We started a new adult education class at my church last week, with our first “real” class held yesterday. The class is based on a book called The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. The book is the result of Coleman’s study of what Jesus did as revealed in the Gospels and what we can learn about His strategy of evangelism from His actions.
The first thing we learned was that Jesus carefully selected only a handful of disciples. Although many followed Him, out of the many He chose 12 as recorded in Luke:
One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. When morning came, he called his disciples to him and chose twelve of them, whom he also designated apostles. Luke 6:12-13.
The second thing we learned was that Jesus spent a great deal of time with His 12 disciples teaching them what He wanted them to know. Although He did address the needs of large numbers of people, such as the feeding of the 5,000 and the many sick that He healed wherever He went, the majority of His time was spent with just a small group of disciples teaching them what they would then teach others. He acted like what today we would call a mentor to each of the 12 disciples, modeling behavior for them, teaching them who He was, and answering their questions so that He could be sure they understood.
Over the next five weeks we will be learning additional principles that define Jesus’ evangelism strategy. But it is clear already that His strategy was centered on relationship. His primary goal was to ensure that the disciples understood that He was the Son of God, that He was Immanuel, “God with us” — and that they understood that His mission was to die for their sins, for our sins, so that the relationship of mankind to our Creator could be restored.
As Christians, that should be our primary goal as well — to help people understand that Jesus was God incarnate and that He died for their sins. We are called to truly help others understand the depth of God’s love and mercy. The best way to do that is one-on-one. Blogs like this or big, fancy seminars are wonderful ways to share the truth, but true discipleship requires relationship. The best way to share how much God loves me and you is if we have a one-on-one relationship and talk about who God is and how He has changed our lives.
But sometimes we don’t even realize the depth of the relationships we have made and the impact we have had. At our introductory session for this class, the pastor asked if anyone had been discipled by another more mature Christian. I raised my hand and shared that the woman sitting behind me had been in a small discipleship group with me and that I had learned so much from her about trusting in the goodness of God and spending time with Him every day. The pastor said, “So she was the leader of the group.” I looked at her and smiled, we both shook our heads. She had not been the official leader of the group, but she had been (I believe) the spiritual leader for all of us in the group. Yesterday she confided in me that she had no idea she had been such a great influence in my life.
This got me wondering how many people I might have influenced over the years in various groups and Bible studies I have been in, without even knowing it. It was sobering to be reminded that others are watching and learning, and that it is important that the lessons my life teaches are the right ones! Does my life always convey the Divinity and Love of Christ Jesus our Lord?
I am looking forward to the rest of this class and putting the evangelism and discipleship principles of Jesus into practice in our church. I want to be more mindful of my own relationships and sharing the truth of the Gospel with those who can carry it on into their own relationships. This is how Jesus planned for the kingdom of God to grow within the hearts of His believers, and if it was Jesus’ plan it’s good enough for me.