Paul’s Missionary Methods



To fulfill the Great Commission[1] meant the gospel had to be spread to the four corners of the earth and the apostle Paul played a huge role in accomplishing this initiative. Robin Daniel best illustrates the five basic truths of Paul’s teaching as being: “the urgent need for rescue, the atoning death of Christ, the resurrection of Christ, the return of Christ to raise the dead, and His coming kingdom for all who will put their trust in Him.”[2] It would be from the foundation of these basic truths that Paul’s methods, lessons, and principles would be cultivated from. It would also stem from his personal conversion experience and persecution that would inspire his mission to preach the gospel and to make disciples.

For Paul to be effective in his evangelistic efforts, Arthur F. Glasser believes the first step began with making the people conscious of their personal needs, which would illuminate the Lord was willing and sufficient to meet every need.[3] Paul’s experience on the road to Damascus would be an unforgettable lesson in how he was to spread the gospel to a nation blinded by his or her own sin. Acts 26:18 is a beautiful representation of Paul’s mission, “I send you to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.”[4]

Paul’s Missionary Methods

Glasser shows, “Paul gladly embraced the evangelistic method that Jesus had followed in His own earthly ministry. Where previously he had sought to destroy the followers of Jesus, he now sought to proclaim that Jesus was the Messiah of the Jewish people and the Savior of the world.”[5] Glasser goes on to show Paul’s methods had two objectives: first, Paul wanted to visit all Jewish synagogues scattered throughout the Roman Empire as a result of the Diaspora and secondly, “Paul wanted to plant Messianic synagogues wherever he found Jewish people responsive to the gospel and Gentile congregations wherever the majority of believers were Gentiles.”[6] In Paul the Missionary, Eckhard Schnabel illustrates Paul’s primary missionary methods were also based upon:

First, people needed to hear the message of Jesus Christ. [This meant Jews and pagans.]

Second, Paul, [in order to reach the people,] had to travel to cities, towns and villages where the people lived.

Third, Paul realized he would have to travel through the Roman Empire [because the cities and towns of the Mediterranean landscape] were part of the political structure of the Roman Empire.

Fourth, Paul realized he would have to seek out people willing to hear discourses and were willing to engage in conversations. For Jews this would take place in the synagogue and for pagans, the central square would be ideal. In Roman cities, the forum would have been where people were accustomed to hearing speeches. Paul would also capitalize on opportunities to speak in workshops or private homes.

Fifth, Paul was very intentional in his efforts to reach everyone regardless of their class, culture, education, or gender.

Sixth, Paul was keenly aware of the negative and positive expectations that were held towards traveling orators, making him one of the best apologists.

Lastly, as the communities of faith were established, Paul encouraged them to discover what worked and did not, so there ministry efforts would become more effective.[7]

Paul’s Missionary Lessons

From these methods, several lessons Paul learned along the way can also be observed as A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee demonstrate:

First, the maximum duration Paul remained at a single location was less than three years [making him an] itinerant missionary rather than a residential one.

Second, Paul’s strategy was far more focused on a willingness to obey the Holy Spirit than on the detailed strategic planning.

Third, Paul’s primary concern went beyond winning people to Christ; his ministry was focused on forming communities of Christians throughout the regions he traveled.

Fourth, Paul was willing to contextualize the gospel message based on his audience… demonstrating his willingness to meet people where they were, as a starting point to bridge the gospel.

Fifth, Paul focused his attention on planting churches and then moving to new areas. [In doing so,] he avoided developing a dependence relationship with the churches he planted, instead giving them just enough support to allow them to stand on their own feet with Christ’s power.

Sixth, Paul’s teaching always went back to preaching the story of Jesus and he preferred to be the leader of a team rather than trying to do things on his own.

Seventh, Paul understood persecution was a crucial part of his mission and instead of letting his circumstances hinder him, he used even his imprisonment to proclaim the gospel in regions he had not yet been able to travel to.

Lastly, Paul was a self-reliant man when it came to finances. While on occasions he depended on the hospitality of God’s saints; typically he generated his own income by making tents.[8]


Paul was a man of immense conviction and as Moreau et al. illustrate, as Paul was taken off to Rome in chains, “The physical chains [were] no impediment to Paul’s spiritual vitality and ability to communicate Christ. In fact, they [enabled] him to travel even farther than on his [previous] missionary journeys.”[9] John Butler also reminds the reader, “When it was time, in the gracious plan of God, to proclaim the Gospel throughout the world, Paul was the special instrument chosen by God to lead the way in world missions. Though to man’s way of thinking, Paul was a most unlikely choice because of his great persecution of the church; yet he proved to be the right choice, as do all of God’s choices.”[10] Paul, in his letter to the Corinthians said it best, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ.”[11] He did not expect anyone to do anything he himself was not willing to do. Because of this and his openness to allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through him, God used Paul in a mighty way to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ.


Butler, John G. Bible Biography Series – Paul, the Missionary Disciple, Volume 11. Clinton, IA: LBC Publications, 1995.

Daniel, Robin. Mission Strategies: Then and Now. Chester, England: Tamarisk, 2012.

Glasser, Arthur. Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: The Apostle Paul and the Missionary Task, 4th Edition. Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne. Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009.

Moreau, A. Scott, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee. Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey, 2nd Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2015.

Schnabel, Eckhard. Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies, and Methods. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Publishing, 2008.

[1] Matthew 28:16
[2] Robin Daniel, Mission Strategies: Then and Now, (Chester, England: Tamarisk, 2012), 80.
[3] Arthur Glasser, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement: The Apostle Paul and the Missionary Task, 4th Edition, Edited by Ralph D. Winter and Steven C. Hawthorne, (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library Publishers, 2009), 149.
[4] Acts 26:18 (ESV)
[5] Arthur Glasser, Perspectives on the World Christian Movement, 150.
[6] Ibid., 151.
[7] Eckhard Schnabel, Paul the Missionary: Realities, Strategies, and Methods, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Publishing, 2008), 257-258.
[8] A. Scott Moreau, Gary R. Corwin, and Gary B. McGee, Introducing World Missions: A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey, 2nd Edition, (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Publishing Group, 2015), 60-63.
[9] Ibid., 60.
[10] John G. Butler, Bible Biography Series – Paul, the Missionary Disciple, Volume 11, (Clinton, IA: LBC Publications, 1995), 1.
[11] I Corinthians 11:1 (ESV)