I have recently completed the reading of Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s Or Ours?, a classic on missions, by Roland Allen. The book was written in 1912.
Allen was an Anglican minister who served in China from 1895 – 1903. After retiring from foreign service for health reasons, he served an English parish for several years and then moved to Kenya, Africa where he lived and wrote about missionary principles until his death in 1947.
You can read more about Allen in the article, “The Legacy of Roland Allen” by J. D. Payne. In this article, Payne states that because of Allen’s insight into the expansion of the Church and his insistence that the “missionary methods of the Apostle were not antiquated but rather to be applied to missionary endeavors in any day and time,” he was often thought of as being a prophet. He was also considered “a revolutionary, a radical, or a troublemaker.”
In the text, Allen writes about the historical-socio-political times and conditions in which the Apostle ministered, the financing of ministry, the content of what Paul preached, the training of converts, Paul’s exercise of authority and discipline, and unity within the Church Universal as well as the local church.
It is important to remember when reading Missionary Methods and the quotes below that Allen wrote his books in a missionary era that was dominated by foreign mission organizations, mission stations, and a sense of missionary paternalism. That is why his thoughts, perspectives, and writings were so radical. And so intriguing, exciting, and relevant for today’s missions ministries.
As I read Missionary Methods I was struck by how much of what Roland Allen wrote about and said one-hundred years ago is being proven to be the case and validated today by missiologists. The same missiological issues that Allen addressed in his book are being addressed by contemporary authors such as Steve Addison, David Garrison, Ying Kai, and Steve Smith and he is being given due credit and respect for his influence on current missiological thought and practice. It is interesting to note that Allen once told his son that his writings and perspectives would not be taken seriously until the year 1960.
I would like to share, in this post and several to follow, a number of quotes taken from Missionary Methods that I highlighted as I read the book. The quotes either gave me pause to ponder or reasons to shout “Amen!”
From the Introduction:
“Today if a man ventures to suggest that there may be something in the methods by which St Paul attained such wonderful results worthy of our careful attention, and perhaps of our imitation, he is in danger of being accused of revolutionary tendencies.”
” … St Paul did not gather congregations, he planted churches ….”
“We cannot imagine any Christianity worthy of the name existing without the elaborate machinery which we have invented.”
“In face of the vast proportions of the work to be done … the example of the Apostle of the Gentiles must be of first importance.”
In the first chapter of Missionary Methods, “Strategic Points,” Allen writes that although Paul “did not deliberately plan his missionary tours … All the cities, or towns, in which he planted churches were centres of Roman administration, of Greek civilization, of Jewish influence, or of some commercial importance.”
“It is not enough for the church to be established in a place where many are coming and going unless the people who come and go not only learn the Gospel, but leave it in such a way that they can propagate it.”
“St Paul plainly did not select where he would preach simply on grounds like these; he was led of the Spirit, and when we speak of his strategic centres, we must recognize that they were natural centres; but we must also recognize that for missionary work they were strategic centres because he made them such. They were not centres as which he must stop, but centres from which he might begin; not centres into which life drained but centres from which it spread abroad.”
“He was led as God opened the door; but wherever he was led he always found a centre, and seizing upon that centre he made it a centre of Christian life.”
In a day when so much of the world is in need of hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ and knowing Him personally as Savior, it behooves us to listen to the visionary missionary voice of Roland Allen. Though his book is one-hundred years old, I believe the Holy Spirit can use its insights into the missionary principles and practice of the Apostle Paul to greatly impact our missions ministries for the glory of God and the planting of indigenous churches around the world and the reaching of many for Christ.
I will post additional quotes from Missionary Methods over the next week or two.