Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours?

In little more than ten years St. Paul established the church in four provinces of the Empire: Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia. Before a.d. 47 there were no churches in these provinces; in a.d. 57 St. Paul could speak as if his work there was done, and could plan extensive tours into the far west without anxiety lest the churches which he had founded might perish in his absence for want of his guidance and support. —Roland Allen

Neil Cole credits Roland Allen with great insight: During the summer months of 1994, I read two incredible books. And while I was reading them, I was also reading the book of Acts in its entirety. The first of those two books was Missionary Methods: Saint Paul’s or Ours, first published in 1912 and written by the late Anglican missionary Roland Allen.1 I am in his debt, and I tread with much humility and caution as I set out to add anything to a subject so well treated by a scholar of his caliber. His work is profound. I want to say that his book was ahead of its time, but its wisdom is timeless, and its application is universal. If missional work is in your heart, read Roland Allen’s books; you will not be disappointed.

Wikipedia shares the following on the life of Roland Allen: Allen was ordained a deacon in 1892 and priest the following year. Allen spent two periods in Northern China working for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The first from 1895 to 1900 ended due to the Boxer Rebellion, during which Allen was forced to flee to the British Legation in Beijing. He was chaplain to community throughout much of the siege. After a period back in England, he returned to North China in 1902, but was forced home due to illness. These ‘early experiences led him to a radical reassessment of his own vocation and the theology and missionary methods of the Western churches’.

Allen became an early advocate of establishing Churches which from the beginning would be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing, adapted to local conditions and not merely imitations of Western Christianity. These views were confirmed by a trip to India in 1910 and by later research in Canada and East Africa. It is with this background that Allen wrote his book Missionary Methods which was first published in 1912. It has been suggested that his thought was influenced in part by the earlier primitivist writings of Anthony Norris Groves and by the Brethren movement.[3]

Allen’s approach to Mission strategy for indigenous Churches is based on the study of Saint Paul’s missionary methods as he is convinced that in them can be found the solution to most of the difficulties of the day. He believed it was the recognition of the church as a local entity and trust in the Holy Spirit’s indwelling within the converts and churches which was the mark of Paul’s success. In contrast was Allen’s belief that the people of his day were unable to entrust their converts to the Holy Spirit and instead relied in His work through them.


Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours (London: World Dominion Press, 1953).

Quoted from Neil Cole, Journeys to Significance: Charting a Leadership Course from the Life of Paul (Jossey-Bass Leadership Network Series)

Wikipedia: Roland Allen.

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