Making Yourself Dispensable

joelI’ve been trying to share nuggets of truth from the writings of Roland Allen. I hope you’re still with me! Sometimes we get in the way of Christ’s work. I often use the illustration in my seminars of a cell leader “getting sick on purpose” in order to allow another member of the group to lead the cell. The idea is to get out of the way and allow others to sprout and grow. jesus

In studying the life of Paul the apostle, Roland Allen reminds us that Paul made himself dispensable. That is, he made sure that the congregations were not depending on him–rather that they were depending on the Holy Spirit. Allen says:

We are not indispensible. The church is Christ’s church. Paradoxical as it may seem, I think that it is quite possible that the shortness of his stay [in the churches he planted] may have conduced in no small measure to St Paul’s success. And this is a truism. There’s a grave danger in thinking that we have to plant the church, when in fact, God must plant it. He’s the one that makes it work. There is something in the presence of a great teacher that sometimes tends to prevent smaller men from realizing themselves. They more readily feel their responsibility, they more easily and successfully exert their powers, when they see that, unless they come forward, nothing will be done. By leaving them quickly St Paul gave the local leaders opportunity to take their proper place, and forced the church to realize that it could not depend upon him, but must depend upon its own resources (Roland Allen, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? Grand Rapid, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962, p. 93).

I’m not sure how this will look in your situation and ministry. On a cell member level, it means being willing to participate under the guidance of the Holy Spirit (don’t expect the cell leadership team to do everything). On the cell leader level, it means raising up other leaders to replace you. On a pastoral level it means planting new churches. I’ve seen various examples of pastors who clung to power, trying to control those under them (often in the name of trying to grow a mega-church). Their leaders ended up departing in discouragement. God wants to give us a larger picture of His desire to extend His church throughout the world.


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