Winning Forces – The Church
Forces That Win
God’s world is full of winning forces. The great ball of fire around which our earth revolves is the greatest winning force in the life of the earth. It is constantly winning the earth to itself with a power unseen but tremendous, beyond anybody’s power to calculate. The swing of the earth away from the sun is being continually overcome. By an immense drawing power it steadily holds the earth where it can pour down its wealth of warmth and light and life into it.
It woos the moisture up from river and lake and sea, until its gravity partner in the centre of the earth woos it back again in refreshing rain and sheltering snow. It wins out of the earth’s warm heart bounteous harvests of grains and fruits, the wealth of forests which affects the earth’s life so radically, the flowers with their beauty and fragrance, and the soft carpeting of green to ease the journey for our feet. All the life and beauty of the earth is due to the winning power of the sun.
God Himself is the greatest winning force in all our world. Everywhere men feel the upward drawing toward Him. They may protest against church organizations and creeds, against teachings and long-settled practices and habits of thought, as they do so much, but there is always everywhere a longing in the human heart for God. It is the answer to the longing of His heart for us.
And man is a great winning force. Everywhere men are attracted to each other. There is a winning power within each of us that draws certain others irresistibly to us. And there are winning forces in life that each one of us is powerfully affected by. The old home of earlier days has a marvellous power of attraction for most men. The old fireside, the familiar rooms, the subtle aroma that seems inseparable from the very bricks and boards–who has not felt the tremendous drawing power of these?
What a strange power of attraction a man’s mother-tongue has for him. How the heart will give a quick leap, in a foreign land, when, amid a confusing jargon of strange sounds, all unexpectedly some one speaks the dear old familiar words. The person speaking may not be specially congenial or attractive to us, but that sound his tongue gives draws us to him.
The Divine Law of Leadership
Now I want to talk with you a bit about the forces at hand for winning our old world back to our Father’s heart and home. God means us to use all the attractive powers we have in this great world-wooing and world-winning task. The world is to be won back, not driven. Men drive men, when they can. But God woos and wins. Man’s coming back must be by his own glad, sweet consent. God won’t have it any other way.
There are certain strangely winsome forces at our command for winning man. They are mighty in their drawing power. But there are counter-currents that divert and hinder their influence. We need to be familiar with these winning forces, and with the counter-currents, too.
There are seven great forces at our command for this blessed service of soul-winning and world-winning. They are not peculiar to foreign-mission service, for the foreign service itself is not essentially different from other service, except in the greatness of its need. They are the forces for use in all our winning work.
Two of these are distinctly human forces. The first is an organization, the Church. And then that of which the Church is made up, men and women; I mean the power of personality, developed and consecrated personality.
There are two divine forces that work through the human–Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I have put these second in order, because they work through the human. The leadership is in human hands. The initiative of all action is with us. Of course, if you go a bit deeper in, the initiative is with God who moves upon our hearts to make us act. But on the distinctly human level the beginning of service rests in human hands, and these two mighty, almighty, divine forces work through us.
The divine law of leadership and of cooperation in leadership has not always been clearly understood. And there has been bad delay often because of the lack of understanding. Our Lord Jesus in the days of His humanity surrendered Himself to the leadership of the Holy Spirit in His great mission to men. The Spirit worked through Jesus. After Jesus’ Ascension the order was reversed. The Spirit yielded Himself to the control of the glorified Son of God. Jesus worked through the Spirit. It was Jesus who sent down the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost for the special mission begun that day.
And now, with the greatest awe coming into our hearts at the thought, be it said that these two work through our human leadership. The leadership in service among men is human leadership. The wondrous Spirit of God works through our leadership to reveal Jesus to men in all His winsomeness and power.
There can be no power at all in our human action and leadership except as the Spirit leads and controls us, and is allowed to. And, on the other side, we must not forget, though it has sometimes been forgotten, that God’s working waits upon human action and leadership. Memory quickly brings up the fact, so often repeated in the history of the Church, that when men have failed to respond to God’s call His work has fallen behind. Whenever a new chapter of earnest service has been begun it has always been through a new leadership. Some man has listened to God, and let Him have the free use of himself in reaching out to other men.
God needs men. He needs you and me. We are the wire for the transmission of His current of power. The wire is useless without the current. And the current must have the wire along which to travel to its place of service. The divine power is through human action and human leadership. The power is all divine. And the means through which it works is all human. Jesus and the Holy Spirit work through the Church and through each one of us who is willing.
Then there are three spirit forces, or influences, of mighty power in human hands; namely, prayer, and money, and sacrifice.
