CARING FOR THE YOUNG ONES
Among us there have been a number of brothers who were seeking eldership because of ambition. I am concerned that such a desire is still to be found in certain brothers today. Even the sisters may be ambitious for leadership. If you have this kind of ambition, you may be disappointed when someone else is made a leader. In the United States there is only one president. This does not mean, however, that of the more than two hundred million people in this country, there are none more intelligent or capable than the president. This country is maintained not only by the president but also by a great many other capable people. Although this illustration is not adequate, it may help us to see that in the church life we should not expect to be an elder or a leader. There are many ways to serve the Lord’s testimony.
In November 1975, all the elders and deacons in Taipei resigned, many of whom had held certain positions for more than twenty-five years. But after they resigned, the church there was revived and became very living. That was a church with twenty-three thousand members and seventeen meeting halls. In Anaheim there are only several hundred brothers and sisters. For this number we do not need very many elders, but we do need more brothers and sisters to take care of the young ones and of so many practical matters. It is impossible for every brother to be an elder or for every sister to be a leading sister. Let us drop the preoccupation with leadership and devote our attention to taking care of the young ones. We need some sisters who do not care to be leaders, but who are burdened to take care of the young people. What a shame to be ambitious for eldership and leadership!
We need those who are faithful to the Lord’s recovery. Such faithful ones are not preoccupied with leadership. Instead, they take care of the practicality of the church life. Where are the ones typified by the age group spoken of in Numbers 3:28? In today’s tabernacle of the Lord, we are short of them. There is no need for you to wait for an elder to ask you to care for some young ones. Simply pick up the burden and come together with others to pray. Tell the Lord that you are willing to be burdened for the young ones and to take care of them.
Often we emphasize the need to function in the meetings and encourage all the saints to function. But many who frequently give testimonies in the meeting function according to their eloquence, not according to the riches of Christ. We do not want testimonies of eloquence; we want testimonies of reality. Many of those who cannot speak eloquently feel useless in the meetings. They feel all the more useless when they consider that they are not elders or leaders of any kind. Hence, they are disappointed. Please forget about eldership and eloquence and begin to take care of the young ones.
TRAINING THE APPRENTICES
We have seen that twenty-five was the age at which the Levites began their apprenticeship. We may also apply this to today’s situation. It is right that those under thirty be engaged in the fighting. However, when some reach the age of twenty-five, they should be willing to return to the tabernacle to learn how to care for the Lord’s testimony. Many have the aspiration to be elders, but along with this aspiration, they need to be trained. Furthermore, the elders should have the burden to train others. There may be four elders in a locality, but there should be many more apprentices. However, some churches have been in existence for years and yet no new elders have been produced there. For this reason, we are short of leaders.
After the summer conference in 1964, many brothers in Los Angeles were eager to move to other localities for the practice of the church life. However, I told them that it was not yet the right time for them to go out; and they needed to stay in Los Angeles for a period of time. Most took this word and remained. Those who did go out experienced failure and returned a few months later. In 1967 a number again felt that it was time to start the church life in other places. However, in one of the meetings I suggested that they stay in Los Angeles until 1970 and then begin the migrations. The migrations in 1970, 1971, and 1972 were successful. But some of the migrations that took place in 1973 suffered because the leadership was not adequate. We had depleted the leadership that had been developed. Therefore, the decision was made to consolidate certain churches. By this we see that it is not sufficient simply to aspire to be an elder. There is the need of training. Only through training can a brother become a proper elder.
All those who are presently elders should have both the desire and the ability to train the apprentices. In Taipei we have always had a number of apprentices, those learning to be elders. At every elders’ training several brothers, some still in their twenties, attended as learners.
We are short not only of elders but also of leaders in the church service. In the past there has been too much organization in the church service. We strongly disapprove of organization, but we welcome life and living function. We do not have an organization; we have an organism. If the service functions when there is organization but stops otherwise, this is an indicator that the church is not normal. Instead of organizing things, we should learn to take care of the young ones and to train the apprentices. Even in the church service there is the need of learning.
(All Ages for the Lord's Testimony, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)