Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

March-April 1941

Beloved of the Lord,

Once again we send you a few lines of remembrance and fellowship. Firstly, let us say how grateful we are for all the expressions of appreciation and assurance of prayer which have been coming from so many, near and far. We know that the "Witness and Testimony" goes to a fairly large number of folk all over the world, but it is good to have an answering voice sometimes, so that we know that the contact is a living one. Let us say at once that our mailing list is not just a bit of office equipment or business, but a list of fellow-members of the One Body who are a definite spiritual concern. We note on the map just where you are; some parts are fairly thickly studded; other parts show a wider distribution. Many of our friends in England who used to gather with us are now scattered over the country. Time was when we used to travel to and fro by road and pass through many of the places where these friends are now staying. Were it not for the restrictions on fuel through war conditions, how many living points we should have on such journeys now! This, with the large number of such points of contact in other countries, U.S.A., Canada, India, China, etc., etc., more and more strengthens in us the desire to set forth on an extended ministry of fellowship and building up. May that day not be far ahead. In the meantime, let it be known that, as Paul said, we have you in our hearts, and would fain come to you to impart some spiritual gift.

The Lord has been greatly stressing in our hearts His thought as to the Church being a family, and the churches being local families. Or perhaps it would be better to say that His family is the Church, and local families are the churches. This gets us at once away from church technique as a first consideration, and brings us back to the basic thing - organic life.

The Divine thought is surely not to have companies of Christians constituted by a New Testament technique, or system of doctrine and practice, any more than it is to have congregations, preaching-places, or just meetings. Primarily it is to have spiritual families; and a Divinely governed and ordered family will express its life according to what is true doctrine and right practice. Thus, when it is time for His people to take spiritual responsibility, if the Holy Spirit had things on His right basis, He would distribute them so that new spiritual families are brought into being. This is organic growth as differing from organised expansion which is so unsatisfactory in its resultant spiritual measure. How much safer and purer is this Divine method. For one thing, it starts from the inside and not from without. Its bond is mutual love, not doctrine. It grows by spiritual birth or organic oneness, not by adherence or "joining". Its success is not determined by its size or numbers, but by its spiritual life and inward measure of Christ. There is nothing professional about a true family; neither is there anything artificial or formal. What a true natural family would be in every respect, as to its own inner corporate and family life, and as to its growth, testimony, work, and multiplication of itself in new families in due course, so the local companies of the Lord's people ought to be; for God intended His visible institutions to embody His invisible, spiritual, and heavenly thoughts and principles. But it is all spontaneous and vital, not organised and technical. We cannot go further here with this Divine thought, but we ask; May this not be the Lord's object in allowing or causing that ever present sense of inadequacy, limitation, and dissatisfaction in "organized Christianity"; and may this not lie behind His permitting of so much destruction in the realm of the traditional framework which has really come to take the place of the true spiritual family? There is nothing like an emergency and suffering to bring down to the bedrock things; and the bedrock of true Christian experience is that, beneath all else, the Lord's true people are a family - "The Church of the firstborn ones".

The first thing that the Lord Jesus said on His resurrection was "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend unto my Father and your Father". When the meaning of His resurrection was made good in the coming of the Holy Spirit, we find that the believers in Jerusalem were spontaneously constituted a spiritual family, "breaking bread from house to house". Later, reference was made to one local company as "the Church in thy house". Let us remember that only two spiritually responsible ones are essential to be the starting-point of a family. May this not be the principle behind the sending forth at the beginning "two by two"?

But let us ever remember that the Lord has a governing object in mind in the family, and that the family is not an end in itself. Spiritual fulness is His end, not only spiritual fellowship. Much loss has been suffered by the Lord and His people by other forms taking the place of the spiritual fulness. Beware of substitutes. Beware of letting go something of the measure for which you have been apprehended. This is one of the perils of isolation and scattering from the family where your home has been. The one powerful bond of a true family is that the desire and will of its head governs all its members. If the Lord's desire for spiritual fulness governs us all, it will be a safeguard or guiding principle, and motive-power which delivers from many personal and lesser interests or considerations which would eventuate in limitation and disappointment. We are quite certain that spiritual fulness is only possible by emancipation from the artificial and man-made system of procedure which obtains today, and a return to the simple but powerful basis of organic life kept pure by the direct government of the Holy Spirit, as it was at the first. Well, beloved, the Lord open your hearts to all that is of Himself, and our prayer is, in the words of an Apostle, that "none of you should be deemed to have come short".

Our love and greetings in Him.

Yours - for all your fellow-members here,

In keeping with T. Austin-Sparks' wishes that what was freely received should be freely given and not sold for profit, and that his messages be reproduced word for word, we ask if you choose to share these messages with others, to please respect his wishes and offer them freely - free of any changes, free of any charge (except necessary distribution costs) and with this statement included.