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Organization And Life
by George P. Tasker



Organization and Life

A Message for Today

The Standard

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.” Gal. 2:20.

“That Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have power to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.” Eph. 3:17–19.

The Personal Problem

The supreme problem of all true Christians, I believe, is the problem of making fully dominant, in themselves and their ways, the life that is theirs by spiritual birth over the life that is theirs by natural birth.

It is the problem of supplanting the life and activities of the old “self” by the life and activities of the new “Christ”; the problem of how by faith to sit with Him in the “heavenly places,” and at the same time to shape one’s earthly course in full keeping with that “high calling.”

And it IS a problem! Objectively, the fact of our having died with Christ was complete when we received Him. From God’s viewpoint it became true of us the moment we came to be “in Christ.” But the subjective realization of the fact, so that we “grow up into Him in all things” and from center to circumference become really conformed to Him and to his mind—well, we find that that is a life-long process and work of Divine grace, as even an apostle has been free to confess, in Phil. 3:8–14.

The Group Problem

With these sobering truths in remembrance, then, let us try honestly to face the problem directly confronting us and all who feel deeply concerned about the fulfillment of God’s will in the Church today, especially as regards the manifestation of her sacred unity before the world, as the Body of Christ. For as Christ is one, his Body is one, indwelt by his one Spirit.

If I know anything about the matter, and I think I do, the basic problem in this connection has been and continues to be just this: How to keep our inevitable organizational development, and our attitude and conduct as groups of the Lord’s people, in full harmony with the fact of the spiritual oneness of all who are in Christ. In short, how we are to practice the unity in which, as Christians, we all are bound to believe.

An Age-long Problem

This is no new problem, of course, but one that has been the concern of spiritual Christians, I suppose, from the beginning: of the Christian the beginning of the Christian movement in the world until now.

The more deeply spiritual ones in every group of believer since the days of Saint Paul have, in spirit if not in so many words, had to ask themselves the question, how are we to conserve the true nature and life of the one body of christ, the church as God knows it, and yet be able, without doing violence to it, to carry out the necessary organizational and disciplinary activities of our own group fellowships in the church as man knows it?

Or, to use an Old Testament figure the problem can be stated another way: how are the life and character of the true “Israel,” that is within Israel, to be made fully dominant in all of Israel’s affairs?

The Present Occasion

Now, there are some thoughts along this line which in the course of the years have taken pretty definite shape in my mind and which I have found to be decidedly helpful in my own life of Christian service. I am therefore in this pamphlet taking the only way open to me to share some of these thoughts with some of my Christian brethren, to whom the cause of Christian unity, I know, is exceedingly dear, even as it is to me. Our very souls cry out in unison with the prayer of our Lord himself, that his own throughout the world might all be one in a unity so deep and real that it repeats like a replica the perfect harmony existing between Himself and his Father. For whenever, the World see unity like that among Christians, it becomes easy for it to believe that He who brought it came indeed from God. John 17:21.

A replica, we remember, is an artist’s own duplicate of his own original work.

The Thoughts

Let me then try to give you my thoughts as clearly and concisely as I can; —not in words which mere human wisdom alone might suggest, but; as our apostle says, “in words which the Holy Spirit teaches, combining spiritual things with spiritual words.” 1 Cor. 2:13. Or, as the new Revision so beautifully renders it, “interpreting spiritual truths to those who possess the Spirit.”

1. First of all, then, is the thought that LIFE comes before Organization.

Life may or may not be in an organization, but it belongs to an organism. No man ever made an organism, for the simple reason that no man can make the life by which alone an organism can be.

2. Man makes organizations, and some men are Divinely gifted along that line, as we know; for God has a place for organization in His service. But organisms are strictly His creations; and unity, with an all-pervading life, is their essential and unvarying characteristic. One life, one organism; one organism, one life. And life implies growth, change, development, yet with the identity of the organism remaining unchanged throughout.

3. Such an organism is the church that is Christ’s body. It is an organism of the spiritual order; for it is “in the Spirit.” It exists by the Spirit. Its Creator and Life is the one Spirit of the living God, who inducts or baptizes every believer into it when he is born again. John 3:3–7; 1 Cor. 12:13.

4. We all know too that man cannot organize this Body, nor any part of it. It eludes his grasp and does not lend itself to his control. It is the Body of Christ.

It follows therefore than no man can either take us into it or put us out of it. That is wholly God’s work. Man can only recognize what God is doing or has done. Acts 2:47; Jn. 3:8.

The thing men organize and control is therefore NOT really the Body of Christ at all, but the body of their own group fellowships.

