Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

November-December 1966


Firstly, as promised, a brief report on the conference in Switzerland. To the many friends who assured us of prayer for that time we can say, without reserve, that the Lord answered very truly. All our fears as to insufficient accommodation proved unnecessary, for no one had to be refused; extra accommodation came to knowledge when we arrived, and the company was provided for in a number of places. It was a good company, representing quite a number of countries. The spirit and fellowship were very good, and the Lord graciously helped in the ministry. We were glad to have with us our brothers Lambert of Richmond and Thompson of Bombay. Both ministered at morning prayers, and brother Thompson spoke once in the evening.

Without reference to the matter, quite spontaneously, six of the company asked if they could give testimony in believer's baptism, and the Lord, quite wonderfully, arranged for this to be possible. It was a highlight of the conference.

We were led to be occupied throughout with the last two chapters of the book of the Revelation, and the Lord put His finger upon many very practical matters relating to the full end toward which He is working. As to weather, it was the best week that we have ever had at Aeschi. It was not easy to leave this literal and spiritual mountain time, but we trust that "the God of the Mountains" will be as real in the valleys as there.

And now, after the conferences in U.S.A., Holland, and Switzerland, we are much before the Lord for the future. Not with the Lord, but with us there are big questions in the place of prayer, and issues in the balances. He already knows the answers but we wait.

The whole matter of our future base and sphere is a major issue, and we ask for fellowship in this connection. Our work seems to be finished at Honor Oak and the new orientation does not seem to need our particular ministry and function. We, however, have no intention of moving without definite leading by the Lord. We remain His "ambassador in bonds".

The Church of God is passing into, or through, some very big changes, and there is much "overturning, overturning, until he comes whose right it is" (Ezekiel 21:27). While there is very much confusion in every realm, the lines of demarcation and definition are being drawn in Christianity. Categories are being made manifest and destinies fixed accordingly. While the great net of evangelism spreads, the haul will be sorted out and the winnowing fan of reality and utterness will test "of what sort it is". Perhaps one of the most testing discriminations will be between the big and the intrinsic.

There is one thing that is giving me a good deal of anxiety and apprehension. In this time when a twofold movement is taking place on a wide scale: that is, on the one hand the great movement toward union (not unity), as in the World Council of Churches, on the policy of the combine and monopoly, with all the necessary compromises and sacrifice of distinctiveness of message; and on the other hand the unrest, dissatisfaction, and loosening of ties with the established system of churches and institutions, resulting in many leaving their old associations and either meeting in groups, or drifting without anchorage in their disappointment - my disturbing fear is that there will be a movement, or some movements, toward the formation of another undenominational or interdenominational denomination, this coming about also by policy, expediency, or seeming necessity. Such a movement would only be another tragedy and incipient sectarian calamity, which history would show to have been not of God but of man, although with the best of motives. May the Lord save from this so serious mistake! It would be a starting at the wrong end; a trying to form something, instead of an organic growth from a living illumination, a revolutionary encounter with an unveiling of the true nature of the Church. For this latter God would have to lay an apprehending hand upon a man, or body of men, and, by a devastating showing of the true, universal, and spiritual significance of Christ, as effectively emancipating them from all the historic accretions of Christianity as the Apostle Paul was emancipated from historic Judaism. The growth of this organism would be as other emancipated men sprang from the essential root, and not just adhered or sponsored. The power of such an organism would be the all-conquering life of resurrection: "The power that worketh in us." There is nothing artificial, imitation, or manufactured about this, and it requires no propaganda. The Holy Spirit is the great Propagandist of what is of heaven.

The above is written out of a very deep concern; a longing and a fear. It should be remembered that when God made His "new thing", His "new cruse" as the foundation of this dispensation of the Spirit and the Church, He did so with a nucleus of deeply disciplined men who had been broken by the Cross and reunited by the Resurrection. These two things were wrought deeply into their very constitution and were the ground upon which the Holy Spirit built in every place. This is the only positive ground for the Church and the churches. Anything other will be negative. They were men who had seen! It may be that, if the Lord is to have such a spiritual impact as was then made on the world, it will be necessary to sift down to that basis the conglomeration of the man-made and start - or go on - with the small but intrinsic seed-plot.

This may be like "a voice crying in the wilderness", but perhaps some wind of God would carry it as a guide or warning where it is needed.

It has always been contrary to our principle to advise people to leave this or that; rather have we said: 'Stay until your very spiritual life is at stake'; but, as things are, it is becoming more and more evident that God must "do a new thing" if His full end is to be reached. May He raise up His Prophets to "show the house to the house of Israel, that they may be ashamed"; and may some Josiah (personal or corporate) arise to lead to such a taste of the real thing as to result in the leaving of all that is false. We can only resort to prayer!

Yours for His full satisfaction alone,

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