Life, Theology & Discipleship with Wes Woodell

53 Quick Ideas on Evangelism and Leadership Development from Robert Coleman


The following are some of my favorite quotes from Robert E. Coleman’s classic The Master Plan of Evangelism – the most helpful book on the topic of Christian leadership development I’ve ever read (discussed here). The quotes below are straight from the book – each one will give you a thought or an idea to chew on. You can purchase your own copy of Master Plan here.

Chapter 1 – Selection


It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow him. This revealed immediately the direction his evangelistic strategy would take. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow.



Yet Jesus saw in these simple men the potential of leadership for the Kingdom. They were indeed “unlearned and ignorant” according to the world’s standard (Acts 4:13), but they were teachable.



Jesus chose a few men to focus on so to keep it manageable – rapidly diminishing priority to those outside the Twelve.



… first duty of a church leadership is to see to it that a foundation is laid in the beginning on which can be built an effective and continuing evangelistic ministry to the multitudes. This will require more concentration of time and talents on fewer people in the church while not neglecting the passion for the world.



Everything that is done with the few is for the salvation of the multitudes.


Chapter 2 – Association


Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program— just letting his disciples follow him.



Jesus had no formal school, no seminaries, no outlined course of study, no periodic membership classes in which he enrolled his followers. None of these highly organized procedures considered so necessary today entered into his ministry. Amazing as it may seem, all Jesus did to teach these men his way was to draw them close to himself. He was his own school and curriculum.



His disciples were distinguished, not by outward conformity to certain rituals, but by being with him, and thereby participating in his doctrine (John 18:19).



Jesus made it clear that before these men were “to preach” or “to cast out devils” they were to be “with him.”



… as the ministry of Christ lengthened into the second and third years he gave increasingly more time to the chosen disciples, not less … during the passion week Jesus scarcely let his disciples out of his sight.



Jesus concentrated on these few chosen men, but also manifested concern for others who followed him.



Jesus did not have the time to personally give all these people, men or women, constant attention. He did all that he could, and this doubtless served to impress on his disciples the need for immediate personal care of new converts, but he had to devote himself primarily to the task of developing some leaders who in turn could give this kind of personal attention to others.



Preaching to the masses, although necessary, will never suffice in the work of preparing leaders for evangelism. Nor can occasional prayer meetings and training classes for Christian workers do this job. Building men and women is not that easy. It requires constant personal attention, much like a father gives to his children. This is something that no organization or class can ever do. Children are not raised by proxy. The example of Jesus would teach us that it can be done only by persons staying close to those whom they seek to lead.



… If Sunday services and membership training classes are all that a church has to develop young converts into mature disciples, then they are defeating their own purpose by contributing to a false security, and if the new convert follows the same lazy example, it may ultimately do more harm than good.



There is simply no substitute for getting with people, and it is ridiculous to imagine that anything less, short of a miracle, can develop strong Christian leadership. After all, if Jesus, the Son of God, found it necessary to stay almost constantly with his few disciples for three years, and even one of them was lost, how can a church expect to do this job on an assembly line basis a few days out of the year?


Chapter 3 – Consecration


Jesus expected the men he was with to obey him. They were not required to be smart, but they had to be loyal.



Jesus did not go running after them to try to get them to stay on his membership roll. He was training leaders for the Kingdom, and if they were going to be fit vessels of service, they were going to have to pay the price.



Jesus did not have the time nor the desire to scatter himself on those who wanted to make their own terms of discipleship. Hence it was that a would-be disciple was made to count the cost.



Jesus patiently endured these human failings of his chosen disciples, because in spite of all their shortcomings they were willing to follow him.



… though they had much to learn, they could say that their dedication to Christ was still holding true (Mark 10:28; Matt. 19:27; Luke 18:28). With such men Jesus was willing to put up with a lot of those things which issued from their spiritual immaturity. He knew that they could master these defects as they grew in grace and knowledge.



Jesus did not urge his disciples to commit their lives to a doctrine, but to a person who was the doctrine, and only as they continued in his Word could they know the truth (John 8:31– 32).



