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Dr. Robert Coleman is the author of the chef-d’oeuvre book, The Master Plan of Evangelism. He is also a distinguished professor of a discipleship and evangelist scriptural institution, which is based in Gordon-Cornwell. Out of his six degrees, two of them are in the field of Doctorate Divinity. In addition, he has authored many articles and books.
However, The Master Plan of Evangelism is one of his widely renowned and circulated publications. Coleman reveals how the work is amongst the 20 books that have played a proactive role in shaping evangelism over the last century.1
The book has been translated into more than 100 languages. It reveals Christ’s ministry, objectives, and the strategy that Jesus used to realize His agenda on earth. This paper presents a brief summary of the book before offering its critique and a personal reflection.
The Book Summary
The Masters Plan of Evangelism examines various evangelical principles that Jesus Christ deployed during His ministry. Coleman uses the term ‘Master’ to refer to Jesus Christ. The book presents the principles that Jesus used in His preaching mission. In the book, Coleman supports his claims by giving accounts of the spreading of the gospel through Christ’s evangelism.
Coleman says that the main mission of Jesus Christ during His life on earth entailed offering deliverance to the world. In a bid to achieve this mission, Jesus knew that He needed to utilize a few men out of the many people who lived during His time. He wanted to spend most of His time with them during His mission.
Within three years, Jesus invested His time in teaching on various ideologies to the few chosen men that He would later deploy to ensure that the world acquired salvation. These philosophies included selection, involvement, assignment, imitation, impartation, sanctification, and administration among others.
Via Jesus Christ, the heavens achieved an impressive aspiration of redeeming people from all regions, ethnic groups, and speech.
Through the principles, Coleman establishes the main objective of the ministry of Jesus Christ together with the strategy of realizing it. The philosophies consistently reveal the actions of Jesus Christ and His motivation in different ministerial situations.
To this extent, all Christians who desire to bear the full witness of Jesus Christ need to read The Master Plan of Evangelism. The next section presents the critique of the main ideas, especially the principles of Jesus’ evangelism that the book addresses.
The Book Critique
The principles of evangelism that Coleman establishes are a true reflection of the tools that Jesus Christ deployed in His ministry. Such tools are crucial in the work of evangelism work. In one of His principles, namely selection, Jesus’ plan entailed teaching a group of 12 men.2 Through these men, the whole world was then expected give a testimony of His existence on planet earth.
The gospel was also planned to reach many people across all nations. The men whom Christ selected were non-Pharisees and non-Scribes. Although they were uneducated, they all had superior hearts. One of their most significant attributes is that they were all easy to instruct.
Small groups made it possible for Jesus’ mission to be effective. According to Coleman, when the number of individuals who were receiving the teachings was high, Jesus found the situation favorable to deliver instructions since many of the attendees would impart the same to others.3 The selection of the number of people constitutes one of the strengths of the selection principle.
Jesus effectively molded the characters of His followers. This process was only possible through the concerted efforts and willingness of His followers to be with Him everywhere he went. From a human perspective, it is impossible for one individual to convince a large group of people to change their ways, mindsets, and even leave their families to follow him or her.
This principle exemplified the mechanism for changing people’s personality to guarantee their alignment with one mission. The selected men changed their personality from easily offended and obsessive individuals to adoring, conscious, and tolerant people who could continue with the evangelical work after Jesus’ departure from the physical phase of the world.
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However, the principle has some weaknesses upon considering that all people’s lives were not equally transformed. It leaves multitudes unchanged. Nevertheless, this weakness is a deception. Christ did not disregard His followers. For example, He fed them, performed miracles, and prayed tirelessly for them without any form of discrimination.
Jesus trained His selected men by associating with them. Jesus effectively used this principle through a simple call, namely the ‘come and follow me’ method. Through association, Jesus invested three years in talking, eating, and sleeping with His disciples.4 This observation meant that they (disciples) could bear a full witness of Him when he was gone. The strength of this principle is that it is incredibly simplistic.
Spending time for three years with them ensured that the disciples intimately knew Jesus Christ. However, it has a weakness since concentrating on a few people implies the isolation of the majority. However, Coleman also notes that Jesus also spent time with other people, apart from the disciples.
Such people included the Samarian woman and Zacchaeus among others.5 Nevertheless, this interaction does not eliminate the weakness of the association principle. In Jesus’ evangelism, concentrating on a few selected men was the norm.
