Old books emit echoes from the past. Not long ago, while rummaging around in some old books, I happened to rummage through one entitled BE ONE. Its author was Norric Jacob Reasoner. It was published way back in 1928. The author, evidently a man with a Restoration heritage, identifies himself on the title page simply as "A Servant of Jesus Christ." His book deals with the question of, or the quest for, unity. In the fifteenth chapter, called "Suicide For Christ," I came across this opening sentence:
"We have now come face to face with probably the greatest of all tangible obstructions to true Christian unity--organization."
Needless to say, that statement immediately caught my attention, and what followed certainly never turned my attention loose. A few lines later in the same opening paragraph was this:
"When we come to organization, we find something tangible, something ever present, something that embodies all the traditions of the past, and all the spiritual pride of the present. Organization is not an abstract matter that calls for the exercise of man's higher faculties, but it is a visible means of reaching and serving the Deity, even as was Aaron's calf (Ex. 32:4-5), or the image through which Micah tried to worship Jehovah (Jud. 17). It is the Babylonian wall surrounding the well-nigh impregnable city of "Confusion." It is the very embodiment of the entire denominational system, an essential element of it, without which it would cease to exist, and it is the twentieth century fetish of civilization."
Since the place and problem of "organization" has been the front page, lead story of The Examiner from its beginning, I thought it might be of interest to readers to discover that many observations being made here are not brand new, never-thought-of-by-anyone-else ideas. Although this author wrote many years ago, he saw and spoke some truths about "Organized Religion" that make him sound like a regular contributor to The Examiner. While it is clear that he was at the time still involved in an organized Church system, nevertheless, he expressed many facts about the institutional version of Christianity that deserves to be echoed again and again. For this reason let me give some excerpts lifted from this faded chapter of this faded book. Perhaps you will find these thoughts as fascinating as I did.
--"Organization is the crystalization of sentiment or purpose by a definite group. It is the acme of institutionalism. For Jesus to have organized a church personally, would have been to have crystalized the living truth in set form, with emphasis upon form rather than spirit. The church of Jesus Christ is not crystalized. It is alive. It is the body of Christ, not a denomination, congregation, or organization. Every true Christian is a part of the body of which Christ is the Head, a part of the church. Wherever a Christian goes, there is the church--a portion of humanity through which Christ is working out his will."
--"When we are failing for lack of consecration...it is a colossal fallacy to believe that we can get the work done by organization. Herein lies the secret of much of the failure of the modern church."
-- It is very easy to live carefree lives and deceive ourselves about our personal responsibility--to shift it onto the shoulders of an organization...But beware. There is a day of reckoning coming!"
-- "Past question, a corporation may outlive every individual of a generation. It is just as true that the original purposes of an organization may be prostituted when the original guardians have passed away--or before...If we expend our energy and life building lives, we are building for eternity, and for the future generations here also. But if we succeed in erecting a great organization, then die and leave it, we have left concentrated power for unscrupulous hands to grasp and use as pleases them."
--"Should it not be our effort to get people to do what they do because Christ desires it, rather than because a great organization asks, expects, or gives honorable mention because of it?"
--"The disagreements which sunder the church of the Lord Jesus are disagreements over methods, means, equipment, curriculum, teachers, requirements, the policy of organizations auxiliary to the local work...It is rarely over the will of our Lord as expressed in the New Testament, but over the manner of doing His work--organization."
--"We fight disease with an attenuated, or vitiated germ. We pass the germ of smallpox through the horse, and then immunize human beings by vaccination, so that varioloid, "a mild form of smallpox," is all that the true smallpox germ will develop in one in whose body vaccination has "taken." Has not the Truth of Christ been passed through organization, giving the church only an attenuated Christianity?"
--"The more we trust organization for leadership, the less we develop initiative ourselves. The more we trust organization for power, the less we attempt to do ourselves and the greater the responsibility for ultimate success we place upon a few shoulders...The church has been trying to win the world through organization--through its leaders. Jesus Christ placed the task upon the individual; let us restore it to the individual."
--"Christ's plan was to use every individual. Organization excuses the individual, largely."
--"The world cannot be won to Christ by proxy! Organization is generally our proxy.
-- "When the Spirit led and Jesus was the only Head of the church, it was unconquerable, though rivers of Christian blood fertilized the soil...But organization grew and continued to develop until the papacy was the logical outcome...The institutionalized church is the greatest enemy of real Christianity. During the Dark Ages it changed God's Word to read..."The things that are seen (money, equipment, organization--our net and drag) are of greatest importance, while the things that are not seen are relatively unimportant"...We are worshipping at the shrine of the golden calf--and his high priest is organization."
--"The church is not an organization, but an organism. An acorn is an organism. It produces root, branch, bark, sap, leaf, and acorn like unto its parent acorn, in which is a potential oak tree like unto its parent. A lumberman may cut the oak into joists, studding, rafters, plates, siding and flooring, sheeting and shingles, finishing material, etc., and may then organize the parts into a building with kitchens, dining room, living room, bedroom, closets, conservatory, library, den--using nothing but lumber from this one tree (if of sufficient size). The newly made organization is usable, but it has ceased to grow. It is no longer a thing of life. It may endure for many years, or be destroyed. Meanwhile, the stream of life that was in the little acorn has been scattered to the ends of the earth through the centuries, by means of other living organisms which it produced. Just so, the church. The divine church will produce certain various organs, as did the growing acorn in becoming an oak...but excessive human organization will sacrifice the divine life of the organism."
