In 1927, Roland Allen, missionary to China, expressed his convictions about the best strategy for reaching all of China with the Gospel of Christ in his book, “The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church” with the subtitle, “and the Causes Which Hinder It.” Roland’s insights are timeless for anyone who desires to be strategic and effective in spreading the life changing good news.
Roland’s words continue to corkscrew through my heart as I seek to leverage my limited life to fulfill my God given purpose.
Read this quote slowly and consider the implications…
Many years ago my experience in China taught me that if our object was to establish in that country a church which might spread over the six provinces which then formed the diocese of North China, that object could only be attained if the ﬁrst Christians who were converted by our labors understood clearly that they could by themselves, without any further assistance from us, not only convert their neighbors, but establish churches. That meant that the very ﬁrst groups of converts must be so fully equipped with all spiritual authority that they could multiply themselves without any necessary reference to us: that, though, while we were there, they might regard us as helpful advisers, yet our removal should not at all mutilate the completeness of the church, or deprive it of anything necessary for its unlimited expansion. Only in such a way did it seem to me to be possible for churches to grow rapidly and securely over wide areas…1
A year ago I met with Samuel Stephens, the head of “India Gospel League.” As he shared about his ministry, I commented that it sounded just like what I read in “Spontaneous Expansion.” Samuel lit up and said, “Yes, Roland Allen was way ahead of his time. His missionary principles are the core of our ministry strategy.”
Here are Samuel’s words of how these principles have played out…
In 1992, at the third pastors’ conference, I laid out a plan God had laid on my heart—a joint goal of planting one thousand churches by the year 2000. We determined that a church would be deﬁned as at least twenty baptized adults meeting weekly for worship. 2
By the year 2000, we celebrated not one thousand, not five thousand, but more than twenty thousand new churches planted (in some of the most needy areas imaginable).3
Samuel strategically identified those things that would hinder the movement and focused his attention on what was most important for the “Spontaneous Expansion of the Church”.
When asked, “how do you control such a large organization?” Samuel laughed, “I can’t control it.”
It is clear that this is a work of the Holy Spirit, birthed in prayer and dependence upon the work of God. This is another common thread, the absolute hunger for the leading and work of the Spirit of God. It is not about finding a strategy to trust, but a dependence upon God’s Spirit for every step.
I do everything I can to encourage pastors and church planters to stay open to what the Holy Spirit is saying and doing and never to rest on human strategies or ideals. You and I must never suspect that our own ingenuity or giftedness has brought us to where we are in ministry. Instead we must acknowledge that we are completely beholden to the Lord for His gracious work among us and through us. If we deviate from the path He opens before us, we will almost certainly forfeit our involvement in what ever kairos moments lie ahead.4
India Gospel League has continued to grow and expand beyond imagination in India. Today they provide leadership equipping curriculum for over 900,000 children participating in Vacation Bible School each year.
Rather than top down leadership posture of “command and control”, they are choosing to equip and serve leaders, helping the willing leaders to be successful in what God has called them to do. India Gospel League provides regional monthly leadership equipping in one day seminars. They train pastors who are tasked with spending a year of hands on training of a younger pastor.
Currently India Gospel league has two hundred equipping meetings each month in South Asia, involving 6,000 pastors and tens of thousands of lay people.
Samuel Stephens writes,
Rather than a few large organizations and high-proﬁle leaders attempting to discern God’s will for a nation, imagine hundreds or even thousands of local Christian leaders, all listening to the Holy Spirit, seeking divine opportunities, and being sensitive to His ultimate leadership. This vision means trusting in God to lead rather than men. This approach requires faith and a humble attitude, like John the Baptist, who said, “He (Jesus) must become greater, I must become less” (John 3:30).5
I want to experience this kind of movement! What about you?