Most evangelical Christians today understand this quite well and never make the mistake of thinking that their group is identical with the one Body.

5. We pass on then to another main thought, namely, that all groups of people, whether in the Church or in the World, inevitably find, sooner or later, that, for the effective and orderly carrying out of the purposes for which they exist as a group, some measure of organization is necessary.

No need to labor the point. All experience proves it. The appointment of elders and deacons in every local church, and the election of church Boards of various kinds to see to different aspects of the work, all show it. Even a Sunday School gets nowhere until it is organized.

When I first went to “The Trumpet Office” in Moundsville, W. Va., nearly fifty years ago now, the S. S. in the assembly there was just a general Bible Class. We began to organize and divide it up, and we prospered. It was as truly one after we divided it as it was before, and very much more efficient.

When some of us, first went from there to the regions beyond, out into the darker places of the earth, there was no Missionary Board to counsel with and “to hold the ropes,” as we say, or to keep us in suitable touch with the home churches. We didn’t believe in “Boards” in those days. So our small part in the great world-enterprise of Christian Missions suffered accordingly.

For not all good missionaries are either Pauls or Careys, able to support themselves and effectively preach the gospel too. Nor are conditions in all fields at all suitable for such a policy to be followed for long successfully. Experience teaches that.

6. Our next point then is that Organization meets a real need of Life, in this world.

So Life produces organizations, to serve its interests. Organization helps to further, on the natural plane, the purposes for which the life was given.

Organizations therefore exist, not for themselves, but for the concerns and interests of Life.

From which it follows that if they are to serve the Divine purpose, organizations within the Christian brotherhood have to be and remain Life-centered and not become self-centered.

If an organization, either within the Church or outside of it, should err in its policy and be unable to change; or should it ever become so self-concerned and self-regarding that it begins to put its own interests above those of the Life itself, the very interests of that Life may force those who love it more than they do the organization to withdraw from the latter’s control and direction.

For our supreme loyalty must always be to the supreme thing, which also is a truth self-evident to every spiritual mind.

7. Now, it is surely a very significant fact that, so far as the records go, our Lord never said anything at all about organization in connection with the work of his kingdom or his church, although he must certainly have known that, just as with the Temple service at Jerusalem and with the local synagogues among his people, with whose management he must have been perfectly familiar, so it would be sure to be with the local churches of his own followers—a measure of organization, and so of officialism, would be found to be necessary and would inevitably come in; even as it did.

And had this sort of thing been wrong or hurtful in itself, as we have sometimes thought, he or his apostles would certainly have warned us against it, as they were careful to do about all other evil things threatening the life and prosperity of the Church.

Apparently then he left us quite free in regard to the matter, even as he did in regard to many other things, except for just one safeguard; namely, that inner control which the Spirit of his life in us as members of his mystical Body must ever impose upon all born-again people.

His own immediate concern was with the state of that inner life—as it still is and ever must be. Which brings us to the further important and too often forgotten fact, that

8. Every group or Movement in the Christian Church (or anywhere else for that matter), of necessity and by virtue of its very grouping, has or soon develops its own peculiar esprit de corps, its own distinctive spirit of enthusiasm and group loyalty, which isn’t shared, at least to the same extent, by those who are not members of or connected in any visible way with the group, though they are members of the larger spiritual fellowship of the Body of Christ and are loyal to Him.

A good illustration of this is the special fellowship of the Alumni of a College, or of the workers belonging to a particular Mission on the foreign field, neither of which need interfere at all with the fellowship that is specifically Christian, that is to say; that is purely “in Christ.”

For the grouping, such as it is, is within the compass of that larger fellowship, and, though not identical with it, is perfectly legitimate and proper, in its proper place.

It is therefore NOT the natural groupings of believers, or even their organization as such, that makes “sectism”: it is having the sectarian spirit in relation to other Christians, and which makes one disrecognize and depreciate all groupings of them other than one’s own. The sects that are condemned in the Bible were not organizations; but factions, a very different matter when you come really to think of it. And factious people are to be found in all groups of any size. 1 Cor. 11:19.

The time however has yet to come when the interests and the understandings of all true Christians will be so identical and spiritual that there will just naturally cease to be any divisiveness or sectarianism about their natural groupings in the Church. At present there is. And that is one thing which we too have to watch against as we would the plague or the polio, lest we ourselves be found sectaries while charging others with sectarianism!

Our Calling

What then? It seems to me that in the circumstances the thing we and all other spiritual people have to do is to endeavor to lessen, as much as we possibly can, the divisiveness in spirit (that is, the sectarianism) of all other, evangelical groups, and at the same time bend our spiritual energies toward making our own groupings so spiritual and Christ-centered that their dominant esprit de corps will be purely that of brotherly love and fellowship with Christ, as it ought to be.

