There has been much in the first seven chapters of Missionary Methods: St Paul’s Or Ours? (MM) by Roland Allen that has resonated with me. Allen has written about mission strategy, finances, culture, and the content of the preaching of the Apostle, all subjects that we must consider if we are to be about the ministry of starting indigenous churches that will reach their communities and cultures for Christ.
In the eighth chapter of the book, Allen addresses another subject that we must give attention to if we are to be effective in the starting of new churches. That subject is the teaching and teaching strategy of Paul as he went about the Mediterranean World proclaiming the Gospel.
There are so many great thoughts and wonderful quotes in this chapter, “The Teaching”, that I have decided to dedicate this post exclusively to this chapter of Missionary Methods.
” … it is manifest that St Paul did not go about as a missionary preacher merely to convert individuals: he went to establish churches from which the light might radiate throughout the whole country round. … It is the training of the first converts which set the type for the future. If the first converts are taught to depend upon the missionary, if all work, evangelistic, educational, social is concentrated in his hands, the infant community learns to rest passively upon the man from whom they receive their first insight into the Gospel. Their faith having no sphere for its growth and development lies dormant.”
“If there is a striking difference between St Paul’s preaching and ours there is a still greater difference between his method of dealing with converts and that common among us today.”
“The first and most striking difference between his action and ours is that the founded ‘churches’ whilst we found ‘Missions’. … He set up no organization intermediate between the preaching and the establishment of a fully organized indigenous church.”
“The question before us is, how he could so train his converts as to be able to leave them after so short a time with any security that they would be able to stand and grow. … The sense of stupefaction and amazement that comes over us when we think of it is the measure of the distance which we have travelled from the apostolic method.”
“Thus St Paul seems to have left his newly-founded churches with a simple system of Gospel teaching, two sacraments, a tradition of the main facts of the death and resurrection, and the Old Testament. … We can hardly believe that a church could be founded on so slight a basis. And yet it is possible that it was precisely the simplicity and brevity of the teaching which constituted its strength.”
“By teaching the simplest elements in the simplest form to the many, and by giving them the means by which they could for themselves gain further knowledge, by leaving them to meditate upon these few fundamental truths, and to teach one another what they could discover, St Paul ensured that his converts should really master the most important things. … A man does not need to know much to lay hold of Christ. St Paul began with simplicity and brevity.”
“In so doing he ran grave risks. It is characteristic of St Paul that he had such faith in Christ and in the Holy Spirit indwelling in the Church that he did not shrink from risks.”
“I think that it is quite possible that the shortness of his stay may have conduced in no small measure to St Paul’s success. … By leaving them quickly St Paul gave the local leaders opportunities to take their proper place, and forced the church to realise that it could not depend upon him, but must depend upon its own resources.”
“One other effect of St Paul’s training is very clear. His converts became missionaries. It seems strange to us that there should be no exhortations to missionary zeal in the Epistles of St Paul. … for the Christians the spread of the doctrine of salvation was the highest and most sacred duty.”
The reading of the eighth chapter of Missionary Methods, and the quotes above, in particular, have provoked a number of thoughts.
If we, the church in the West, are going to be used of the Lord to reach our networks, communities, and nation for Christ, we must …
Be about the business of making reproducing disciples of Jesus Christ, not just converts to the faith. Discipling new believers would include mentoring relationships and instruction in doctrine.
Start new, reproducing churches – communities of faith that will reach their networks and penetrate and saturate their communities for Christ – not simply add new believers to existing churches.
Be open to new forms of church – forms that are other than our traditional, Western, land-based, facility-centered, program-based design churches.
Trust that the Lord is working and leading in the hearts and lives of new believers just as He is working and leading in our’s and immediately commission them for ministry.
Take risks for the spread of the Gospel and the glory of God.