DISTINGUISHING THE SERVICE OF THE MINISTRY FROM THE SERVICE OF THE CHURCH
If we are going to serve the Lord, we must realize whether we are serving the Lord in the church or in the ministry. What kind of service did Timothy have? Was his service of the church, or was his service of the ministry? We may answer in this way: When he went to the church meetings simply as a brother, what he did there was a service of the church, but for the most part Timothy’s service was of the ministry; it was for the church but not of the church. To serve the Lord in the service of the church is one thing, while to serve the Lord in the service of the ministry is another.
When someone learns to drive a car, he must learn many lessons. If he drives a car blindly in whatever way he likes, he will cause much damage or loss of life. To drive a car, one must know what kind of car it is, where he is going, and on what lane he should be. There are many rules to keep. In the same way, if we are going to serve the Lord, we must learn the lessons. We must come to serve the Lord in a very clear way. Many brothers and sisters seem to have the attitude that it is good enough simply to come and serve in any way. However, this will cause damage. The biggest distinction we must learn in the Lord’s service is the relationship between the ministry and the church.
A local church may have a burden to train the local saints. Then they may invite some of the Lord’s servants to come to help in doing this work. If so, such a training is something of the church. On the other hand, a training may be the burden not of the church but of some of the Lord’s servants. The Lord’s servants may be burdened to help the saints to know how to serve the Lord, how to follow the Lord, how to experience the Lord, and how to practice the church life. In this case, such a training is under the hand of the Lord’s servants. It is not something of the church but of the ministry. We must differentiate these two ways.
If something is conducted by the church, it must be under the hand of the church. Whatever is done must be under the direction of the church. In this case, the workers of the ministry have no liberty to seek the Lord’s mind for the direction. Rather, they must go to the leading ones in the church and ask, “Brothers, what do you want me to do for this training?” The leading ones may examine a worker to see if he properly knows the divisions and meanings of the books of the Scriptures. If he does not, they will give him another duty and find someone else to care for the training. Such a training is carried out when the church realizes what is of the Lord, for the Lord, and for the churches in the various localities. Then that church is happy to do something to help the situation in a corporate way.
A training of the ministry, however, is not carried out in this way. It is carried out through a burden directly from the Lord which He has put in the heart of the minister. It is not of a local church in a certain place but is the burden of the ministering one. Then the leading ones in the church agree that it is something for the building up of the Lord’s church, and they do as much as they can to cooperate. We need to be very clear about these two ways in order to maintain the church and the work under the direct control of the Lord’s hand. Otherwise, we may put the church under the hand of the work or put the work under the hand of the church. There are lessons here for us to learn.
Some have considered that our training meetings are simply church meetings, like the prayer meeting of the church. They do not realize that the church, strictly speaking, cannot conduct a work like this. It should have only the church service. The preaching of the gospel by the church, for example, is the service of the local church, but the training meetings are not of the service in a local church. Our summer conferences, for example, are also not church meetings; they are apart from the church meetings. Of course, the local churches are related to them, but those meetings are not something of the local church. They are something of the ministry to help the churches.
We should consider much before the Lord: Are we serving the Lord in the church or in the ministry? The service of the ministry is related to the service of the church, and the service of the church is related to the service of the ministry, but we cannot and should not confuse them. The training meetings we are conducting at this time are much related to the church in this locality, and the local church is very much related to the training, but these two are not one item. The service we raise up to serve the Lord in the church may be a help, a preparation, for the service of the ministry, yet we are still serving the Lord in the local church, and we must be under the local church. If we are serving the Lord in the local church, we must be under the local church, while if we serve the Lord in the ministry, we must be in the coordination of the work.
The trainings which we are conducting at this time are always kept separate from the local meetings of the church on the Lord’s Day and at other times. It is a work of the ministry, separate from the church. Of course, it is for the church to help the church and the saints, but it is separate from the church. Therefore, there is no need for this ministry to give a report to the church or ask the church to support it.
Acts 13:1-4a speaks of five prophets and teachers in the church in Antioch. Strictly speaking, these prophets and teachers were not local members of the church there. Their praying together was not the prayer meeting of the local church; it was a prayer meeting of the ministry, a prayer meeting of a group of the Lord’s workers. This demonstrates that if we are going to serve the Lord, we must serve Him in a right order. If we are going to serve in the service of the church, we must be under the coordination of the church, that is, under the order of the church. But if we are going to share in the service of the ministry, we must be in the coordination of the ministry.
Many saints do not consider this, however. They feel that as long as they serve the Lord, everything is all right. It is all right now, but later on they may encounter problems with themselves or with others, if they are not clear about these matters. In order to help us to serve the Lord properly, to know things properly, and to have proper relationships with all the Lord’s children, we must know these matters.
Recently, some brothers as co-workers published a small booklet concerning the faith. Strictly speaking, this was not something of the church. Of course, it was for the church, to help the church and the saints, but as far as the responsibility, the burden, and the ministry are concerned, it had nothing to do with the church and was entirely outside of the church. It was part of the ministry through a few co-workers. Because we have the intention to publish more messages in booklets, we need a little bookroom, so we included the address of the bookroom in that booklet. This is one hundred percent not a church matter. This bookroom does not need to report to the church, receive directions from the church, or ask anything of the church. It is absolutely a matter of a few brothers who are co-workers in the ministry.
Each one of us must be clear about these things and must consider in what part of the Lord’s service we are, in the church service or the service of the ministry. Then we will know where we are, and we will know where we must stand in the coordination. We cannot serve the Lord independently. We must be coordinated, but in order to be coordinated rightly, we must realize in what part of the service we are serving. If we are serving in the church, we must be coordinated in the church service, but if we are serving in the ministry, we must be coordinated in the service of the ministry.
I can give you only these points and principles; later on you will realize that they will help us to keep ourselves in the proper order. In the future, many churches will be built up, and we believe that many co-workers will be raised up by the Lord. There will be a great portion of the ministry, and there will be even a greater portion of the church service. Then we will need to realize our part, stand in it, and keep ourselves in order in the coordination. No human hand can arrange this. This can be carried out only by the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but we need to learn all these principles so that we can continue to serve the Lord in a very proper way and understand others in a full way. In the future, these principles and points will be helpful to us.
(Basic Principles for the Service in the Church Life, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)