On. . . the . . . Tenth. . . Day. . . of . . . Christmas (Are We There Yet?)
On the Twelfth Day of Christmas: Tweflth Night

On the Eleventh Day of Christmas

Snow_10In a time when we can connect with and be a part of a worldwide community of people through the internet (though I doubt such a tenuous connection qualifies one in using the word "community"), it's instructive to note that Jesus spent most of his limited public ministry with a small group of men and a few women.  As the song intimates there were eleven faithful apostles (the eleven pipers piping), as Judas betrayed him.

That this is a good model of ministry has been recognized by many.  One I remember well is that of Robert E. Coleman's Master Plan of Evangelism, first published in 1963, and which is now in its second edition and ninth printing, meaning it must have something to say.  In it Coleman states his premise that Jesus's methods were as much a part of his evangelism as was his message, and he proceeds to detail a method that focused on intensive discipleship of a small group of men as opposed to mass conversions.  Master_plan Coleman said that "[m]ost 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."

I doubt there's any serious disagreement with the thrust of what he said, which was a healthy corrective to large scale evangelistic campaigns which tallied up converts and then moved on to their next conquests.  With a Christianity that's a mile wide and an inch thin, not only here but in places like South Korea and Africa where there are many converts and a growing church, his book is worth revisiting.

But I'd go farther than Coleman, or at least farther than his book details.  Christians need discipling not only in spiritual disciplines -- Bible reading and study, prayer, and worship, for example -- and moral instruction, but also in integrating faith and all of life.  That's nothing new, and yet it's not often practiced.  We're put here to "till and keep" the Creation, given a mandate to develop culture with love and zeal for God's glory.  There's a lot of work to do because we spend so much time running from the culture, setting up our own alt-culture, that we fail to do the challenging work of loving the one we're in, of helping restore in some small way the communities, cities, trades, vocations, and institutions we all find ourselves a part of.

That has to be a part of any master plan of evangelism.  What does Jesus say?  "In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven."  Would it not be evangelistic for Christians who have been discipled in a culture-reforming Christianity to so live such that others see us as the ones who will preserve culture?  (It doesn't mean everyone would like us, as some want to destroy a culture built on Christian assumptions about the good, true, and beautiful.)  Maybe we need to leave the church building and spend most of our time with non-Christians, involved with them in our communities.  Scary thought, isn't it?

Coleman's method also seems a good one for a cynical culture, one mistrustful of institutions like the church.  Personal contact and deep community is necessary for the building of the church.  And yet, it's risky.  And it's uncomfortable.  Maybe that's where we (where I) need to be.