Next year marks the one hundredth anniversary of Roland Allen's small book Missionary Methods: St. Paul's or Ours? In that landmark text in mission studies, Allen argued that Western missionary methods had little in common with Paul's missionary practices in the New Testament. The apostle and his partners did not establish large, permanent institutions, nor did they stay in one place for a decade or a career.
Allen wrote during the height of Western optimism, paternalism, and colonialism, and it took time for his ideas to gain traction. Yet the book eventually grew in influence and helped spur the shift toward contextualization and indigenization in world mission.
David Fitch wants to do something similar for North American missions and church planting. Fitch is Lindner Professor of Evangelical Theology at Northern Seminary and the author of several books, most recently The End of Evangelicalism (not the first doom-casting attempt in recent years).
In a recent blog post that is attracting attention around the web, Fitch encourages church expansion via a missionary team model, rather relying on professional entrepreneurial pastors to plant churches. The latter model has become common in recent decades (Rick Warren is a leading example). Fitch proposes that churches, denominations, and missions organizations send out teams consisting of three or four leaders or "lead couples" who could operate as a team in under-churched contexts.
Rather than emphasizing biblical practice as Allen did, Fitch argues pragmatically and fiscally. (His approach echoes that of Allen's predecessor, Henry Venn, General Secretary of the Church Missionary Society; Venn proposed indigenization in the 19thcentury in response ...