Confidence In The Spirit As The Governing Ethos Of The Pauline Mission -- By: Don N. Howell, Jr.

Journal: Trinity Journal
Volume: TRINJ 17:2 (Fall 1996)
Article: Confidence In The Spirit As The Governing Ethos Of The Pauline Mission
Author: Don N. Howell, Jr.

Confidence In The Spirit As The Governing
Ethos Of The Pauline Mission

Don N. Howell, Jr. *

I. Introduction: Roland Allen Still Speaks

More than eighty years have passed since the Anglican missionary-statesman Roland Allen wrote his classic work contrasting the mission methodology of his day with that of the apostle Paul.1 In Part I of that book Allen establishes the permanent relevance of Paul’s model of church planting by refuting contentions that the apostle faced a unique set of moral and social conditions that no longer apply in the complex modern world. In Part II Allen identifies the principles of finance that Paul employed to promote and preserve the integrity of his evangelistic work, and the contextualized, decision-oriented manner in which he proclaimed the gospel. It is in Parts III and IV that Allen tackles the thorny issues surrounding the training of converts (III) and the gathering of converts into organized churches (IV). It is here that he makes his most distinctive contribution.

Though many of his illustrations, drawn mainly from Anglican work in China in the early years of this century, are dated, his criticism of paternalistic missionary approaches to the training of believers and the development of churches remains all too painfully true as we approach the twenty-first century. Running as a subtheme throughout Allen’s work is the centrality of the Holy Spirit in any effective missionary endeavor. Allen believed that the missionaries of his day lacked confidence in the Holy Spirit to build the church through Word and sacrament. This was in marked contrast with the apostle Paul, who demonstrated a deep-seated confidence in the Holy Spirit to guide, preserve, and pastor the church during his sustained absence. Several of Allen’s most insightful observations follow:

(1) Paul was not afraid to call out and endorse (though with qualification, cf. 1 Corinthians 14) the prophetic and didactic capacities of local believers even though risks were involved in

* Don N. Howell, Jr., is Assistant Dean at Columbia Biblical Seminary and Graduate School of Missions in Columbia, South Carolina.

“unstable” churches such as the one at Corinth. The simplicity and brevity with which he taught his converts the foundational elements of the faith stimulated the believers to dependence on the Spirit in living out their faith and applying biblical principles to their local contexts.2

(2) Paul’s practice was to administer baptism immediately upon genuine repentance, faith, and confession of Jesus as Lord (

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