Coleman identifies Jesus’ third principle of evangelism as sanctification. The Master requested the submission of his disciples. The call required a one-minded commitment to serving Him. The ideology was strength to those who found it easy to emulate Jesus’ teachings. However, people who violated the morals were eliminated from the chosen group.
The fact that total commitment to the principle of consecration was necessary, Coleman illustrates several men who he thinks could have become Jesus’ disciples, but they never made it, akin to their selfishness. Spiritually weak people may consider the consecration principle weak.
An immediate decision to follow someone is somewhat ‘unfair’ without giving sufficient time for meditation and analysis of the request to ‘follow’ a stranger and/or have a full commitment to him or her. Indeed, Jesus could not soothe people to follow him. He only wanted people who could make quick decisions to obey His commands. Consecration only allowed a few people to become Jesus’ disciples.
It only focused on individuals who were willing to take the cost and price of following Jesus immediately they saw Him.6 It did not apply to people who needed more time to bid farewell to their beloved families and friends. Jesus even told the multitudes that following him was a pricey affair that involved sacrificing people’s life for obedience.
Impartation constitutes the fourth principle of Jesus’ evangelism. According to Coleman, the ideology is the most significant doctrine of the preaching ministry of Jesus.7 When He was on planet Earth, Jesus offered His life for the deliverance of the people He had chosen to serve and teach them in a bid to continue with the work of evangelism. He soared into heaven.
He then sent the Holy Spirit to empower and motivate them to carry on with the work He had left. According to Coleman, God’s Holy Spirit enables people to execute the redemptive evangelical mission. Consequently, impartation has no weakness. The Holy Spirit does not possess any intrinsic weakness.
However, its major strength is that the principle acknowledges the power of the Holy Spirit in terms of enabling them to proceed with the work of evangelism, despite the many challenges that they face, including persecution.
Jesus illustrated to His followers the way they should coexist with others via having a close communion with God, relying on the word, and drawing others people to Christ. For instance, Jesus begged God’s mercy all the time on behalf of His followers. Consequently, the disciples also requested to be taught how to pray. Jesus demonstrated reading scriptures by referring to the Old Treatment.
Coleman says that close to 70 Old Testament scriptures are available in the gospel books of the Bible. Peter exemplifies the strength of this principle. According to Lillie, he was inspired to author two epistles, namely the 1st and 2nd Peter.
As Harris says, just as Jesus referred to the scriptures, 1st Peter makes 12 references to the Old Testament. The weakness of this principle is that not all people, for example, Judas, lived up to the Jesus’ demonstrations.
Through delegation, Jesus gave the disciples an opportunity to do similar work to the one that He did. However, He took the time to give them sufficient instructions. For a whole year, his 12 men learned from Him. They were told to focus their effort on few people who responded positively to the Gospel. In their work, hardships were inevitable.
The strength here is that the disciples’ work mirrors Jesus’ vocation. Through the principle of supervision, the Lord anticipated the disciples to report to Him on what they had done. The book of Mark 6:30 supports Coleman’s idea. The strength of this principle stems from the creation of follow-up meetings, which allowed the disciples to reflect more on the things they had obtained from Jesus’ instructions.
The Master Plan of Evangelism is a powerful and informative text. Coleman has deployed biblical texts as the basis for all his arguments. He is also careful to present his message in a liberal manner. The book’s authorship technicalities are exceptional.
All chapters have summaries of principles, which are then discussed in details, before their applicability in Christianity lifestyles is presented. The book is not only profound, but also easy to read. The Master Plan of Evangelism is instructive and engaging to its readers.
Authored by Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism discusses the doctrines that Jesus Christ used to ensure that He conquered the entire world. His first plan comprised teaching the beliefs to all His chosen men (the disciples). The disciples were then tasked with teaching the lessons they obtained from Him to the rest of people around the world.
Through the discussion of the principles, Coleman brings the church back to simple evangelism as Jesus first introduced it. Coleman concludes his insightful text, just as Christ concluded His work. He says that no other plan that can match the stratagem that Jesus used in spreading the gospel. Similarly, the new generation needs to utilize the same principles to continue with the evangelism that Jesus Christ initiated.
Coleman, Robert. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Grand Rapids: Revell, 1993.
1Robert Coleman, The Master Plan of Evangelism (Grand Rapids: Revell, 1993), 21-36.