--"Is not our real trouble the overlooking of the salvation of souls that we may build up organization? Does not organization overshadow the spiritual church? Have not organizations "taken away our Lord" so that we are scarce able to find him? Jesus never died to build any organization on the face of the earth. The organization of the church is purely incidental. The first hint is found when there is a job to be done, and those selected for the task were "servants" of the brethren...They were not striving to build an organization or party to compete with those of the day, but were winning individuals to the eternal life offered through faith in--not organization, but a person--Jesus Christ."
--"Why did not Christ "organize" His church? Why was He silent about "organization" in the great commission? Why was His "Ye shall be my witnesses" to be personal testimony of the personal Christ? His witnesses were not in the employ of any organization. Study Christ's PROGRAM. Lay your finger upon a single scripture that contemplates organization. Christianity is never a religion of proxy--but organization is, by its very nature, our proxy. Are we not "missing the mark" in our organized activities?"
-- "The truly great work of the church of Jesus Christ has always been done with the least organization. Jesus, the founder, had no organization behind him. Peter and a group of friends unorganized, instituted the church at the Lord's bidding. Paul was not supported by an organization, but by "these hands." He was not accountable to an organization...Martin Luther did not have a great organization behind him...John Calvin broke away from the organization of his time, and his system of theology drew around him those who later organized...The Campbells so closely followed the Word alone that the organizations of their day withdrew from them...These men relied upon God, not organization. Organization was not permitted to circumscribe the Holy Spirit. It has ever been so. Where organization has grown strongest, the Spirit has been most nearly quenched. Where the Spirit and the Word have had free course and full right-of-way, results have been marvelous--without organization."
--"In 1 Sam. 10:19 we find recorded that the Israelites rejected God that they might have a tangible king. They wished to be like the nations around. Even so today people are rejecting God to support their organization. Israel's idols were not meant at times to be idols, but to be a visible means of worship of Jehovah. Our organizations are not meant to be idols, but they are so used at times."
-- "When organization once assumes a position, it can be counted upon to propagate that position and sustain it in others, whether right or wrong. Times without number, organizations have extended error, and they have been unjust and unfair in dealing with individuals. History is replete with such instances."
--"ORGANIZATION PRESENTS THREE TEMPTATIONS. We hesitate to dwell upon the temptation of "the loaves and the fishes," and yet the beneficiaries of any systems are the first to defend it. Some…serve the Lord for profit…And it is not the preachers only. Churches require business managers more than prophets of God. They judge a preacher's ability by the manner in which he keeps the machinery greased… The second temptation is more apparent and more serious - spiritual pride. The personal possessive pronouns loom large. Organization is the very heart of these. The third, however, is the most serious of all. It is the temptation to exercise authority. Satan offered Jesus all authority on earth. He rejected it and received the authority of earth and heaven too…All authority that Jesus did not delegate is usurped authority…There are always two parties to usurped authority--the one who exercises it, and the one who accords it...The whole twentieth century church is facing the question of authority. Who is to be supreme? Truly, organization presents all classes of temptation, but particularly the temptation to ambition--the exercise of human authority--which temptation Jesus definitely conquered."
-- "Organization, military, destroyed Roman liberty.
Organization, financial, can destroy American liberty.
Organization, Catholic, destroyed Christian liberty.
Organization, Protestant, has destroyed Christian unity--and may yet destroy Christian liberty."
-- "It is organization that keeps small communities divided religiously.
It is organization that says: "This is our territory. Move on."
It is organization that competes with organization."
-- "I contend that the Lord's work is different from that of human beings and that the same methods that assure success among men, will insure failure, in the long run in the Lord's work. When Jesus said, "My kingdom is not of this world" He meant it is "not dependent upon the same methods, swayed by the same motives, nor having the same purpose."
-- "A beast is an organism with a mind of its own, bent on self-gratification. Prophecy likens the governments of earth to beasts. Governments are composed of living organisms compacted into an organization. The organization of the Roman Empire was likened unto a dragon. The Beast of Revelation is usually thought to be the Catholic church. Without question in my own mind, it refers to some organization exercising human authority in the church, prostituted to selfish ends. Protestantism, though divided, is organized, with human authority in evidence. Can our system be called the Image of the Beast? Think it over."
The above words were written before I was born by a man I never knew. The citations selected here (and many good ones were omitted) are somewhat arbitrary on my part. By no means do they do justice to the book from which they were taken, or to its author. They do, however, reflect a clear understanding of what the religion of Jesus Christ is NOT, in that they describe some of the evils and errors of great, organized systems that operate under the guise of "Christianity." Considering how UNorganized the world was in his time, compared to today, the thinking he did in reference to religious organization is remarkable indeed. Truly, his words deserve to be more than an echo. For this reason I have repeated them here.