Paul Schlehlein is author of ‘John G. Paton: Missionary to the Cannibals of the South Seas’. A graduate of Pensacola Christian College, he’s also a missionary and church planter among the Tsongas in rural South Africa. He discussed his conversion, family and the release of a new book.
Has the church forgotten missions? Many believe that it’s much bigger than that as so few in America today hardly know the stories of great missionaries like Jim Elliott and Hudson Taylor, missionaries Schlehlein claimed he was ‘enamored’ with. He noted that Taylor was better known for being ‘consecrated to Christ’ than by his good works in China; which included ‘taking on the culture’ and being ‘excellent’ in learning the language of others only to ‘give them the gospel in a way that they could understand.’
Personally, Schlehlein illustrated that true missions work is not ‘easy street.’ His life thus far has been very adventurous and dangerous. Schlehlein shared his experience with an alligator which in turn led him to meeting an RN who would later become his wife. When asked what he feels his greatest challenge is, he quickly answered that it’s the prosperity gospel (false gospel) which is ‘exported from America today.’ The popular ‘healthy and wealthy’ preaching does not include Christ’s command to ‘count the cost.’ Schlehlein said that, ‘Oftentimes our lives will get worse when we follow Christ.’
The true life story of John G. Paton inspired Schlehlein to write his new book saying that his story ‘needs to be heard afresh.’ Born in Scotland in 1824, his parents ‘consecrated him to be a missionary.’ They prayed ‘much fruit for his labor.’ ‘It is said that Paton gave his heart to the islands of New Hebrides of the South Pacific. Paton’s story was not ‘without risk.’ He would lose his wife and newborn son and was quoted to have said, ‘If not for Christ, I would have gone mad beside that shallow grave.’ Schlehlein says that Paton went on to marry again and lose several more children while on the mission field, all the while, building churches and remaining motivated for the work in making a clear gospel presentation. He was married to his second wife for 40 years and lived to 82 years of age.
Schlehlein’s book explains that true Christianity today is not a life ‘without risks’ and that we should want to enter the risk if ‘for gospel reasons’ saying ‘we need bare knuckled bravery’ and ‘courageous men like this today, for the gospel sake.’