… no one can ever be a leader until first he has learned to follow a leader. So he brought up his future commanders from the ranks, drilling in them along the way the necessity for discipline and respect for authority.



Followers must have leaders, and this means that before much can be done with the church membership something will have to be done with the church officials.


Chapter 4 – Impartation


… in receiving his Spirit they would know the love of God for a lost world. That is why his demands were accepted without argument. The disciples understood that they were not just keeping a law, but were responding to One who loved them, and was willing to give himself for them.



… he lost no opportunity to impress on his followers the deep compulsion of his own soul aflame with the love of God for a lost world. Everything he did and said was motivated by this consuming passion. His life was simply the revelation in time of God’s eternal purpose to save for himself a people. Supremely, this is what the disciples needed to learn, not in theory but in practice.



The fact that these men were of the common lot of mankind was no hindrance at all. It only serves to remind us of the mighty power of the Spirit of God accomplishing his purpose in disciples fully yielded to his control.



… it is well to mention again that only those who followed Jesus all the way came to know the glory of this experience [of the Holy Spirit].



The very ability to give away our life in Christ is the proof of its possession. Nor can we withhold that which we possess in the Spirit of Christ, and still keep it. The Spirit of God always insists on making Christ known. Here is the great paradox of life— we must die to ourselves to live in Christ, and in that renunciation of ourselves, we must give ourselves away in service and devotion to our Lord. This was Jesus’ method of evangelism, seen at first only by his few followers, but through them it was to become the power of God in overcoming the world.


Chapter 5 – Demonstration


Jesus saw to it that his disciples learned his way of living with God and man.



They observed how he drew people to himself; how he won their confidence and inspired their faith; how he opened to them the way of salvation and called them to a decision. In all types of situations and among all kinds of people, rich and poor, healthy and sick, friend and foe alike, the disciples watched the master soul winner at work. It wasn’t outlined on the blackboard of a stuffy classroom nor written up in a “do it yourself” manual. His method was so real and practical that it just came naturally.



The method of Jesus here was more than a continuous sermon; it was an object lesson as well. This was the secret of his influence in teaching. He did not ask anyone to do or be anything that he had not demonstrated first in his own life, thereby not only proving its workability but also its relevance to his mission in life. And this he was able to do because he was constantly with his disciples. His training classes were never dismissed.



When it is all boiled down, those of us who are seeking to train people must be prepared to have them follow us, even as we follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1) … It makes us vulnerable, of course. We are not perfect like our Lord, and those persons to whom we open our lives will come to see our many shortcomings. But let them also see a readiness to confess our sins when we understand the error of our ways. Let them hear us apologize to those we have wronged. Our weaknesses need not impair discipleship when shining through them is a transparent sincerity to follow Christ.


Chapter 6 – Delegation


Jesus was always building his ministry for the time when his disciples would have to take over his work and go out into the world with the redeeming gospel. This plan was progressively made clear as they followed him.



… startling to observe in the Gospels that these early disciples really did not do much more than watch Jesus work for a year or more … But as Jesus was beginning his third general tour of Galilee (Mark 6:6; Matt. 9: 35), he doubtless realized that the time had come when his disciples could join him more directly in the work. They had seen enough at least to get started.



Before letting them go … Jesus gave them some briefing instructions regarding their mission.



The point Jesus made in all these instructions was that the mission of his disciples was not different in principle or method from his own.



Clearly Jesus did not leave the work of evangelism subject to human impression or convenience. To his disciples it was a definite command, perceived by impulse at the beginning of their discipleship, but progressively clarified in their thinking as they followed him, and finally spelled out in no uncertain terms. No one who followed Jesus very far could escape this conclusion. It was so then; it is so today. 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. It is the commission of the church that gives meaning to all else that is undertaken in the name of Christ.


