Recent Posts
Lowell Brueckner

Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

Causes and Characteristics of an Organization


Gal 1:10 “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? or am I striving to please men? if I were still pleasing men, I should not be a servant of Christ.”

1Co 7:23 “Ye were bought with a price; become not bondservants of men.”

It is true that at times, when Jesus spoke of the Kingdom of God, He included that which is external and visible. That is especially obvious in the parables of Matthew 13. Almost the whole chapter demonstrates that not everything, which visibly and tangibly relates to the things of God, is in truth of eternal value. The chapter begins with the Parable of the Sower and it shows that not all the seed of the Kingdom brings eternal fruit. He spoke of the Kingdom as a net that caught good and bad species of fish. He taught that the Kingdom is as a treasure in the field. The whole field is bought to be able to possess the treasure, but of course, not all the field is the treasure. He affirmed that among the good wheat, useless tares would grow. He illustrated how a grain of mustard grew in an abnormal way, above the intention of the one who sowed it. In the same way, the leaven is mixed into three measures of meal and the size exceeded its substantial value.

Nevertheless, before the Pharisees, when it came time to separate that which was external and visible from that which was internal and spiritual, Jesus said to them, “The kingdom of God does not come with signs to be observed or with visible display, nor will people say, Look! Here [it is]! or, See, [it is] there! For behold, the kingdom of God is within you [in your hearts]…” (Luke 17:20-21, Amplified Version. Note: The Greek preposition translated here within is only found in one other place in the New Testament. It is where Jesus said, “Cleanse first the INSIDE of the cup and of the platter…” Mt. 23:26.) Before Pilate, Jesus reduced things to their lowest terms to announce,“My kingdom is not of this world…” (John 18;36).

The most extreme and fanatical conclusion to which a group of people can come is a conviction that their organization or religious society is an exclusive representation of the Kingdom of God on the earth. Therefore, the only way to be saved, they believe, is through their organization and to leave its cover is the same as abandoning Christ and His gospel. It deserves the complete devotion and loyalty of its members. If you are there, everything that is necessary to life and godliness is provided, so there is no reason to look elsewhere. They are the body of Christ and the family of God. There are people who believe just that and without a doubt they are under a total deception. I hope that few who read this article have fallen into such a deception.

Much more common is a partial deception that the majority of us can fear. I refer to an attitude towards an organization that, while not exclusive, still produces a sense of adoration and reverence. If a word of criticism is spoken against the organization, immediately the members arise to jealously defend it. They leave the impression that to work for the organization is to work for the glory of God. I remember a time that a red light went on in my soul, when I heard someone say, “We surrender our songs to….” and named an organization. Such strong terminology and dedication belong strictly to Christ. Even though to abandon such an organization does not mean to separate entirely from the gospel, still when a member departs, there is a feeling of great disappointment, because they are surely leaving the best behind.

Previously, I wrote a book about the church as a spiritual, living organism, adorned as an eternal bride for Jesus Christ. That is the impression that the Holy Spirit prints upon our hearts, as we read the four Gospels and the book of Acts. They clearly give less importance to the external and priority to the internal. When we begin to see patterns and rules for service and order in the work of God in the New Testament, we are leaving the principal point and putting less important things in their place. When we take into account each little detail and use it as an excuse to program and exercise more human control, we are losing the vision of Christ and His apostles and are rapidly on the road to spiritual shipwreck and eventual death.

Jesus did almost nothing to establish an earthly structure to surround His spiritual efforts. To write much about the lack of structure is to belabor the obvious. His “headquarters” was the village of Capernaum in an insignificant province called Galilee. I see no evidence that he constructed, bought or rented a building to develop His ministry. I do read that he made use of a borrowed and furnished upper room to celebrate the last supper with His disciples. I find no carts or a stable full of horse to facilitate His travels with His disciples. I read that he mounted a borrowed donkey to enter Jerusalem. When He had to illustrate a point with a coin, he asked to borrow one. His taxes were miraculously paid. His school was opened upon the hills and in the roadways. I believe that people exaggerate, when they imagine that Jesus needed a personal treasurer, because He handled a lot of money, and so do they also, when they suppose that His tunic was very expensive. Jesus’ parents offered doves in sacrifice for purification after His birth. It was the offering of the poor (see Luke 2:24 and Lev. 12:6-8). The whole picture presents a spiritual work, based on sources imported from another world.

