The Building Work of God, by Witness Lee

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Fourth, all ministries should be for the building up of the church locally, but the church should not be required to be for any ministry. We always stress that as mentioned in Ephesians 4, the work of those who have a ministry, of those who are especially gifted, is to perfect the saints for the building up of the Body of Christ. The goal of their work is not to build up their ministry but to build up the churches locally. This was what the early apostles did. They went from one locality to another locality in the whole of Judea and various places in the Gentile world to carry out their ministry for the building up of the churches. Therefore, although they did a great deal of work in various places, the result of their work ultimately belonged to the local churches and was for the building up of the churches in all the localities. Corinth is an example of this. Paul was the first one to go there. He established the church in Corinth after he had been working there for a while, and a group of people were saved. After a time Apollos went there. Since he was very competent in expounding the Word, a group of people were edified. When he left, he turned over these ones to the church in Corinth. Then after another period of time Peter also came to Corinth. Since he was a great apostle of the Lord, many more received help from him. However, when he left, all the fruit of his work was turned over to the church in Corinth. It is true that in the church in Corinth there were four groups of people and that there were divisions among them. But this was altogether due to the fleshly behavior of the Corinthian believers. It was not due to any impropriety in the work of Paul or the other apostles. Therefore, in his first Epistle to the Corinthians Paul severely rebuked them, saying, “What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Ministers through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave to each one of them” (3:5). He also said, “All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas;...all are yours” (vv. 21-22). This means that all the work of those who have a ministry belongs to and is given to the local churches.

Regrettably, however, today those who have a ministry are not like this. Often their ministry is not for the local churches; instead, they want the local churches to be for them. As a result, the local churches will be divided instead of built up. Why are there so many denominations and sects in Christianity today? Honestly speaking, the problem is not with the brothers and sisters in general but with those who have a ministry. These people who have a ministry and who are especially gifted do a great deal of work after they are raised up by God. They bring many to salvation and edify them, but they do not give these believers to the local churches. On the contrary, they attach these believers to themselves and form an independent organization. Consequently, although in various localities there may be some who are saved, who love the Lord, and even who become spiritual; nevertheless, the churches in these localities are torn down.

This matter is very important. If the Lord grants us grace, in the coming days He may raise up among us certain ones who have a ministry. These ones may be able to edify others and help others to be spiritual. However, if we do not see this principle, I am afraid that after these persons are raised up, the churches in various localities will be torn down. Therefore, I hope that all those who work for the Lord and those who are the responsible ones in every locality would have a strong feeling concerning this matter. We have to see that every ministry must be for the building up of the churches locally and that the churches should not be asked to be for any ministry. Although the apostle John’s ministry was strong, and although most of the seven churches in Asia were in a poor condition, the Lord’s desire was to build up those churches, not to build up the ministry of John. The Lord wanted John to build up those churches with his ministry, rather than asking those churches to be for his ministry.

(The Building Work of God, Chapter 10, by Witness Lee)