To-night we want to talk about the first of the two human forces–the Church.
We ought to remind ourselves of just what that word “Church” means in this connection. It has many meanings. There are at least two that we should note here in thinking of it as a great winning force. In its broadest meaning, the word is commonly used for the whole group of church organizations taken together, the Roman Catholic and the Greek Orthodox, the Protestant, and the few primitive societies that still retain their old original organization. In the deeper, less used meaning, it stands for the body of those men and women everywhere who are trusting Jesus Christ, and are allied with Him in the purpose of their hearts.
These two meanings, of course, should be the same. All who trust Jesus should be in the church organizations. And all who are in the organizations should be there because of their relation to Jesus. Whatever the facts regarding that may be, the mission of each is the same. And it is with that mission that we are concerned just now.
Jesus planned that His Church should be a great man-winning and world-winning organization. The mission of the Church is to take Jesus to all men. It is God’s messenger of His truth to all. In that it is the direct lineal descendant and heir of the Hebrew nation.
That nation was chosen to be a messenger or missionary nation. That was the one purpose of its special creation as a nation. It was not to be as the other nations, in the characteristics that commonly mark strong nations. It was to be a teacher-nation, receiving its message of truth direct from God, embodying that message in its own life, personally and nationally, and giving it out clearly and fully and winsomely to all the nations of the earth. And, in spite of its failures and breaks, that mission was accomplished to a remarkable extent.
The Church is its heir. It was born in the Jewish nation. It became the heir to its world-wide messenger mission. The great commission given by Jesus as He was leaving is the Church’s commission for its great life-work. It was spoken to the group of Jewish men who were the nucleus of that body called the Church, that came into being on the day of Pentecost. That ringing, “Go ye into all the world and preach my gospel to the whole creation,” is the Master’s command to the Church which He brought into being. That is the Church’s marching order by which its life is to be controlled and its faithfulness judged.
The scene of the Church’s birth gives a vivid picture of its world-mission. It was born in a world-gathering. It was a world-church in its make-up at its birth. Men from all parts of the world became united in one body by the Spirit’s touch that great Church birthday. Its birth-gift, the power of speaking many tongues, reveals at once the wide sweep of its service.
It was the Master’s plan that His Church should speak all the languages of the earth then and now and always, as well as the language of heaven, the language of love. So every man would learn of Jesus in his native speech. The language of the cradle and of love-making and of the fireside, the language that most quickly kindles the fires in a man’s heart, that was the language to be used in carrying Jesus to every man. That was Jesus’ plan. The Church was rarely equipped with winning power for a world-service on its birthday in the gift of tongues.
Of course, this is not the only mission of the Church. That is to say, there are other purposes necessarily included in this. Taking the Gospel of Jesus to all men means more than merely taking it and telling it. The teaching and training and developing of those won to Jesus is an inseparable part of the Church mission. The great service of worship has always been recognized as a vital part of the Church life. Sometimes indeed these have been thought of, and still are thought of, as its only mission. But they grow distinctly out of the chief mission and are distinctly contributory and secondary to it. Indeed, they come into being only through the faithful doing of the chief task. Men were won. Then they met for worship and for training.
Reaching Out For a World
The Church of those first years thoroughly understood what its great mission was to be. The first chapters of the Book of Acts vividly describe the ideal Church as planned by the Master, and as understood by those who felt His own personal touch upon themselves. Everybody went. They went to everybody. They went everywhere. There is pretty clear evidence that they actually went everywhere that men could go. They held their lives, and even their property, subject to the one great gripping purpose.
The greatest leader of the first century of the Church, Paul, who contributed most to its literature and exerted the greatest influence upon its life, was above all else a missionary leader. He went practically everywhere. He didn’t go hastily, but by carefully thought-out plans. He won men to Christ, organized them into church societies, taught them, and sent them out to win others.
He worked in and out of the world’s great city centres of his time. Ephesus, the Asiatic centre, Corinth, the centre of Greek influence, and, Rome, the centre of the world’s governing power, were the scenes of his longest and most thorough campaigns. His choice of the centres was a master’s strategic choice. For these centres sent their influence out to the ends of the earth. Paul’s body might be in Ephesus or Corinth or Rome, but his thought and heart were on the world these cities reached by constant streams of influence.
And to these churches which he had won out of the raw stuff of heathenism he taught the same world-wide message. They became filled with this same world-wide spirit. The Thessalonian and Corinth Churches made their winning power felt throughout Greece and wherever Greek culture had gone, that is to say, everywhere. The Church in Rome sent out the message of Jesus from its golden centre of all Roman roads, out to the farthest reaches of those far-reaching roads.