His first disciples did not attain more materially. “Silver or gold have I none!” Peter confessed. There was little or no financial or political advantage for the Christian leaders of the first century. Jesus taught clearly concerning this subject: "The kings of the Gentiles have lordship over them…; but ye shall not be so: but he that is the greater among you, let him become as the younger; and he that is chief, as he that doth serve” (Luke 22:25, 26).

There is no evidence of an earthly Christian establishment in the book of Acts. What could seem to be for a time was the centrality and concentration of leadership in Jerusalem. It is true that some of the believers began to think that they needed a special word of authority from that direction. In the case of the Galatians, to a certain degree, they accepted a false doctrine because they had an erroneous confidence in the superiority of the spirituality that proceeded from Jerusalem. Certainly teachers, who came to them from that city, planted that mistaken confidence. Paul corrected them in the first two chapters of his epistle. Without enmity or lack of respect towards his brothers in Jerusalem, he soundly contradicted the thinking of the Galatians in general.

Paul recognized that the leadership in Jerusalem was established upon a spiritual reputation, and not because of human appointment. James, Peter and John, said Paul, “Were reputed to be pillars” (Gal. 2:9). Nevertheless, having authority that came from heaven did not make them infallible in any way nor were they exempt from correction. Paul revealed to the Galatians that he gave his older brother in the Lord, Peter, a severe, public rebuke: “I resisted him to the face because he stood condemned” (Gal. 2:11). I heard a proud “leader” respond to one of his “subjects”, who questioned an order, “Even if I am mistaken, I’m right, because I am the leader and you must submit to me.” Such thoughts and attitudes cannot be justified by the Scriptures. How different was the humble attitude of Peter in receiving Paul’s reproof!

Jerusalem didn’t provide the necessary education for ministry or an official signature of backing. In the first place, Paul personally came to know the Lord Jesus upon his face on the way to Damascus and he was educated in the principle doctrines for Christ and His church in the desert of Arabia. He had 14 years of Christian experience, before starting any significant relationship with those in Jerusalem (Gal. 1:17-2:1). Then he went for a visit, because he received a revelation from God. Paul, feeling that the Galatians, as deceived as they were, would have difficulty in believing that such an independent process was impossible, had to assure them, “Now touching the things which I write unto you, behold, before God, I lie not” (Gal. 1:20).

In time, the rather Jewish concept, typical of the gospel conceived by the Jerusalem leadership along with the semi-communal lifestyle, was absolved. Aid was sent to the Jerusalem believers from the Gentile churches and in 70 A.D. the Jerusalem church ceased to exist. As God’s plan for the Gentiles began to unfold, men chosen by God concentrated in the city of Antioch. Nevertheless, the Scripture suggests that it all came about through heavenly guidance of the Holy Spirit and not through a human plan (Acts 13:1-4). From there, missionaries launched out into the pagan world.

The primitive picture of the church, the bride of Christ, was one of pristine simplicity and that of a chaste virgin, blossoming in faith, equipped and commanded by the Holy Spirit. Human instruments were present and necessary, but their part was limited and subjective. Christ was the Head of that body, always present, and there was no way to function or even to maintain life without Him. There was no back-up system. His absence would have brought an immediate dysfunction and sudden death.

An organizational structure is a return to Old Testament patterns and principles. The history of the Old Testament is that of a physical, visible nation, each detail of which was ordained by written decree, from its civil law to its religious rites. It was tied to the earth and of natural essence. For that reason the Old Testament is of much greater volume than the New. Since Christ physically left His disciples and ascended to the Father, the agency of the invisible Holy Spirit has kept the church over two thousand years. There have been very dry times, some long and scattered over great territories, that we can directly relate to the emphasis in the church upon that which is mundane and material. In those times, the leadership lost its contact with the spiritual and supernatural, ignored the guidance of the Spirit, and the church was heavily supported, inside and out, by worldly government. Its appearance, relationship and dependence came dangerously close to the antichrist system.

