If it were once believed that the freedom of churches should be restricted to bring greater control to missions, Roland Allen sets out to overturn this conception. Warning against the danger of imposing greater limits on churches, the Author advocates that all members of the church, 'natives' and foreigners alike, must take an active role in its establishment and daily life. The study divides itself into nine chapters; the first, introducing Allen's standpoint, the second as an opening into the nature and character of Spontaneous Expression. The third chapter deals with modern attempts by 'natives' towards the liberty of their churches. The fear of the doctrine becoming weakened by natives taking it into their own hands is addressed by chapter four and this fear is widened into the realm of the Christian standard of morals in chapter five. Civilisation and enlightenment form the central themes of the sixth chapter. Chapters seven and eight tackle the distinction between the Church and missionary societies. It is in the final chapter that the future of Spontaneous Expansion is investigated and Allen puts forward his ideas which, as he rightly predicted, were broadly accepted fifty years and longer still after their original publication.
Roland Allen trained for the ministry at Oxford and became a priest in 1893. As a missionary in North China, he worked for the Society for the Propagation of the Gospel and also in collaboration with the founders of World Dominion. His experiences in China prompted him to radically re-assess the theology and missionary methods of the Western churches. He retired to Africa, where he died in Kenya in 1947. His published works enjoyed immense success during his lifetime, and are still highly influential today.