- Paperback: 170 pages
- Publisher: Wipf & Stock Pub (May 7, 1997)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1579101984
- ISBN-13: 978-1579101985
- Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.4 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 5.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 24 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,112,902 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church: And the Causes That Hinder It Paperback – May 7, 1997
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Allen begins his argument by defining spontaneous expansion. To him, it is "the expansion which follows the unexhorted and unorganized activity of individual members of the Church explaining to others the Gospel which they have found for themselves" (p. 7). It is the natural outworking or unorganized, attractive church planting, free from the burden of professional missionaries who inadvertently place cultural restrictions on church development. Our problem, according to Allen, is the control western missionaries have exercised in church planting.
He defends his argument by referring to Christ's method of raising up leaders. Whereas Christ spent a couple of years with a potential leader and then released him for ministry, modern missionaries have tended to be long-term agents who do not release control. A healthy church is one which is self-supporting, self-governing, and self-propagating, but missionaries have tended to favor institutions and unions over the apostolic church.
Allen lists several barriers to this spontaneous expansion. Our fear for doctrinal purity has led some to extend the time for receiving baptism, to offer special training for national clergy, to ordain the best and give only them authority, to make extra-biblical requirements for being a Christian. Instead of furthering the pure gospel, a code of morals has been set that defines Sabbath observance, which meats to eat and how many wives a national might have. This, in Allen's opinion, is nothing more than the restricting attempts of Judaizers in the early church.
Missionaries themselves have contributed to the adversity to spontaneous expansion. They have set up foreign homes instead of being incarnational. They minister to third or fourth generation national Christians instead of reaching the lost. They build western hospitals and schools or identify with western philosophical ideas rather than pushing for indigenous expansion. They unwittingly set up standards for clothing styles that lead to syncretism. They establish missionary organizations that promote a professional few who may engage in missions. Even their converts become paid agents of that organization and further this destructive method.
Allen, on the contrary, calls for a different method. He believes that a newly constituted church should "find out for itself what being a church means in daily practice, to find out that it can do things as a church" (p. 150). Although much progress has been done in the area of world missions, Allen suggests much more needs to be done to push indigeneity. This, in turn, will produce more healthy churches that can reach the world for Christ.
Allen's book is a classic that should be read by any serious student of missiology as well as any practitioner. Much of what other missiologists have identified in studying church planting movements echoes what Allen suggested for indigeneity. His call for releasing control to individual national churches does not fall upon deaf ears. It is as applicable today to the modern missions field as it was at the turn of last century.
Some sections, particularly the one regarding parachurch missionary organizations, will challenge your thinking. We are so immersed in Western thought and structures, that we superimpose those concepts onto the church and our missionary organizations, thinking that they are biblical. But the Gospel is supra-cultural; we need Allen's corrective to change our way of seeing things.
We are seeing in our day exactly what Allen says in this book: the explosive growth of the Church in Africa, in China, etc., through the freeing of the church and believers to shoulder the job of sharing their faith, without the "professional" to do the job for them.
There is one area with which I would disagree with Allen: he contends that the Bible says nothing about financial support for pastors, that it should be done solely by unpaid pastors and elders. The passages where both Christ and Paul say "the laborer is worthy of his wages" (Luke 10:7 and 1 Timothy 5:17-18), Paul's receiving funds from other churches to preach the Gospel to new places (2 Corinthians 11:8), and that those who proclaim the Gospel should get their living from the Gospel, that is, from those to whom they minister (1 Corinthians 9:14) are sufficient to show that pastors should be supported in their work by those in the congregation, and that should not be a burden to the people if they are to be good stewards. But that is a minor point of contention.
In sum, Allen's main premise is sound, and I would urge anyone interested in seeing God's kingdom expand in this world to give this book serious time and thought.