A little over a year ago, some pastor friends and I decided to start reading through some of the books that we got at Together for the Gospel (a great conference for pastors that they have every other year in Louisville). After we made it through the conference books that we wanted to read, we decided to choose some others that we would like to read together (We start Tim Keller’s new book on preaching in the morning). We found ourselves often discussing the importance of making disciples in the local Church and so we decided to read one of the classics on that topic: ‘The Masster Plan of Evangelism’. We were pretty glad we did.
If you have read many contemporary books (last 15 years) on making disciples then you will see why Coleman’s work is considered a classic. The principles that he sets forth in the book are so foundational that many others have simply sought to build upon the ideas that he brought forth. And of course, since his principles were based on the life and ministry of Jesus, then it makes sense that those who want to do the same will end up sounding a whole lot like Coleman’s book. This was so obvious from the beginning of the book that it seemed ‘unoriginal’ to me at first. And then I realized that he wrote his book long before many of the others I have read (first published in 1963). Besides, unorginal can be a good thing when you are trying to explain and expound upon Jesus’ approach to making disciples.
The real strength of the book for me was the emphasis on personal disciple making. Many believe today that it is the Church’s responsibility to make disciples. And in one sense that is true, as long as by “Church” you mean the members of the Church. Unfortunately people often think that the programs or activities of the Church is what makes disciples. But that was not the way of Christ. Granted, programs have their place. But the biblical method for making disciples is every disciple making new disciples through personal investment. Throughout the book, Coleman talks about how this can be done, developing principles from Christ’s ministry to His own disciples. Some of my favorite quotes include:
- “Men were to be his method of winning the world to God.” (ch. 1)
- “We must decide where we want our ministry to count— in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.” (ch. 1)
- “Jesus did not have the time nor the desire to scatter himself on those who wanted to make their own terms of discipleship.” (ch. 3)
- “There can be no dillydallying around with the commands of Christ. We are engaged in warfare, the issues of which are life and death, and every day that we are indifferent to our responsibilities is a day lost to the cause of Christ. If we have learned even the most elemental truth of discipleship, we must know that we are called to be servants of our Lord and to obey his Word. It is not our duty to reason why he speaks as he does, but only to carry out his orders. Unless there is this dedication to all that we know he wants us to do now, however immature our understanding may be, it is doubtful if we will ever progress further in his life and mission. There is no place in the Kingdom for a slacker, for such an attitude not only precludes any growth in grace and knowledge but also destroys any usefulness on the world battlefield of evangelism.” (ch. 3)
- “Christian disciples are sent men and women— sent out in the same work of world evangelism to which the Lord was sent, and for which he gave his life. Evangelism is not an optional accessory to our life. It is the heartbeat of all that we are called to be and do.” (ch. 6)
I could go on, but that gives you a good flavor of the book. So give it a try. It is a short book and you will not be dissappointed!