Chapter 7 – Supervision


Jesus made it a point to meet with his disciples following their tours of service to hear their reports and to share with them the blessedness of his ministry in doing the same thing … his teaching rotated between instruction and assignment. What time he was with them, he was helping them to understand the reason for some previous action or getting them ready for some new experience. His questions, illustrations, warnings, and admonitions were calculated to bring out those things that they needed to know in order to fulfill his work, which was the evangelization of the world … He kept after them constantly, giving them increasingly more attention as his ministry on earth came to a close.



The important thing about all this supervisionary work of Jesus was that he kept the disciples going on toward the goal he had set for them. He did not expect more from his disciples than they could do, but he did expect their best, and this he expected always to be improved as they grew in knowledge and grace. His plan of teaching— by example, assignment, and constant checkup— was calculated to bring out the best that was in them. No less patient yet determined supervision is needed today among those who are seeking to train others for evangelism.


Chapter 8 – Reproduction


“Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church” (Matt. 16:18). The force of these words indicates the significance of human initiative in bringing it to pass.



… the life-sustaining power of the vine was not to be bestowed endlessly on lifeless branches. Any branch that lived on the vine had to produce to survive, for that was its intended nature.



A barren Christian is a contradiction. A tree is known by its fruit.



… the Great Commission is not merely to go to the ends of the earth preaching the gospel (Mark 16:15), nor to baptize a lot of converts into the name of the triune God, nor to teach them the precepts of Christ, but to “make disciples”— to build people like themselves who were so constrained by the commission of Christ that they not only followed his way but led others to as well. Only as disciples were made could the other activities of the commission fulfill their purpose.



… we must all evaluate the contribution that our life and witness is making to the supreme purpose of him who is the Savior of the world. Are those who have followed us to Christ now leading others to him and teaching them to make disciples like ourselves?



… the criteria on which a church should measure its success is not how many new names are added to the role nor how much the budget is increased, but rather how many Christians are actively winning souls and training them to win the multitudes. The ultimate extent of our witness is what matters, and for this reason values can be measured only by eternity.



[In the average “successful” church today] the costly principles of leadership development and reproduction seem to have been submerged beneath the easier strategy of mass recruitment. The nearsighted objective of popular recognition generally took precedence over the long-range goal of reaching the world, and the methods of evangelism employed by the church collectively and individually have reflected this same momentary outlook … Jesus’ plan has not been disavowed; it has just been ignored.



This is the new evangelism we need. It is not better methods, but better men and women who know their Redeemer from personal experience— men and women who see his vision and feel his passion for the world— men and women who are willing to be nothing so that he might be everything— men and women who want only for Christ to produce his life in and through them according to his own good pleasure.




… whatever the particular form our methodology takes, Jesus’ life would teach us that finding and training people to reach people must have priority.



… we must realize that the kind of energy Christ needs does not happen by accident. It requires deliberate planning and concentrated effort. If we are to train people, we must work for them. We must seek them. We must win them. Above all, we must pray for them.



The only realistic way to effect this is by being together.



… naturally is a wide difference in the emphasis and form these cells take, but the principle of close, disciplined fellowship within the group is common to most. It is this principle at the center that makes the method so conducive to growth, and for that reason all of us would do well to utilize it in our ministry with men and women.



[Billy Graham on the first thing he’d do at a new church]: “I think one of the first things I would do would be to get a small group of eight or ten or twelve people around me that would meet a few hours a week and pay the price! It would cost them something in time and effort. I would share with them everything I have, over a period of years. Then I would actually have twelve ministers among the laypeople who in turn could take eight or ten or twelve more and teach them.”



But it is not enough just to involve persons in some kind of group association, of which the church is but the larger expression. They must be given some way to express the things they have learned. Unless opportunity is provided for this outreach, the group can stagnate in self-contentment, and eventually fossilize into nothing more than a mutual admiration society … First assignments might be normal, routine tasks, such as mailing letters, setting up a public address system for an outdoor service, or for that matter, merely letting them provide for our entertainment in their home. But gradually these responsibilities can be increased as they are able to do more.

Of all these quotes, which do you believe the church at large most needs to take to heart? Which do you find most challenging or helpful to you personally? I’m curious.

If you’d like to share, leave a comment below.


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