It is striking, though not surprising, that the days of the Church’s missionary activity have been the days of its greatest purity and vigor. When the vision of the Master’s face on Olivet, and the ringing sound of His “Go ye” have been lost, the Church has written pages that would gladly be blotted out.
The Church has been a winning force beyond any power of calculation or words of description. All that has been done has been done through its activity and leadership. It is to-day a tremendous winning force, reaching its warm hands out to the very ends of the earth, and drawing men to Jesus. With our earnest prayer it will exert a yet mightier influence in taking Jesus to all men and in winning men everywhere to Jesus.
The Church is organized Christendom. It stands for the power of organization in God’s service. All the vast power of the men and women whose hearts have been renewed by the Holy Spirit can be brought to bear at a given point with tremendous force through the Church. That was and is the Master’s plan.
Organization is rhythmic action, a crowd of men working by agreement as one man. Never was the world so impressed with the almost magical power of organization as to-day. Never has organization been brought up to so high a pitch of efficiency. The unparalleled progress of the world in our day is due to the marvellous skill that has been developed in organized action.
Now, this almost omnipotent power of organization was meant to be used in winning the world back home. That is the meaning of the birth of the Church on that great Pentecost day. It is remarkable that the most perfectly matured bit of organization, in this day of matured and perfected organizations, is a church. For by common consent of thoughtful students the most finely adjusted and thoroughly matured bit of human machinery is the Roman Catholic Church.
If such a masterpiece of organization were controlled by the Spirit that controls in these early chapters of Acts, what tremendous and thorough and rapid work would be done in world-winning! And that is the goal toward which we should be driving. The evangelization of the whole world is an easy task for the whole Church. It would be a stupendous, if not an impossible task for the few. It has been a gigantic task for the leaders, who by dint of great planning and persuasion and earnest pleading have done as much as has been done. But if the whole Church or half of it were to go at it as earnestly as men go at other things, it would be an easy task.
I remember one October morning walking across an old smoke-begrimed bridge that spans the Ohio at Cincinnati. My eye was caught by a dingy sign in large plain letters nailed up in a prominent place. It simply, said, “Processions in crossing this bridge must break step.” That was all. But it was imperative. It was a law. The processions must break step. The same men might cross the bridge, in as large numbers, at the same time, but they must not keep step.
The authorities knew perfectly well that for a body of men to march in step, every left foot set down at once, the impact of every right foot striking at the same moment, would so–I do not say, add to the force exerted–would so multiply the force exerted upon the bridge as to endanger its safety. The power of concerted action is immense beyond any power of conception. Every bit of power at command can so be brought to bear at one point with a force beyond any words to express.
Our Master reverses for us the old bridge sign. Out from Pentecost rings this word: “Let my followers all form in line, close ranks, and move out to a world conquest, and–keep step.” That command of His will make a winning force so great as to shorten up the world’s present calendars, and shorten up the world’s pain, and lengthen out the new life that will come to untold numbers through Jesus.
“Find My World and Win it Back”
Nearly forty years ago David Livingstone, one of the Church’s great world-winning pioneers, was lost in the depths of equatorial Africa. That is to say, he had advanced so far ahead of everybody else that the rest of us lost track of him, and so we called him lost. Perhaps we got the use of the word twisted, and we were the lost ones because we hadn’t kept up. He had gone where the Church was told to go, but the rest of us had lingered behind, and so the main column became detached from its leader. Everybody was talking about the lost leader.
James Gordon Bennett, the owner of the New York Herald, sent a telegram to one of its correspondents, Henry M. Stanley. Bennett was in Paris, and Stanley at Gibraltar. The telegram summoned Stanley to come to Paris at once. Stanley went, reached Paris at midnight, knocked at the great newspaper-man’s door, and asked what was wanted. “Find Livingstone,” was the short, blunt reply. “How much money do you place at my disposal?” asked Stanley. “Fifty thousand dollars, or a larger sum. Never mind about the money; find Livingstone.”
Stanley went. It took two years’ time to get ready. It required a specially planned campaign and thorough preparation. The planning was done, and the world was thrilled when the bold missionary leader was found.
Our Master has sent a message to His Church. It is written down in a Book, and is being repeated by wireless messages constantly. He says, “Find my world, and bring it back; never mind about the expense of money and lives. Find my world and win it back.” And the Church has the winning power to do it.