The Master’s Plan
by Dave Howard, Elder
This Blog post contains two articles.
I love to read. I love to read the Bible, and I love reading books that challenge me and help me grow as a follower of Jesus. I was recently given a book by a good friend who told me “this book will change the way you think about evangelism.” How could I pass up a recommendation like that?
The book is titled The Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman. First published in 1963, it’s only 108 pages, and I figured it would be a quick and enlightening read. I didn’t have any idea what I was about to experience.
Flipping to the first page I read this:
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.
Jesus devoted most of His remaining life on earth to these few disciples. He literally staked his whole ministry on them.
I barely finished reading this first paragraph and had to stop and grasp what I was reading. I went back and read the Foreword by Billy Graham and the Introduction because I wanted to understand where this author was coming from and what it was all about. This wasn’t a book outlining a new program for evangelizing the lost or praising the successful trends of the time. Instead, Coleman was trying to answer a simple, but crucial question: What was Jesus Christ’s strategy for evangelism?I’ll confess that I’d never really thought about Jesus’ activities as strategic – where have I been???
To answer this question, Coleman writes about eight guiding principles from the life of Jesus. These principles were not a step-by-step guide, but, as Coleman states in the Preface: “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 bring out the progressive logic of the plan.” Below is a quick introduction of these 8 principles (italicized text is straight from the book):
1. Selection: “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.”
2. Association: “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.”
3. Consecration: “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. … In time obedient followers invariably take on the character of their leader.”
4. Impartation: “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 the disciples gave themselves in love to the world about them.”
5. Demonstration: “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.”
6. Delegation: “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.”
7. Supervision: “He Kept Check on Them. Jesus made it a point to meet with His disciples following their tours of service to hear their reports and to share with the blessedness of His ministry in doing the same thing. In this sense, one might say that His teaching rotated between instruction and assignment.”
8. Reproduction: “He Expected Them to Reproduce. Jesus intended for the disciples to produce His likeness in and through the church being gathered out of the world. Thus His ministry in the Spirit would be duplicated manyfold by His ministry in the lives of His disciples. Through them and others like them it would continue to expand in an ever-enlarging circumference until the multitudes might know in a similar way the opportunity which they had known with the Master.”
As I have read through this book, studied and discussed with pastors and elders and compared with what I see in the gospels of Jesus’ life, God has lit a new fire in my heart. The questions I continue to ask myself are: What kind of disciple and disciple-maker am I? What does Jesus want me to do with what I’ve learned from this book? What does Jesus want from Canby Christian Church?
If you want to be challenged and see Jesus’ strategic work of evangelism in a way that will challenge you, I highly recommend this book.
Did God Actually Say? (Part 2)
by Dan Leischner
A repost from April 2019 Month Newsletter.
This is the second part of a three-part series about the truth of the Bible. In the last article we looked at the question of contradictions in the Bible, and in this article we will consider the question of errors in the Bible, as well as consider the work of the Holy Spirit.
A core value of Canby Christian Church is God’s Word. This value reads:
We value the ministry of the Word of God. We strive to be people of the Book. We teach the Scriptures, read the Scriptures, and live the Scriptures. Furthermore, we believe the Bible points to Jesus as the fulfillment of the Old Testament and the promise in the New. [i]
We look to, and rely upon, the whole of the Bible above any other book or policy or teaching. The Bible contains God’s words, given to men, inspired and guided by the Holy Spirit. As the Word of God, we believe it to be fully true and accurate in all that it affirms. This means that we can’t pick and choose which parts of the Bible we follow, and which to ignore.
Throughout history there have been people who have cast doubt on the truth and validity of God’s Word. From the beginning in the Garden of Eden the serpent (Satan) twisted God’s Word and sowed seeds of doubt by asking Eve, “Did God actually say…?” Satan knew if he could create doubt in God’s Word, if he could cause Eve to question if God was really being truthful, then he could get her to disobey and turn away from God’s simple command. Even today, people try to cast doubt on God’s Word, either because they don’t want to follow God’s clear teaching, or they want to deny God altogether. They know if any part of the Bible is in error or can be shown to be untrue, then the whole Bible becomes suspect. Said another way, if part of the Bible is not true, then how can we know that any of it is true? If the Bible can be reduced to just another inspirational book, rather than God’s revealed truth, then we can simply ignore what the Bible says.
Questions about the truth of the Bible:
In the first article we looked at the question about contradictions in the Bible. When we really unpack these “contradictions” we see that the Bible does not contradict itself when we consider the original language, culture, and purpose of each Bible passage. In this article we will consider the question of errors in the Bible and we will see that God’s Word is truth and can be trusted.
