Main The Master Plan of Evangelism

The Master Plan of Evangelism

0 / 0
How much do you like this book?
What’s the quality of the file?
Download the book for quality assessment
What’s the quality of the downloaded files?
Few books have had as great an impact on the cause of world evangelization in our generation as The Master Plan of Evangelism.--Billy GrahamFor more than forty years this classic study has shown Christians how to minister to the people God brings into their lives. Instead of drawing on the latest popular fad or the newest selling technique, Dr. Robert E. Coleman points to the Bible, to the ultimate example found in Jesus Christ, answering the question: What was Christ's strategy for evangelism?
ISBN 10:
ISBN 13:
EPUB, 652 KB
Download (epub, 652 KB)
Conversion to is in progress
Conversion to is failed

Most frequently terms

1 comment
it's a great help to my spiritual growth and ministry.
09 October 2021 (20:35) 

To post a review, please sign in or sign up
You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.

Romancing the Revolution: The Myth of Soviet Democracy and the British Left

PDF, 6.06 MB
0 / 0




Books by Robert E. Coleman

Established by the Word

Introducing the Prayer Cell

Life in the Living Word

The Spirit and the Word

Dry Bones Can Live Again

One Divine Moment (editor)

Written in Blood

Evangelism in Perspective

They Meet the Master

The Mind of the Master

Songs of Heaven

Growing in the Word

The New Covet

The Heartbeat of Evangelism

Evangelism on the Cutting Edge (editor)

The Master Plan of Discipleship

The Spark That Ignites

Nothing to Do but to Save Souls

The Great Commission Lifestyle

The Coming World Revival

Singing with the Angels

The Master’s Way of Personal Evangelism

Let the Fire Fall








Foreword by BILLY GRAHAM

Introduction by PAUL S. REES

The Master Plan of Evangelism

© 1963, 1964, 1993 by Robert E. Coleman

Published by Revell

a division of Baker Publishing Group

P.O. Box 6287, Grand Rapids, MI 49516-6287

New Spire edition published 2010

ISBN 978-0-8007-8808-7

Printed in the United States of America

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a

retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means—for example, electronic,

photocopy, recording—without the prior written permission of the publisher. The only

exception is brief quotations in printed reviews.

Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture is taken from the American Standard Version

of the Bible.

Scripture marked AMP is taken from the Amplified® Bible, Copyright© 1954, 1958,

1962, 1964, 1965, 1987 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.

10 11 12 13 14 15 16 7 6 5 4 3 2 1



who dared to follow

the Master Plan

The Master Plan of Evangelism presents a thorough examination of the Gospel accounts, revealing the objective of Christ’s ministry and his strategy for carrying it out. Robert E. Coleman focuses on the underlying principles that consistently determined what Jesus’ a; ction would be in any given situation. By emulating his pattern, you’ll be prepared to minister to the specific needs of those God brings into your life. With the help of The Master Plan of Evangelism, you can be sure that your course of action fits into God’s overall plan for the Great Commission. Every Christian who seeks to follow and witness for Jesus Christ should read this significant and relevant book.


“The greatest insights are almost always simple. The Master Plan of Evangelism contains such insights. In it Robert Coleman has set forth an understanding of Jesus’ approach to reaching out to precious people and invites us to do the same.”

Richard J. Foster, author of Celebration of Discipline

“I came across The Master Plan of Evangelism many years ago while serving as a missionary-evangelist in Latin America. When the Spanish-language version was published, I was honored to write the foreword to it for the sake of the tens of millions of Hispanic Christians in nearly twenty-five nations. I join with the thousands of Christian leaders who have recommended The Master Plan of Evangelism, used it, and seen the fruit of this New Testament master plan from the Master himself.”

Luis Palau, president, Luis Palau Evangelistic

Association, author, High Definition Life


Foreword by Billy Graham

Introduction by Paul S. Rees

Preface: The Master and His Plan

1. Selection

2. Association

3. Consecration

4. Impartation

5. Demonstration

6. Delegation

7. Supervision

8. Reproduction

Epilogue: The Master and Your Plan


Selected Bibliography for Basic Evangelism and Discipleship


Few books have had as great an impact on the cause of world evangelization in our generation as Robert Coleman’s The Master Plan of Evangelism. For many years this classic study has challenged and instructed untold numbers of individuals in reaching our world for Christ. I am delighted it continues to be reprinted.

The secret of this book’s impact is not hard to discover. Instead of drawing on the latest popular fad or newest selling technique, Dr. Coleman has gone back to the Bible and has asked one critical question: What was Christ’s strategy of evangelism? In so doing, he has pointed us to the unchanging, simple (and yet profound) biblical principles which must undergird any authentic evangelistic outreach.

For that reason there is a timeless quality to this book, and just as it has spoken to men and women for decades, so it now deserves to be discovered afresh by a new generation of Christians who have glimpsed the heartbeat of their Lord for evangelism.

May God continue to use this book to call each of us to God’s priority for his people—the priority to reach out in love to a confused and dying world with the good news of God’s forgiveness and peace and hope through Jesus Christ.

Billy Graham


“Philosophers,” wrote Karl Marx, “have only interpreted the world differently; the point is, however, to change it.”

However unlike they are in fundamental affirmations, the Christian gospel and communism are at this point in agreement. But the agreement goes little further. Distinctively, the church proclaims the changed world as the consequence of changed men. Reflective man produces new philosophies; it is only regenerate man who holds the clue to a society that is really new.

It is the conviction, grounded in the good news that “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself,” that makes evangelism immensely more than a theory or a slogan. It brings it into focus as a necessity.

At this point, however, the question rises: How do we go forward with an evangelism—a widening of the circle of faith so that it includes more and more people who have transformingly trusted Christ as Savior—that is continuous, contagious, and compelling?

Robert E. Coleman has presented a set of principles and sketched a scheme that, if studied carefully, will go far to- ward rescuing the concept of evangelism from the realm of the “special” and the “occasional,” and anchoring it where it belongs in the essential, ongoing life and witness of the congregation.

There is nothing in the following pages that belittles what the Spirit of God has done, and continues to do, through the colossal, concerted, temporary undertakings of such evangelistic specialists as Moody, Sunday, or Graham. On the other hand, there is much that beckons us to the disciple winning that works through small groups and builds toward congregational witness—all of it calculated to demonstrate the connection between the gospel to which we bear testimony and the life which that gospel enables us to live.

The author’s work, concentrating as it does on the pattern we see in our Lord and his disciples, is saturated with Scripture. His style is unembellished. It is plain. It is direct. It unfailingly echoes the transparent sincerity of the mind that has thought long on the theme with which it is at grips.

Only this morning I heard a radio speaker make the observation that, in most matters, we move in either of two directions: from words to things, or from things to words. That is to say, if we do not make the journey from theories and ideals to concrete situations, then the concrete situations will be lost under a smog of words.

From the latter peril I believe this earnest volume can help deliver us. It is therefore a pleasure to commend it.

Paul S. Rees


The Master and His Plan

I am the way.

John 14:6

The Problem in Evangelistic Methods

Objective and relevance—these are the crucial issues of our work. Both are interrelated, and the measure by which they are made compatible will largely determine the significance of all our activity. Merely because we are busy, or even skilled, at doing something does not necessarily mean that we are getting anything accomplished. The question must always be asked: Is it worth doing? And does it get the job done?

This is a question that should be posed continually in relation to the evangelistic activity of the church. Are our efforts to keep things going fulfilling the great commission of Christ? Do we see an ever-expanding company of dedicated people reaching the world with the gospel as a result of our ministry? That we are busy in the church trying to work one program of evangelism after another cannot be denied. But are we accomplishing our objective?

Form Follows Function

Concern at this point immediately focuses the need for a well-thought-through strategy of movement day by day in terms of the long-range goal. We must know how a course of action fits into the overall plan God has for our lives if it is to thrill our souls with a sense of destiny. This is true of any particular procedure or technique employed to propagate the gospel. Just as a building is constructed according to the plan for its use, so everything we do must have a purpose. Otherwise our activity can be lost in aimlessness and confusion.

A Study in Principles

That is why this study has been attempted. It is an effort to see controlling principles governing the movements of the Master in the hope that our own labors might be conformed to a similar pattern. As such, the book does not seek to interpret specific methods of Jesus in personal or mass evangelism.1 Rather this is a study in principles underlying his ministry—principles that determined his methods. One might call it a study in his strategy of evangelism around which his life was oriented while he walked on the earth.

More Research Needed

There has been surprisingly little published along this line, though, of course, most books dealing with evangelistic methods will have something to say about it in passing. The same could be said for studies in Jesus’ teaching methods,2 as well as the general histories treating the life and work of Christ.3

Probably the most careful study to date in the Master’s larger plan of evangelism has been done in reference to the training of the disciples, of which A. B. Bruce’s The Training of the Twelve is the best.4 First published in 1871 and revised in 1899, this narrative of the disciples’ growth in the presence of the Master is still unsurpassed for wealth of insights into this subject. Another volume, Pastor Pastorum by Henry Latham, written in 1890, gives particular attention to Jesus’ way of training men, though it is less comprehensive in its analysis.5 Since the time of these earlier studies, a number of other smaller volumes have appeared that offer helpful stimuli in pursuing this theme.6 Not all of these works have the same evangelical theological viewpoint, but it is interesting to note that they come out at about the same place when it comes to evaluating the central thrust of Jesus’ work with the disciples.

This is likewise true of numerous practical works on various phases of the church life and ministry that have been published in recent years, most notably in the literature pertaining to the growing small group and lay witness movement in the church. While aware that these authors have not written primarily from the standpoint of evangelistic strategy, we must acknowledge our indebtedness to them for their reckoning of fundamental principles in the ministry and mission of our Lord.

However, the subject of Jesus’ basic strategy has rarely been given the attention it deserves. Though we are appreciative of the labors of those who have considered it, and are not unmindful of their findings, the need for further investigation and clarification is always with us, and this is especially true of study within the primary sources themselves.

