After we have been captured by Christ and are willing to grow in Him, we must learn how to put off all that we are and follow Christ within our spirit. Then we will become a functioning member in the Body, not just an active one.
The practical expression of the church is the local church, and in the local church there is the need of the functioning members. We do not have any clergy or laity, but we are all members of the Body. Therefore, we all must function. None of us should come to the Sunday morning meeting with the concept that we are going to “church.” What are we going to “church” for? Is it to attend “the service”? A service requires a church building with people sitting in the pews, a pastor to preach a sermon, and a choir to sing specially arranged music. We are absolutely against this. If anyone comes to us with this kind of concept, they are in the wrong “store.” They had better go elsewhere; we are not for this. We have no church service, no pews, no ministering pastor, and no choir.
Then what are we doing here? We are simply putting off religion, putting off Christianity. In the early days the church had to put away Judaism. Today we have to put off Christianity. For this, we all must change our concept. There is no pew, no pew members, no laymen, and no pastor. There are only the functioning members of the living Body. We all need to be captured by Christ, to grow in Him, and to walk in Him by putting off whatever we are and whatever we have attained. Only then can we become functioning members in the church to express the fullness of Christ in His Body.
THE MYSTERIOUS CHURCH
We all must realize what a local church is. The local church is a group of believers who are the living members of Christ, who forget what they are, and give up all their attainments to walk daily in the spirit. No outsiders can understand what we are doing. It seems that we are quite religious, but in fact we are not religious. We are not in religion. All outsiders find it difficult to understand us because we have something so hidden. The Lord in whom we live is so hidden. He is hidden within us; yet to us He is so real and so practical.
How can you explain this to outsiders? Since they and we are absolutely in two different worlds, how can they understand what we are doing? If they can understand, we must be wrong. Then we are of the earth. As long as we are a mystery, we are right. The more mysterious we are, the more we are right. The Lord does not need a religious people, but a mysterious people. Everyone among us should not be religious, but mysterious. Apparently, we are Christians, yet we put off Christianity. Apparently, we are quite religious, yet we are not of the world of religion. This is really a mystery. Praise the Lord! A Christian should not be an understandable person, but a mysterious person. The church is altogether a mystery, because all of us function as living members of the Body of Christ. We have given up all that people can understand. All that the world estimates of value, we put off, and we put on something which no one in this world can understand. It is something mysterious, yet so real.
BOLD IN FUNCTION
We do not want “pew” members; we want functioning members. So we all must be bold to function. We do not need to be bold in activities, but bold in functioning. The more we exercise our arm or any other part of our body, the more it will be strengthened, for the more blood that member will receive. So the more we function, the more we will enjoy Christ. The more we function, the more function we will have. Our function will increase all the time by functioning.
There is a brother in the church in Los Angeles who has been very active in functioning since the day he was saved six months ago. We all need to be like this. We must forget about our religious education. We all have some Christian background that has influenced us: we are used to coming to the church and sitting as pew members. But here is a brother who was one hundred percent a Gentile, without any influence of Christianity. After he was saved in the church, he immediately began to be a functioning member. I have encouraged him to function more, and we all must function too.
If we are going to function properly in the local church, we must be captured by Christ and then grow by opening ourselves and giving Christ more capacity to occupy and fill us. Then not only must we learn to put off worldly and sinful things, but also all our religious and educational attainments. Finally, we need simply to walk in the spirit day by day and hour by hour. There is no argument, no reasoning, no self-taste or self-choice. It is simply Christ Himself as all and in all.
To be in the spirit is not a matter of right and wrong; to be in the spirit is a matter of Christ. So we must learn to walk in the spirit and put off all that we are and have. Then when we come to the church meetings, we must be bold to function. We must not think much but simply function by releasing our spirit to express the Lord. Then we will grow in our function and be stronger and stronger, richer and richer.
May the Lord be merciful and gracious to us that the church here will be full of members who are so living and aggressive to function that Christ may be expressed in the spirit. This is the reality of the church life.
(The Practical Expression of the Church, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)