Isn’t the Bible full of errors?– Just like contradictions, if the Bible contains errors or false statements then it cannot be trusted. Here are some “errors” in the Bible:
“Error” 1[ii]: How many horses did Solomon have? In 1 Kings 4:26 we read, “Solomon also had 40,000 stalls of horses for his chariots”, while in 2 Chronicles 9:25 we read, “And Solomon had 4,000 stalls for horses and chariots”. So, which is it – 40,000 or 4,000? There are two possible answers. First, it is possible for minor errors (such as adding or dropping one digit) to occur as a transcriber handwrites a new copy of the biblical text. There were no printing presses at that time and every new copy of a document was written out by hand, thus leaving the opportunity for human error in copies of the original work. The second possible answer is that these two passages are not in disagreement, but that Solomon had 40,000 stalls that would fit horses, and 4,000 stalls that would fit horses and chariots – making both statements true because they are each offering complimentary information about Solomon’s stalls. Regardless of what the original writers of these passages actually wrote, the point is that Solomon had an incredibly large herd of horses!
“Error” 2: Incorrect calculation of the diameter of the Molten Sea[iii]- in 2 Chronicles 4 we read about the furnishings in the Temple and in verse 2 we see a large metal basin for washing. The text says, “Then he made the sea of cast metal. It was round, ten cubits from brim to brim, and five cubits high, and a line of thirty cubits measured its circumference.”[iv]
The “error” has to do with mathematical accuracy. If a circle is 10 cubits across, then its circumference is 31.1416 cubit, not 30 cubits. While these two values (31.1416 and 30) are not identical, it does not mean that there is an error. 2 Chronicles is not a mathematical textbook and we should not expect the same degree of precision. Perhaps the writer was rounding off to a simple number – this would not make the text in error, just not useful for teaching math. It is also possible that the writer was measuring the inside circumference of the basin which would be very close to (if not precisely) 30 cubits. Regardless, the circumference of the basin has no bearing on any doctrine or teaching of the Bible.
Summary of “errors”: In the examples above we see that these “errors” are not inaccuracies at all. That said, we do know that there is a possibility for human error to occur when copying a manuscript by hand, or when translating from one language to another. The fact is that there are words in the Greek and Hebrew languages that have no direct equivalent in our English language. Sometimes a phrase in the Hebrew language will be well understood by the original Hebrew reader, but makes little sense when we translate it into English. In these circumstances the translator must make a decision to either translate a passage directly into English (perhaps losing some of its original meaning) or translate the idea of the passage into English by using different words to convey the correct meaning. In these situations, a team of highly educated translators carefully render the original meaning as best they can into the new language. Many English Bibles contain notes about passages that have alternate understandings, or where various manuscripts may differ.
We have the confidence of having many different manuscripts dating back hundreds and even thousands of years. We have more copies of Biblical texts dating back to earlier times than any other work of literature, including Shakespeare, Homer, and Plato. This means that our modern translations are based on multiple sources so that any actual errors in transcription are so minor as to be inconsequential. Any errors that may exist in our modern English translations have no impact on the truth of the doctrines in which we believe.
The Work of the Holy Spirit
Jesus told His disciples that after He left He would send the Helper, the Holy Spirit and, “When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. He will glorify me, for he will take what is mine and declare it to you.”[v] Jesus sent the Holy Spirit so that His disciples could know the truth. How can any of us really understand the Word of God unless God reveals it to us? This revelation of God’s Word is part of the work of the Holy Spirit.
Just as God’s Holy Spirit inspired and guided the original writers of the Bible, the Holy Spirit gives us understanding of the words that they wrote. The Holy Spirit will reveal the truth that is already written in God’s Word. This is important to understand: The Holy Spirit is not making new revelations that are outside of or in addition to God’s written Word – He only takes the words given from God through Jesus, and He gives us understanding of those words.
God has also placed us in a community of believers, a church family, wherein we can discuss the Bible and what it means. Together, we can encourage each other to righteousness and a right understanding of God’s Word, and we can correct each other so that we avoid false teachings and wrong understandings of the Bible. The Holy Spirit guides us into correct understanding and we can have confidence that the Bible is true in all that it affirms. We can trust in God’s Word for how we live our lives. Together we can agree with the Chicago Statement of faith that says:
“We affirm that a confession of the full authority, infallibility, and inerrancy of Scripture is vital to a sound understanding of the whole of the Christian faith. We further affirm that such confession should lead to increasing conformity to the image of Christ.[vi] “
In the next article we will look at questions related to the various interpretations of God’s Word.
[i]Canby Christian Church values, 2019 [ii]Freedom From Religion Foundation, Copyright 1992 by Dan Barker. https://ffrf.org/legacy/books/lfif/?t=contra [iii]I’m Glad you Asked, Ken Boa and Larry Moody, (Colorado Springs, Victor Books, 1994) pg. 110 [iv]2 Chronicles 4:2, English Standard Version, Text Edition, (Good News Publishers, 2001) [v]John 16:13-14, English Standard Version, Text Edition, (Good News Publishers, 2001) [vi]The Chicago Statements on Biblical Inerrancy and Hermeneutics, (International Council on Biblical Inerrancy Chicago, Illinois, October 26 – 28, 1978)