Our Plan of Study

One has to go to the New Testament, and the Gospels in particular, to really see the plan of Jesus. They are after all the only eyewitness accounts that we have of the Master at work (Luke 1:2–3; John 20:30; 21:24; 1 John 1:1). To be sure, the Gospels were written primarily to show us Christ, the Son of God, and that by faith we can have life in his name ( John 20:31). But what we sometimes fail to realize is that the revelation of that life in Christ includes the way he lived and taught others to live. We must remember that the witnesses who wrote the books not only saw the truth; they were changed by it. For this reason, in telling the story they invariably bring out those things that influenced them and others to leave all that they had to follow the Master. Not everything is reported, of course. Like any historical narrator, the Gospel writers paint a picture of the whole by elaborating upon a few characteristic persons and experiences, while bringing out certain critical points in the development of events. But of those things that are carefully selected and recorded in absolute integrity under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, we can be sure that they are intended to teach us how to follow in the way of the Master. That is why the scriptural accounts of Jesus constitute our best, and only inerrant, textbook on Evangelism.

Hence the plan of this study has been to trace the steps of Christ as portrayed in the Gospels without undue recourse to secondary materials. In this pursuit, the inspired account of his life and work has been examined many times and from many angles, trying to discover a motivating reason for the way he went about his mission. His tactics have been analyzed from the standpoint of his ministry as a whole, hoping thereby to see the larger meaning of his methods with people. Admittedly the task has not been easy, and I would be the first to acknowledge that there is more to learn. The boundless dimensions of the Lord of glory simply cannot be confined within any human interpretation of his perfection, and the longer one looks at him, the more one sees this to be the case.

Christ, a Perfect Example

Yet recognizing this fact, there is no study more rewarding. Limited as our faculties of perception may be, we know that in the Master we have a perfect Teacher. He never made a mistake. Though partaking of our life, and being tempted in all points as we are, he was not bound by the limitations of the flesh which he accepted for our sake. Even when he chose not to exercise his divine omniscience, his mind was clear.

He always knew what was right, and as the perfect Man, he lived as God would live among humans.

His Objective Was Clear

The days of his flesh were but the unfolding in time of the plan of God from the beginning. It was always before his mind. He intended to save out of the world a people for himself and to build a church of the Spirit which would never perish. He had his sights on the day his Kingdom would come in glory and in power. This world was his by creation, but he did not seek to make it his permanent abiding place. His mansions were in the sky. He was going to prepare a place for his people that had foundations eternal in the heavens.

No one was excluded from his precious purpose. His love was universal. Make no mistake about it. He was “the Saviour of the world” (John 4:42). God wanted all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth. To that end Jesus gave himself to provide a salvation from all sin for all men. In that he died for one, he died for all. Contrary to our superficial thinking, there never was a distinction in his mind between home and foreign missions. To Jesus it was all world evangelism.

He Planned to Win

His life was ordered by his objective. Everything he did and said was a part of the whole pattern. It had significance because it contributed to the ultimate purpose of his life in redeeming the world for God. This was the motivating vision governing his behavior. His steps were ordered by it. Mark it well. Not for one moment did Jesus lose sight of his goal.

That is why it is so important to observe the way Jesus maneuvered to achieve his objective. The Master disclosed God’s strategy of world conquest. He had confidence in the future precisely because he lived according to that plan in the present. There was nothing haphazard about his life— no wasted energy, not an idle word. He was on business for God (Luke 2:49). He lived, he died, and he rose again according to schedule. Like a general plotting his course of battle, the Son of God calculated to win. He could not afford to take a chance. Weighing every alternative and variable factor in human experience, he conceived a plan that would not fail.

Worth Careful Consideration

It is tremendously revealing to study it. Serious reflection at this point will bring the student of Christ to some profound and perhaps shattering conclusions, though the realization will likely be slow and arduous. In fact, at first glance it might even appear that Jesus had no plan. Another approach might discover some particular technique but miss the underlying pattern of it all. This is one of the marvels of his strategy. It is so unassuming and silent that it is unnoticed by the hurried churchman. But when the realization of his controlling method finally dawns on the open mind of the disciple, he will be amazed at its simplicity and will wonder how he could have ever failed to see it before. Nevertheless, when his plan is reflected on, the basic philosophy is so different from that of the modern church that its implications are nothing less than revolutionary.

The following pages attempt to clarify eight guiding principles of the Master’s plan. However, it must be said that the steps are not to be understood as invariably coming in this sequence, as if the last were not initiated until the others had been mastered. Actually, all of the steps were implied in each one, and in some degree they all began with the first. The outline is intended only to give structure to his method and to bring out the progressive logic of the plan. We will observe that, as the ministry of Jesus Christ develops, the steps become more pronounced and the sequence more discernible.



He chose from them twelve.

Luke 6:13

Men Were His Method

It all started by Jesus calling a few men to follow him. This revealed immediately the direction his evangelistic strategy would take. His concern was not with programs to reach the multitudes, but with men whom the multitudes would follow. Remarkable as it may seem, Jesus started to gather these men before he ever organized an evangelistic campaign or even preached a sermon in public. Men were to be his method of winning the world to God.

The initial objective of Jesus’ plan was to enlist men who could bear witness to his life and carry on his work after he returned to the Father. John and Andrew were the first to be invited as Jesus left the scene of the great revival of the Baptist at Bethany beyond the Jordan ( John 1:35–40). Andrew in turn brought his brother Peter ( John 1:41–42). The next day Jesus found Philip on his way to Galilee, and Philip found Nathanael ( John 1:43–51). There is no evidence of haste in the selection of these disciples, just determination. James, the brother of John, is not mentioned as one of the group until the four fishermen are recalled several months later by the Sea of Galilee (Mark 1:19; Matt. 4:21). Shortly afterward Matthew is called to follow the Master as Jesus passed through Capernaum (Mark 2:13–14; Matt. 9:9; Luke 5:27–28). The particulars surrounding the call of the other disciples are not recorded in the Gospels, but it is believed that they all occurred in the first year of the Lord’s ministry.1

As one might expect, these early efforts of soul winning had little or no immediate effect upon the religious life of his day, but that did not matter greatly. For as it turned out, these few early converts of the Lord were destined to become the leaders of his church that was to go with the gospel to the whole world, and from the standpoint of his ultimate purpose, the significance of their lives would be felt throughout eternity. That’s the only thing that counts.

Men Willing to Learn

What is more revealing about these men is that at first they do not impress us as being key men. None of them occupied prominent places in the synagogue, nor did any of them belong to the Levitical priesthood. For the most part they were common laboring men, probably having no professional training beyond the rudiments of knowledge necessary for their vocation. Perhaps a few of them came from families of some considerable means, such as the sons of Zebedee, but none of them could have been considered wealthy. They had no academic degrees in the arts and philosophies of their day. Like their Master, their formal education likely consisted only of the synagogue schools. Most of them were raised in the poor section of the country around Galilee. Apparently the only one of the Twelve who came from the more refined region of Judea was Judas Iscariot. By any standard of sophisticated culture then and now they would surely be considered as a rather ragged collection of souls. One might wonder how Jesus could ever use them. They were impulsive, temperamental, easily offended, and had all the prejudices of their environment. In short, these men selected by the Lord to be his assistants represented an average cross section of society in their day.2 Not the kind of group one would expect to win the world for Christ.

Yet Jesus saw in these simple men the potential of leadership for the Kingdom. They were indeed “unlearned and ignorant” according to the world’s standard (Acts 4:13), but they were teachable. Though often mistaken in their judgments and slow to comprehend spiritual things, they were honest men, willing to confess their need. Their mannerisms may have been awkward and their abilities limited, but with the exception of the traitor, their hearts were big. What is perhaps most significant about them was their sincere yearn- ing for God and the realities of his life. The superficiality of the religious life about them had not obsessed their hope for the Messiah ( John 1:41, 45, 49; 6:69). They were fed up with the hypocrisy of the ruling aristocracy. Some of them had already joined the revival movement of John the Baptist ( John 1:35). These men were looking for someone to lead them in the way of salvation. Such men, pliable in the hands of the Master, could be molded into a new image—Jesus can use anyone who wants to be used.

Concentrated on a Few

In noting this fact, however, one does not want to miss the practical truth of how Jesus did it. Here is the wisdom of his method, and in observing it, we return again to the fundamental principle of concentration on those he intended to use. One cannot transform a world except as individuals in the world are transformed, and individuals cannot be changed except as they are molded in the hands of the Master. The necessity is apparent not only to select a few helpers but also to keep the group small enough to be able to work effectively with them.

Hence, as the company of followers around Jesus increased, it became necessary by the middle of his second year of ministry to narrow the select company to a more manageable number. Accordingly Jesus “called his disciples, and he chose from them twelve, whom also he named apostles” (Luke 6:13–17; see Mark 3:13–19). Regardless of the symbolical meaning one prefers to put on the number twelve,3 it is clear that Jesus intended these men to have unique privileges and responsibilities in the Kingdom work.

This does not mean that Jesus’ decision to have twelve apostles excluded others from following him, for as we know, many more were numbered among his associates, and some of these became very effective workers in the church. The seventy (Luke 10:1); Mark, the Gospel writer; and James, his own brother (1 Cor. 15:7; Gal. 2:9, 12; see John 2:12; 7:2–10), are notable examples of this. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge that there was a rapidly diminishing priority given to those outside the Twelve.

