The Spontaneous Expansion of the Church (Roland Allen)

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Spontaneous expansion begins with the individual effort of the individual Christian to assist his fellow, when common experience, common difficulties, common toil have first brought the two together. It is this equality and community of experience which makes the one deliver his message in terms which the other can understand, and makes the hearer approach the subject with sympathy and confidence–with sympathy because the common experience makes approach easy and natural, with confidence, because the one is accustomed to understand what the other says and expects to understand him now.

What carries conviction is the manifest disinterestedness of the
speaker. He speaks from his heart because he is too eager to be able to
refrain from speaking. His subject has gripped him. He speaks of what
he knows, and knows by experience. The truth which he imparts is his
own truth. He knows its force. He is speaking almost as much to relieve
his own mind as to convert his hearer, and yet he is as eager to
convert his hearer as to relieve his own mind; for his mind can only be
relieved by sharing his new truth, and his truth is not shared until
another has received it. This his hearer realizes. Inevitably he is
moved by it. Before he has experienced the truth himself he has shared
the speaker’s experience.

To all this is added the mysterious power of a secret. Christian
experience is always a secret; and the man who speaks of it to another
always pays him a subtle compliment, when he entrusts him with his
secret of life. But when, as is often the case in the Mission Field,
that secret is a dangerous secret; when careless speech may lead to
punishment, disgrace, or persecution when the speaker entrusts his
hearer with the safety of his life, or his liberty, or his property;
such confidence, such trust, compel attention.

Upon the speaker, too, the effort to express his truth exercises a
profound effect. The expression of his experience intensifies it; it
renews it; it repeats it; it enlightens it. In speaking of it he goes
through it again; in setting it before another he sets it before
himself in a new light. He gets a deeper sense of its reality and power
and meaning. In speaking of it he pledges himself to the conduct and
life which it involves. He proclaims himself bound by it, and every
time that his speech produces an effect upon another, that effect
reacts upon himself, making his hold upon his truth surer and stronger.


But this only if his speech is voluntary and spontaneous.

If he is a
paid agent both speaker and hearer are affected by that fact. The
speaker knows, and knows that the other knows, that he is employed by a
mission to speak. He is not delivering his own message because he
cannot help it. He is not speaking of Christ, because Christ alone
impels him. Do men not ask our paid agents, How much are you paid for
this work? And must they not answer? And does not the answer destroy
the effect of which we have been thinking?

One of the great virtues of spontaneous voluntary expression is that in
the effort to express to another a truth which the speaker has found he
not only renews the past, but, especially in the early stages, he finds
out his own ignorance of many aspects of his truth, and he is generally
eager to learn, and to inquire further for himself. He searches
diligently for answers to difficulties which arise. He is not an
authorized and licensed preacher; he has no professional omniscience to
maintain; he can and will confess ignorance and seek help. He is forced
to think over and over again what are the implications of his truth; he
has few ready-made stereotyped answers. As he goes on, no doubt, these
tend to multiply, but they cannot multiply at first without much real
experience. Thus the voluntary spontaneous expression of truth
experienced strengthens and advances the speaker.

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