GOD CARING NOT FOR MERE EDIFICATION BUT FOR BUILDING
We need to see clearly that God does not care for mere edification; He cares only for building. God does not want some individual materials that look good; He wants a house. God’s intention is not to edify Christians individually to be an exhibition for people’s appreciation; rather, His intention is to build many Christians together into a spiritual house to be the mutual dwelling place of God and man in which God and man can have rest.
Therefore, Ephesians 4 says that, having ascended, the Lord gave some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as shepherds and teachers for the building up of the Body of Christ (vv. 8, 11-12). First Corinthians 14:12 says, “Since you are zealous of spirits, seek that you may excel for the building up of the church.” Some versions translate spirits into spiritual gifts. This also shows that the Spirit gives gifts to people in the church, not for edifying the believers so that each one of them would look beautiful but for building the scattered believers together. Paul also said that as God’s fellow workers we are building God’s house (3:9-10). Thus, we see Paul’s work was also a work of building.
Regrettably, today too few have seen that God wants to do this kind of work, and even fewer allow God to do this kind of work in them! In many places you can see many Christian groups with a good number of Christians, some of whom are spiritual and zealous. Yet you can hardly see a church which has been built up. Everywhere you can see many materials scattered or piled up, but you cannot see a built up building. In almost all of today’s Christianity there is not one stone upon another stone (cf. Matt. 24:2).
We all must admit that God is not satisfied with today’s condition of Christianity. The condition of God’s children in every place altogether falls short of God’s desire. What God wants today is a house, not a pile of material. Just as it is unacceptable for material that is broken, old, and uncomely merely to be in a pile, it is also unacceptable for material that is nicely carved and properly dealt with to be in a pile without being built. God wants a church that has been built up, not just some individual spiritual people. Hence, God’s work today is building, not edification. And any edification that we may receive is not merely to make us individually spiritual; rather, it is to make us suitable for coordination and to enable us to be built together with others. If we see this, our concept will be radically changed. We will no longer pursue merely to be individually spiritual; instead, we will seek to be coordinated and built together with all the saints. I believe that the Holy Spirit will work to enable the brothers and sisters to see this vision more and more clearly.
BREAKING BEING A PREREQUISITE TO BUILDING
In order for the church to be built up, we have to touch the matter of being broken. If we want to be built together, we all have to be broken. If there is no breaking, there is no building. You and I can be built together only after you and I both have been broken a little. Consider a person who grows trees. When he grafts two trees together, first he has to cut both branches a little. Then he joins them together, binds them up, and after a while the two trees grow together. If they are not cut, then even if you bind them together firmly, still they will not be able to grow together. Another example is the building of a house. For the most part, all the wood that is to be used has to be cut, sawed, planed, and trimmed before it can be nailed and connected together. Likewise, in the building of the church, every natural thing in us must be broken before we can be joined with others. Everything natural in us, whether it is our ability, our discernment, or our zeal, is unsuitable to be used for the building. We can be built only after we have been broken in our natural being.
Once I went to a certain locality and one of the brothers there told me, “Brother Lee, I really thank and praise the Lord that there are two brothers here who are very capable. They are very clear in their minds, and they do things with great insight. They are truly promising.” Whenever I hear words like this, I am usually very concerned in my heart. Sure enough, after half a year to a year when I revisited that locality again, the brother who previously spoke to me had changed his tone. He said, “Alas, Brother Lee, our situation here is very difficult. Did I not tell you last time that we have two brothers here who are very capable? Well, now these two have become a problem among us. They really are smart and capable, but they simply despise others and cannot be one with anyone else.”
Once a brother told me, “Oh, Brother Lee, thank and praise the Lord. Recently the Lord has raised up among us a brother who is very faithful in material offerings. Now we have no lack at all.” When I heard this, I was also very concerned, and sure enough, after a year or so news came saying that in that local church that brother was the greatest problem. It is true that he offered a lot financially, but when he came, his opinions also came. When his money came, his concepts also came. Because of him the church suffered very much.
Brothers and sisters, there are many stories of this kind. In all these examples, all the difficulties are due to the fact that the saints are not broken. If our natural being remains unbroken, we will be full of opinions and ideas and will have a strong self. These things will tear down instead of build up the church.
Hence, the requirement for building is to be broken. To be built together with all the brothers and sisters in the church, you need to be broken. Even your spiritual and good points must be broken. Are you a person who prays constantly? You need to be broken even in the matter of praying. Are you a person who reads the Word diligently? You need to be broken even in your reading of the Scriptures. Are you a person who emphasizes fellowship with the Lord? You need to be broken even in this matter of fellowshipping with the Lord. Do you stress the matter of the dealing of the cross? You need to be broken even in this matter. I am afraid that some may promote being broken by the cross, yet they themselves are harder than anyone else. Do you promote preaching the gospel? This also has to be broken. All these spiritual things, let alone other things, have to be broken. Therefore, your opinion, your concept, your capability, your eloquence, and even your love for the Lord and your material offering all need to be broken. Only when you are broken can you be coordinated and built together with others.
In actuality, the problems in the church are not with the indifferent ones but with the zealous ones, not with the backsliding ones but with the seeking ones, and not with the non-offering ones but with the offering ones. The problems in the church arise not from the non-gifted ones but from the gifted ones and not from the incompetent speakers but from the competent preachers. If those who are zealous, seeking, loving the Lord, offering financial contributions, capable, and able to preach the gospel have not been dealt with and broken, then the more of these kinds of people there are, the more we will have problems in the church. These are the very ones who damage the church. These are the very ones who cause the church to greatly suffer. These are the very ones who bring in death. These are also the very ones who cause the church to lose the blessing.
Sometimes in a local church two brothers are able speakers, and their preaching is appealing. Since they have never been dealt with or built up, however, they begin fighting each other using the platform. One brother gives a message today to attack the other brother, and the next day the other brother gives a message to fight back. They may be good speakers, but they tear down the church. Formerly, before these two brothers came along, the church did not have any good speakers. Yet the Lord’s blessing and presence were there. Now, due to the two brothers’ ability to preach, the church has become desolate and the presence of the Lord has been lost.
May the Lord have mercy on us so that we may see how serious this matter is! May the Lord make us willing to learn to be severely broken in everything, including our zeal, eloquence, ability, and material offering. You will see that today if there is any operation of God in you, it is to lead you to receive His breaking. Even all the leading the Lord gives you in your environment is for you to be broken. Only when you are broken can you be built together with other saints. Where the building is, there the blessing of God will be. Where the building is, there will the house of God be. In this house both God and man can rest.
(The Building Work of God, Chapter 5, by Witness Lee)