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Book Review of Missionary Methods
Allen, Roland. Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1962. 179 pp. Introduction to the Book The book being discussed is Roland Allen’s Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Allen was an Anglican minister who worked as a missionary in China between the years of 1895 and 1903 and eventually moved his work to Easy Africa. His experience on the foreign mission field developed a keen sense of the Holy Spirit’s place in the ministry of the missionary and his book reflects a desire to awaken others to the same understanding of the Spirit.
Summary of the Book The overall purpose of the Roland Allen’s book is to convey the dramatic differences between the methods of modern day missionary organizations and those of the Apostle Paul. Through deep personal study of the various teachings, practices, and strategies of Paul, Allen gained an understanding of what made the ministry of the Apostle so successful. Allen spent thirteen chapters discussing the most prominent foundations of Paul’s ministry with the intention of bringing the modern missionary back to the simplistic nature of foreign evangelism.
The topics of discussion covered by Allen are as follows: strategic localization of churches, the role of social class, the moral and social condition of Paul’s audience, Paul’s use of miracles, the role of finance, the substance of Paul’s message essay writer service, his method of training his converts, the importance of baptism and ordination, Paul’s authority and disciplinary methods, the importance of unity, and the necessity of dependence upon the Holy Spirit. All of these topics were passionately practiced in the missional ministry of the Apostle Paul and can be studied and applied by today’s foreign minister.
Throughout the book, Allen addressed the objections toward Paul’s methods of various theologians and clergymen and showed that the ministry of the Apostle could in no way be undermined, nor cast aside as impractical. He very specifically detailed the cultural setting surrounding Paul’s ministry and compared it to modern day cultures that have, or once had, missionary presences in them. By setting up these comparisons, he firmly establishes his argument and plainly shows the relevance of Paul’s methods for ministers in today’s world of foreign missions.
Critical Evaluation of the Book If an author has ever presented a near-perfect argument within the confines of a single book, one could argue that Roland Allen is that author. In Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? , Allen set out to prove that the widespread missionary methods of the modern church have sorely missed the mark in ministering effectively to the lost world. He proved this reality by pointing to Saint Paul’s past methods and helping the reader see that such methods are still valid and still effective.
Allen presented the common objections that arose against his argument—such as the inability to perform the miracles Paul did, or the differences between the more “savage” cultures of Allen’s day and the supposedly refined civilizations of Paul’s time—and refuted those claims, showing they hold no true weight. Thus, Allen provided the reader with a thorough argument of his point with little room to question the validity of such an argument. The only true objections that can be made against Allen appeal to the Anglican denominational belief system that he often mentioned throughout the book.
His holding to this sect of Christianity did not influence the overall argument that he presented necessarily; it simply injected an addressing of specific problems that Anglican believers have with Paul’s methods. Some examples of these biases can be seen in his mentioning of the necessity for modern Anglican missionaries to act only with the consent of the local Bishop over him or her. Christians of a denomination separate from such formalities need to provide no answer of such realities in their foreign ministry.
Another example of Allen’s Anglican bias can be recognized in his emphasis on the importance of regular practicing of the sacraments of the Anglican Church. He noted that one of the possible problems with practicing a ministry marked by resignation was that “the Christians would be deprived of the sacraments. ” To any believer outside the Church of England, such sacramental deprivation would not be an issue. Other than these two insignificant examples, however, the overall relevancy of Allen’s message remains unaffected and is still worth studying.
When considering the strengths and weaknesses of the book, the strengths dramatically outweigh the shortcomings. Allen succeeded in showing the reader that there is no excuse to discount the ministry of Paul as irrelevant in today’s missionary setting. He powerfully implemented scripture throughout the book with precision. Every verse, story, and biblical example of Paul’s practices and teachings that Allen used were necessary and served to back up his claims with ultimate truth.
Also, the open addressing of his opponent’s arguments served to strengthen Allen’s thesis in a way that a simple stating of facts would be incapable of accomplishing. When it comes to Allen’s weaknesses, the only real problem occurred in the way he organized the information within the individual chapters. He used somewhat of an outline structure marked by numbers and Roman numerals, but even with these demarcations the flow of thought was sometimes difficult to follow. The applications for this book in the life of today’s Christian missionary are extremely practical.
I know that by following the lessons detailed in the book I could draw up a sound journey plan. Also, the chapters that describe the specific theologies that Paul taught to his churches and the “heathens” can, and should, be directly applied in my personal preaching of the gospel and edification of the converts that come about because of the work being done. Most importantly, however, would be the decision to rely upon the Holy Spirit for the completion and fruition of the seeds that are planted among the people to whom I minister.
There is no greater expression of faith than to step back and let the indigenous believers take up the reigns of the mission themselves. Conclusion of the Book Review In conclusion, the book, in my opinion, would be a tremendous help to any minister, student, or layperson with a desire to take the gospel cross-culturally. By practicing the teachings included in the book, missions can begin to find tremendous growth that has otherwise not been realized.