“The essential thing ‘in heaven and earth’ is that there should be a long obedience in the same direction; there thereby results, and has always resulted in the long run, something which has made life worth living.”
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)
Perseverance. I remember learning this lesson my Senior year of College in my final Economic class (yes, my degree is in Economics). Basically we were suppose to run a shoe company. We created a strategy and plan and put it in place. Cheap shoes or Expensive? Global or only in the US? How to market? It was all a computer simulated thing. Two weeks in there would be some crisis and all of us students would react. We would change our stragtegy to adapt to what happened. We reacted. My company failed; badly. I learned a valuable lesson. The lesson Nietzsche put so eloquently.
So, looking into this year, it’s easy to react to last year. It’s easy to take my scars, bruises, and failures and shift my focus and direction. But has my calling really changed? Circumstances, for sure, but calling? Not one bit. If anything I’m taking these words to heart this January. Which leads me to an article I read recently that reminded what my “long obedience” is towards:
An article that summed up Dr. Coleman’s book “MASTERPLAN of EVANGELISM” (so good: if you haven’t read it-get it here)
- Selection. The first method of Jesus for winning the world was to choose average men who were teachable, honest, and willing to confess their need. Jesus intentionally kept the group small enough in order to work effectively with them and to mold them. Jesus had many disciples, but he concentrated on the Twelve and gave special attention to three. The principle here is that the more concentrated the size of the group, which requires selectivity, the more potential there is for effective training. And he focused these efforts as part of a genius strategy to ultimately reach the masses.
- Association. Having selected his concentrated group, the essence of Jesus’s training program was to be with them and to let them follow him. For Jesus, association preceded explanation as a means of imparting knowledge. It was in the context of association that knowledge and faith could be enlarged. He gave them constant personal attention, like a father with his children. It would be insufficient for a father to raise his child only seeing him once a week, and so we must imitate our Savior in staying with new believers as much as possible in order to model the Christian life, clarify the truth, and answer questions.
- Consecration. Jesus valued loyalty before intelligence. Willingness to obey—to count the cost and to pay the price—was the very means by which they learned more truth. This desire to dedicate oneself to Christ and to deny one’s own self is in contrast to the indifference and complacency of many today within the church. Obedience is essential before conquest.
- Impartation. Jesus gave away all that he had to his disciples, including his peace, his joy, the keys to the kingdom, his glory, and even his life. Jesus’s sanctification was his constant renewal of himself to his Father through loving service to others. His evangelistic strategy hinged upon this, designed so that his disciples would follow the way of their master and similarly impart the love of God to others. Therefore, our service and devotion to God must issue forth in love for others. Jesus’s disciples came to see that all of their work was altogether the work of the Spirit, to whom they must yield complete charge of their lives.
- Demonstration. Jesus demonstrated for his disciples how to live, including how to pray, how to use Scripture, and how to win souls. His method was to conceal that he had a method, for the method was himself. It was real, practical, and came naturally. Jesus never required them to do something he had not done himself.
- Delegation. In the beginning of Jesus’s ministry his disciples did little more than follow him and observe him. But toward the end, Jesus began to push them out of the nest, as it were. They were to follow his evangelistic method of concentrating their time on various individuals in surrounding towns and connecting with follow-up leaders. They were to expect hardship in their ambassadorial roles as they were sent out in pairs to accomplish the mission. Evangelism, we should recognize, is not an optional part of being a disciple but a divine command, and we should be giving practical work assignments today and expect them to be followed out.
- Supervision. Jesus’s interactions with his disciples involved a dynamic interplay of instruction and assignments. They were required to report back to him on what they did, and he saw their failures as teaching opportunities, using on-the-job training to show them what spiritual discernment looks like and correcting their faulty attitudes and perspective in the process. He interacted with them constantly and rebuked them when required in order to redirect them. Likewise, we must engage in personal, deliberate, and patient supervision of those we are training to be like Christ.
- Reproduction. Jesus’s strategy was to produce disciples who would reproduce. The Great Commission culminates in teaching all people to observe and obey all that Christ commanded us. We can convert many people, but unless they become reproducing disciples, we are doing it wrongly. We only achieve success when we are assured that our work will continue in the life of the redeemed. The Master’s Plan of Evangelism works, but shortcuts don’t. Programs can never take the place of the Holy Spirit. When his plan is carried out as he intends, the gates of hell cannot prevail against the church.
In the epilogue to his work, Coleman lays out what he regards to be the essentials of implementing a plan of evangelism based on these principles. Acknowledging that elements of the method will vary, we must
- make people a priority
- begin with a few disciples
- stay together with them
- give them time
- meet as a group
- give them tangible assignments to express their commitment
- keep them growing in grace and knowledge
- help them carry their burdens, and then
- let them carry on in the work itself.
I still have no idea what this truly looks like, but my path is set. May I strive to continue to imitate Jesus’ method this year. and the next. and the next. and the next.