FELLOWSHIP AMONG THE CHURCHES
This is not to say that you do not need the other churches and should try to go on in an independent way. You must keep the door of fellowship open to all the churches, even while you keep the door of weakness shut to offers of “help.” It would be a strengthening to the churches here if the leading ones could come together perhaps once a month. Every so often the churches in the area could also come together for a joint Lord’s table meeting. Such mutual fellowship will increase the life supply in the churches.
Be clear, though, that every local church is responsible for itself. One church must not come under the jurisdiction of another. A larger or stronger church has no authority over a smaller, weaker one. All the churches, whatever their size or condition, are on the same level. Yet the churches should mutually nourish and strengthen each other. In this way we practice the local church life and also have the Body life. This is why we are here in the Lord’s recovery.
It would be good also for the leading ones to consider having a practical training, perhaps on a weekly or biweekly basis. They need to have some experience and training first, in order to have something to teach all the saints. Then the churches can come together on a weekday evening for practical training. In this way the churches will be further built up.
THE CHURCH SERVICE
In the past we used to have “service groups,” taking care of the practical work that needed to be done, like mowing the grass and arranging the chairs. This use of the word service is not quite accurate in the biblical sense. The word service in Greek is the same as that translated ministry. What is the New Testament ministry or service? It is to be sent to others, to speak for God, to preach the gospel, to shepherd and teach others.
How then should we regard the practical matters that need to be taken care of? It is the duty of all of us to take care of these matters. We do not have one group who are evangelists and another group who take care of cleaning the hall. All of us are to be perfected as apostles, prophets, evangelists, and shepherds and teachers. All of us also are to take care of the work that needs to be done, even though strictly speaking this is not the service. No one should think his status is too high to clean the rest room.
As to functioning in the meetings, this is included in the work of the prophets, evangelists, teachers and shepherds.
“ARE ALL PROPHETS?…YE MAY ALL PROPHESY”
For many years I could not reconcile two verses in 1 Corinthians. In 12:29 it says, “Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles?” Obviously, the answer is no. But then 14:31 states, “For ye may all prophesy one by one, that all may learn, and all may be comforted.” Why did Paul tell us in one chapter that not all are prophets, and then two chapters later say that all may prophesy?
It was only recently that I saw that what Paul was saying was that not all are leading prophets. In a flock of sheep, for example, there are only two or three leaders. The rest are not leaders, but they follow what their leaders do. Not all are prophets in the sense of being leading ones, but all can follow the example of the leading ones to prophesy.
In Jerusalem several were selected to serve meals (Acts 6:1-5). Two of them were Philip and Stephen. Some Bible teachers are of the opinion that the choice of these two was a mistake, because Stephen was an eloquent speaker (Acts 7) and Philip was an evangelist (21:8). How could these two have been asked to wait on tables? I believe these examples tell us that all those who wait on tables can be good speakers! All those who arrange chairs can be evangelists. The ones who clean the rest rooms may be leading evangelists. When the apostle comes, he can help mow the lawn. The proper service, then, is to be an apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher. The practical work is not the service, but we all take care of it.
May the Lord bring us into the practicality of this word.
(Life Messages, Vol. 2 (#42-75), Chapter 6, by Witness Lee)