designer clothes and jets. None of which, from a historical perspective, did any of those who truly were anointed to preach the gospel give thought to. Not to mention the many denominational divides. In the Old Testament they didn’t have Jesus, no they had prophets, judges, and leaders who followed God wholly—taking heed to His instruction. And in the New Testament those who followed Jesus were never the same. Yes, I would agree, those in leadership not only need to focus but get the right focus on the word of God and His kingdom, because it is His body and it is His Church that is why He so loved the world.
Claudia, I appreciate your thoughts. What needs to be added is that the New Testament warns us about this. E.g. Philippians 1:15-18. Paul asks this question, “What does it matter?” This is not a 15-year problem; it is a 2000-year problem. That’s why I created the app at thejohnchallenge.org. I am trying to be part of the solution!