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Accessing their services just for the book summaries is well worth the cost. Below is a sample from the September edition of Leader’s Edge Book Summary of J.D. Payne’s recent book Roland Allen: Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion. Each book summary includes the content of the book by category of:

  • Best chapter
  • Best quotes
  • Best illustration
  • Best idea
  • Best take away
  • Recommendation

Roland Allen
Pioneer of Spontaneous Expansion

Authors: J. D. Payne

Publisher: Self published, 2012
ISBN: 978-1475123890


One hundred years ago (1912) British missiologist Roland Allen released his landmark book, Missionary Methods: St. Paul’s or Ours? which has impacted western missionary methodology ever since. But Allen was a prolific writer, subsequently authoring ten other books and at least ten pamphlets and numerous other articles in the area of mission methods and practice. J.D. Payne has done us the favor of bringing the core of Allen’s missiology together in this book. After presenting a short biography of Allen, in ten brief chapters Payne covers ten missiological themes that were the focus of Allen’s writings.

Payne wrote this book for the mission layperson. It is short (131 pages) and he deals with each theme succinctly and clearly. The reason Payne self published the book was to expedite its release so as to make its rounds in the mission community during this centennial remembrance of Roland Allen.

 Best chapter

Payne brings out two recurring themes in Allen’s ecclesiology: the importance of the Eucharist and the indigenous concept of the church. “It was in the understanding of spontaneous expansion that Allen primarily saw the local church being indigenous. He wrote, ‘this is what I understand by an indigenous Church: I understand a Church which possesses as inherent in itself everything which is essential to the existence of a Church, and is able to multiply itself without any necessary reference to any external authority.'” (p. 43)

Best quotes

Quoting Allen, “This is what I mean by spontaneous expansion. I mean 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; I mean the expansion which follows the irresistible attraction of the Christian Church for men who see its ordered life, and are drawn to it by desire to discover the secret of a life which they instinctively desire to share; I mean also the expansion of the Church by the addition of new churches.” (p. 6)

On the Way of Jesus: “Allen observed that Christ taught the apostles by both word and deed. According to Allen, Christ’s training was not theoretical or in the confines of an institution separated from the missionary task. ‘He trained them in the work, not outside it; in the world, not in a hothouse.'” (p. 23)

On the Apostolic Approach, quoting Allen, “Four things, then we see St. Paul deemed necessary for the establishment of his churches, and only four. A tradition or elementary Creed, the Sacraments of Baptism and the Holy Communion, Orders, and the Holy Scriptures. He trained his converts in the simplest and most practical form. He delivered these to them. He exercised them as a body in the understanding and practice of them, and he left them to work them out for themselves as a body whilst he himself went on with his own special work.” (pp. 31-32)

“The second principle was that Paul practiced “retirement.” Paul established the church and intentionally moved on to repeat the process. The apostle understood any new church to be just as legitimate as any well-established local church. Paul’s retirement was done to help the church exercise ‘the powers which they possessed in Christ.'” (p. 33)

On Ecclesiology: “In the strict sense of the word, Allen did not believe that a church could be indigenous…the definition is similar to something born in a country, arising out of the soil of a particular area, or natural to the region. In the proper sense, a church can never be indigenous; the church was never natural to an area. The church was and is foreign. The church was an intruder.” (pp. 41-42)

Quoting Allen on the priority of evangelism, “Of the reasons for supporting evangelistic missions I need not speak at length. I believe that they are in themselves supreme, and that without them no educational or medical missions would ever have come into existence…Christ, the beginning, the end: the need for Christ; the hope in Christ; the desire for His glory; the conviction of His sovereignty; the impulse of His Spirit – these are some of the reasons for evangelistic missions, and, however we may express them, they are, as I said, in their nature supreme.” (pp. 52-53)

Quoting Allen on the Person of Christ, “In Christ the victory is already won; in Him the Saints are perfected; in Him the Church is complete. St. Paul told the Ephesian Christians that they were chosen before the foundation of the world…Thus we do not seek to make that to be which is not, we seek to bring to light that which is. It is Christ.” (p. 54)

