Before discussing Paul’s missionary methods, one would benefit from a glimpse of his personality first. According to Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, Paul had “unusual stamina,” both physical and emotional; “in matters of doctrinal importance, he could be as unbending as hardened steel; in debatable issues he was as pliable as rubber.” All of these personality traits played some role in driving his various missionary methods, and five of these methods are discussed below.
First, in his initial missionary efforts, “Paul turns to the Gentiles and meets them where they are.” Instead of using the same stale method previously used for fellow Jews, Paul adapted to the needs and customs of the Gentiles by going to them. Second, Paul “demonstrates his courage and stick-to-itiveness in revisiting the very cities from which he so recently escaped.” God used his courage and stubbornness to mentor and guide these new churches into maturity despite hardships.
Third, Paul “[avoided] placing unnecessary communication barriers that could prevent people from giving the gospel a fair hearing.” He saw the great benefit of
maintaining open lines of communication with unbelievers. Fourth, “Paul was willing to experiment with new methods and possibly cast them aside when they did not produce fruit to his satisfaction.” As discussed above, Paul could be both hard steel and pliable rubber depending on the circumstances, which were both successful and unsuccessful at times to effectively communicate the Gospel.
The fifth and final characteristic of Paul’s missionary methods is the most important one by far. As Moreau et al states, “God performs extraordinary miracles through [Paul], possibly because of the pervasiveness of magical practices and beliefs found at Ephesus.” As Paul encounters a strong spiritual opposing force in Ephesus, the Holy Spirit enables him to counterattack with powerful countermeasures. This, as well as many other divine interventions in Paul’s missionary methods, is best explained by the following statement by Lea and Black: “the Christ-like character that graced [Paul’s] life was not merely the product of steadfast willpower; it sprang from the work of the Holy Spirit within him” in accordance with 1 Corinthians 15:10 and Galatians 5:22-24.
1. Thomas D. Lea and David Alan Black, The New Testament: Its Background and Message (Nashville: B&H Publishing Group, 2003), 345.
2. A. Scott Moreau et al., Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Grand Rapids: Baker Publishing Group, 2004), 55.
3. Ibid., 56.
4. Ibid., 58.
5. Ibid., 59.
6. Ibid., 60.
7. Lea and Black, 345.