Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Resource: Books on Paul the Missionary

I think that sometimes we forget who Paul was. Oh, we always remember certain things about him. For example, he was an apostle - and not just any apostle. He was an apostle of Jesus Christ to the Gentiles, upon whom special revelation was showered, who acted with a special authority. This is the Paul we know. Is that the whole picture though?

Perhaps it would be convenient for us if that was the whole picture. It would allow us to remain satisfied with our faith, our methods, our results. We could continue to justify, "We are not apostles as he was, therefore we cannot expect his results, nor can we bind ourselves to his methods. Rather, we must work to develop our own methods, that will work in our time, in our contexts." However, if Paul is much more than the above, then we have serious grounds for self-examination.

Yes, Paul was more than that. Let's not forget that, though he was an Apostle of Christ, he was also an apostle of a church in Antioch. Always remember that he was Paul the apostle of Christ, but let us also remember that he Paul the missionary. He was fulfilling the same commands that bind us still. Not only that, but the principles that guided his missionary methods should be those that guide ours. I am convinced that, if we follow the same principles, we will use much the same methods, and get in many places much the same results.

That is where these resources come into play. I suppose there have been hundreds, perhaps thousands, of books written about Paul. However, it seems that relatively few have been written about Paul the missionary. I would now like to point to a couple that have been beneficial to my thinking.

Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours? by Roland Allen

This book shook my world when I had to read it for a class (I'm not sure my fellow classmates were nearly as enthralled). So often we hear people claim to use Pauline methods. But Roland Allen dared to suggest that we aren't really Pauline in our approach at all. As a result, we have long since lost hope of Pauline results. Perhaps the aspect of Allen's work that struck me most was the deliberate movement away from dependency upon the missionary toward dependency upon the Holy Ghost in our methods. Also significant was his suggestion that there are very few, if any, conditions present on any mission field today that would rule out doing the work the way Paul did, expecting the results that Paul obtained.

Allen was an Anglican. Therefore, as an Independent Fundamental Baptist, you will have to spit out the bones. In places, he is heavy on the "sacraments," and he would promote an ecclesiology that is foreign to us and Scripture (though he is closer than most other Anglicans). So read discerningly, but in the many places where he is Scriptural, learn and heed.

Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies and Methods by Eckhard Schnabel

Not all of Allen's suggestions are in line with Scripture and history. In many of the places where Allen lacked, Schnabel adequately supplements. Paul the Missionary is a much larger book, but it is well worth the time. His recollection of Paul's work is challenging to us today. You would do well to pick up this book and take the time to read it thoroughly.

I want to include here a few quotes from the Preface and Intro to Missionary Methods. They will give you a taste of what's coming:

"The fact remains that, where St. Paul conspicuously succeeded, we have conspicuously failed. May it not be because we have worked upon widely different principles?" (Henry Whitehead, in the Intro to the 1st ed.)

"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: we cannot trust our converts to Him. But that is one of the most obvious lessons which the study of St Paul's work teaches us."

"Like the rest of the Holy Scriptures it (the record of Paul's church planting ministry) was 'written for our learning'. It was certainly meant to be something more than the romantic history of an exceptional man, doing exceptional things under exceptional circumstances - a story from which ordinary people of a later age can get no more instruction for practical missionary work than they receive from the history of the Cid, or from the exploits of King Arthur."

"Either we must drag down St Paul from his pedestal as the great missionary, or else we must acknowledge that there is in his work that quality of universality."

Are you willing to have your minds and methods challenged by Paul the missionary? Do you want to find the secret of his success as a missionary? Do you want to truly work from the same principles?

These books are a good place to begin that challenge. Read them, and tell me what you think.

1 comment:

Rocky said...

Thank you for the suggested reading and disclaimers. I will look these books up. This blog is really a great resource, thanks.