During those times, the layman suffered the most under the oppressive hand of the leadership of the church, which insisted that the only relationship with God that was possible for him must be indirect. The Scriptures were torn from his hands and he was told what the will of God was for him, personally and in general. The only way to survive was through a humble submission to the authorities. The non-conformist suffered according to the level of power accessible to the church during those times. If it were relatively weak, he simply was rejected and ignored; if it were strong, he was imprisoned or executed.

In spite of this tendency, surely not because of it, the work of God has gone forward, sometimes battling against the current from inside, sometimes in hiding, and sometimes triumphing through means of reformations and revivals. These periods of spiritual refreshing began, when God sowed hunger in the hearts of multitudes of people. He prepared a few in exceptional manners as in the case of the apostle Paul, taking them outside the noisy opinions and the popular points-of-view generally known to the religious institutions of the day. They had direct contact with the Holy Spirit and the Word, as well as old books written by men of God. They rebelled against the status quo and at times risked their lives, but always suffered rejection and scorn from their contemporaries.

Revivals are characterized by a fresh revelation of Jesus Christ, an implicit obedience to the Holy Spirit, faith and dependence upon the invisible and celestial, and abundant outpourings of supernatural power. Once again, the Holy Spirit takes the reins, unnecessary, visible and earthly things fade and a personal relationship with God becomes of supreme importance. It is a return to spiritual religion.

Why, then, do people become entangled again and again in that which is visible and natural? It is because they are the prime target of a threatened enemy. He utilizes two principle tactics against them: 1) Direct opposition and 2) offers of support (Read Ezra and Nehemiah to see a clear picture of these two weapons of the enemy.). The church in the east has suffered principally from the first, in the west from the second. The glorious brightness of the heavenly and spiritual flame begins to decrease in the hearts of God’s people, because of the constant opposition, calamity, an invasion of spiritual pride, sin, and the downfall of some key people. If the flame is not ventilated by a determined and significant body, eventually it will give place to a desire to maintain what has been gained, through means of practical, human wisdom.

Battle fatigue in soldiers wounded in combat causes them to vacillate. Tired pilgrims accommodate themselves to enjoy a way of life, which is normal and pleasant. Pride looks for respect in society and begins to despise the humble and simple beginnings. Newer and better material is then needed. Physical, numerical growth must be maintained. Professional help is sought. Faith begins to become heavy and earthly security takes its place, because God seems less real. Here and there groups of Christians form societies, societies become organizations, and organizations turn into denominations. A scriptural title is chosen that sounds legitimate. Miraculous and spiritual experience in the depths of the heart is less common. Truth is denied and doctrinal error is introduced to explain the decay, using enough of the Bible to back the point-of-view. Eventually everything dies and only the exterior things and names remain. It has been repeated in history again and again.

How sad it is! God gets second place, giving way to “the work”. How it grieves the heart to hear the confession of the sincerest members! “We have little time to be alone with God. We are engulfed by paper work and business.” People are manipulated like figures on a chess board and the littlest are sacrificed to cater to the most important. Some, who enter the ministry as kind servants, are overtaken by arrogance and a false sense of their responsibility and become manipulators and tyrants. The individual is no longer important; the cause is supreme. Committees decide what is best for each one. You hear words by innocent people, deceived and worthy of compassion: “As long as I submissively obey my colleagues with a pure heart, I will be in the will of God.” At times these control tactics become diabolical, as the one, which was used in the Garden of Eden. The serpent took advantage of Eve, as God honored the liberty that He Himself had given to choose obedience or disobedience. God never manipulates, even for our good and even, when it has to do with eternal things. Manipulation is contrary to His nature.

Organizations by their very nature cannot produce men of God (I do not mean that a person cannot become a man of God in an organization. That is something different.) They offer that which only God should give and demand what only God should demand. They are similar to a green house, which protects plants from a normal environment, necessary for strong growth. Where godly direction to an individual cannot be attained and where corporate decisions are made for every movement, where communication among one another is supreme and there is little place for the individual and God, godly character does not have opportunity to develop. Hypocrisy then blossoms to cover the lack. Personal hunger at times produces an individual whose heart is tuned to the voice of God, put that person will have to beware how he walks among his colleagues. There will surely be jealousy and some will see him as a threat to the rest.

