Pauline Principles For Church Planting: Proven And Re-Emerging

I have posted a number of articles on Roland Allen’s Missionary Methods: St Paul’s Or Ours? over the course of the past several Missionary Methods weeks. Missionary Methods, written  in 1912, is considered by many missiologists to be a classic on the subjects of missions,  indigenous missions, and church planting.

Though Missionary Methods is one-hundred years old and was written during the time of dominating foreign missions agencies, a spirit of paternalism, and missions stations, the missiological insights and principles contained in it are as relevant and pertinent to today’s missions as when it was first written and published.


Regarding the ministry of St. Paul …

” … we must allow to his methods a certain character of universality, and now I venture to urge that, since the Apostle, no other has discovered or practiced methods for the propagation of the Gospel better than his or more suitable to the circumstances of our day. It would be difficult to find any better model than the Apostle in the work of establishing new churches. At any rate this much is certain, that the Apostle’s methods succeeded exactly where ours have failed.”

” … we should endeavour to appreciate the principles in which the Apostle’s practice was rooted, and to learn the spirit which made their application both possible and fruitful. Those principles are assuredly applicable to every stage of the Church’s growth and that spirit  is the Divine spark which should inspire every form of method in order to make it a manner of grace…. The principles which seem to underlie all the Apostle’s practice were two: (1) that he was a preacher of the Gospel, not law, and (2) that he must retire from his converts to give place for Christ.”

In “Application”, the next to last chapter of Missionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours?,  Allen writes that

” … the secret of the Apostle’s success in founding churches lay in the observance of principles which we can reduce to rules of practice in some such practice as this.”

When we read his list of principles, too long to reproduce in their entirety here, we find that they are strikingly similar to the indigenous church planting principles that have been “discovered” through observation and research and are being written about by contemporary missiologists and practitioners such as David Garrison, in Church Planting Movements – How God Is Redeeming Lost World, and Steve Smith and Ying Kai in T4T – A Discipleship Re-Revolution.

The principles for successful church planting and the facilitation of a church planting movement that Roland Allen lists are:

  1. The churches must be obedience-based and reproducible. With respect to teaching, it must received … retained … used …  handed on. “The test of all teaching is practice. Nothing should be taught which cannot be so grasped and used.”
  2. The churches must be indigenous and culturally relevant. “Nothing should be established as part of the ordinary church life of the people which they cannot understand and carry on.”
  3. The churches must be self-financing and self-governing. “All financial arrangements made for the ordinary life and existence of the church should be such that the people themselves can and will control and manage their own business independently of any foreign subsidies.”
  4. The churches must live in community, it must experience body-life. “A sense of mutual responsibility of all the Christians one for another should be carefully inculcated and practiced.”
  5. The churches must also allow the exercise of every members’ spiritual gifts. “Authority to exercise spiritual gifts should be given freely and at once. Nothing should be withheld which may strengthen the life of the church, still less should anything be withheld which is necessary for its spiritual maintenance.”

” … the power in which St Paul was able to act with such boldness was the spirit of faith. Faith, not in the natural capacities of his converts, but in the power of the Holy Ghost in them.”


Roland Allen opened Missionary Methods: St Paul’s Or Ours? with this statement:

“In little more than ten years St Paul established the Church in four provinces of the Empire – Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia. Before AD47 there were no churches in these provinces; in AD57 St Paul could speak as if his work there was done, and could plan extensive tours into the far west without anxiety lest the churches which he had founded might perish in his absence for want of his guidance and support.”

Missionary Methods is Allen’s classic treatise on the missiological principles of St.Paul that helps us understand how such a missionary feat could happen. Understanding that such a movement can only result from the work of the Holy Spirit in and through the lives of men and circumstances, Allen points out principles  that were used of the LORD to facilitate the spread of the Gospel throughout the Mediterranean world in the First Century. That spread of the Gospel resulted in the start and multiplication of churches which in turn, resulted in the further spread of the Gospel.

If the 21st Century church is going to be faithful to the Great Commission of the Lord Jesus Christ and the reaching of our neighborhoods and the “nations” for His glory, we must be about the making of reproducing disciples of Christ and the starting and multiplication of reproducing New Testament churches. That work can be enhanced and facilitated by the implementation of the missionary principles of St. Paul that we find in Roland Allen’s Missionary Methods: St Paul’s Or Ours?


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