If the Church is to be indigenous it must spring up in the soil from the very first seeds planted. One or two little groups of Christians organized as Churches, with their Bishops and priests, could spread all over an empire. They would be obviously and without question Native Churches. But if we establish Missions rather than Churches, two evil consequences, which we now see in greater or less degree everywhere, sterility and antagonism, inevitably arise.
Roland Allen, Missionary to China, 1927, Spontaneous Expansion of the Church
Allen was a missionary to the Chinese. He witnessed the issues first hand when sending agencies, attempting to maintain control of the work, actually crippled the work, rendering it incapable of reproducing disciples. His books Missionary Methods and Spontaneous Expansion of the Church speak to missionaries of any stripe, any denomination, any calling. He stumbled upon important principles which are both spiritual and speak to the human tendency desiring freedom rather than control. He also touches on financial issues which also cripple the church, and to quickly integrating new believers into their righful place as priests in the kingdom according to Peter. Though he is long departed, his words reverberate yet today.
His book Spontaneous Expansion of the Church is available free online.
Steve Addison distilled the writing to a single blog page here.
Blurb from Amazon.com Book Section:
Written in 1927 as a follow up to his Missionary Methods, the following was penned in the forward by Kenneth Grubb in 1960: “It is only gradually that Roland Allen’s Spontaneous Expansion of the Church has established its reputation among those who are concerned with the mission of the Church. This is odd since it is in many ways both a more mature work than Missionary Methods: St Paul’s or Ours? and also more relevant to the particular tasks with which churches and missions have to wrestle today.
Nevertheless, the fact that a new edition is called for at the present juncture is, perhaps, a recognition that the book contains much that needs to be said and read just now.” What Allen was calling for 80 years ago and affirmed in the decades to follow has “a lasting validity, and can be studied and re-studied with profit.”
Blurb from Wikipedia:
He was born in Bristol, England, the son of an Anglican priest; but was orphaned early in life. He trained for ministry at Oxford and became a priest in 1893. Allen spent two periods in Northern China working for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel. The first from 1895 to 1900 ended due to the Boxer Rebellion, during which Allen was forced to flee to the British Legation in Beijing. He was chaplain to community throughout much of the siege. After a period back in England, he returned to North China in 1902, but was forced home due to illness.
These ‘early experiences led him to a radical reassessment of his own vocation and the theology and missionary methods of the Western churches’.
Allen became an early advocate of establishing Churches which from the beginning would be self-supporting, self-propagating, and self-governing, adapted to local conditions and not merely imitations of Western Christianity.
These views were confirmed by a trip to India in 1910 and by later research in Canada and East Africa. It is with this background that Allen wrote his book Missionary Methods which was first published in 1912. It has been suggested that his thought was influenced in part by the earlier primitivist writings of Anthony Norris Groves and by the Brethren movement .
Allen’s approach to Mission strategy for indigenous Churches is based on the study of Saint Paul’s missionary methods as he is convinced that in them can be found the solution to most of the difficulties of the day. He believed it was the recognition of the church as a local entity and trust in the Holy Spirit’s indwelling within the converts and churches which was the mark of Paul’s success. In contrast was Allen’s belief that the people of his day were unable to entrust their converts to the Holy Spirit and instead relied in His work through them.
His views became increasingly influential, though Allen himself became disillusioned with the established churches. He spent the last years of his life in Kenya. Near the end of his life Allen wrote The Family Rite. In this essay Allen advocates that the family again becomes the center of the Christian church and its ministry. Allen died in Nairobi. His funeral was conducted by the Bishop of Mombasa and his gravestone can be found in Nairobi’s City Park. A simple stone cross with the inscription on the pedestal reads: “ROLAND ALLEN, CLERK IN HOLY ORDERS, 1868-1947, I AM THE RESURRECTION AND THE LIFE SAITH THE LORD”