We had another terrific adult education class yesterday, building on what we learned in the last two classes, which I blogged about in The Relationship Plan and The Relationship Plan, Part 2. It is all still really about the relationships — our relationship with God through the power of the Holy Spirit made possible by Jesus’ atoning sacrifice and our relationships with each other. I was pondering this morning about how in just the past few weeks the relationships of the members of this small class have grown and we have learned from each other about how to walk more closely with our Savior. Well, I guess I’ve learned from the others, and I hope they have learned from me, but I can’t say for sure.
The two new principles that we learned this week from The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert E. Coleman are (1) that Jesus demonstrated to His disciples how to accomplish the work of evangelism that He had planned for them, and (2) that He delegated the work to them with specific instructions.
So Jesus demonstrated, or modeled, how the disciples should live so as to accomplish the work of evangelism. But what behavior did He demonstrate or model? Coleman focuses on just a few of the things Jesus modeled. First and foremost was prayer. Even though Jesus had a direct relationship with the Father, He often prayed aloud and in the presence of the disciples so that they would see that prayer provided Him with strength and wisdom. After teaching the disciples the basics of prayer and the model Lord’s Prayer that is used even today in many churches, He:
[E]mphasized the life of prayer again and again when talking with his disciples, continually enlarging on its meaning and application as they were able to comprehend deeper realities of his Spirit. It was an indispensable part of their training, which in turn they would have to transmit to others. On thing is certain: unless they grasped the meaning of prayer, and learned how to practice it with consistency, not much would ever come of their lives. The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 64.
Jesus also modeled the use of scripture to answer questions and make decisions consistent with God’s Word. In response to questions from the Pharisees or other, Jesus would frequently respond with an Old Testament reference. And in everything He did, Jesus modeled the winning of souls to the Kingdom of God, “either by explaining a spiritual truth or revealing to them how they should deal with people.” The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 66. The demonstration never ended; class was always in session when the disciples were with Jesus.
These same behaviors are important for us today if we want to be His disciples. We must develop consistent prayer habits, learn to use scripture to solve the questions we have, and endeavor to win souls for Jesus. In class we talked about how we are never too old to learn these behaviors. Many Christians don’t exhibit consistent prayer and use of scripture, or appear to be focused on winning souls, perhaps because that behavior was never modeled for us. Nonetheless, we need to look to the example of Jesus and work on developing these behaviors so that we can model them to those who we are called by God to lead and nurture for the ultimate work that Christ has set before us.
Jesus did not ask His disciples to do anything that He did not demonstrate in His own life. We cannot ask those who follow us to do any differently. If we want to be disciples who follow Jesus, and who lead others to Him as well, we must demonstrate the necessary behaviors that will help those who follow to grow into leaders. Because eventually we have to get to the next principle, which is delegation.
Once they were trained, Jesus delegated to His disciples the work of evangelism. This is the work we are called to carry on; it is the work that has been delegated by each generation of Christians to the next, just as Jesus planned. “Evangelism is not an optional accessory to our life. It is the heartbeat of all that we are called to be and do.” The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 79. But there are a couple of important aspects of how Jesus delegated this responsibility to His disciples that Coleman points out.
First, Jesus gave them clear instructions on how to go out into the world. They were to go to the lost sheep of Israel with Jesus’ message of salvation. As they came to a village, they were to find someone receptive to their message to stay with for the duration of their visit to that village. This person would essentially be the leader for the rest of the villagers when it was time for the disciples to move on. If they could not find such a person, they were not to stay in that village. “It was as though Jesus was telling his disciples to go where they would find the most susceptible audience to hear their message.” The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 73.
Second, He warned them of the hardships and opposition they would face, but told them not to fear because God was with them. “Jesus never let his followers underestimate the strength of the enemy, nor the natural resistance of self-serving people, to his redeeming gospel.” The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 75. He also reminded them that the gospel would have a tendency to divide such people. But Coleman points out:
There could be no compromise with sin, and for this reason, anyone holding out on God was sure to be disturbed by their preaching. They were not hand-shaking emissaries maintaining the status quo of complacency. The Master Plan of Evangelism pg. 75.
Third, Jesus emphasized that the mission He was sending His disciples was the same as His one mission. They represented Him to the world and it was essential that they behave as He did, which includes the behavior He had demonstrated throughout His time with them.
Fourth, Jesus sent the disciples out in pairs, first the 12 disciples and later 70. We talked quite a bit in class about why Jesus sent them in pairs. By going in pairs they had companionship along the way. It was scriptural for them to go in pairs based on Ecclesiastes 4:9-12. The two could be accountable to each other to do what was right and remind each other of what Jesus had taught. If one grew weary and wanted to give up, the other could be an encourager. Once again, this point illustrated the importance of relationship in Jesus’ plan of evangelism.
As we are sent also by Jesus to preach His message of salvation to a lost world, we should remember how Jesus sent out His disciples. We should focus first on those who are likely to be receptive to His message, but not be surprised if we encounter opposition along the way. We must always remember that our message is that of Jesus, a message of salvation through Him. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” John 14:6. This is the message He calls His disciples, including us, to preach.
Finally, we shouldn’t try to go it alone. We must foster our own relationship with God through prayer and reading His Word; we must also foster our relationships with other Christians so that we can provide each other with companionship, accountability, and encouragement.