An excellent summary sent by our sister Annie Khoo
The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman
(Summary by Bill Glad)
The Master and His Plan: The problem in evangelistic methods.
In our efforts to fulfil the great commission of Christ, we need to constantly evaluate the objectives and relevance of our work. Is it worth doing? And does it get the job done? Just because we are busy doesn’t mean it is to a purpose. We need to focus our attention on a well-thought-through strategy of movement day by day in terms of long range goals – everything we do must have a purpose. This is an attempt to see the controlling principles governing the movements of the Master in hope that our own labours might be conformed to a similar pattern. Since form follows function, this is a study to understand principles underlying Jesus’ ministry – principles that determined his methods. In order to do this we have to look at the New Testament and the Gospels in particular.
Christ is the perfect example. His objective was clear: He intended to save out of the world a people for himself and to build a church of the Spirit which would never perish. No one was excluded from his gracious purpose. His love was universal – he died for all sins and all people; to him there was no distinction between home and foreign missions. To Jesus it was all world evangelization. He planned to win! His life was ordered by his objective. Everything he did and said was a part of the whole pattern. Never did he lose sight of his goal – to redeem the world for God. We need to carefully consider his strategies, for he conceived a plan that would not fail.
Selection: People were his method.
It all started with Jesus calling a few men to follow him. His concern was not with programs, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. The initial objective of Jesus’ plan was to enlist people who could bear witness to his life and carry on his work after he returned to the Father. These first converts had little immediate effect on the religious life of the day, but their lives, in time, would have an impact throughout eternity.
None of the men Jesus chose seemed to be key people. They weren’t prominent in the synagogues, educated, or wealthy. They were “unlearned and ignorant” (Acts 4:13), but Jesus saw in them the potential to be leaders in the Kingdom. They weren’t the men you would expect to win the world for Jesus, but they were teachable. They had a yearning for God and the realities of His life. Jesus can use anyone who wants to be used.
The wisdom of Jesus’ method is that he concentrated on a few. One cannot transform a world except as individuals in the world are transformed, and individuals cannot be changed except as they are moulded in the hands of the Master. Hence, as the company of followers around Jesus increased, it became necessary to narrow the select company to a more manageable number – Jesus chose twelve apostles. He didn’t exclude others from following him, but it is undeniable that his attention was focused more and more on the few and not on the many. Even within the twelve there was a select apostolic group of Peter, James, and John. All other things being equal, the more concentrated the size of the group being taught, the greater the opportunity for effective instruction. Jesus staked his whole ministry on the apostles; the fringe could fall away, but the close disciples could not miss his purposes or all was lost!
Jesus, on the other hand, did not neglect the crowds. He did much to identify with them, to care for them, and instruct them – so much so that in many cases they were aroused and even moved to make him king. But Jesus didn’t give in to popular conceptions; he rather stayed with his strategy at the risk of public scorn. Few seemed to understand his message.
His strategy, again, was not to impress the crowd, but to usher in a kingdom. This meant that he needed men who could lead the multitudes. Jesus was a realist. He based his evangelism on a plan that would meet the need; by focusing on a few men he developed the base on which the masses could later depend. This stands in contrast to our modern day emphasis on the number of converts, rather than building the foundation on which a continuing evangelistic ministry can be set.