The same rule could be applied in reverse, for within the select apostolic group Peter, James, and John seemed to enjoy a more special relationship to the Master than did the other nine. Only these privileged few are invited into the sick room of Jairus’s daughter (Mark 5:37; Luke 8:51); they alone go up with the Master and behold his glory on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9:2; Matt. 17:1; Luke 9:28); and amid the olive trees of Gethsemane casting their ominous shadows in the light of the full Passover moon, these members of the inner circle waited nearest to their Lord while he prayed (Mark 14:33; Matt. 26:37). So noticeable is the preference given to these three that had it not been for the incarnation of selflessness in the person of Christ, it could well have precipitated feelings of resentment on the part of the other apostles. The fact that there is no record of the disciples complaining about the preeminence of the three, though they did murmur about other things, is proof that where preference is shown in the right spirit and for the right reason, offense need not arise.4

The Principle Observed

All of this certainly impresses one with the deliberate way that Jesus proportioned his life to those he wanted to train. It also graphically illustrates a fundamental principle of teaching: that other things being equal, the more concentrated the size of the group being taught, the greater the opportunity for effective instruction.5

Jesus devoted most of his remaining life on earth to these few disciples. He literally staked his whole ministry on them. The world could be indifferent toward him and still not defeat his strategy. It even caused him no great concern when his followers on the fringes of things gave up their allegiance when confronted with the true meaning of the Kingdom ( John 6:66). But he could not bear to have his close disciples miss his purpose. They had to understand the truth and be sanctified by it ( John 17:17), else all would be lost. Thus he prayed “not for the world,” but for the few God gave him “out of the world” ( John 17:6, 9).6 Everything depended on their faithfulness if the world would believe in him “through their word” ( John 17:20).

Not Neglecting the Masses

It would be wrong, however, to assume on the basis of what has here been emphasized that Jesus neglected the masses. Such was not the case. Jesus did all that any man could be asked to do and more to reach the multitudes. The first thing he did when he started his ministry was to identify himself boldly with the great mass revival movement of his day by baptism at the hands of John (Mark 1:9–11; Matt. 3:13–17; Luke 3:21–22), and he later went out of his way to praise this work of the great prophet (Matt. 11:7–15; Luke 7:24–28). He continuously preached to the crowds that followed his miracle-working ministry. He taught them. He fed them when they were hungry. He healed their sick and cast out demons among them. He blessed their children. Sometimes the whole day would be spent ministering to their needs, even to the extent that he had “no leisure so much as to eat” (Mark 6:31). In every way possible Jesus manifested to the masses of humanity a genuine concern. These were the people whom he came to save—he loved them, wept over them, and finally died to save them from their sin. No one could think that Jesus shirked mass evangelism.

Multitudes Aroused

In fact, the ability of Jesus to impress the multitudes created a serious problem in his ministry. He was so successful in expressing to them his compassion and power that they once wanted “to take him by force, to make him king” ( John 6:15). One report by the followers of John the Baptist said that “all men” were clamoring for his attention ( John 3:26). Even the Pharisees admitted among themselves that the world had gone after him ( John 12:19), and bitter as the admission must have been, the chief priests concurred in this opinion ( John 11:47–48). However one looks at it, the Gospel record certainly does not indicate that Jesus lacked any popular following among the masses, despite their hesitating loyalty, and this condition lasted to the end. Indeed, it was the fear of this friendly mass feeling for Jesus that prompted his accusers to capture him in the absence of the people (Mark 12:12; Matt.

21:26; Luke 20:19).

Had Jesus given any encouragement to this popular sentiment among the masses, he easily could have had all the kingdoms of the world at his feet. All he had to do was satisfy the temporal appetites and curiosities of the people by his supernatural power. Such was the temptation presented by Satan in the wilderness when Jesus was urged to turn stones into bread and to cast himself down from a pinnacle of the temple that God might bear him up (Matt. 4:1–7; Luke 4:1– 4, 9–13). These spectacular things would surely have excited the applause of the crowd. Satan was not offering Jesus anything when he promised him all the kingdoms of the world if the Master would only worship him (Matt. 4:8–10). The arch-deceiver of men knew full well that Jesus automatically would have this if he just turned his concentration from the things that mattered in the eternal Kingdom.7

But Jesus would not play to the galleries. Quite the contrary. Repeatedly he took special pains to allay the superficial popular support of the multitudes that had been occasioned by his extraordinary power (e.g., John 2:23–3:3; 6:26–27). Frequently he would even ask those who were the recipients of his healing to say nothing about it to prevent mass demonstrations by the easily aroused multitudes.8 Likewise, with the disciples following his transfiguration on the Mount, “He charged them that they should tell no man what things they had seen” until after his resurrection (Mark 9:9; Matt. 17:9). On other occasions when applauded by the crowd, Jesus would slip away with his disciples and go elsewhere to continue his ministry.9

His practice in this respect sometimes rather annoyed his followers who did not understand his strategy. Even his own brothers and sisters, who yet did not believe in him, urged him to abandon this policy and make an open show of himself to the world, but he refused to take their advice ( John 7:2–9).

Few Seemed to Understand

In view of this policy, it is not surprising to note that few people were actually converted during the ministry of Christ, that is, in any clearcut way. Of course, many of the multitudes believed in Christ in the sense that his divine ministry was acceptable,10 but comparatively few seemed to have grasped the meaning of the gospel. Perhaps his total number of devoted followers at the end of his earthly ministry numbered little more than the five hundred brethren to whom Jesus appeared after the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:6), and only about 120 tarried in Jerusalem to receive the baptism of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:15). This number is not small considering that his active ministry extended only over a period of three years, yet if at this point one were to measure the effectiveness of his evangelism by the number of his converts, Jesus doubtless would not be considered among the most productive mass evangelists of the church.

His Strategy

Why? Why did Jesus deliberately concentrate his life on comparatively so few people? Had he not come to save the world? With the glowing announcement of John the Baptist ringing in the ears of multitudes, the Master easily could have had an immediate following of thousands if he wanted them. Why then did he not capitalize on his opportunities to enlist a mighty army of believers to take the world by storm? Surely the Son of God could have adopted a more enticing program of mass recruitment. Is it not rather disappointing that one with all the powers of the universe at his command would live and die to save the world, yet in the end have only a few ragged disciples to show for his labors?

The answer to this question focuses at once on the real purpose of his plan for evangelism. Jesus was not trying to impress the crowd, but to usher in a kingdom. This meant that he needed people who could lead the multitudes. What good would it have been for his ultimate objective to arouse the masses to follow him if these people had no subsequent supervision or instruction in the Way? It had been demonstrated on numerous occasions that the crowd was an easy prey to false gods when left without proper care. The masses were like helpless sheep wandering aimlessly without a shepherd (Mark 6:34; Matt. 9:36; 14:14). They were willing to follow almost anyone who came along with some promise for their welfare, be it friend or foe. That was the tragedy of the hour—the noble aspirations of the people were easily excited by Jesus, but just as quickly thwarted by the deceitful religious authorities who controlled them. The spiritually blind leaders of Israel ( John 8:44; 9:39–41; 12:40; see Matt. 23:1–39), though comparatively few in number,11 completely dominated the affairs of the people. For this reason, unless Jesus’ converts were given competent men of God to lead them on and protect them in the truth, they would soon fall into confusion and despair, and the last state would be worse than the first. Thus, before the world could ever be permanently helped, people would have to be raised up who could lead the multitudes in the things of God.

Jesus was a realist. He fully realized the fickleness of depraved human nature as well as the satanic forces of this world amassed against humanity, and in this knowledge he based his evangelism on a plan that would meet the need. The multitudes of discordant and bewildered souls were potentially ready to follow him, but Jesus individually could not possibly give them the personal care they needed. His only hope was to get leaders inspired by his life who would do it for him. Hence, he concentrated on those who were to be the beginning of this leadership. Though he did what he could to help the multitudes, he had to devote himself primarily to a few men, rather than the masses, so that the masses could at last be saved. This was the genius of his strategy.

The Principle Applied Today

Yet, strangely enough, it is scarcely comprehended in practice today. Most of the evangelistic efforts of the church begin with the multitudes under the assumption that the church is qualified to preserve what good is done. The result is our spectacular emphasis on numbers of converts, candidates for baptism, and more members for the church, with little or no genuine concern manifested toward the establishment of these souls in the love and power of God, let alone the preservation and continuation of the work.

Surely if the pattern of Jesus at this point means anything at all, it teaches that the first duty of a church leadership is to see to it that a foundation is laid in the beginning on which can be built an effective and continuing evangelistic ministry to the multitudes. This will require more concentration of time and talents on fewer people in the church while not neglecting the passion for the world. It will mean raising up trained disciplers “for the work of ministering” with the pastor and church staff (Eph. 4:12).12 A few people so dedicated in time will shake the world for God. Victory is never won by the multitudes.

Some might object to this principle when practiced by the Christian worker on the ground that favoritism is shown toward a select group in the church. But be that as it may, it is still the way that Jesus concentrated his life, and it is necessary if any lasting leadership is to be trained. Where it is practiced out of a genuine love for the whole church, and due concern is manifested toward the needs of the people, objections can at least be reconciled to the mission being accomplished. However, the ultimate goal must be clear to the worker, and there can be no hint of selfish partiality displayed in relationships to all. Everything that is done with the few is for the salvation of the multitudes.

Modern Demonstrations

This principle of selectivity and concentration is engraved in the universe, and will bring results no matter who practices it, whether or not the church believes it. Look at any successful leadership training program in business, industry, government, or the military.

On a global scale, it is surely not without significance that the early leaders of communism, always alert to what works, adopted in a large measure this method of the Lord as their own.13 Using it to their own devious end they have multiplied from a handful of zealots to a vast conspiracy of followers that until recently enslaved nearly half the people of the world. They are a modern-day example of what Jesus demonstrated so clearly in his day: that the multitudes can be won easily if they are just given leaders to follow.14

Time for Action

It is time that the church realistically face the situation. Our days of trifling are running out. The evangelistic program of the church has bogged down on nearly every front, especially across the affluent Western world. In many lands the enfeebled church is not even keeping up with the exploding population. All the while the satanic forces of this world are becoming more relentless and brazen in their attack. It is ironic when one stops to think about it. In an age when facilities for rapid communication of the gospel are available to the church as never before, there are actually more unevangelized people on the earth today than before the invention of the horseless carriage.15

Yet in appraising the tragic condition of affairs today, we must not become frantic in trying to reverse the trend overnight. Perhaps that has been our problem. In our concern to stem the tide, we have launched one crash program after another to reach the multitudes with the saving Word of God. But what we have failed to comprehend in our frustration is that the real problem is not with the masses—what they believe, how they are governed, whether they are fed a wholesome diet or not. All these things considered so vital are ultimately manipulated by others, and for this reason, before we can resolve the exploitation of the people we must get to those whom the people follow.