In a word, we as a people have to be both a leavening influence within the general Christian society, and an example to all as a group of churches.

And this we will all the better be able for if we will bear in mind that just as Christ is for all who believe on Him, so also will those be who have only Christ to preach and to gather to.

Some Illustrations

Much more might be said on these points, but enough has been said: for every thoughtful person to get the message clear. Before concluding however, it will help us the better to recognize and so to guard against the wrong operation of any mere group spirit in ourselves if we just call to mind a few clear examples of its action. For, if we are to avoid anything effectively we certainly need to see it clearly.

Perhaps the first clear manifestation we have of it; then, within the Christian circle, is where the apostle John, speaking for The Twelve, told Jesus they had found a man casting out devils in his name and that they forbade him because he followed not with them. Mark 9:38.

We all know the Master’s reply, to that exhibition of well-meant but quite unspiritual group feeling. That reply made it clear that “us” was not the gathering point or issue or test of fellowship; but Him, in whose name all were working.

Another clear instance is the attitude which “those of the circumcision” in the church at Jerusalem held for a time toward their Gentile brethren of the One Body in the church at Antioch, counting them as not fully “of” them, because they had not been circumcised as they were. With the Judaisers, it was Christ plus.

Remember too how Martin Luther refused the Swiss Reformers the fellowship they so earnestly asked for, simply because they were not able to see the Lord’s Supper just as he did. For there unfortunately he was centering in a peripheral truth more than in Christ the central and fundamental truth.

And is not the same mistake responsible too for much of the unfriendliness that used to exist between us and all other groups, as well as among those other denominational group toward one another, and which in our time has so largely been outgrown? Though here another and very real danger confronts us today in the wide-spread Modernistic trend away from some things absolutely vital to a true Christian faith and fellowship, which however is not the point under review just now.

But perhaps we can still better see the action of the mere group spirit if we have the courage frankly to recall something of what we ourselves have in the past been guilty of toward some who were indeed “in Christ,” as we were bound to acknowledge, but who were conscientiously unable to pronounce some shibboleth of ours, or to do their work for the Lord in just the way we did.

I think I can recall, and so can some of you (for here I speak particularly to older members of the Church of God denomination), how, even from our own midst we more than once have excluded good sound progressive brethren by refusing to work with them; or by standing with those who did so refuse, and that not because of any moral offence or shortcoming in them, but simply because, as we then put it, “they fellowshipped sectism”! We required that for co-operative fellowship and recognition they must stand with us, apparently forgetting that in Christ co-operation is mutual, and that we all have to learn to stand and to work with God.

All this of course was, and, wherever it may now exist it still is; due to human weakness and Christian immaturity.

But let this reference to it, unpleasing though it may be, serve to remind us all of the ever-present danger of any group or Movement, however sincere its members may be, coming to mistake its own special atmosphere and group spirit for the atmosphere of Christ’s own mind and the esprit de corps of the larger body or fellowship that is purely His and in the Holy Spirit.

Conclusion

It therefore all comes to this, it seems to me, that if only we can accept the principles embodied in the thoughts I have been trying to set before you here, and if with all humility of mind and by the living grace of God we as ministers will patiently and lovingly apply them faithfully in our work for God, we will find that we are solving the age-long problem and are able both to conserve the true nature and life of the one true Body of Christ and at the same time have room to carry out all our own necessary organizational activities, without offence to any other group or association of our brethren in the great world-wide church of God.

Only in this way do I personally see any chance of our succeeding in our endeavor adequately to show to the world the moral beauty and sacred unity of that Divine organism whose Head is Christ, whose Life is his Spirit, and whose Membership is all of the redeemed in heaven and earth.

One day that Body is going to be fully revealed, and the manifold wisdom of God be fully seen in the completed and glorified Church. But, make no mistake about it, that is only going to be in the day when Christ himself shall appear.

For what kind of a body is it, whose Head is invisible, together with by far the larger part of its most important members?

And so it is written that “when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then we also shall appear with him in glory.” Col. 3:4.

Gathered to HIM now, in the Spirit, we shall then all be gathered unto Him in the fullness of our redeemed humanity, to be with Him in glory for ever.

For that Day, then, let us live and work and patiently let the trials and difficulties of the present time be whatever they may.

“And now unto Him that is able to guard us from stumbling and to present us faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and for ever. Amen.”

Your brother in Christ,

G. P. Tasker,

Mooretown, Ont., Canada.




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