John Huss, with the best of intentions, concerned first of all for his people, and then for his church and superiors, began to share the simple biblical truths that he had received firsthand from the Lord. He started the translation of the Bible in the tongue of his people. It cost him his life. Martin Luther followed in his footsteps 100 years later and had to abandon the priesthood. John Wesley did the best he could to serve God in the Church of England, but door after door closed until he had to go to the open air to undertake massive meetings among crude pagans. A. B. Simpson found God and received a vision for a lost world. His efforts to reach it brought opposition from his denomination and the sophisticated members of his congregation, so he had to proceed independently. My own father was given an ultimatum to drown a move of the Holy Spirit or renounce his position in his denomination. He renounced it.

Curiously, none of these good men originally had any intention of abandoning their organization. They were forced to do so. Wesley discouraged his followers from leaving the Church of England, but they left it anyway and formed the Methodist Church. Towards the end of his life, he was once again welcomed in some of the pulpits of the church of his childhood. Jonathan Goforth, the famous missionary to Mongolia, was able to go on with his work and ministry inside an organization, in spite of severe opposition.

Yes, of course, you can be a man or woman of God and at the same time function inside an organization. The pastor of our daughter’s family was a denominational man, inside a denominational church. After hearing a report with statistics concerning the success of his denomination, he commented to his flock, “It is not only interesting to us what our organization achieves. We are interested in all the people of God.” With that attitude anyone, inside or outside an organization, can be a help to the people of God everywhere. To leave an organization is NOT a mandate of God. An uncompromising love for the truth IS. To work inside an organization does not need to be destructive, but to have an organizational mentality is. Throughout his ministry, A. W. Tozer was a member of an organization and, in fact, was the editor of its weekly magazine. Nevertheless, he confessed, “I have never been a good denominationalist.” “He belonged to the whole church,” said his biographer James Snyder, “He embraced true Christianity wherever he found it.”

Snyder also made the following commentary concerning Tozer, “The superficial did not like Tozer; the serious-minded, who wanted to hear what God had to say to them, loved him.” The superficial were those who over-esteemed the provisional and did not appreciate enough the real values. Among them, Tozer was a threat en his day. He was a man who knew the dangers of an organizational spirit first-hand. Read in his book about the closed hearts of those who had enjoyed organizational success:

“A state of heart that rejected admonition was characteristic of Israel at various periods in her history, and these periods were invariably followed by judgment. When Christ came to the Jews He found them chuck full of that arrogant self-confidence that would not accept reproof. "We be Abraham's seed," they said coldly when He talked to them about their sins and their need of salvation.”

“The common people heard Him, and repented, but the Jewish priests had ruled the roost too long to be willing to surrender their privileged position. Like the old king, they bad gotten accustomed to being right all the time. To reprove them was to insult them. They were beyond reproof.”

“Churches and Christian organizations have shown a tendency to fall into the same error that destroyed Israel: inability to receive admonition. After a time of growth and successful labor comes the deadly psychology of self-congratulation. Success itself becomes the cause of later failure. The leaders come to accept themselves as the very chosen of God. They are special objects of the divine favor; their success is proof enough that this is so. They must therefore be right, and anyone who tries to call them to account is instantly written off as an unauthorized meddler who should be ashamed to dare to reprove his betters.”

“If anyone imagines that we are merely playing with words let him approach at random any religious leader and call attention to the weaknesses and sins in his organization. Such a one will be sure to get the quick brush off, and if he dares to persist he will be confronted with reports and statistics to prove that he is dead wrong and completely out of order. "We be the seed of Abraham" will be the burden of the defense. And who would dare find fault with Abraham's seed?”

“Those who have already entered the state where they can no longer receive admonition are not likely to profit by this warning. After a man has gone over the precipice there is not much you can do for him.”

People with an organizational mentality many times fear a revival. As the Pharisees and Sadducees, they think that they do service to God, opposing all that disturbs the status quo. They quench every flame from heaven, if they see it as a threat to their positions and organizational functions. They utilize speakers who speak well of them and back them unconditionally and chase away all those that criticize with the excuse that they will cause dissension and problems.