This, of course, puts a priority on winning and training those already in responsible positions of leadership. But if we can’t begin at the top, then let us begin where we are and train a few of the lowly to become the great. And let us remember, too, that one does not have to have the prestige of the world to be greatly used in the Kingdom of God. Anyone who is willing to follow Christ can become a mighty influence on the world providing, of course, this person has the proper training.

Here is where we must begin just like Jesus. It will be slow, tedious, painful, and probably unnoticed by people at first, but the end result will be glorious, even if we don’t live to see it. Seen this way, though, it becomes a big decision in the ministry. We must decide where we want our ministry to count—in the momentary applause of popular recognition or in the reproduction of our lives in a few chosen people who will carry on our work after we have gone. Really it is a question of which generation we are living for.

But we must go on. It is necessary now to see how Jesus trained his men to carry on his work. The whole pattern is part of the same method, and we cannot separate one phase from the other without destroying its effectiveness.



Lo, I am with you always.

Matthew 28:20

He Stayed with Them

Having called his men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of his training program—just letting his disciples follow him.

When one stops to think of it, this was an incredibly simple way of doing it. Jesus had no formal school, no seminaries, no outlined course of study, no periodic membership classes in which he enrolled his followers. None of these highly organized procedures considered so necessary today entered into his ministry. Amazing as it may seem, all Jesus did to teach these men his way was to draw them close to himself. He was his own school and curriculum.

The natural informality of this teaching method of Jesus stood in striking contrast to the formal, almost scholastic procedures of the scribes. These religious teachers insisted on their disciples adhering strictly to certain rituals and formulas of knowledge which distinguished them from others; whereas Jesus asked only that his disciples follow him. Knowledge was not communicated by the Master in terms of laws and dogmas, but in the living personality of One who walked among them. His disciples were distinguished, not by outward conformity to certain rituals, but by being with him, and thereby participating in his doctrine ( John 18:19).

To Know Was to Be With

It was by virtue of this fellowship that the disciples were permitted “to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God” (Luke 8:10). Knowledge was gained by association before it was understood by explanation. This was best expressed when one of the band asked, “How know we the way?” reflecting his frustration at the thought of the Holy Trinity. Jesus replied: “I am the way, the truth, and the life” ( John 14:5–6), which was to say that the point in question already was answered, if the disciples would but open their eyes to the spiritual reality incarnated in their midst.

This simple methodology was revealed from the beginning by the invitation that Jesus gave to the men he wanted to lead. John and Andrew were invited to “come and see” the place where Jesus stayed ( John 1:39). Nothing more was said. Yet what more needed to be said? At home with Jesus they could talk things over and there in private see intimately into his nature and work. Philip was addressed in the same essential manner: “Follow me” ( John 1:43). Evidently impressed by this simple approach, Philip invited Nathanael also to “come and see” the Master ( John 1:46). One living sermon is worth a hundred explanations. Later when James, John, Peter, and Andrew were found mending their nets, Jesus used the same familiar words, “Come ye after me,” only this time adding the reason for it, “and I will make you fishers of men” (Mark 1:17; see Matt. 4:19; Luke 5:10). Likewise, Matthew was called from the tax collector’s booth with the same invitation: “Follow me” (Mark 2:14; Matt. 9:9; Luke 5:27).

The Principle Observed

See the tremendous strategy of it? By responding to this initial call, believers in effect enrolled themselves in the Master’s school where their understanding could be enlarged and their faith established. There were certainly many things which these men did not understand—things which they themselves freely acknowledged as they walked with him; but all these problems could be dealt with as they followed Jesus. In his presence they could learn all that they needed to know.

This principle, which was implied from the start, was given specific articulation later when Jesus chose from the larger group about him the Twelve “that they might be with him” (Mark 3:14; see Luke 6:13). He added, of course, that he was going to send them forth “to preach, and to have authority to cast out devils,” but often we fail to realize what came first. Jesus made it clear that before these men were “to preach” or “to cast out devils” they were to be “with him.” In fact, this personal appointment to be in constant association with him was as much a part of their ordination commission as the authority to evangelize. Indeed, it was for the moment even more important, for it was the necessary preparation for the other.

Closer as Training Ends

The determination with which Jesus sought to fulfill this commission is evident as one reads through the subsequent Gospel accounts. Contrary to what one might expect, as the ministry of Christ lengthened into the second and third years he gave increasingly more time to the chosen disciples, not less.1

Frequently he would take them with him on a retreat to some mountainous area of the country where he was relatively unknown, seeking to avoid publicity as far as possible. They took trips together to Tyre and Sidon to the northwest (Mark 7:24; Matt. 15:21); to the “borders of Decapolis” (Mark 7:31; see Matt 15:29) and “the parts of Dalmanutha” to the southeast of Galilee (Mark 8:10; see Matt. 15:39); and to the “villages of Caesarea Philippi” to the northeast (Mark 8:27; see Matt. 16:13). These journeys were made partly because of the opposition of the Pharisees and the hostility of Herod, but primarily because Jesus felt the need to get alone with his disciples. Later he spent several months with his disciples in Perea, east of the Jordan (Luke 13:22–19:28; John 10:40–11:54; Matt. 19:1–20:34; Mark 10:1–52). As opposition mounted there, Jesus “walked no more openly among the Jews, but departed thence into the country near to the wilderness, into a city called Ephraim; and there he tarried with his disciples” ( John 11:54). When at last the time came for him to go to Jerusalem, he significantly “took the twelve disciples apart” from the rest as he made his way slowly to the city (Matt. 20:17; see Mark 10:32).

In view of this, it is not surprising that during passion week Jesus scarcely ever let his disciples out of his sight. Even when he prayed alone in Gethsemane, his disciples were only a stone’s throw away (Luke 22:41). Is not this the way it is with every family as the hour of departing draws near? Every minute is cherished because of the growing realization that such close association in the flesh soon will be no more. Words uttered under these circumstances are always more precious. Indeed, it was not until time began to close in that the disciples of Christ were prepared to grasp many of the deeper meanings of his presence with them ( John 16:4). Doubtless this explains why the writers of the Gospels were constrained to devote so much of their attention to these last days. Fully half of all that is recorded about Jesus happened in the last months of his life, and most of this in the last week.

The course followed by Jesus through life was supremely portrayed in the days following his resurrection. Interestingly enough, every one of the ten postresurrection appearances of Christ was to his followers, particularly the chosen apostles.2 So far as the Bible shows, not one unbelieving person was permitted to see the glorified Lord. Yet it is not so strange. There was no need to excite the multitudes with this spectacular revelation. What could they have done? But the disciples who had fled in despair following the crucifixion needed to be revived in their faith and confirmed in their mission to the world. His whole ministry evolved around them.

And so it was. The time which Jesus invested in these few disciples was so much more by comparison to that given to others that it can only be regarded as a deliberate strategy.

He actually spent more time with his disciples than with everybody else in the world put together. He ate with them, slept with them, and talked with them for the most part of his entire active ministry. They walked together along the lonely roads; they visited together in the crowded cities; they sailed and fished together on the Sea of Galilee; they prayed together in the deserts and in the mountains; and they worshiped together in the synagogues and in the Temple.

Still Ministering to the Masses

One must not overlook that even while Jesus was ministering to others, the disciples were always there with him. Whether he addressed the multitudes that pressed on him, conversed with the scribes and Pharisees who sought to ensnare him, or spoke to some lonely beggar along the road, the disciples were close at hand to observe and to listen. In this manner, Jesus’ time was paying double dividends. Without neglecting his regular ministry to those in need, he maintained a constant ministry to his disciples by having them with him. They were thus getting the benefit of everything he said and did to others plus their own personal explanation and counsel.

It Takes Time

Such close and constant association, of course, meant that Jesus had virtually no time to call his own. Like little children clamoring for the attention of their father, the disciples were always underfoot of the Master. Even the time he took to go apart to keep his personal devotions was subject to interruption at the disciples’ need (Mark 6:46–48; see Luke 11:1). But Jesus would have it no other way. He wanted to be with them. They were his spiritual children (Mark 10:24; John 13:33; 21:5), and the only way that a father can properly raise a family is to be with it.

The Foundation of Follow-Up

Nothing is more obvious yet more neglected than the application of this principle. By its very nature, it does not call attention to itself, and one is prone to overlook the commonplace. Yet Jesus would not let his disciples miss it. During the last days of his journey, the Master especially felt it necessary to crystallize their thinking about what he had been doing. For example, once turning to these who had followed him for three years, Jesus said: “Ye [shall] bear witness because ye have been with me from the beginning” ( John 15:27). Without any fanfare and unnoticed by the world, Jesus was saying that he had been training men to be his witnesses after he had gone, and his method of doing it was simply by being “with them.” Indeed, as he said on another occasion, it was because they had “continued with” him in his temptations that they were appointed to be leaders in his eternal kingdom where they would each eat and drink at his table, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel (Luke 22:28–30).

It would be wrong to assume, however, that this principle of personal follow-up was confined only to the apostolic band. Jesus concentrated on these few chosen men, but also manifested concern for others who followed him. For example, he went home with Zacchaeus after his conversion on the streets of Jericho (Luke 19:7), and he spent some time with him before leaving the city. After the conversion of the woman at the well in Samaria, Jesus tarried two extra days in Sychar to instruct the people of that community who “believed on him because of the word of the woman who testified,” and because of that personal association with them “many more believed,” not because of the woman’s witness, but because they heard the Master for themselves ( John 4:39–42). Often one who received some help from the Master would be permitted to join the procession following Jesus, as for example, Bartimaeus (Mark 10:52; Matt. 20:34; Luke 18:43). In such a way many attached themselves to the apostolic company, as is evidenced by the seventy with him in the later Judean ministry (Luke 10:1, 17). All of these believers received some personal attention, but it could not be compared to that given to the Twelve.

