The sixth item of the spiritual charter of the church is to be general. When we come to others, we do not have anything special to insist upon. We are open and general. We simply come together to fellowship, discuss, pray, and seek the Lord’s hand. Then we all agree with how the Lord leads us, and we advance by one step. Otherwise, we wait. If we are going to realize the real church life, we must be general.
By general, we mean that we have the Lord Jesus as our Savior, our Lord, our life, and everything to us. Moreover, we do not agree with anything that damages the church. These are the things on which we insist, but besides these, we are completely general. Someone may believe in baptism by immersion, and he may practice it, but he must not insist upon it. It may be that a certain percentage of the Lord’s children do not agree with this practice. If we insist on it, we will have different opinions.
We may keep a certain practice because we feel it is right, but when we come to the church we must be general. If we are not general, we have something as a specialty; then we will create trouble and be sectarian. If some brothers and sisters insist upon baptism by immersion, and others insist on baptism by sprinkling, they will fight. Where then will the church life be? The church life will be gone. We must not insist on these things and fight with the Lord’s children. We may believe that baptism by sprinkling is sufficient, but we do not insist on it. Rather, we come to one another in a very general way with a very general attitude. Then others can take the same attitude, and we can kneel down before the Lord and pray, “Lord, what do You lead us to do?” This is the right way to practice the church life.
Some dear and strong saints who are very much for the Lord simply do not agree with speaking in tongues. They oppose it and say that it is wrong and even devilish. This kind of attitude is not right. It is too extreme. We should not oppose speaking in tongues, but in the same principle, if we speak in tongues in a genuine way, we should simply praise the Lord for His mercy. We may keep this practice, but we should not bring it to the church to push it and insist upon it. Many dear, lovely brothers and sisters may not feel happy if someone speaks in tongues in the meeting, so that person must be general. Someone may speak in tongues but still come to the meeting in a general way, having nothing as a specialty. Let us not make a regulation as to whether or not we should speak in tongues in the meeting. Let us open to the Lord, be general with one another, and leave this matter to the Lord. If some saints do not agree with speaking in tongues, for their sake we drop it for the time being. Likewise, we deal with all things in this way.
The one thing we must insist upon is that the Lord Jesus is everything to us. We cannot give this up. If someone speaks to oppose the Lord Jesus, we must stand and fight their speaking, but with all other things we must be general. We must be special in nothing. We may have something else, but we are not special in it. If we are special in anything, we are sectarian. We may come together with many different backgrounds and experiences, but when we come together, we come in a general way with a general attitude. We do not insist on anything. If someone likes something and feels good about it, as long as it is not something against the Lord Himself, we are willing to go along with him in a general way.
However, it is not easy to be general. Even if we go to the Lord to be checked by Him, there may still be something in us that we insist upon. If we insist on opposing speaking in tongues, we are wrong, and if we insist on speaking in tongues, we are also wrong. We must be very open, general, and objective with one another. We do not take the way of the denominations, such as the Mennonites, the Brethren, the Methodists, or any other kind. We are general, open, and objective before the Lord. We come together as the local saints of the Lord to practice the Body life without any outward regulations. Moreover, we drop our own backgrounds. In all my time in this country, I have not insisted on anything from the churches in the Far East. We should not bring in our own backgrounds.
Let us be completely general, open, and objective in our coming together. Let us come together and pray and fellowship. We all, and especially the leading ones, need more time to pray together. We should not do things according to our past experience, and we should not make decisions according to our background or past knowledge. The leading ones should pray much in a living, new, and fresh way and even fast before the Lord. Then we can let the Lord lead us on in a new way, a way not according to other things, but according to the living, present, fresh, and new guidance of the Holy Spirit in each moment and in each matter. This is the right way. I am very concerned about the meeting of the leading brothers. We do not come together to pray enough. We should forget about the past, all the problems in the church, and the church affairs, and spend more time to pray, even to fast, and to seek the Lord, asking, “Lord, what is Your mind? What is your purpose and guiding today for our going on?” This is a living way, but this requires each one of us to drop and forget our past.
We must not bring our past experience, background, doctrine, teaching, and influences into the church. If we do this, we are sectarian. We must be very general. We must not feel that we like something or do not like something. If we like something, it may be that the Lord does not like it, or if we do not like something, perhaps the Lord does like it. Let us open completely to the Lord and to one another, and let us be completely general. Are we willing to do this? It is not easy.
A brother from the West who went to the East came to me one day, saying, “We Christians in the West always seat the brothers and the sisters together. Why do you here seat sisters on one side and brothers on the other side? I simply cannot go along with this.” It seems that this brother could only be happy with his own way. We should not bring our background to the church. We should come to the church not with anything of our past but simply with an open spirit and a general heart, completely open to the Lord, to the church, and to the children of the Lord in order to fellowship, wait, pray, and seek the Lord. The living Lord will bring us the living guidance for the present moment. This is the right way.
We must not complain about others or make claims upon others; we must simply check ourselves. Do we come to practice the church with something in our heart upon which we insist? We should not say, “We agree with this, but we will not agree with that.” Rather, we must be very open and general, not insisting on or pushing anything of our past or background. We love the Lord and respect Him, and we love His church, His Body, and His saints. Let us come together without insisting on anything. We are open and general, we pray and have living fellowship with the Lord and with one another, and we let the Lord lead us in a new and fresh way. If we do this, the Lord will go a long way among us, and many wonderful things will come out because we have paved a free way for the Lord. The Lord will be freed; He will not be bound by us.
THE WORD OF GOD
The seventh and last item of the spiritual charter of the church is the Word of God. Concerning so many important, vital matters we must be checked by the Word. It is not necessary to say much at this time, because many of us already realize this.
The spiritual charter of the church is the cross, Christ, the Holy Spirit, the headship of Christ, the Body, a general attitude, and the Word of God. If we are going to practice the real church life, we must take all these matters and put them into practice. If we keep these seven items of the spiritual charter of the church, the church will be helped by us. If we are checked by these few items, we will become a positive help to the church. Otherwise, we will be a damage, a hindrance, and even a danger to the church life. May the Lord be merciful to us.
(Basic Principles for the Practice of the Church Life, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)