Book Review: “Master Plan of Evangelism” by Robert Coleman

Coleman, Robert E. The Master Plan of Evangelism. Tarrytown, NY: Fleming H. Revell Company, 1972. 190. Available on Amazon

The Master Plan of Evangelism: Summary

From the outset of The Master Plan of Evangelism, Robert Coleman states his reason for writing to explain the “controlling principles governing the movements of the Master in the hope that our labours might be conformed to a similar pattern” (Coleman 1972, 12). Coleman does not propose a novel methodology for evangelism (a new “master plan”), but rather expounds upon the plan of the Master, Jesus, and His methodology to redeem a people for Himself (Coleman 1972, 15). Coleman outlines “eight guiding principles of the Master’s plan,” each step being used alongside the others, that Jesus Himself followed as He poured the contents of God’s plan of salvation into His disciples (Coleman 1972, 19). Through such means, Jesus ensured that the gospel proclamation would go forth through His apostles. As such, Coleman defines these steps as the selection of men willing to follow Christ, living alongside them and pouring gospel truth into them, and then delegating ministerial responsibilities to them. Coleman applies principles from Jesus’ public ministry to contemporary church life in order to make genuine disciples and further the kingdom of Christ to the ends of the earth.

The Master Plan of Evangelism: Strengths

The strengths of The Master Plan derive from an evangelistic model founded on the example of Jesus and amply supported with Scripture to support the principles gleaned from Jesus’ public ministry. Rather than inventing anything new or incorporating sale pitches into evangelism, Coleman uses Jesus’ ministry as the model for discipleship and skillfully gleams principles for use in contemporary churches. Taking the Master’s plan as the model for evangelism, the goal is to make disciples—not shallow converts. Moreover, Coleman edited his treatise with exceptional skill and hardly an unnecessary word appears in The Master Plan. Lastly, Coleman acknowledges the difficulty of the work ahead and constantly urges his reader to accept the challenge if genuine disciples are to be made. These strengths, from Jesus’ model of discipleship, the goal of genuine disciple making, and the brevity and force of Coleman’s prose make The Master Plan a worthwhile evangelistic model to implement in churches.

The Master Plan of Evangelism: Weaknesses

While Coleman’s treatise provides an excellent model for discipleship, The Master Plan provides almost no resources for contacting unbelievers or bringing them into the church. Rather, Coleman seems to assume that the church possesses an untapped manpower pool that pastors, to their detriment, do not utilize for evangelism. Subsequently, Coleman’s model does not fit with many contemporary views of evangelism whereby Christians intentionally seek out unbelievers. Moreover, Coleman closes each chapter urging his reader to imitate the example of Christ in training disciples, but such exhortations can appear very moralistic (Coleman 1972, 811; 117). Moreover, with this in mind and without careful application of the gospel, Coleman’s model could ultimately define evangelism as activities that happen within the church or in time spent with the pastor, rather than in missional living. While Coleman’s treatise provided excellent points on discipleship within the church, The Master Plan provides few techniques on engaging the culture in a manner analogous to Jesus’ public ministry.

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