An excerpt from Revisiting the Master Plan of Evangelism by Robert Coleman and Bobby Harrington
How does our love for lost and hurting people lead us to the necessity of selection?
As Jesus saw the multitudes, He realized people needed more than just teaching, preaching, and healing. They needed someone who could lead them. They had people who were supposed to give them direction, the scribes and Pharisees, who were the lawyers and the Bible scholars—a lot of people in positions of prominence. The problem was these people who could have helped were lost themselves. They were the blind leading the blind, characterized by Jesus as hirelings who were only in it for what they could get out of it. They didn’t really love the sheep.
Obviously, the crowds had come to hear Jesus and wanted someone to take them to the next level, so He looked for disciples. You begin to see this emerge very early in his ministry as recorded in the first chapter of John. Jesus has gone to the other side of the Jordan and joined what might be called a revival, led by John the Baptist. People had gathered there from Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and as far north as Tyre and Sidon. It’s the greatest religious awakening Israel had known in over four hundred years—not a bad place to begin, where people are obviously looking for help. It was there John baptized Him, and the prophet identified Jesus as the Lamb of God, who would take away the sin of the world (John 1:29).
I think this is the most significant statement made in the history of redemption, because it was like saying the aspirations and the dreams of Israel for hundreds of years were embodied in Jesus. They were always looking for the Messiah, the Lamb God would bring into the world, who had been represented in their sacrifices on Jewish altars for hundreds of years. They lived in that anticipation that someday the promised one would come, who would actually be their redeemer. The Lamb of God was the fulfillment of everything they’d hoped for, the one on whom they’d put their salvation hope when they poured out blood on the altar.
How did Jesus select His disciples, and how can Christians do the same today?
After Jesus’ baptism, two of John’s followers noticed Him go—Andrew and John—and He noticed them out of the corner of his eye (John 1:35ff). He stopped and said, “Who are you seeking?” They replied, “Master, where do you live?” That’s a good question. In light of what you’ve already heard, wouldn’t you like more information? Wouldn’t you like to talk more with Jesus?
He told them, “Come on home with me. Come and see.” (John 1:39) That’s the way He began his evangelism before he ever preached a sermon or worked a miracle or launched a crusade. He called some men to be his disciples, to learn from Him. One of them was so overjoyed, he could hardly wait to get back and tell his brother, and Andrew brought Peter to Jesus.
The next day, the Bible tells us Jesus found Philip. When he saw Jesus and knew who He was, he ran and told Nathaniel, “We found the one—the Christ—that we’ve been hearing about!” Nathaniel was a little incredulous, especially when he learned Jesus had been raised in Nazareth, which is on the other side of the tracks. He never heard of anything good coming out of that place. But Philip had learned something already—you don’t have to try to force this on anyone. You don’t even have to preach to them. Get him to see the evidence and bring him to Christ, so he brought Nathaniel.
Soon Jesus gathered some men, including Matthew and formed a company of learners. The group continued to grow until it became almost unmanageable. In fact, before Jesus returned to the Father there were about five hundred believers. You can see the pressures on His time when He assumed the incarnation in the human body. So he selected twelve to be with Him. You can’t be with everybody, but you can be with a few. We must recognize our human limitations. We want to reach the world and we want to reach larger numbers of people, just as Jesus was proving he could reach thousands.
How do we practice this principle today?
The principle of selection involves looking for those who seem to have the desire to learn. Notice those first disciples of Jesus aren’t the ones you would normally have picked out. None of them are well-educated or well-to-do as far as we know. What is even more surprising—none of them are members of the Levitical priesthood. They were just ordinary people like you and me, fishermen and businessmen. One was a tax collector of all things, and yet these were the people Jesus was calling to learn from Him.
Look for those whom God is choosing to relate to you in some way that you may not fully understand. Look around you and you’ll see those that God has already planted in your way. Your lifestyle is hopefully so different from those in the world that they want to know what makes you tick. They’ve seen your love in ways they’ve never seen before and they really would like to know more about you. Some of them are probably neighbors, or those you’ve worked beside. Continue to trust God to lead men and women into your life and He will answer your prayer. The principle of selection is going to be foundational as you see Christ’s ministry unfold in your own life.