What is it that constitutes the Church? The Church is not constituted upon the Christian creed, nor upon a set of beliefs, nor by assent to certain doctrinal propositions. The Church is not constituted by asking people to join it or become members of its adherents, but the Church is constituted by the transmission of the risen Life of the Lord. Reproduction is its law of increase.
Increase may be brought about in two ways. One is the way of imitation. You can turn out so many things as by a mold; that is, by making so many things on the same pattern and thus increasing, multiplying, by imitation. It hardly needs saying that such is not the New Testament way with regard to the growth of the Church. That is not the New Testament way of reproduction.
The other way is by conception; that is, the outgrowth of life from within, the form which life takes when it expresses itself when it has its way. It is inward rather than outward. The difference between imitation and what is conceived is the difference between what is dead and what is alive. One is made, the other is born; and the constitution of the Church is the result of the activity and energy of a Life, the Lord’s own risen Life … being transmitted, passed on. Whatever you may develop, you will never get a development of the true Church unless the risen Life of Christ is operative and is there in sufficient measure to be transmitted by the Spirit.
The same law holds good as to the order of the Church. It is the result of His Life. Again, two kinds of things are possible. You can appoint to office and set apart with certain titles and names which represent certain spheres of activity or kinds of work and responsibility. You can elect or vote into such office or position and proceed along that line, setting up the Church order. Or you can follow another line, and be ruled by the law of life, whereby account is taken of the working and expression of the Lord’s life in the members of the Church, of the way in which the members, by that life, begin to show marks of certain spiritual ability.