A manual for evangelical Christian proselytizing.
The key concept at the heart of longtime minister Coleman’s brief, heavily illustrated nonfiction debut is “discipleship”—the duty of Christians not only to receive the word of God and the teachings of Jesus Christ, but also to spread those same teachings to others. On this point, Jesus is quoted as being explicitly clear in Matthew 28:19 (“Go then and make disciples of all the nations”), in which he enjoined his own disciples to become teachers and preachers. This need is always portrayed as righteous and pressing: “The harvest is great,” Jesus is quoted as saying in the book of Luke, “but the laborers are few.” This disparity is the focus of Coleman’s book, which offers insights into the nature of Christian fellowship and strategies for increasing Christian outreach. The book’s core stratagem—the titular “parabola” of discipleship—is almost disarming in its direct simplicity: Disciples must fast, pray, and multiply. “If a church is able to maintain one hundred children with an average age of eight in its congregation every Sunday,” Coleman explains, “then within six years, it will have one hundred teenagers, and within twelve years, it will have one hundred young adults”—who, he says, will go on to multiply, as well. The understanding at work here is based on the notion that Jesus Christ used a so-called “critical mass” of 82 people—the 12 apostles and 70 disciples that are mentioned in Scripture—to found his own ministry.
Coleman’s simple, positive attitude imbues his book with a good deal of cleareyed optimism, and reader engagement will only be enhanced by the book’s production values: The text is filled with color photos of stars and galaxies, the oversized pages make for easy reading, and each short chapter ends with a blank page so that readers may take notes. Likewise, the author’s long experience caring for the homeless allows him to distill important life lessons from his extensive contact with people at the roughest extremes of life. Some of these lessons are, again, simple and practical: avoid alcohol, foster family connections, maintain multiple sources of income, and let go of grudges (“no one wants to fellowship with someone who is always angry”). Some of the other life lessons, however, may strike readers as hidebound, such as Coleman’s seconding of St. Paul’s call for women to “submit” to their husbands. But the author aims the majority of his book’s teachings at his fellow evangelical Christians, and for that audience, its questions will be bracing challenges: What have you done lately to spread the word of God? How many people have you—not your church, but you, yourself—brought to Jesus Christ? And how much of your daily life have you devoted to your Christian mission? “Discipleship must extend beyond the classroom,” Coleman asserts, “into the field to impact the marketplace, schools, business arena, and families.”
A practical, use-oriented handbook for clarifying the missionary role of Christian life.