One hundred years after Roland Allen’s immensely popular book Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? was published, Robert Plummer and John Mark Terry revisit the insights of Allen from a modern perspective in their Paul’s Missionary Methods: In His Time and Ours. The book has chapters from several contributors and the editors divide the material into two sections: Paul in the New Testament and Paul’s Influence on Missions.
Paul in the New Testament: this section focused on Paul’s message in the first century context.
Paul’s missionary work focused on regions with certain similarities: “provinces that contained a Roman administration, Greek culture, and Jewish influence and that bustled with commercial activity.” Allen speculated that “these centers were the more conducive to promoting the gospel in its wide environs.” Though Paul went to Gentile regions and communicated in ways that were understandable to Gentiles, he identified himself as Jewish teacher and often began his work in an area at the synagogue, spoke in the international language of Greek, and seemed to engage anyone who would listen, “men and women, rich and poor, Jews and Gentiles, in the synagogue and in the marketplaces and in homes.”
Paul sees missionary work as “laying the foundation” through proclamation, but reminds readers that God causes the growth. His goal is boldness and faithfulness to the message to win as many people as possible, not pragmatic effectiveness.
Benjamin L. Merkle’s chapter on ecclesiology is especially helpful for cross-cultural ministers. For some reason the disorientation that comes from living cross-culturally causes workers to either assume that their home church structure should be wholly adopted into the new culture or wholly ignored as irrelevant to the new culture. Merkle offers clear New Testament handles that are especially useful for cross-cultural ministers as they give instruction in a context where the gospel has not been established.
Christoph W. Stenschke’s chapter on the mission of the church gives practical instruction for churches in being involved in mission. His insights on a church’s mission commitment, financial maintenance of missionaries, supplying co-workers, prayer for unbelievers, and prayer and encouragement of missionaries are useful for any church.
Paul’s influence on Missions: this section focused on Paul’s strategy in missions. Did he really have one and does it apply today?
David Hesselgrave’s chapter focused more on continuing Allen’s principle of “Generational Resubmission” (a re-examining of ministry principles in the context of a new generation) that were relevant to Allen’s work in 1912, but even more in around 1960 when his book become much more popular. For today Hesselgrave recommends resubmission for examination such current issues as: Evangelicals and Catholics Together, New Perspectives on Paul, The Emerging Church, Supersessionism and “Replacement Theology”, and Revisionist Holism.
The authors draw principles of missionary strategy from Paul’s teaching and example. He saw his role as an itinerant church planter that worked on a team, went to more responsive people within hub cities in concentrated area, appointed and developed local indigenous elders to lead churches that are properly contextualized to their culture according to God’s Word, and financed with local (and not dependent upon outside) resources.
The only beef I have with the book is that it tries too hard to both be the new “Missionary Methods” for today and at the same time honor Roland Allen. At times when reviewing a missions principle, the authors seemed just as concerned to confirm that Roland Allen would have agreed as the New Testament.
I recommend this book to those who have enjoyed Roland Allan’s Missionary Methods and those who want to get a handle on New Testament principles in cross-cultural ministry.