Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

January-February 1933

Beloved of the Lord,

Those of you who have become familiar with the form which the WITNESS AND TESTIMONY has taken until now will see that a change has taken place in this issue. We have separated the "news" items from the main part of the paper and are issuing these in a supplement apart. This needs a little explanation, and we trust that what we say in this connection will meet with the appreciation of our many friends. As we may not again cover this ground, it will be best for us to go back and take things up from early days.

It will be known by many that we were formerly associated with the "Baptist Denomination." During those years we sought to make the ministry such as would be spiritually helpful to all who were hungry for spiritual food. This ministry found its expression in a small way in what was then the little local church magazine. But through deep and crisic experiences inwardly and outwardly the Lord led us more and more to see, not only the truth, but the practical meaning and implications of the truth of the universality of Christ, and the heavenly nature and vocation of "the Church, which is His Body."

The main issue of this revelation was that, for us - seeing as we did see - denominationalism, sectarianism, and all divisions which are of earth were a contradiction to, and inconsistent with, what we had been shown. Thus we found that the Lord was leading us out from such and calling us into the spiritual, universal, heavenly ministry of His Son in relation to the whole Body as here on the earth.

In the meantime the little paper had been sought by many beyond the local and was itself leading out to the universal. Then the crisis was reached and by a series of movements which bore the marks of the Lord's sovereign hand and the devil's bitter antagonism we found ourselves in the place where we now assemble at Honor Oak.

We called it a "Christian Fellowship Centre," purely and only because we wanted it to be a place in which ALL the children of God of all connections who needed spiritual food and fellowship might gather. It never was our thought or desire that this should be a centre of a new organised movement or a new "sect." To this we most strongly adhere to this day, and always shall do so. We have many enemies, mostly amongst the Lord's people, and they seem to think that to say the opposite of what we have just said will injure us most. However, we stand there most strongly, and we want to make clear to our friends just what the position is.

We feel that the Lord has given us a ministry to all His people, and that this ministry has something - at least - to do with the recovering of His full testimony at the end-time. We feel that the Lord's way is pre-eminently with the assembly as the local representation and expression of the whole "Body." We cannot and do not deny that the Lord has blessed and used other means; missions, societies, etc., and we rejoice in everything which means something for Him. But we see that the New Testament way was in the assembly - ordered according to God's pattern - as the training school, testing ground, and channel or instrument of sending forth to the nations to gather out of them the "people for His name." This constituting of such assemblies is the work of the Holy Spirit and not ours. Therefore no initiative with a scheme is taken by us. Everything must be marked by that life and spontaneity which characterises the Holy Spirit's movements.

It is in this way that things have grown with us. The WITNESS AND TESTIMONY, without any advertisement or propaganda now goes by demand into almost every nation of the earth with every issue.

Out of it has sprung a considerable and growing literature. From the local assembly at Honor Oak a number of the tested and proved children of God have gone to distant and nearer lands, and there are as many or more awaiting the Lord's moment for going. Then spontaneously in many places there has arisen a desire and request for spiritual ministry, and as the Lord has enabled, these have been and are being met, so that regular gatherings are held in various parts. All this looks like a movement, and it is, but please do not put quotation marks over the word or regard it as an organised or man-projected movement. This it emphatically is not!

Now, inasmuch as we see the Lord's hand in blessing and increasing, and we have a most sincere desire that the spiritual ministry and message should be kept free from anything that would or could bear upon it and give it a weight not its own; that is, that no one should be influenced by the work rather than the truth, and to keep us as free from the semblance of advertisement and propaganda as possible, we are henceforth giving all information about these things in a separate leaflet. This is only done in prayer interest. We should like only to send the "supplement" to those who are truly in prayer-fellowship, but we do not know who they are. Friends who pass on the WITNESS AND TESTIMONY to new readers are asked to retain the supplement. We realise that what we have here said needs a good deal more explanation, but we trust it to the Lord for all unprejudiced children of His, and for the rest - well - we must just go on with Him and share His reproach.

We have very, very much to encourage, and perhaps we should take more comfort from opposition than we sometimes do.

All that we are devoted to is "the testimony of Jesus" which is the greatness and glory of Christ, the Son of God.

Yours - as here only for Him,
T. Austin-Sparks

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.