Paul’s missionary methods, in his time and ours
Edited by Robert L. Plummer and John Mark Terry
IVP, 256 pages, £14.99, ISBN: 978-1-84474-615-6
Star Rating : 4
Every now and then an author produces a ground-breaking work that completely changes everything. In the world of modern missions, Roland Allen produced just such a work in 1912, Missionary methods: Paul’s or ours? As the name of this 2012 volume suggests, Paul’s missionary methods is a centenary celebration of Roland Allen’s original book and a tribute to the man.
A hundred years ago, with Christian optimism for a speedy conclusion to the world evangelisation process running high, Allen told the mission world that they had been getting it wrong for generations: mission stations way past their sell-by dates; cumbersome institutions hung round the necks of national believers; outside money propping up and distorting; western reluctance to allow indigenous expression and the whole show firmly under the control of the western missionaries. How had we got it so wrong?
Allen urged his readers to get back to basics. To do that meant to look no further than the pages of the New Testament. Paul was the consummate missionary; the book of Acts and his epistles tell us exactly how he did things.
We modern missionaries need to do missions as the apostle did missions: move around; preach contextually; gather new believers into churches; teach them the basics; appoint local leaders; move on and stay in touch by letter and occasional visit, trusting the Holy Spirit to do the rest.
Allen predicted that his message wouldn’t be popular and that no one would pay much attention until a decade after his death. He was more or less right on those two counts, but the extent to which his views would influence missions in the latter part of the 20th century would have surprised even him. This tribute volume is testimony to that.
Plummer and Terry have gathered together a series of 14 essays that reconsider Allen’s questions afresh at the beginning of the 21st century.
Part one is a detailed analysis of Paul and his operation in the New Testament world. There are particularly helpful essays on Pauls’ theology of suffering and his attitude towards spiritual warfare. Part two moves on to consider Paul’s influence on missions, with excellent essays on his strategy and leadership development. The finale is a concluding reflection on Roland Allen himself, 100 years on.
I found this book to be gratifying and stimulating on many levels. There is a thorough analysis of Paul’s missions, which provides a strong foundation for going on to consider our contemporary missionary methods. The style is scholarly, yet accessible, and has immediate application to much of our mission today; both home and abroad.
On the down side, not all the essays were of the same quality, of course, so there were a couple of unimaginative offerings to wade through. Also, considering Roland Allen’s provenance, it’s a pity that no British contributors were included, which gave the volume the unnecessary impression that Roland Allen had been theologically kidnapped and dragged across the Atlantic.
That said, I would thoroughly recommend this excellent book and encourage all believers to wrestle with its contents and apply it to their lives.