Posted by: Joel | August 22, 2008

Evangelism

As preparation for my upcoming internship my pastor had me read Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism. It was actually a very interesting read. Coleman’s goal was to look to the ministry of Jesus in the gospel accounts to discern the ‘evangelistic method’ Jesus embodied.

His search led him to eight principles:
Selection – While not avoiding opportunities to minister to crowds and strangers, Jesus focussed his efforts more intensely on those closer to him (120 or so disciples, 12 main disciples, three). In this way he developed leaders who would in turn reach even more than he could and would carry on his ministry when he was gone. So also we must train a few to be leaders instead of only focussing on ‘the masses’.
Association – Jesus’ way of teaching the disciples was not to send them off to school, but rather to simply be with the disciples and allow them to observe his life and actions and speech. All day every day they were in class with Jesus. We must also be willing to invite new disciples into our lives so that they can see kingdom living in action.
Consecration – There is no kingdom for slackers. The one thing that Jesus demanded from his disciples was not correct theology but total loyalty and obedience. It was through this obedience that the disciples would truly learn the truth about what to means to follow Christ. So also we must be obedient to Christ and emphasize this in discipleship.
Impartation – The reason that the disciples knew Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God was because he gave himself to them in sacrificial love. Only as we give of ourselves to others in love by the power of the Holy Spirit will people come to know Jesus Christ as Lord.
Demonstration – Through the time he spent with them in self-giving love he demonstrated to the disciples what it meant to follow Christ and never asked the disciples to do anything that he wouldn’t do himself. His life exemplified the life he called them to embark on. We must do the same to those we are discipling.
Delegation – As time went on Jesus called the disciples to participate in his ministry by giving them small tasks to both use their gifts and push them out of the nest, so to speak. Exhibiting wisdom and trusting God for their needs, they were to be ambassadors for Jesus Christ in pairs, first locally and then beyond. So also leaders must not demand too much but also push their disciples in wisdom and trust in the Lord.
Supervision – Even as Jesus pushed his disciples out of the nest, this was not the end of their training and education. Their education became even more bountiful as they began to experience the very things they were learning about. The later stages of Jesus’ discipleship consisted of a balance between ministry and education. So also we must never expect that once a disciple is becoming a leader or engaging in leadership ministry, that they are ready to go it along without mentoring.
Reproduction – Christian disciples by definition reproduce the fruit of Jesus Christ n their lives and the lives of others. We must always be evaluating our lives in this respect. Jesus’ main command in the Great Commission is to make disciples and whether or not the fruit and character of Christ is being reproduced in the lives of those discipled is the real judge of an evangelists’ work. We don’t need better methods but rather people who are in love with Christ who want to see him reproduced in others.

In response:

The book was actually not so much about evangelism as it was about discipleship (which I guess was the point). Coleman’s main argument, and a big strength of the book, was that the Master Plan of Evangelism is discipleship, and this because discipleship makes for long-term ministry impact rather than just a short-term-vision “as many bodies as possible now” approach. I thought that his approach of looking to the life of Jesus for an “evangelistic method” or for Jesus’ “master plan of evangelism” was effective and insightful. Studying these eight principles and seeking to embody them in any pastoral or evangelistic ministry would definitely bear fruit both now and into the future. It was very challenging both to those being discipled and those doing the discipling! A few of the most challenging were Jesus’ demands of loyal obedience above anything else, the importance of simply spending time with your mentor or with those you are discipling in order to learn/teach about faith in Jesus Christ and faithful mission through a life lived, and the call to give of ourselves to those around us in sacrificial love in order to bear witness to the love of Christ. Evangelism (sharing the good news of Jesus Christ through word) is a vital component of missional living, and one that needs to be grown in me quite a lot.

While I was reading this book I read the small five-page section on evangelism in N. T. Wright’s Surpised by Hope. I found that Wright’s comments on the topic gave the necessary bigger vision of how evangelism fits into God’s economy of redemption and is mission to/plan for his creation. I forget where I put it but will try to find it and make a comment.

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