Mention should be made, too, of that small group of faithful women who ministered to him out of their substance, like Mary and Martha (Luke 10:38–42), Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Susanna, “and many others” (Luke 8:1–3). Some of these women were with him to the end. He certainly did not refuse their gracious kindness, and often took the occasion to help them in their faith. Jesus welcomed their assistance but did not try to incorporate these women into the select company of his chosen disciples.

Jesus did not have the time to personally give all these people, men or women, constant attention. He did all that he could, and this doubtless served to impress on his disciples the need for immediate personal care of new converts, but he had to devote himself primarily to the task of developing some leaders who in turn could give this kind of personal attention to others.

The Church as a Continuing Fellowship

Really the whole problem of giving personal care to every believer is only resolved in a thorough understanding of the nature and mission of the church. It is important here to observe that the emergence of the church principle around Jesus, whereby one believer was brought into fellowship with all others, was the practice in a larger dimension of the same thing that he was doing with the Twelve.3 Actually it was the church that was the means of following up with all those who followed him. That is, the group of believers became the body of Christ, and as such ministered to each other individually and collectively.

Every member of the community of faith had a part to fulfill in this ministry. But this they could only do as they themselves were trained and inspired. As long as Jesus was with them in the flesh, he was the Leader, but thereafter, it was necessary for those in the church to assume this leadership. Again this meant that Jesus had to train them to do it, which involved his own constant personal association with a few chosen men.

Our Problem

When will the church learn this lesson? Preaching to the masses, although necessary, will never suffice in the work of preparing leaders for evangelism. Nor can occasional prayer meetings and training classes for Christian workers do this job. Building men and women is not that easy. It requires constant personal attention, much like a father gives to his children. This is something that no organization or class can ever do. Children are not raised by proxy. The example of Jesus would teach us that it can be done only by persons staying close to those whom they seek to lead.

The church obviously has failed at this point, and failed tragically. There is a lot of talk in the church about evangelism and Christian nurture, but little concern for personal association when it becomes evident that such work involves the sacrifice of personal indulgence. Of course, most churches insist on bringing new members through some kind of a confirmation class that usually meets an hour a week for a month or so. But the rest of the time the young convert has no contact with a definite Christian training program, except as he or she may attend the worship services of the church and the Sunday school. Unless new Christians, if indeed they are saved, have parents or friends who will fill the gap in a real way, they are left entirely on their own to find the solutions to innumerable practical problems confronting their lives, any one of which could mean disaster to their new faith.

With such haphazard follow-up of believers, it is no wonder that about half of those who make professions and join the church eventually fall away or lose the glow of a Christian experience, and fewer still grow in sufficient knowledge and grace to be of any real service to the Kingdom. If Sunday services and membership training classes are all that a church has to develop young converts into mature disciples, then they are defeating their own purpose by contributing to a false security, and if the new convert follows the same lazy example, it may ultimately do more harm than good. There is simply no substitute for getting with people, and it is ridiculous to imagine that anything less, short of a miracle, can develop strong Christian leadership. After all, if Jesus, the Son of God, found it necessary to stay almost constantly with his few disciples for three years, and even one of them was lost, how can a church expect to do this job on an assembly line basis a few days out of the year?

The Principle Applied Today

Clearly the policy of Jesus at this point teaches us that whatever method of follow-up the church adopts, it must have as its basis a personal guardian concern for those entrusted to their care. To do otherwise is essentially to abandon new believers to the devil.

This means that some system must be found whereby every convert is given a Christian friend to follow until such time as he or she can lead another. The counselor should stay with the new believer as much as possible, studying the Bible and praying with him or her, all the while answering questions, clarifying the truth, and seeking together to help others. If a church does not have such committed counselors willing to do this service, then it should be training some. And the only way they can be trained is by giving them a leader to follow.

This answers the question of how it is to be done, but it is necessary now to understand that this method can accomplish its purpose only when the followers practice what they learn. Hence, another basic principle in the Master’s strategy must be understood.



Take my yoke upon you.

Matthew 11:29

He Required Obedience

Jesus expected the men he was with to obey him. They were not required to be smart, but they had to be loyal. This became the distinguishing mark by which they were known. They were called his “disciples,” meaning that they were “learners” or “pupils” of the Master. It was not until much later that they started to be called “Christian” (Acts 11:26), although it was inevitable, for in time obedient followers invariably take on the character of their leader.

The simplicity of this approach is marvelous if not astounding. None of the disciples was asked at first to make a statement of faith or accept a well-defined creed, although they doubtless recognized Jesus to be the Messiah ( John 1:41, 45, 49; Luke 5:8). For the moment all they were asked to do was to follow Jesus. Of course, clearly implied in their initial invitation was a call to faith in the person of Christ and obedience to his Word. If this was not comprehended in the beginning, it would be perceived as they continued in the way with the Master. No one will follow a person in whom he or she has no trust, nor sincerely take the step of faith unless he or she is willing to obey what the leader says.

The Way of the Cross

Following Jesus seemed easy enough at first, but that was because they had not followed him very far. It soon became apparent that being a disciple of Christ involved far more than a joyful acceptance of the Messianic promise: it meant the surrender of one’s whole life to the Master in absolute submission to his sovereignty. There could be no compromise. “No servant can serve two masters,” Jesus said, “for either he will hate the one, and love the other; or else he will hold to one, and despise the other. Ye cannot serve God and mammon” (Luke 16:13). There had to be a complete forsaking of sin. The old thought patterns, habits, and pleasures of the world had to be conformed to the new disciplines of the kingdom of God (Matt. 5:1–7:29; Luke 6:20–49). Perfection of love was now the only standard of conduct (Matt. 5:48), and this love was to manifest itself in obedience to Christ ( John 14:21, 23) expressed in de- votion to those whom he died to save (Matt. 25:31–36). There was a cross in it—the willing denial of self for others (Mark 8:34–38; 10:32–45; Matt. 16:24–26; 20:17–28; Luke 9:23–25; John 12:25–26; 13:1–20).

This was strong teaching. Not many people could take it. They liked to be numbered among his followers when he filled their stomachs with bread and fish, but when Jesus started talking about the true spiritual quality of the Kingdom and the sacrifice necessary in achieving it ( John 6:25–29), many of his disciples “went back, and walked no more with him” ( John 6:66). As they put it, “This is a hard saying: who can hear it?” ( John 6:60). The surprising thing is that Jesus did not go running after them to try to get them to stay on his membership roll. He was training leaders for the Kingdom, and if they were going to be fit vessels of service, they were going to have to pay the price.

Count the Cost

Those who would not go all the way thus in time fell by the wayside. They separated themselves from the chosen company by reason of their own selfishness. Judas, exposed as a devil ( John 6:70), held on until the end, but at last his greed caught up with him (Mark 14:10, 11, 43–44; Matt. 26:14–16, 47–50; Luke 22:3–6, 47–49; John 18:2–9). One simply could not follow Jesus through the course of his life without turning loose of the world, and those who made a pretense of it brought only anguish and tragedy to their souls (Matt. 27:3–10; Acts 1:18–19).

Perhaps this is why Jesus spoke so severely to the scribe who came and said, “Master, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest.” Jesus frankly told this apparent volunteer for service that it would not be easy. “The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of man hath not where to lay his head” (Matt. 8:19–20; Luke 9:57–58). Another disciple wanted to be excused from his immediate obligation of obedience so that he might go and care for his aged father, but Jesus would allow no delay. “Follow me,” he said, “and leave the dead to bury the dead. Go thou and publish abroad the kingdom of God” (Matt. 8:21–22; Luke 9:59–60). Another man indicated that he would follow Jesus, but on his own terms. He wanted to first bid farewell to his family, perhaps anticipating a merry good time doing it. But Jesus put it to him straight. “No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God” (Luke 9:62). Jesus did not have the time nor the desire to scatter himself on those who wanted to make their own terms of discipleship.

Hence it was that a would-be disciple was made to count the cost. “For which of you, desiring to build a tower, doth not first sit down and count the cost, whether he have wherewith to complete it?” (Luke 14:28). Not to do so was tantamount to inviting ridicule later from the world. The same would be true of a king in war who did not consider the cost of victory before hostilities began. To sum it up bluntly, Jesus said: “Therefore whosoever he be of you that renounceth not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple” (Luke 14:33; see Mark 10:21; Matt. 19:21; Luke 18:22).

Few Would Pay the Price

Actually, when the opportunists left him at Capernaum because he would not satisfy their popular expectations, Jesus had only a handful of followers left. Turning to the Twelve, he said, “Would ye also go away?” ( John 6:67). This was a crucial question. If these few men quit following him, what would remain of his ministry? But Simon Peter answered, “Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we have believed and know that thou art the Holy One of God” ( John 6:68–69). Indeed these words of the apostle must have been reassuring to the Master, for thereafter Jesus began to talk with his disciples more about his suffering and death, and with greater frankness.1

To Obey Is to Learn

This does not mean, however, that the disciples quickly understood everything the Lord said. Far from it. Their ability to grasp the deeper truths of the Lord’s vicarious ministry was encumbered with all the limitations of human frailty. When Jesus told the disciples after the great affirmation at Caesarea Philippi that he would be put to death by the religious leaders in Jerusalem, Peter actually rebuked him, saying, “Be it far from thee, Lord: This shall never be unto thee” (Matt. 16:22; see Mark 8:32). Whereupon Jesus had to tell the big fisherman that Satan deceived him at this point: “For thou mindest not the things of God, but of men” (Matt. 16:23; Mark 8:33). Nor did this end it. Again and again Jesus felt constrained to speak about his death and its meaning to them, but they failed to comprehend it until the day he was betrayed into the hands of his enemies.

