Book Review: Missionary Methods by Roland Allen


I just finished reading Missionary Methods by Roland Allen.  This was a book that my pastor recommended to me a long time ago, but I just finished it.  I really enjoyed the book, especially because there are many helpful insights into how Paul was able to establish indigenous churches in such a short amount of time.

Most of the book focuses on developing the idea that what Paul did is possible for us to do.  There were definitely differences in some of the things that Paul faced, but we cannot explain away everything that he did and say that it is not applicable to us.  The author looks at the following issues in Paul’s methods: strategic points, class, moral and social condition, miracles, finance, substance of Paul’s preaching, teaching converts, training candidates for baptism and ordination, authority and discipline of organized churches, and unity among the churches.  The final chapters are worth their weight in gold for the missionary as they develop how to apply Paul’s methods to today.

Here are few quotes that I thought were good from the book:

  • “We can more easily believe in His work in us and through us, than we can believe in His work in and through our converts.”
  • “St. Paul’s theory of evangelizing a province was not to preach in every place in it hi
    mself, but to establish centres of Christian life in two or three important places from which the knowledge might spread into the country round. This is important, not as showing that he preferred to preach in a capital rather than in a provincial town or in a village, but because he intended his congregation to become at once a centre of light. Important cities may be made the graves of a mission as easily as villages. There is no particular virtue in attacking a centre or establishing a church in an important place unless the church established in the important place is a church possessed of sufficient life to be a source of light to the whole country round.”
  • “To seize a strategic centre we need not only a man capable of recognizing it, but a man capable of seizing it.”
  • “Concentrated missions at strategic centres, if they are to win the province, must be centres of evangelistic life. In great cities are great prisons as well as great railway stations.”
  • “Whatever advantages of education, civilization, philosophy, religion, the Empire possessed, so long as it was defiled by slavery, the games, the temples and the magicians, it is, I think, impossible to argue that St. Paul’s converts had any exceptional advantages, in the moral character of the society in which they were brought up, which are not given to our converts today.”
  • “It seems as if St. Luke was careful to avoid producing the impression that miraculous powers might be used to attract people to accept Christianity because of the benefits which they might receive from it.”
  • “We load our missionaries with secular business, negotiations with contractors, the superintendence of works, the management of a considerable establishment, to which is often added anxiety about the supply of funds for providing and maintaining the establishment. In this way their attention is distracted from their proper spiritual work, their energy and power is dissipated, and their first contact with the people whom they desire to evangelize is connected with contracts and other purely secular concerns. It is sad to think what a large proportion of the time of many of our missionaries is spent over accounts. It is sad to sit and watch a stream of Christian visitors calling upon a missionary, and to observe that in nearly every case the cause which brings them is money. They are the financial agents of the mission.”
  • “Of all sources of strife, material possessions are the most prolific.”
  • “St. Paul expected his hearers to be moved. He so believed in his preaching that he knew that it was ‘the power of God unto salvation’. This expectation is a very real part of the presentation of the Gospel. It is a form of faith. A mere preaching which is not accompanied by the expectation of faith, is not a true preaching of the Gospel, because faith is a part of the Gospel.”
  • “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. There is one sentence of approval, ‘From you sounded out the word of the Lord’, but there is no insistence upon the command of Christ to preach the Gospel. Yet Dr. Friedlander is certainly right when he says, ‘While the Jews regarded the conversion of unbelievers as, at the most, a meritorious work, for the Christians the spread of the doctrine of salvation was the highest and most sacred duty’. The Christians of the Four Provinces were certainly zealous in propagating the faith, and apparently needed no exhortation on the subject. This surprises us: we are not always accustomed to find our converts so zealous. Yet it is not really surprising.”
  • “The qualifications of elder were primarily moral. If they added to moral qualifications intellectual qualifications so much the better, but high intellectual qualifications were not deemed necessary.”

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