Skip to main content

The Master Plan of Evangelism - A Review

Discipleship

What was Jesus's plan for world evangelization? Was it to teach a class or seminar? Did it involve memorizing a method? Could it be fully rolled out and implemented in just 8-weeks?

If this wasn't how Jesus operated then why is it how we operate?

I have great personal respect for Dr. Robert E. Coleman. I have had the opportunity to hear him preach and teach in person. His love for our Lord and for the gospel are evident.

The Master Plan of Evangelism is Dr. Coleman's most famous book. It's actually my second favorite book of his. I plan to write a review of my favorite Dr. Coleman book in the future. Today we'll look at the strengths and a significant weakness of this excellent resource.

Greatest Strengths

1. The Aim

Many evangelism resources are built from the ideas, experiences, and expertise of the author. Often these resources focus on methods that the author employs in their own life that has brought some measure of success and/or notoriety.

The aim of The Master Plan of Evangelism is different. Certainly, Dr. Coleman could write about his personal experience. He has preached and taught widely.

Instead, this resource seeks to understand Jesus's plan for world evangelization. Coleman put it this way:
That is why this study has been attempted. It is an effort to see controlling principles governing the movements of the Master in the hope that our own labors might be conformed to a similar pattern. ... this is a study in principles underlying his ministry--principles which determined his methods. (p. 14)
This is certainly a worthwhile aim. If we can understand what principles guided and shaped Jesus's activities and methods then those same principles can guide our activities and methods.

2. The Depth

Sadly, many resources that seek to equip and mobilize the body of Christ are shallow. Shallow methods have their perks. They are easier. They are faster. They can quickly cause a stir and allow us to check off "prioritize evangelism" from our agendas before moving on to the next item.

These flash-in-the-pan methodologies are short-lived by definition.

Time
The Master Plan of Evangelism lays out principles that, if actually applied, are costly. They require great amounts of time. There is no doubt that if you compare Jesus's activity with His disciples and our activity with our disciples, we require seriously less time, commitment, and effort.

Shallow methods usually result in shallow fruit. Jesus's methods have made an impact in our world for millennia. Do we want short term or long term results? If we want deep, long-lasting results, the principles Jesus employed are what we're looking for.

3. Adaptability

As a study in principles instead of methods this resource is infinitely adaptable. The principles remain the same even though they can and will result in differing methodologies across different contexts.

This is the hallmark of good biblical exegesis. God's Word is always timely, always relevant, and always applicable. The working out of these principles is not always identical in all places, at all times, and for all people.

Methods come and go. Principles remain. This resource will remain helpful until our Lord returns because it focuses on principles that can be adapted and applied in any context.

Greatest Weaknesses

There is only one weakness that needs to be discussed.

1. The Foundation is Off

As much as I love this book there is a significant weakness. It is impossible to overemphasize the importance of Jesus. However, when we focus only on what Jesus did with His disciples we are failing to build our theology on the fullness of what He has revealed.

Jesus wasn't just alive back then. He's alive right now. He revealed truth both during His earthly ministry and also after His resurrection and ascension. The Apostle Paul received much revelation from Christ that falls outside of the scope of a study simply on Jesus with His disciples. Paul was converted after Christ's ascension to heaven.

As the living Head of the church, Jesus no longer spends time with us the way He did with His disciples then. This doesn't diminish the importance of the principles of what He did while on earth.

However, we also cannot forget that Jesus gave gifts and leadership to the church for the building up of His body. These leadership gifts are listed in Ephesians 4:11.

The foundation of the church is Jesus as the cornerstone along with the apostles and prophets. When we forget the foundational role of the rest of those given by Jesus we are shifting the foundation. This is a mistake.

Here's where the flaw becomes evident: I am not Jesus. Neither are you. Your pastor isn't Jesus. Your small group leader isn't Jesus.

Unlike Jesus, we are all flawed. I have many strengths. So do you. But I also have many weaknesses. So do you.

When Jesus utilized these principles His disciples were submitting themselves to the sinless, perfect, Son of God. When we ask people to submit themselves to us (or we submit ourselves to other individuals) we are falling short of the ideal from the beginning.

People tend to take on the strengths and weaknesses of their leaders. Jesus said, "It is enough for the disciple to become like his teacher, and the slave like his master" (Matthew 10:25a).

Christians today are called to be conformed to the image of Jesus. Not conformed to the image of their pastor. In order to avoid being conformed to a single human leader Christ designed His church to be led by a plurality of elders. This plurality of elders is present in every church in the New Testament.

Similarly, when the Apostles started making disciples we see that people submitted themselves to the plurality of the Apostles, not just one of them. When people started focusing on one Apostle or leader over others they were rebuked for their foolishness (e.g., 1 Corinthians 1:11-13).