Not comprehending clearly the message of the cross, of course, they faltered at first in understanding their own place in the Kingdom. It was hard for them to accept the teaching of lowly servitude for the sake of others (Luke 22:24–30; John 13:1–20). They bickered among themselves who would be greatest in the Kingdom (Mark 9:33–37; Matt. 18:1–5; Luke 9:46–48). James and John wanted to have the prominent places (Mark 10:35–37; Matt. 20:20), and the other ten, displaying an envious spirit, were indignant about it (Mark 10:41; Matt. 20:24). They were unnecessarily harsh in their judgment on others who did not agree with them (Luke 9:51–54). They were moved “with indignation” at parents who wanted Jesus to bless their children (Mark 10:13). Obviously, the practical outworking of what it meant to follow Christ was not fully experienced.

Yet Jesus patiently endured these human failings of his chosen disciples, because in spite of all their shortcomings they were willing to follow him. There was a brief interval of time after their initial call when they went back to their old fishing business (Mark 1:16; Matt. 4:18; Luke 5:2–5; see John 1:35–42), but their return does not seem to have been precipitated by any act of disobedience on their part. They just had not come to realize his purpose for their lives in leadership, or perhaps it had not yet been told them. Nonetheless, from the time that he appeared at their business and asked them to follow him to become fishers of men, “they left all, and followed him” (Luke 5:11; see Matt. 4:22; Mark 1:20). Later on, though they had much to learn, they could say that their dedication to Christ was still holding true (Mark 10:28; Matt. 19:27; Luke 18:28). With such men Jesus was willing to put up with a lot of those things which issued from their spiritual immaturity. He knew that they could master these defects as they grew in grace and knowledge. Their capacity to receive revelation would grow, provided they continued to practice what truth they did understand.

Obedience to Christ thus was the very means by which those in his company learned more truth. He did not ask the disciples to follow what they did not know to be true, but no one could follow him without learning what was true ( John 7:17). Hence, Jesus did not urge his disciples to commit their lives to a doctrine, but to a person who was the doctrine, and only as they continued in his Word could they know the truth ( John 8:31–32).

The Proof of Love

Supreme obedience was interpreted to be the expression of love. This lesson was underscored most emphatically on the eve of his death. As the disciples gathered around him in the upper room following the paschal meal, Jesus said: “If ye love me, ye will keep my commandments. . . . He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me; and he shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself unto him. . . . If a man love me, he will keep my word; and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him and make our abode with him. He that loveth me not keepeth not my words; and the word which ye hear is not mine, but the Father’s which sent me. . . . If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love. . . . This is my commandment, that ye love one another, as I have loved you. Ye are my friends if ye do whatsoever I have told you”

( John 14:15, 21, 23, 24; 15:10, 12).

Demonstrated by Jesus

Absolute obedience to the will of God, of course, was the controlling principle of the Master’s own life. In his human nature he continually gave consent to the will of his Father, which made it possible for God to use his life fully according to its intended purpose. Repeatedly he sounded it out: “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to accomplish his work” ( John 4:34); “I seek not my own will, but the will of him that sent me” ( John 5:30; see 6:38); “I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love” ( John 15:10; see 17:4). It could be summed up in his cry of Gethsemane: “Not my will, but thine be done” (Luke 22:42; see Mark 14:36; Matt. 26:39, 42, 44).

The cross was but the crowning climax of Jesus’ commitment to do the will of God. It forever showed that obedience could not be compromised—it was always a commitment unto death.

The worldly minded religious leaders stated the truth when they said in derision: “He saved others; himself he cannot save” (Mark 15:31; Matt. 27:42; Luke 23:35). Of course, he could not save himself. He had not come to save himself. He came to save the world. He came “not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45; Matt. 20:28). He came “to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10). He came to offer himself a sacrifice unto God for the sins of all people. He came to die. There was no other way that the inviolable law of God could be satisfied.

This cross, having already been accepted in advance (Rev. 13:8; see Acts 2:32), made each step that Christ took on the earth a conscious acceptance of God’s eternal purpose for his life. When Jesus therefore spoke about obedience, it was something that the disciples could see incarnated in human form. As Jesus put it, “Ye should do as I have done unto you. Verily, verily, I say unto you, a servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him. If ye know these things, blessed are ye if ye do them” ( John 13:15–16). No one could miss this lesson. Just as Jesus found his blessedness in doing his Father’s will, even so his followers would find theirs. This is the sole duty of a servant. It was true of Christ, and nothing less can ever be accepted as worthy of his disciple (Luke 17:6–10; see 8:21; Mark 3:35; Matt. 12:50).

The Principle in Focus

From the standpoint of strategy, however, it was the only way that Jesus could mold their lives by his word. There could be no development of character or purpose in the disciples without it. A father must teach his children to obey him if he expects his children to be like him.

It must be remembered, too, that Jesus was making men to lead his church to conquest, and no one can ever be a leader until first he has learned to follow a leader. So he brought up his future commanders from the ranks, drilling in them along the way the necessity for discipline and respect for authority. There could be no insubordination in his command. No one knew better than Jesus that the satanic forces of darkness against them were well organized and equipped to make ineffectual any half-hearted effort of evangelism. They could not possibly outwit the devilish powers of this world unless they gave strict adherence to him who alone knew the strategy of victory. This required absolute obedience to the Master’s will, even as it meant complete abandonment of their own.

The Principle Applied Today

We must learn this lesson again today. There can be no dillydallying around with the commands of Christ. We are engaged in warfare, the issues of which are life and death, and every day that we are indifferent to our responsibilities is a day lost to the cause of Christ. If we have learned even the most elemental truth of discipleship, we must know that we are called to be servants of our Lord and to obey his Word. It is not our duty to reason why he speaks as he does, but only to carry out his orders. Unless there is this dedication to all that we know he wants us to do now, however immature our understanding may be, it is doubtful if we will ever progress further in his life and mission. There is no place in the Kingdom for a slacker, for such an attitude not only precludes any growth in grace and knowledge but also destroys any usefulness on the world battlefield of evangelism.

One must ask, why are so many professed Christians today stunted in their growth and ineffectual in their witness? Or to put the question in its larger context, why is the contemporary church so frustrated in its witness to the world? Is it not because among the clergy and laity alike there is a general indifference to the commands of God, or at least, a kind of contented complacency with mediocrity? Where is the obedience of the cross? Indeed, it would appear that the teachings of Christ regarding self-denial and dedication have been replaced by a sort of respectable “do as you please” philosophy of expediency.

The great tragedy is that little is being done to correct the situation, even by those who realize what is happening. Certainly the need of the hour is not for despair, but for action. It is high time that the requirements for membership in the church be interpreted and enforced in terms of true Christian discipleship. But this action alone will not be enough. Followers must have leaders, and this means that before much can be done with the church membership something will have to be done with the church officials. If this task seems to be too great, then we will have to start like Jesus did by getting with a few chosen ones and instilling into them the meaning of obedience.

It is when this principle is accepted in practice that we can develop fully according to the next step in the Master’s strategy of conquest.



Receive ye the Holy Spirit.

John 20:22

He Gave Himself Away

Jesus wanted his followers to obey him. But in recognizing this truth, he realized that his disciples would discover the deeper experience of his Spirit. And in receiving his Spirit they would know the love of God for a lost world. That is why his demands were accepted without argument. The disciples understood that they were not just keeping a law, but were responding to One who loved them, and was willing to give himself for them.

His was a life of giving—giving away what the Father had given him ( John 15:15; 17:4, 8, 14). He gave them his peace by which he was sustained in tribulation ( John 16:33; see Matt. 11:28). He gave them his joy in which he labored amid the sufferings and sorrows about him ( John 15:11; 17:13). He gave them the keys to his Kingdom against which the powers of hell could never prevail (Matt. 16:19; see Luke 12:32). Indeed, he gave them his own glory, which was his before the worlds were made, that they all might be one even as he was one in the Father ( John 17:22, 24). He gave all he had—nothing was withheld, not even his own life.

Love is like that. It is always giving itself away. When it is self-contained, it is not love. In this sense, Jesus brought clearly into focus before his followers just what was meant when “God so loved the world” ( John 3:16). It meant that God gave all he had to those he loved, even his “only begotten Son.” And for the Son, in incarnating that love, it meant renouncing his own right of living and giving his life for the world. Only in this light—when the Son is put in place of the world—can one even begin to understand the cross. Yet in this realization, the cross of Christ is inevitable, for the infinite love of God can express itself only in an infinite way. Just as man by his sin had to die, so God by his love had to send his Son to die in our place. “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” ( John 15:13).

The Compulsion of Evangelism

That is why he lost no opportunity to impress on his followers the deep compulsion of his own soul aflame with the love of God for a lost world. Everything he did and said was motivated by this consuming passion. His life was simply the revelation in time of God’s eternal purpose to save for himself a people. Supremely, this is what the disciples needed to learn, not in theory but in practice.

And they saw it practiced before them in many ways every day. Though the demonstrations were often painfully hard to accept, as when he washed their feet ( John 13:1–20), they could not miss what he meant. They saw how their Master denied himself many of the comforts and pleasures of the world and became a servant among them. They saw how the things they cherished—physical satisfaction, popular acclaim, prestige—he refused; while the things which they sought to escape—poverty, humiliation, sorrow, and even death—he accepted willingly for their sake. As they watched him minister to the sick, comfort the sorrowing, and preach the gospel to the poor, it was clear that the Master considered no service too small nor any sacrifice too great when it was rendered for the glory of God. They may not have always understood it, and certainly could not explain it, but they could never mistake it.

