The Elders' Management of the Church, by Witness Lee


The most important point of the elder’s character is to be thorough and not careless. Brothers and sisters, if you have ever tried to be thorough, you will discover how much man is not at all thorough. Sometimes the elders have caused much confusion in the church among the brothers and sisters because of a lack of thoroughness. For example, some of the brothers and sisters may present a matter to you, but you merely listen casually to them and assume that you have understood clearly what they said. Actually, you have not listened clearly and accurately enough to the words of the brothers; you have not understood the meaning of their words. Consequently, by the time you deal with the matter, you can only deal with it in a general way. You may consider that the matter is generally taken care of, but actually, the matter is far from completed.

If you investigate a little, you will find out that most people are not thorough. For example, it is hard to find anyone among the brothers and sisters who can repeat another’s words accurately. I may tell you something, and you may pass it on to someone else. The same word may pass through seven people. By the time it reaches the eighth person, the words will then differ very much from the words spoken by the first one. The second person may speak almost the same as the first. The third one may also speak more or less the same as the second. But by the time the words are relayed to the eighth person, the difference will be very great. Sometimes, when a brother passes on the words of another, a problem arises in the church. If you bring together the brother who initiated the words with the one who relayed those words, the two will quarrel with one another. One will say, "At such and such a time you spoke this word to me." The other will say, "No, the way I said it was thus and thus." Eventually you discover that neither is lying, and neither of them has any problem with their motives. The fact is that the one who speaks, speaks carelessly, and the one who listens, also listens carelessly. The two careless persons now form a pair. The one speaking does not speak correctly, and the other listening does not listen accurately. As a result, a problem arises. I do not know how many times I have confronted this kind of situation. From experience I know that I cannot hastily accept people’s words, because their words are too inaccurate. The basic cause for their inaccuracy is the lack of thoroughness in their character.

I believe that we brothers do not need to look at others; we only need to look at ourselves. Let me mention one thing, the reading of the Scriptures. If you will check yourself concerning this matter, you will discover how lacking you are in thoroughness. Try to write down what you have comprehended in the first chapter of Genesis, and you will discover how your comprehension of Genesis 1 lacks thoroughness.

I can never forget an incident that took place when I was in Shanghai in 1947. One day I was sitting in the living room. Suddenly, a sister came rushing in and said, "Brother Lee! A terrible thing has happened! Upstairs in the ceiling a big hole like this is broken through." As she was speaking, she made a gesture with her hands. At that time, I was taken by surprise. I asked her, "How big?" She said, "This big!" The gesture with her hands was slightly smaller than before. We asked her again, "Really how big?" She said, "Like this." I asked again, "How big?" She said, "Nearly this big." Each time I asked, the hole she described became smaller and smaller. There were others sitting in the room with me. After I had asked five or six times, they began to laugh. Actually, if I remember correctly, the hole at that time was only the size of a penny. This seems like a joke, but if you test yourselves with this principle, you will then realize how inaccurate a person you are.

(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)