Following the Master into the World

Living Matthew 28:18-20

A long time ago in a city far, far away (1989 – in Chicago)…I read a short book on how to go about sharing one’s faith in Christ and helping new believers grow based on Jesus’ interactions with his disciples.  It was called, The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman.  As I’ve been pondering evangelism and looking at many of the “newest”, “best”, and “most effective” evangelistic strategies of our day, I was reminded of this book and its biblically based and straightforward approach.  It has been in print for over 50 years, but I hope some of the timeless principles that are summarized below will encourage you  to emulate Jesus as you seek to live out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20)

9 Principles…all drawn from the life of Jesus:

  1.  Incarnationbecome a servant! Be willing to shed your pride and stoop to love, be obedient even unto the death of self, give your life away for others’ benefit! Living in this way sounds like complete foolishness to a self-absorbed world but it is at the very heart of Jesus’ mission.  People experienced Jesus’ care for them in tangible and personal ways.  When people know they are loved, they’ll be much more likely to listen.  Look around and see how you can meet a need. There are a thousand things we can do.  Start with the  needs right around you.  Invest in those that God has placed in your path.  In a world that is increasingly cynical and tired of words, this is how our witness becomes credible.  When we are willing to “incarnate” love, we will never lack opportunities to share the reason we do what we are doing!
  2.  Selectionpray and ask the Lord to help you identify potential disciples! Out of the large crowds following Jesus he selected only a few. Pay attention to those in whom the Holy Spirit is already working – is there a growing awareness of sin and personal guilt? Is there a crisis that is bringing them to the end of themselves? When we look at the masses we can easily become overwhelmed, yet God delights to work through a few! In them, recognize the potential to turn the world upside down.  Remember it was a humble shoe salesman that let DL Moody to the Lord.  Start close to home with your family and then look for those God has placed in your natural sphere of influence.
  3.  Associationbuild a relationship! Jesus focused most of his attention on 12 while continuing to relate to others as well. Our ability to invest truth and our lives is much greater with a smaller group. The disciples and Jesus did nearly everything together – seldom did he act alone.  He involved these 12 in his life in a personal and intimate way.  The living of life together through close personal relationships is crucial in discipleship process.  The old adage, “More is caught than taught!” is very applicable here.  In our increasingly isolated and individualistic culture, this will take some work and rearranging of schedules but the dividends are well worth it!
  4.  Consecration...teach obedience! The concepts of growing in holiness and “dying to self” have come upon hard times in the modern church, yet we dare not forget that we are called to teach (and model) obedience to all of Jesus’ precepts! I very clearly recognize that I have not arrived and I also realize that not everything is caught right away but, am I challenging myself and others to live up to Jesus’ standard with the help of the Holy Spirit?  Jesus was very patient with his disciples’ lack of understanding because they were generally faithful in what they DID begin to understand.  We who are parents are usually overjoyed at the first wobbly steps of our children despite the fact that they cannot yet run with grace and endurance.  May we call people to the heights but rejoice over their first steps toward the mountain!
  5.  Demonstration...lead by example! In following Jesus, the disciples were always in “school.” Seeing his dynamic and effective prayer life they responded, “Lord, teach us to pray.” I don’t think we can plan and orchestrate this but we need to be sensitive to teaching opportunities as they present themselves in the course of life.  Remember, unlike Jesus, we can also use our failures to teach valuable lessons so there is no end to the truth we can impart if we are willing to be transparent!
  6.  Delegationinvolve them in ministry! Provide opportunities for them to get their hands dirty in serving and loving others. Try to match work assignments to their growing confidence in God and their spiritual gifts and skills.  Try not to micro-manage and leave room for the Holy Spirit to work. Remember, God has uniquely designed and gifted each of his children. As people grow in grace and knowledge, challenge them to invest their uniqueness in the the mission of fulfilling the Great Commission.
  7.  Supervisiongive them honest feedback! There should be a sense of accountability among believers. We all have been given much, so much is required! Problems, misunderstandings and failures will be part of the process! Lead with grace AND truth.    Remember Jesus believes in us even when we don’t believe in ourselves and he restores and forgives us even after some major failures (e.g. Peter’s denials). Above all, pray for your group of learners. Let them know they are loved and appreciated!
  8.  Multiplication...expect reproduction! There is no greater joy than to see a life in which you have invested, begin investing in someone else! This is a work that can extend until the Lord returns.  Don’t be discouraged by small numbers, over time, the Lord can multiply and turn the entire world upside down – it’s happened before!  Help people dream about their part in the kingdom.  Challenge them to invest in things that will matter fifty, one hundred, a thousand, and a million years from now.
  9. the Holy Spirit! “I am with you always,” is Jesus’ promise to us in the Great Commission. The presence and the empowering of the Holy Spirit is the only way to fulfill our role as Jesus’ ambassadors! Wait and pray! Don’t begin without the Spirit for apart from the Spirit of Christ working in us we can do nothing! He will supervise and direct our growth in grace and our investment in others. He alone will bring in the harvest. This is ALL the mighty work of GOD! His Spirit possessing us as his representatives in a lost, dying and hopeless world!

We are ALL called to impact our world with the Gospel of Jesus Christ.  The fleshing out of these principles will look different in each of our lives.  A mom with three children under 10 will necessarily apply these principles in a manner that looks very different than an unmarried 22 year old flight student.  This varied approach is how God designed it to work!  The lives you touch, the methods you use, the impact you have will be unique and custom designed by God. When we catch a vision for what God can do as each of us seek to really live out the Great Commission, there is no end to what He can do through us.  “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me!”