His Sanctification

The constant renewing of his consecration of himself to God through loving service to others constituted Jesus’ sanctification. This was brought out clearly in his high-priestly prayer when he said: “As thou didst send me into the world, even so sent I them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth” ( John 17:18–19). Note that this setting apart of himself unto God, which is indicated in the word sanctify, was not necessary in Jesus’ case to effect cleansing, since he was always pure. Nor was it necessary to receive power for service, since Jesus already had all the power he could use. Rather his sanctification, as the context reveals, was in the area of commitment to the task for which he had been “sent into the world,”1 and in dedication to that purpose of evangelism, he continually gave his life “for their sakes.”

His sanctification then was not for the purpose of benefiting himself, but it was for his disciples, that they might “be sanctified in truth.”2 That is to say, in giving himself to God, Jesus gave himself to those about him so that they might come to know through his life a similar commitment to the mission for which he had come into the world. His whole evangelistic plan hinged on this dedication, and in turn, the faithfulness with which his disciples gave themselves in love to the world about them.

Credentials of the Ministry

This was to be the measure by which they were to regard their own service in his name. They were to give as freely as they had received (Matt. 10:8). They were to love one another as he loved them ( John 13:34–35). By this token they were to be his disciples ( John 15:9–10). Herein was contained all his commandments ( John 15:12, 17; see Matt. 22:37–40; Mark 12:30–31; Luke 10:27). Love—Calvary love—was the standard. Just as they had seen for three years, the disciples were to give themselves in selfless devotion to those whom the Father loved and for whom their Master died ( John 17:23).

Such a demonstration of love through them was to be the way that the world would know that the gospel was true. How else would the multitudes ever be convinced? Love is the only way to win the free response of men, and this is possible only by the presence of Christ within the heart. Thus Jesus prayed: “O righteous Father, the world knew thee not, but I knew thee; and these knew that thou didst send me; and I made known unto them thy name, and will make it known; that the love wherewith thou lovedst me may be in them, and I in them” ( John 17:25–26).

The Work of the Holy Spirit

Let no one imagine, however, that this kind of an experience with Christ could be engendered by human ingenuity. Jesus made it abundantly clear that his life was mediated only through the Holy Spirit. “It is the Spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing” ( John 6:63). That is why even to begin to live in Christ one has to be born again ( John 3:3–9). The corrupted human nature must be regenerated by the Spirit of God before it could be conformed to its true created purpose in the divine image. Likewise, it is the Spirit who sustains and nourishes the transformed life of a disciple in knowledge and grace ( John 4:14; 7:38–39). By the same Spirit one is made clean through the Word and set apart unto God for holy service ( John 15:3; 17:17; see Eph. 5:26). From beginning to end, experiencing the living Christ in any personal way is the work of the Holy Spirit.

It is only the Spirit of God who enables one to carry on the redemptive mission of evangelism. Jesus underscored this truth early in relation to his own work by declaring that what he did was in cooperation with “the Spirit of the Lord.” It was by his virtue that he preached the gospel to the poor, healed the brokenhearted, proclaimed deliverance to the captive, opened the eyes of the blind, cast out demons, and set at liberty those who were oppressed (Luke 4:18; Matt. 12:28). Jesus was God in revelation; but the Spirit was God in operation. He was the Agent of God actually effecting through men the eternal plan of salvation. Thus Jesus explained to his disciples that the Spirit would prepare the way for their ministry. He would give them utterance to speak (Matt. 10:19–20; Mark 13:11; Luke 12:12). He would convict the world “in respect of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” ( John 16:8). He would give illumination of truth that men might know the Lord (Matt. 22:43; see Mark 12:36; John 16:14). By his power the disciples were promised the very ability to do the works of their Lord ( John 14:12).3 In this light, evangelism was not interpreted as a human undertaking, but as a divine project that had been going on from the beginning and would continue until God’s purpose was fulfilled. It was altogether the Spirit’s work. All the disciples were asked to do was to let the Spirit have complete charge of their lives.

Another Comforter

From the standpoint of their own satisfaction, however, the disciples needed to learn in a more meaningful way the relationship of the Spirit to the person of their Lord. Jesus, of course, recognized this need, and therefore he spoke more specifically about it as the days of his flesh came to a close. Up to this point he had always been with them. He had been their Comforter, their Teacher, their Guide. In fellowship with him the disciples had known courage and strength; with him they felt that everything was possible; but their trouble was that Jesus was going back to heaven. Under these circumstances Jesus needed to explain to them how they would get along after he had gone.

It was at this time that Jesus told them about the Spirit as “another Comforter,”4 an Advocate, one who would stand by their side, a person who would take exactly the same place with them in the unseen realm of reality that Jesus had filled in the visible experience of the flesh ( John 14:16). Just as he had ministered to them for three years, now the Spirit would guide them into all truth ( John 16:13). He would show them things to come ( John 16:13). He would teach them what they needed to know ( John 14:26). He would help them pray ( John 14:12–13; 16:23–24). In short, he would glorify the Son by taking the things of Christ and making them real to his followers ( John 16:14–15). The world could not receive this truth, for it did not know Jesus; but the disciples knew him, for he was with them, and in the Spirit he would continue to be with them forever ( John 14:17).

This was no theory, no creed, no makeshift arrangement that Jesus was talking about. It was the promise of a real compensation for the loss which the disciples were to sustain. “Another Comforter” just like Jesus was to fill them with the very presence of the Master. Indeed, the privileges that the disciples were to enjoy in this deeper relationship to the Spirit were greater than they had known as Jesus walked with them along the roads of Galilee. After all, in his flesh, Jesus was confined to one body and one place, but in the Spirit these limitations were all removed. Now he could be with them always, and literally be enabled never to leave them nor forsake them (Matt. 28:20; see John 14:16). Looking at it from this perspective, it was better for Jesus, having finished his work, to return to the Father and send the blessed Comforter to come and take his place ( John 16:7).

The Secret of the Victorious Life

It is easy to see then why Jesus expected his disciples to tarry until this promise became a reality to them (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4–5, 8; 2:33). How else could they ever fulfill the commission of their Lord with joy and inward peace? They needed an experience of Christ so real that their lives would be filled with his presence. Evangelism had to become a burning compulsion within them, purifying their desires and guiding their thoughts. Nothing less than a personal baptism of the Holy Spirit would suffice. The superhuman work to which they were called demanded supernatural help—an enduement of power from on high. This meant that the disciples through confession of their deep-seated pride and enmity in utter surrender of themselves to Christ had to come by faith into a new and refining experience of the Spirit’s infilling.5

The fact that these men were of the common lot of mankind was no hindrance at all. It only serves to remind us of the mighty power of the Spirit of God accomplishing his purpose in disciples fully yielded to his control. After all, the power is in the Spirit of Christ. It is not who we are, but who he is that makes the difference.

A Truth Hidden from Unbelievers

However, it is well to mention again that only those who followed Jesus all the way came to know the glory of this experience. Those who followed at a distance, like the multitudes, as well as those who stubbornly refused to walk in the light of his Word, like the Pharisees, did not even hear about the work of the blessed Comforter. As noted before, Jesus would not cast his pearls before those who did not want them.6

This characterized his teaching throughout life. Jesus purposely reserved for his few chosen disciples, and particularly the Twelve, his most revealing things (Luke 10:22; Matt. 11:27; see 16:17). Indeed, their eyes and ears were blessed. Many prophets and kings had desired to see the things they saw, and to hear the things they heard, yet could not (Matt. 13:16–17; Luke 10:23–24; see Matt. 13:10–11; Mark 4:10–11; Luke 8:9–10). Such a policy may seem strange until we remember that Jesus was deliberately investing all he had in these few men so that they could be properly prepared to do his work.

The Principal Issue Today

The whole thing revolves around the person of the Master. Basically, his way was his life. And so it must be with his followers. We must have his life in us by the Spirit if we are to do his work and practice his teaching. Any evangelistic work without this is as lifeless as it is meaningless. Only as the Spirit of Christ in us exalts the Son are people drawn unto the Father.

Of course, we cannot give something away which we do not possess ourselves. The very ability to give away our life in Christ is the proof of its possession. Nor can we withhold that which we possess in the Spirit of Christ, and still keep it. The Spirit of God always insists on making Christ known. Here is the great paradox of life—we must die to ourselves to live in Christ, and in that renunciation of ourselves, we must give ourselves away in service and devotion to our Lord. This was Jesus’ method of evangelism, seen at first only by his few followers, but through them it was to become the power of God in overcoming the world.

But we cannot stop there. It is also necessary for one to see in us a clear demonstration of the way to live his life. Thus, we must understand another obvious aspect of Jesus’ strategy with his disciples.



I have given you an example.

John 13:15

He Showed Them How to Live

Jesus saw to it that his disciples learned his way of living with God and man. He recognized that it was not enough just to get people into his spiritual communion. His disciples needed to know how his experience was to be maintained and shared if it was to be perpetuated in evangelism. Of course, in a technical sense, life precedes action, but in a thoroughly practical point of view, we live by what we do. We must breathe, eat, exercise, and carry on work normally if we are to grow. Where these functions of the body are neglected, life will cease to be.

That is why the effort of Jesus to get across to his followers the secrets of his spiritual influence needs to be considered as a deliberate course of his master strategy. He knew what was important.

The Practice of Prayer

Take, for example, his prayer life. Surely it was no accident that Jesus often let his disciples see him conversing with the Father.1 They could see the strength that it gave to his life, and though they could not understand fully what it was all about, they must have realized that this was part of his secret of life. Note that Jesus did not force the lesson on them, but rather he just kept praying until at last the disciples got so hungry that they asked him to teach them what he was doing.

Seizing his opportunity when it did come, Jesus proceeded to give them a lesson their hearts were prepared to receive. He explained to them some of the more basic principles of prayer, and then before he finished, he illustrated what he meant by repeating before them a model prayer (Luke 11:1–4; Matt. 6:9–13). One might possibly think that such a practice was below the capabilities of these disciples— the idea of having to put words in their mouths to get them to pray—but Jesus would not take such an important matter as this for granted. Indeed, such elementary methods of teaching are often necessary to get people started in this discipline. But whatever it took, Jesus was determined to get this lesson across.