“Allen was convinced that the apostle Paul passed along four critical elements to the new believers that were essential for the church: the Creed, the Sacraments, the Orders, and the Holy Scriptures. What Allen referred to as the Creed was…a teaching containing the ‘simple Gospel’…the Orders referred to the leaders. Paul made sure that the new believers had elders overseeing them…The final element was the Holy Scriptures. Paul taught the believers the importance of the Old Testament writings.” (pp. 60-62)

Allen on “devolution.” “When applied to missionary practice, devolution was the approach that gradually delegated rights and privileges to the local congregation…Allen did not believe that the mission agencies had any authority that could be delegated to the new congregations. Apart from the missionaries passing along the Creed, Sacraments, Orders, and Holy Scriptures to the established congregation, nothing else was to be devolved.” (pp. 65-66)

On missionary faith: Allen believed, “It was this lack of faith (in the capacity of new believers) that hindered the spontaneous expansion of the Church. Allen hypothesized that the major reason that missionaries were not willing to trust the new believers was because of fear of corruption and degeneration among the churches… Allen believed that Christ was able to keep new churches from stumbling.” (p. 79)

On paying national workers: “There are at least fourteen particular problems that Allen believed were related to importing a stipendiary system onto newly established churches.” Payne then works his way through Allen’s fourteen problems. (pp. 90-99)

On the nonprofessional missionary concept: “Allen firmly believed when people dichotomized missionary work from secular work, they established an unbiblical distinction that the apostle Paul never accepted.” Payne quotes Allen, “If we are prepared to believe that every Christian ought to be a missionary, we must also be prepared to admit that every Christian ought to be a missionary in his ordinary daily work, all the time, not merely outside it, and part of the time; that ‘work for the Lord’ includes his ordinary daily work, and is not to be treated as something with which he can do only when he escapes from the work by which he earns his living.” (p. 103)

Payne’s summary of Allen’s writings: “Allen’s views called for a radical paradigm shift, not a step-by-step process for church growth. This shift reverted to a biblical simplicity of an apostolic pattern, and church organization.” (p. 118) “The Roland Allen Equation for the Spontaneous Expansion of the Church, in essence, consists of three components. Allen’s views concerning indigenous churches and the Holy Spirit must be realized and accepted. And, missionary faith that is opposed to devolution must be present…when the concept of indigenous churches is united with the proper understanding of the Holy Spirit and missionary faith is present, the result is the spontaneous expansion of the Church.” (p. 120)

Best illustration

Concerning the work of the Holy Spirit in missions, Allen said:

“When once a man has admitted the all-embracing Spirit of Redeeming Love he can no longer look upon the Church as an institution designed to supply certain spiritual and social needs of the people here…. The moment that we recognize the Spirit in us as a Spirit of missions, we know that we are not partakers of Christ for ourselves alone, we know that the Church which does not conquer the world dies…. But the apprehension of the Spirit of Christ as a missionary Spirit…also drives us to look beyond the bounds of our own Communion.” (pp. 49-50)

 Best idea

Quoting Allen, “It is essentially in its spontaneous growth and propagation that Christianity, or the Church, is revealed in its true character as indigenous in every country. If we want to know whether anything is indigenous anywhere, we must see it free; it we want to know what its character as indigenous is, we must see how it behaves when in a free condition. Only its spontaneous activity shows us whether it is indigenous, or what it is.” (p. 43)

 Best take away

“Just because a church worshipped in a certain style, sang to a certain genre of music, dressed in a particular manner, or had a certain order of service did not make that church indigenous. The term indigenous as applied to a church referred to three concepts. First, the Church is ‘spiritually and eternally proper to all countries and peoples in the world.’ Second the Church’s ‘spiritual fitness for this or that particular country or people appears in time.’ Third, the Church ‘makes itself at home, that it grows and expands on the soil without any external aid, spontaneously.'” (p. 45)


If you are looking for a one-stop short course of the core teachings of Roland Allen that have been gleaned from his multiple writings, you will discover that in this book. As an astute missiologist, Payne brings to the fore the more critical mission issues about which Allen wrote, that still have application for missionary methods and practices today. A helpful book for the critical thinkers/strategists in your organization.

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