Editor's Letters

by T. Austin-Sparks

May-June 1946


In this letter I am yielding to the strong appeal of trusted and highly esteemed friends, and am doing something that I have deliberately refused to do for years; that is, I am going to deal with some misapprehensions and wrong reports as to our position regarding certain particular matters. I am well aware of these mistaken ideas, but have felt that nothing should be done by myself in the nature of vindication or self-justification. It has been my principle that the message should just go out and be its own vindication. There is very much to show that this has been quite a sound and safe course, and from all parts of the world we receive a continuous stream of letters which bear testimony to the value of this ministry. But as the work has grown, so have the difficulties and the number of enemies. One of our main griefs and causes of suffering is that so many real and devoted children and servants of God are among those who oppose themselves, and have never either been to our conferences, talked with us personally, or made it their business to make direct enquiries of us as to the truth or otherwise of the things which have caused their disaffection. In writing as I am doing now, several weighty arguments have influenced me. Among them is the primary one that this is no merely personal matter, but one which greatly involves the Lord's interests. I am also assured that there are many who are really not antagonistic but only perplexed, and a bit afraid because of what they hear. Then again, I am told that much of the harm is done by those who are supposed to be our friends, because they claim relatedness and are always trying to force our position on to others, and are very indiscreet or unbalanced. I suppose that there never has been a work or ministry of spiritual value which has not suffered in these and many other ways. This is true in many of the great world benefactions, and the Prophets have had to meet the bitter - and often the universal - persecution of their own countrymen and the world. But, taking such as Lord Lister and antiseptics as an outstanding instance, we know that they were not as wrong as was so widely and violently proclaimed. We take comfort from this thought, and although seeking to walk closely to the Lord so that He may check us when we would err, we will go quietly on to fulfil the trust which has been laid upon us, by His grace. Now for some of the difficulties referred to.

Firstly, it is said that we have no message or active concern for the unsaved. It would take many pages to answer this with the evidence available to prove how false such a charge is. Let us at once say that we never did feel that God had called us to fulfil - in the first place - a direct evangelisation work. He only knows how much our hearts would have responded to such a commission if He had given it to us. But we have no doubt that our first mission is to the people of God and especially a ministry to God's servants. Amongst the numerous letters above mentioned a great many come from "Ministers" or "Missionaries" and "Christian Workers" in many lands, denominations, and missions telling us of how their ministry is enriched by the food in this little paper and the other literature. But even so, what a story there is of souls gloriously saved through the instrumentality of those who have gone out to many parts of the world from our midst! Yes, it is a great and wonderful story. Only recently have we listened with worship to the accounts given by some who have returned from internment camps in the Far East, and from amongst the Forces and Services abroad during war years. There is a large company of converts of no mean character resultant from faithful ministry in these realms alone, but much more also. Let it not be concluded that, because we do not write up and publish accounts of this work, or make it known other than in prayer gatherings, we are not stretched out for the salvation of the unsaved. In this matter our concern is as deep as that of any, and deeper than most.

Then there seems to be a very mistaken apprehension as to what our real object is. On this matter we have, from time to time, tried to make ourselves clear. Let us state it again, and without reservations: firstly negatively. We are not, have no desire to be, and do all that we can to avoid being, a distinct, crystallised, or systematised "Movement". We are not favourable to the idea of a particular "Fellowship" as related to any place, people, or teaching. "Fellowship" with us means the fellowship of all believers. We are positively not out to set up or form "churches" or "assemblies" in various places. We do not feel that God has called us to constitute a new sect or body of Christians. All such suggestions only hurt and grieve us. These things would have been not only possible, but easy, all too easy, and we have had every facility for something very extensive in all these directions. Once more, it is not our aim or wish to detach people from the relationship and work in which they are at present, that is, the Christian connections. Ours is not a "come out" call to Christians and workers. The fact that some have done so, has to be considered on its own particular ground. Some have acted without understanding and in unwisdom. Some have done so on the perfectly legitimate grounds of erroneous teaching or spiritual starvation. Some have done so on a definite crisis between themselves and the Lord and apart from any urge or counsel from men. In some cases it has been a matter of the ultimate issue of the unmistakable will of God. The fact also that in several places there are little companies of such people meeting together does not contradict what we have said as to our object, but is only a collective expression of these latter reasons. But, even there, we do no more than minister the Word of the Lord to them from time to time.

Now as to the positive aspect. We are quite sure that the Lord has called us to a ministry to all His people, and He has dealt with us very deeply in relation thereto. This ministry is inclusively related to "the Fulness of Christ" and God's Eternal Purpose in Him. Included in this is the tremendous significance of the Cross, both objectively and subjectively, for us and in us. Further; if "the Church which is His Body" is "the fulness of Him", then it is essential to recognise the nature of that Church; that is, its essentially spiritual, heavenly, and universal nature, and the spiritual laws of its functioning. These three things comprehend all else, and everything with us has its explanation by them. When we really saw them, we felt unable to stand on any but this ground, and so we left that which is sectarian and distinguished by name or title as here on earth. From that day onward we have only met people on the ground of "In Christ", and have made Him the basic Factor in union and fellowship. In taking this course, our motive was entirely misrepresented and said to be a schismatic one. It is strange that a great convention like "Keswick" can be said by so many to be "a time of heaven on earth" because it is "All one in Christ Jesus", and yet those who seek to remain permanently on that ground - super-denominational and super-national - can be called schismatics! Our message and our position is bound to clash with very much that is secondary to God's thought, and there would be no justification for our existence as a vessel of ministry if the Lord had no need to give greater emphasis to the things which are more essential.

I have no more space in this issue of the paper, but we may say more subsequently. In the meantime may I ask that, where there is failure to understand, a patient, open-hearted and honest effort will be made to really know the facts, and not to judge by misrepresentations either in reports or people. God is doing a great and vital thing through this ministry, which is bringing no glory to anyone but Himself. But there are many adversaries.

With love and greetings in Christ,
Yours only for that glory,
T. Austin-Sparks

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