Thereafter he emphasized 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. One thing is certain: unless they grasped the meaning of prayer, and learned how to practice it with consistency, not much would ever come from their lives.

Using Scripture

Another aspect of Jesus’ life that was vividly portrayed to the disciples was the importance and use of the Holy Scriptures.2This was evident both in maintaining his own personal devotion and in winning others to the Way. Often he would take special pains to impress on his followers the meaning of some passage in the Bible, and he never ceased to use the Scriptures in his conversation with them. Altogether there are at least sixty-six references to the Old Testament in his dialogues with the disciples in the four Gospels, to say nothing of the more than ninety allusions to it in his speaking with others.3

All this served to show the disciples how they, too, should know and use the Scriptures in their own life. The principles of Bible exhortation were practiced before them so repeatedly that they could not help but catch on to at least some of the rules for basic scriptural interpretation and application. Moreover, the ability of Jesus to recall so freely Old Testament passages must have impressed the disciples with the necessity of learning the Scriptures by heart, and letting them become the authority for their pronouncements.

In everything it was made abundantly clear that the word written in the Scriptures and the word spoken by Christ were not in contradiction, but rather complemented each other. That which Jesus taught was also to be cherished by his disciples. Hence, the Scriptures, coupled with his own utterance, became for them the objective basis of their faith in Christ. Furthermore, it was made clear to them that if they were to continue in his fellowship by the Spirit after he was gone from them in the flesh, they would have to abide in his Word ( John 15:7).

Supremely Soul Winning

Through this manner of personal demonstration, every aspect of Jesus’ personal discipline of life was bequeathed to his disciples,4 but what perhaps was most important in view of his ultimate purpose was that all the while he was teaching them how to win souls.

Practically everything that Jesus said and did had some relevance to their work of evangelism, either by explaining a spiritual truth or revealing to them how they should deal with people. He did not have to work up teaching situations, but merely took advantage of those about him, and thus his teaching seemed perfectly realistic. In fact, for the most part, the disciples were absorbing it without even knowing that they were being trained to win people under like conditions for God.

Teaching Naturally

This point, already alluded to several times, cannot be emphasized too much. Jesus was so much the Master in his teaching that he did not let his method obscure his lesson. He let his truth call attention to itself, and not the presentation.5 His method in this respect was to conceal the fact that he even had a method. He was his method.

This may be hard to imagine in this day of professional techniques and sure-fire gimmicks. In some quarters, it would almost appear we would be unable to proceed without a wellillustrated handbook or multicolored flip chart showing us what to do. The least we might expect is a seminar in soul winning. Yet, strange as it may seem, the disciples never had any of these things now considered so essential for the work.

All the disciples had to teach them was a teacher who practiced with them what he expected them to learn. Evangelism was lived before them in spirit and in technique. Watching him, they learned what it was all about. He led them to recognize the need inherent in all classes of people, and the best methods of approaching them. They observed how he drew people to himself; how he won their confidence and inspired their faith; how he opened to them the way of salvation and called them to a decision. In all types of situations and among all kinds of people, rich and poor, healthy and sick, friend and foe alike, the disciples watched the master soul winner at work. It wasn’t outlined on the blackboard of a stuffy classroom nor written up in a “do it yourself” manual. His method was so real and practical that it just came naturally.

Classes Always in Session

This was as true in his approach to the masses as his way of dealing with individuals. The disciples were always there to observe his word and deed. If the particular approach was not clear, all they had to do was to ask the Master to explain it to them. For example, after Jesus told the story of the sower to “a very great multitude” (Mark 4:1f.; see Matt. 13:1–9; Luke 8:4–8), his disciples “asked him what this parable might be” (Luke 8:9; see Mark 4:10; Matt. 13:10). Whereupon Jesus proceeded to explain to them in detail the meaning of the analogies used in the illustration. In fact, judging from the printed text, he spent three times the amount of time explaining this story to the disciples than he did in giving the initial lesson to the crowd (Matt. 13:10–23; Mark 4:10–25; Luke 8:9–18).6

When the disciples seemed reluctant to confess their bewilderment, Jesus often would have to take the initiative in clearing up the problem. The story of the rich young ruler is a typical incident. After Jesus dealt with him rather sternly, and the young ruler went away sorrowful because he loved his riches more than the Kingdom of God, Jesus turned to his disciples and said: “It is hard for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 19:23; see Mark 10:23; Luke 18:24). “The disciples were amazed at his words” (Mark 10:24). This led to an extended conversation in which Jesus explained the reason for his approach to this good, moral man, while also using the opportunity to apply the principle to their own profession of faith (Mark 10:24–31; Matt. 19:24–20:16; Luke 18:25–30).

The Principle in Focus

The method of Jesus here was more than a continuous sermon; it was an object lesson as well. This was the secret of his influence in teaching. He did not ask anyone to do or be anything that he had not demonstrated first in his own life, thereby not only proving its workability but also its relevance to his mission in life. And this he was able to do because he was constantly with his disciples. His training classes were never dismissed. Everything he said and did was a personal lesson in reality, and since the disciples were there to notice it, they were learning practically every moment of their waking day.

How else will his way ever be learned? It is good to tell people what we mean, but it is infinitely better to show them. People are looking for a demonstration, not an explanation.

The Principle Applied Today

When it is all boiled down, those of us who are seeking to train people must be prepared to have them follow us, even as we follow Christ (1 Cor. 11:1). We are the exhibit (Phil. 3:17f.; 1 Thess. 2:7, 8; 2 Tim. 1:13). They will do those things that they hear and see in us (Phil. 4:9). Given time, it is possible through this kind of leadership to impart our way of living to those who are constantly with us.

We must take this truth to our lives. There can be no shirking or evading of our personal responsibility to show the way to those we are training, and this revelation must include the practical outworking in life of the deeper realities of the Spirit. This is the Master’s method, and nothing else will ever suffice to train others to do his work.

It makes us vulnerable, of course. We are not perfect like our Lord, and those persons to whom we open our lives will come to see our many shortcomings. But let them also see a readiness to confess our sins when we understand the error of our ways. Let them hear us apologize to those we have wronged. Our weaknesses need not impair discipleship when shining through them is a transparent sincerity to follow Christ.

Yet, as we know, mere knowledge is not enough. There comes a time for action. To disregard this privilege can nullify all that has been acquired in the process of learning. Indeed, knowledge unapplied to living can become a stumbling stone to further truth. No one better understood this than the Master. He was training men to do a job, and when they knew enough to get started, he saw to it that they did something about it. The application of this principle is so pronounced that it needs to be considered as another part of his strategy of conquest through trained and spiritually alert men.



I will make you fishers of men.

Matthew 4:19

He Assigned Them Work

Jesus was always building his ministry for the time when his disciples would have to take over his work and go out into the world with the redeeming gospel. This plan was progressively made clear as they followed him.

The patience with which Jesus brought this out to his disciples reflects on his consideration for their ability to learn. He was never premature in his insistence on action. The first invitation to the disciples to follow him said nothing about going out and evangelizing the world, although this was his plan from the beginning. His method was to get the disciples into a vital experience with God, and to show them how he worked, before telling them they had to do it.

On the other hand, Jesus did not discourage their spontaneous reactions to bear witness to their faith, and in fact, he seemed delighted that they wanted to bring others to know what they had found. Andrew got Peter, Philip found Nathanael, Matthew invited his friends to a feast in his house—and Jesus responded to these new introductions with gladness. It is well, also, to note that on several occasions Jesus specifically asked those who were helped by his ministry to say something about it to others. However, in none of these early instances is the real purpose of their life of witnessing made a matter of explicit command.

He used his disciples in other ways to help along his work, such as caring for the manual burdens of getting food and arranging accommodations for the group as they followed him. He also let them baptize some people who were aroused by his message (John 4:2).1 Outside of this, however, it is rather startling to observe in the Gospels that these early disciples really did not do much more than watch Jesus work for a year or more. He kept the vision before them by his activity, and in his call again to the four fishermen he reminded them that following him they were to be fishers of men (Mark 1:17; Matt. 4:19; Luke 5:10), but it does not seem that they did much about it.

For that matter, even after they were formally ordained to the ministry a few months later (Mark 3:14–19; Luke 6:13–16), they still showed no evidence of doing any evangelistic work on their own. This observation perhaps should cause us to be more patient with new converts who follow us.

But as Jesus was beginning his third general tour of Galilee (Mark 6:6; Matt. 9:35), he doubtless realized that the time had come when his disciples could join him more directly in the work. They had seen enough at least to get started. They needed now to put into practice what they had seen their Master do. So “he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth” (Mark 6:7; see Matt. 10:5; Luke 9:1–2). Like a mother eagle teaching her young to fly by pushing them out of the nest, Jesus pushed his disciples out into the world to try their own wings.

Briefing Instructions

Before letting them go, however, Jesus gave them some briefing instructions regarding their mission. What he said to them on this occasion is very important to this study because, in a sense, he outlined for them explicitly what he had been teaching implicitly all the time.

He first reaffirmed his purpose for their lives. They were to go and “preach the kingdom of God, and to heal the sick” (Luke 9:1, 2; see Matt. 10:1; Mark 6:7). Nothing was new in this commission, but it did serve to further clarify their task. However, their new instructions did emphasize more the immediacy of their task with the announcement that the “kingdom was at hand” (Matt. 10:7). It also spelled out more completely the scope of their authority by telling them not only to heal, but to “cleanse the lepers, cast out devils, and raise the dead” (Matt. 10:8).

But Jesus did not leave it at this. He went on to tell them who to see first. “Go not into any way of the Gentiles, and enter not into any city of the Samaritans; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matt. 10:5, 6). It was as though Jesus was telling his disciples to go where they would find the most susceptible audience to hear their message. This is the way that Jesus proceede