The concentration of people with the same vision and similar purposes limit spiritual growth and accentuate particular defects. Small faults multiplied many times become giant deformities. Originally the church was comprised of Jew and Gentile, slaves and free, men and women, rich and poor, and Christ alone was the unifying factor. Organizations actually divide the body of Christ into segments and intend to provide everything that is lacking, due to the separation from other segments and true members of the body. But the fact is that, because we are separate, we can only experience a small fraction of that which God potentially has for us. Paul prayed that the Ephesians “may be strong to apprehend WITH ALL THE SAINTS what is the breadth and length and height and depth, and to know the love of Christ” (Eph. 3:18, 19). It can never happen in a separatist environment.

Jesus asked, “If you love them that love you; What reward have you?” There is no Christian virtue in loving those, who are of our race, culture, background or spiritual education. Such love is produced naturally and needs no heavenly or supernatural intervention. In Mark 9:38-41, the disciples not only avoided, but actually prohibited someone who was freeing people from demon power, because he did not form part of the circle that they considered the most intimate of the followers of Christ (Maybe you will find it interesting to note that in the same chapter, they had not been able to cast out a demon in a child, who was brought to them.). One of the last things that Jesus did on this earth was to deal with Peter’s kind of love and service. He asked Peter if he loved Him. Peter responded sincerely and used a different word than Jesus had used. Jesus’ word was “agape”. Peter answered with the word “phileo” (look them up in a Greek dictionary).

Personally, in each place where we have lived, I have had to recognize the authority that God has placed there and submit to it. In a ministry, in which I have to do a lot of travelling, touching various denominations and independent works, I continually have had to yield to people and plans, which have been decided before I arrive. In contrast, I have noted that some, who are limited by an organizational mentality, lose their “spirit of submission” in the absence of their own leaders. I also have observed that some demonstrate a lack of consideration for people with genuine spiritual authority, ignoring their counsel, because their sectarian spirit feels no obligation towards those outside their particular system.

Please take into account these thoughts, written to me by a friend: “The majority of us, who are missionaries, pastors, leaders or directors, have problems recognizing the Body of Christ in its spiritual dimension. We become deceived by appearances, by people that correspond well with our expectations (or models), of what should be a good Christian or man of God, and we consider someone a threat, or at least useless to the work, if he is not within this mold that we have preconceived. It happens to all of us from time to time, as with Samuel and Eliab (1 Sam. 16:6-7), because we are not able to see into the heart of people, as God can. As with the apostles, we get along well with Judas, because he walks with us and seems to be a responsible treasurer that does his work faithfully and productively; but we distrust Paul, because he does not act like us and because he has “another vision” of the ministry, which we cannot comprehend. We need a good deal of spiritual maturity and a large dose of “true humility”, which is the best antidote against all forms of sectarianism. I believe also that we can only say that we have matured and acquired this discernment, when we can say to that brother, who does not walk with us, “I need you” – which is not the same as a simple resigned and indifferent acceptance.”

Many can look forward to a tremendous shock, when they come before Christ, who hasn’t a trace of sectarianism, but only expects that they have completed His eternal plan. Whether you are inside or outside an organization, you will be alone before Him to be judged on that day. It gives me a certain healthy fear any time that I think about it. Paul assured us, “We shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ… so then every one of us shall give account of himself to God” (Rom. 14:10-12 KJV). He repeats it in 2 Corinthians 5:10: “For we must all be made manifest before the judgment-seat of Christ; that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he hath done, whether it be good or bad.” You will not hide behind a leader who supports you, defends you or justifies you before the Lord: “He was a good member of our society, very submissive and obedient. He never caused problems.” In the verses that we have just quoted, there is not a single plural form “we” or “they”, in order to present, “what we have done”. You will feel as lonely as ever in your life because, “every one shall give account of himself” and because he will be judged “each one… according to what he has done.”

Today, you need to honestly consider if the expectations of your religious society have detained or detoured you in the least from the will of God for your life. Nothing is worth compromising the final verdict before the tribunal of Christ, “Well done, good and faithful servant; enter into the joy of your Lord.”


Post a Comment