For the last several blogs I’ve been examining the writings of Roland Allen, a famous missionary strategist (1868 – 1947). He noticed the tendency among the Anglican churches of his day to make people dependent on paid clergy. Allen writes,
The facts are these: St. Paul preached in a place for five or six months and then left behind him a church, not indeed free from the need of guidance, but capable of growth and expansion. For example, according to Ramsay, St. Paul preached in Lystra for about six months on his first missionary journey, then he ordained elders and left for about eighteen months. Professor Ramsay calculates that St Paul did not stay in Thessalonica more than five months, and he did not visit the place again for over five years, yet he writes to â€˜the church of the Thessaloniansâ€™ and speaks of it as being on the same footing as â€˜the churches of God in Judea.â€™ At Corinth St. Paul spent a year and a half at his first visit and then did not go there again for three or four years, but he wrote letters as to a fully equipped and well-established churchâ€ (Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paulâ€™s or Ours? p. 84).
When we read about the Paul’s amazing feat, we often scratch our heads. How did he do this? Were these people already moral, spiritually prepared people? Why didn’t Paul take more time for baptismal classes, Christian Education cycles, etc.? Allen continues:
We commonly attempt to alleviate the sense of oppression by arguing, first, that his converts were people wholly and totally different from ours, and then, that as a matter of fact he did not really leave them, because he was constantly in touch with them by messengers and by letters.â€ Yet, the facts indicate that they were people totally from heathen backgrounds, steeped in heathen philosophies. The backgrounds of the people back then make those today look very civil and righteous. And today we even have the entire Bible printed for people to read and use. Paul didnâ€™t have that advantage. Nor was it Paulâ€™s practice to leave someone behind, although Luke appears to have stayed behind in Philippi. Yet, even though Paul was in touch with these congregations, thereâ€™s a distinct difference with having a paid person in one place all the time. This was simply not the case with Paul. ” (Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paulâ€™s or Ours? p. 85ff).
I have to ask myself whether Iâ€™m allowing people to become overly dependent on me. I have the tendency to plant the church around myself and never really leave it with anyone. I need to remember the necessity of planting Christâ€™s church, so that it can freely multiply. My prayer is that I could establish a church planting center of doable church plants. Allen writes:
One of the ways that Paul taught the people was through mutual encouragement. Allen says, â€œThe meetings of the church were gatherings for mutual instruction. Anyone who had been reading the book and had discovered a passage which seemed to point to Christ, or an exhortation which seemed applicable to the circumstances of their life, or a promise which encouraged him with hope. . . produced it and explained it for the benefit of all. . . . Paul would draw the people out to instruct one another, rather than converting them into hearers. By this means St Paul was always calling out more and more the capacities of the people in the church (Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paulâ€™s or Ours? p. 85ff).
We have the tendency of making hearers of our people. The people turn into hearers of the word rather than doers. The church is so weak in North America because people can check in and out after hearing the gospel message. Thereâ€™s not a strong connection between cell, celebration, training and leadership.