Missionary Methods – St. Paul’s or Ours? by Roland Allen

Roland Allen was a Anglican missionary who worked in North China and retired in Africa. The second edition of this book was printed in 1927. His premise is that the then present-day church could overhaul its missionary methods to align with Paul’s from the first century and produce very similar results as that in the first century. He restricts his observations to Paul’s efforts from approx AD 47 to AD 57 when Paul evangelized the four provinces of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia and Asia

Part 1 defuses the arguments that Paul’s success was dependent on

  1. the position or character of the places he evangelized (major cities/villages, trade routes, Roman protection)
  2. the special class of people he encountered (Jews/Greeks, scholars/illiterates, poor/rich)
  3. the moral, social or religious condition of his audiences (primarily Jews acquainted with the law and moral code)

but instead making the case that what we find in the typical mission targets of China, India, and Africa are not so much different as to deny the possibility of similar results as what Paul experienced.

Part 2 deals with objections based on Paul’s miracles, special finances, and his method of preaching. On each objection he argues that we, many centuries later, are not at a great disadvantage.

Part 3 contrasts Paul’s methods of training converts with those of the Anglican church at the beginning of the 20th century. Allen focuses on the teaching provided to converts and to the training of candidates for baptism and ordination. Paul taught at the very beginning that converts cannot trust others to do all their thinking or teaching. “Paul seems to have left his newly –founded churches with a  simple system of Gospel teaching, two sacraments [baptism/Lord’s Supper], a tradition of the main facts of the death and resurrection, and the Old Testament.”

In Part 4, Allen calls out Paul’s distinctive approach to authority, discipline and unity. He suggests that Paul avoided high-handed tactics and tried to lead the new Christians to proper conclusions. Paul also avoided administering discipline, but called on the congregations to decide what action to take and to act on the decision. Finally the challenge of keeping Jews and Greeks united is explored.

Finally, Allen covers conclusions and applications in Part V. He states the obvious, but overlooked fact that the Holy Ghost at work in Paul’s mission efforts is the same Holy Ghost able to work in the mission efforts we are led to undertake today. He deals with many objections and problems to pulling out of our modern methods and replacing them with Paul’s methods.



This book was challenging in that it used some outdated language and it was couched in the strange terms, practices, and organization of the Anglican church. Nonetheless, it made a compelling case for doing our mission work differently. Primary applications:

  1. Don’t use foreign money to enrich the locals, build them building, hospitals, schools
  2. Don’t ship natives off to seminaries or preaching schools “back home”
  3. Don’t spend a long time in any one spot
  4. Keep it simple
  5. Don’t export your own traditions, hang-ups, cultural practices
  6. Don’t pay preachers with foreign funds (if they are paid at all)
  7. Teach principles, not rules
  8. Leave the discipline to the locals.



Favorite/Interesting Passages:

Pg 50 – “When I wrote this book I had not observed that in addressing the Elders of Ephesus St. Paul definitely direct them to follow his example and to support themselves (Acts 20.34, 35). The right to support is always referred to wandering evangelists and prophets, not to settled local clergy (see Matt 10.10; Luke 10.7; 1 Cor 9.1-14) with the doubtful exceptions of Gal 6.6 and 1 Tim 5.18, and even if those passages do refer to money gifts, they certainly do not contemplate fixed salaries which were an abomination in the eyes of the early Christians, Euseb. H.E. v.18,2.”

Pg 52 – “That one church should depend upon another for the supply of its ordinary expenses as a church, or even for a part of them, would have seemed incredible in the Four Provinces.”

Pg 72 – “Faith without baptism and all that baptism involved was consequently no part of St Paul’s teaching.”

Pg 103 – “there is no suggestion that St Paul ever ordained [elders] a second time in any church of his foundation.”

Pg 124 – “Therefore he succeeded through failure where often fail through succeeding. We exercise discipline and leave the church undisciplined. He disciplined the church; we discipline individuals. He left the church, and it stood, tottering on its feet, but still standing; we leave the church without any power of standing at all.”

Pg 133 – “St Paul carried them [decrees of Jerusalem council] as far as Galatia, but he carried them no further.”

Pg 134 – “it was only by his personal intervention [third visit to Jerusalem] that he could hold the churches of Judea and the Four Provinces together and counteract the machinations of the party which would bind upon the Gentiles the burden of the Jewish law, and so either create a schism or destroy his work.”

Pg 146 – “They [new converts] are not so incapable as we suppose.”