A Masterful Insight into Jesus' World Vision
A book review of The Master Plan of Evangelismby Robert E. Coleman, published 1963
Reviewed by Joe Chiappetta, 2016
In the hit song "Change the World," by Eric Clapton, the singer/songwriter touches upon a universal topic; "If I could change the world." The more you experience, the more you observe that everybody wants change the world. Politicians consistently run on the platform of change. Talk of change can be found everywhere that there are listening ears. But not everyone is willing to do what it takes to make lasting change happen. Too many people start on such a journey, but for a variety of reasons, they just don't finish. They get weary and give up, or they are good-hearted, yet remain untrained and thus ineffective.
Known throughout history as one of the few people who really did "Change the World," Jesus Christ initiated a holy plan to propel changes that benefit of all who would listen and follow. We can read about this plan, of course, in the Bible. Also helpful, as a supplement, would be reading a short book written in the 1960s called The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. If you want to start and finish in the effective transformation of the world, these two books lay out a clear path to follow. People, right here and now, can change humanity for the better and also please the living God while in the process. Coleman's book contains life-changing insights into how Jesus operated to prepare his followers for world evangelism. With application of the simple yet challenging principles that Coleman discusses, you will know how to imitate Jesus, invest in people, and spread the good news around the world with purpose and lasting integrity. Coleman's book is totally worth your time to read, study, and put into practice.
In The Master Plan of Evangelism, the author does an amazing job at presenting Jesus' ministry strategy from a big picture level. Yet Coleman does so in a way that makes the strategy digestible for replication. That is the brilliance of this book; it is a true and effective outline of Jesus' methods that anyone can imitate. He even makes the point that Jesus' methods are so powerful and effective, that they work well even when non-Christian entities use them. This can be seen in both good and bad causes. On the "good" side, consider the Walt Disney Company, who has "evangelized" the world with its (usually) uplifting stories and products. On the bad side, think of the many terrorists groups who use these methods for sinister purposes, sending shivers of fear into the hearts of peace-loving people on all four corners of the globe.
Conversely, when people use Jesus' methods in a partial, uncoordinated, independent, pick-and-choose manner, the results are less inspiring, to say the least. Coleman even emphasizes that religious groups should not assume that the average untrained member is qualified to lead things without first being trained to imitate Jesus. The key is having trained leaders who can replicate what and how Jesus did things. That is how ministry really spreads.
The Master Plan of Evangelism is a very short book, yet emanating with power. In fact, Coleman exemplifies the much sought-after trait of being brief and powerful. I appreciate things being broken down in digestible chunks, and Coleman does so in his book by turning Jesus' methods into eight overarching tactics that were consistent throughout his ministry. These can be seen as guiding principles that were underlying in his ministry. They are completely integrated, yet can also be distinctly described and replicable today. All eight fall under Jesus' statement "I am the way..." from John 14:6. In other words, there is no Christian way without wholehearted, complete imitation of Jesus' way. Face that scripture head on; your way, my way, or your neighbor's way, no matter how catchy and popular, are completely inferior and false. We must do things Jesus' way.
The eight principles that Coleman outlines as Jesus' way are as follows:
- Selection: Men Were His Method.
- Association: He Stayed with Them.
- Consecration: He Required Obedience.
- Impartation: He Gave Himself Away.
- Demonstration: He Showed Them How to Live.
- Delegation: He Assigned Them Work.
- Supervision: He Kept Check on Them.
- Reproduction: He Expected Them to Reproduce.
Before any women get offended or discouraged at principle number one of Coleman's list ("Selection... Men Were His Method"), the author does mention positive roles of women in Jesus' ministry in his very next chapter called "Association... He Stayed with them." Yet the book is not about roles of women in the Bible. It's about the specific strategies that Jesus used, and his twelve apostles were central to this strategy of focusing on the few, and yes, they were men. As an aside, for a great book on women's vital roles in ministry, see the 2016 book Elevate - Jesus' Global Revolution for Women! by Elena McKean.
A careful examination of Coleman's defining principles of Jesus' ministry, which are also the key chapter headings of the book, can be quite convicting. Since Jesus is the way, and therefore imitation of him is the way, then we all have to ask ourselves three personal and probing questions:
- Have I been sufficiently trained to do these eight principles of Jesus?
- Am I personally doing each one of these eight principles on an ongoing basis? Note that it is not enough to merely agree with the principles of Jesus; we need to do them. That is true Christianity.
- Am I calling and training others to do these principles of Jesus?
This is a personal assessment that all of us must make and reassess on an ongoing basis. Those who answer "yes," and whom God would also agree to their "yes" on all three questions are in a good place. They will be the mighty revolutionaries who will spread the good news all around the world, as part of the master's master plan of evangelism.
Comic illustration at top: Jesus telling the people "I am the way" is a brush and ink drawing on paper by Joe Chiappetta, 2016, edited in Paint.net art program.
I also have written a number of Christian books over the years, the most recent being Mega Debt-Busters: