Archive for January 2012

The Year Of Dragons

January 22, 2012

Happy Chinese New Year!

The Year of The Dragon

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On Authority, Discipline, and Unity: Quotes From from Roland Allen

January 14, 2012

I continue to post through the missions classic, Missionary Methods: St Paul’s Or Ours” (MM),  by Roland Allen.

In MM, written in 1912, Allen addressed issues confronting missions agencies and missionaries of that day as they sought to reach people and nations with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Allen was very concerned about the principles, attitudes, and mind-sets that drove missions and the methods for ministry and the relationships with indigenous people that resulted.

The thrust of Missionary Methods is that the way missions were driven and conducted hindered, rather than facilitated, the evangelization and discipling of people and the start and reproduction of indigenous churches.

The fourth section of Missionary Methods is headed, “St Paul’s Method of Dealing with Organized Churches.” In this section Roland Allen addresses the issue of how Paul related to and dealt with the churches that he had started with respect to three issues. The three issues are:

  • Authority – when it came to authority in the churches, were the churches self-governing and self-correcting from their beginning or did Paul maintain strict apostolic authority and control over them?
  • Discipline – were the churches self-correcting and self-disciplining or did Paul play the lead role in discipline matters within the churches?
  • Unity – how was unity among churches maintained?

The one subject addressed that was of greatest interest to me was the subject of authority. If our objective is the starting of indigenous, autonomous, reproducing churches, at home and abroad, the issue of authority the sending agency or “mother church” maintains over the new work or releases to the new converts and new churches is of critical concern. The amount of authority retained or released will either stifle the new work or release it to grow and mature.

Following are quotes from the three chapters of Section Four.

On the subject of authority:

“He did not seek the source of the moral life in any moral command or any exercise of authority. His Gospel was not a gospel of law but of spirit.”

“He subordinates knowledge to charity. He argues that charity must come first, and that if acts based upon knowledge injure and mislead the weak, they are not only not praiseworthy, they are sinful. To injure the consciences of the weaker brethren is to sin against Christ.”

On the subject of discipline:

“We are so individualistic that we cannot understand the practical meaning of St Paul’s doctrine of the body and the members.”

“We look too much at our converts as they are by nature: St Paul looked at his converts as they were by grace.”

On unity he writes:

“(Paul) refused to transplant the law and customs of the Church in Judea into the Four Provinces. He refused to set up any central administrative authority from which the whole Church was to receive direction in the conduct of local affairs. He declined to establish a priori tests of orthodoxy which should be applicable for all time, universal under all circumstances, everywhere.”

“Nothing is more dangerous than to substitute judgment by precedent for judgment by conviction, and nothing is easier.”

In 1927, Allen wrote a follow-up book, if you will, to Missionary Methods in which he further explored and elaborated upon the issues referred to above and more. That book is entitled Spontaneous Expansion of The Church and The Causes That Hinder It. I am currently reading Spontaneous Expansion and intend to begin posting on it in the near future.