Concluding Thoughts

I really like this book. Even so, the flaw is a big one. If used by a singular leader to disciple people it will result in groups of people that take on both the strengths and weaknesses of that leader. It is a formula for creating disciples in the image of the human leader.

However, if these same principles are applied in the context of the leadership that Jesus gives for the church then we can see generations of Christians equipped and conformed more and more into the image of Christ by submitting themselves to the plurality of leaders Christ gave them for that purpose. In this way, the strengths of each leader can be magnified and the weaknesses can be hidden since the other leaders will be strong where they are weak.

In this way the depth of the model is retained, the body is edified, the world is evangelized, and the Head is glorified.

In my opinion, a worthwhile purchase and read.


Comments

Popular Posts

Prayer vs. Petition

Q: What's the difference between prayer and petition? Phil 4:6 for example.

A: An excellent word study question! When attempting to study words from the text it is necessary to analyze the word being studied in the original language (in this case Greek) as attempting to look up the words in English will often produce erroneous results.

For example, in English the word petition has within its range of meanings things that are certainly not within the scope of meanings for the Greek word (i.e. “a sheet that is signed to demonstrate agreement with some principle or desire for some social action to be taken” is part of the range of “petition” but not of the Greek deesis from which “petition” is translated).

The word most commonly translated as “prayer” in our English Bibles is proseuche, which appears 36 times in the New Testament (NT) in one form or another (for the purposes of this study, we are only examining the usage of these words as nouns – the verbal forms will not be included…

Christianity Isn't Moralism

Do this. Don't do that.

Shop here. Don't shop there.

This is acceptable. That is an abomination.

Don't get me wrong. Christianity does have a moral code. That's undeniable.

And that moral code is not popular. Not by a long shot. The Bible is clear that the moral code is contrary to the flesh. By definition it goes against the grain of fallen human nature.

But Christianity isn't moralism.

The moral code is not the end. It's only a diagnostic. The Bible calls for rebels against the King of heaven and earth to be reconciled to Him through His Son, Jesus the Christ. The Bible calls for people to turn from their rebellion and live for Him. This means that we stop pursuing the various lusts and impulses of our flesh. It means we start living in obedience to our King. We live for the glory of His name.

The diagnostic helps us to see that we are off track. But living according to some external sort of rules is not the end goal. That was the mistake the Pharisees made. Yo…

Christ Died For Our Sins

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
(1 Corinthians 15:3)
The truth of the gospel includes this important phrase: Christ died for our sins.

You've probably heard it before. Many times.

Sometimes familiarity leads to a diminished sense of importance. The more you hear about something the more ordinary it may seem. Common. Ho-hum. Boring.

But this truth is anything but common.

Another difficulty arises with this truth. Beyond being common. It may happen in your ears without you even realizing it.

When the truth is declared that Christ died for our sins, you may think you hear the truth. But what you really hear is a diminished version. A partial truth.

Instead of hearing that Christ died for our sins you may hear a slightly different version of this truth. You might hear this: Jesus died for your sins.

Do you see the difference? You should.


These statements are similar. Both may very well be true…

Hallowed Be Thy Name

Growing up, I said the Our Father prayer a lot.

A lot. Multiple times a day.It was part of my religious tradition. Most of the time, I mumbled it as quickly as I could.

For what it's worth, my Dad tried to help me understand that mumbling the prayer without understanding what it really meant wasn't the goal. He wanted me to understand it. He wanted me to mean it.

I remember sitting with him in the car one afternoon while we went through every phrase. He did his best to explain to me what the terms meant. Why we would say these things. Why it mattered.

It didn't take.

Although I became better equipped to describe the meaning of the phrases, I still mumbled them as fast as I could so I could move on to the next part of my day.

Fast forward many years. After being born-again by the grace of God I started to read my Bible. I desired to know God and His Word. I remember when I stumbled upon Jesus teaching the disciples to pray the Lord's prayer in Matthew 6. I was both excit…

Self-Centered Theology

I have a problem.

Maybe you do, too.

I bet you can at least relate.

I'm self-centered.

By nature, I think from my perspective. Often, more often than I'd usually like to admit, I pursue my agenda.

I like to do, what I like to do, when I like to do it, where I like to do it, how I like to do it, and with whomever I like to do it.

I think you do, too.

Sometimes we are good at hiding this self-centeredness. I believe that it is possible to have genuinely altruistic moments. Moments where we put others self-interest above our own well-being. Sometimes powerful emotions like love, hate, and disgust, can cause us to act contrary to our self-centered notions.

Sometimes.

As Christians, we are given the gift of God's grace through His Son, Jesus Christ. We receive this gift when we repent of our self-centered ways and trust in Christ alone. In the noise that is "Christianity" - if you take the time to really listen - you will often hear a false gospel that appeals to the …