Keep in mind that this book was first written in 1927 for those engaged in foreign missions… (and as such is probably very relevant for a post-christian context)
Allen asks how can the gospel spread (in foreign countries) if there is always presupposed to be a need for paid missionaries, buildings and infrastructure? The gospel that we desire to see spread is actually hindered by these things because they communicate a mode of operation that is not possible by locals.
As I read Allen today he saying that the greatest hindrance to the gospel being the penetrating force it could be in society are overly controlling leaders who refuse to believe that the Christian faith can spread spontaneously without falling into disorder. He argues that there is natural order about the spreading of gospel seed and it is our egos and desire for control that prevent its effectiveness.
We as leaders in our desire for control actually circumvent what we say we hope to achieve.
A few quotes:
P. 12 "Many of our missionaries welcome spontaneous zeal provided there is not too much of it for their restrictions"
P. 13 "We instinctively think of something we cannot control as tending to disorder"
P. 14 "That we often ascribe absence of missionary zeal to the incapacity of our converts rather than to that restraining influence is sufficent proof of our blindness. That we at once pray for the manifestations of zeal on the part of our converts and instinctively shrink from steps which may tend to realise it is rather sad and surprising. The force indeed is so strong as to be alarming".
Much of what Allen says falls in line with Hirsch’s ideas on the role of the apostolic leader being that of creating the field for others to operate in – being the one who gives permission for the spontaneous expansion rather than being the bottleneck thru whom others must pass.
One of his compelling arguments is that we actually stifle the passion of new Christians by seeking to molly coddle them and keep them safe – by not really believing that they are quite competent to ‘propagate the faith’. He writes of the missionary method of bringing in teachers to educate the new converts – teachers who often had none of the zeal of the first missionary and by the time the deadpan ‘teacher’ is finished with them these new converts a) believe evangelism is for experts b) no longer care because they are bored shirtless.
I have to say that as a leader I would love to see spontaneous expansion – the gospel out of control like a wildfire but I am one of those who is anxious about losing control over where it goes.
Maybe because then what happens won’t bring kudos to me or ‘my church’…
Bloody pathetic hey?
I can only say that sounds and feels a lot like sin.