Missionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours?
A Review, By Jesse Brown
Roland Allen was born in Bristol, England and lived from 1868-1947. He graduated from Leeds Clergy Training School and ordained a deacon and priest of the Church of England. Roland took multiple missionary journeys to China. During these trips Roland became a critic of the church revealing the negative impact paternalistic practices in mission were having on native churches. Roland Allen authored many articles and books advocating that churches be self-supporting, self-propagated and self-governing. After much friction between Roland and the Church of England, he became a voluntary priest, continuing missionary journey’s visiting India, Canada, East Africa and Kenya.
Missions should focus on a simple strategy of communicating the Gospel to new communities of converts with an elemental creed, the Bible, sacraments and basic principles of ministry.
Paul began his journeys focusing on strategic points in provinces, establishing Christian ways of life within communities that were a light to surrounding areas.1 Paul did not focus on a specific class of people, but he did take his messages to places where education and works were both highly regarded.2 The cultures he preached were no easier to reach than environments we mission today.3 The substance of Paul’s preaching was elemental, focused on the Gospels roots in Jewish teachings, and the fulfillment of them through Christ.4 His teachings displayed the proof of the resurrection and eternal life through acceptance of Christ as savior, but also the consequences of denial. His four necessities for churches were to establish an elementary creed, sacraments of baptism, communion and general knowledge of the Holy Scriptures.5 This was a structure built upon faith and trust in the Holy Spirit. Each provincial unit was in constant communication, maintaining mutual acts of charity. Their laws and customs were different, but held in unity through brotherhood and the Holy Spirit.6 Missionaries should practice retirement by transferring their converts over to the Holy Spirit, so converts can develop their own faith and discover their own abilities through Christ.7
Roland Allen’s work focusing on the structure and strategies of Paul and how applying those methods to current forms of mission would expand the church and is greatly beneficial as a guide for working in mission. These methods are extremely helpful in identifying common errors in current mission theology and should change the way we participate mission, enabling converts to be led by the Holy Spirit. Many churches are dependent upon foreign practices and finances creating dependency. These dependencies create a lack of faith in the Holy Spirit and our brothers/sisters in Christ.
I would recommend this book to anyone participating in missions, especially to organizations and those sent by a foreign church or culture. This would break many misconceptions of evangelizing for long convert exploratory periods and establishing elaborate ceremonial customs, both of which Paul greatly distrusted. Missions commonly stand in the way of native churches through paternalism. Leadership and eldership should be local following Paul’s example of guiding converts into the faith and that such faith builds self-reliance and growth.
If Roland Allen were alive today, I would love to ask him further what he thought of international churches? And if there were any current day models he envisioned as acceptable? However, I am aware of his writings and references contrasting their styles with the benefits of local churches. Specific to church planting, I would like to know how he would communicate to church planting missionaries from a wealthy western culture, like that of the United States, how it is acceptable to leave a group of converts to elder a church with much less funding or personnel support than the planters have experienced themselves.
1Allen. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Page 14)
2Allen. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Page 23)
3Allen. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Page 38)
4Allen. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Page 53)
5Allen. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Page 86)
6Allen. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Page 100)
7Allen. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? (Page 121)
Allen, Roland. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Grand Rapids, Mich: Wm B. Eerdmans Pub. 1962.
“Roland Allen (1868-1947).” Missionary Biography. Accessed April 8, 2016. http://www.bu.edu/missiology/missionary-biography/a-c/allen-roland-1868-1947/.