I. GOD’S PLAN FOR THE CHURCH
The first thing that the elders should know is God’s plan for the church. In order for an elder to manage a church properly, obviously he must first of all know God’s desire and plan for the church. If the elders lack knowledge in this matter, their administration of the church will surely be unsatisfactory both to others and to God. Although many elders are faithfully and diligently serving the church, their oversight of the church is often unsatisfactory to God because they do not have adequate knowledge concerning God’s plan for the church. Why does God want to have a church on earth? Why is it that in the New Testament age God desires to set up churches in every locality? If the elders are not clear concerning this vision and revelation and are not definite concerning this goal, it will be difficult to proceed with anything else in a proper way.
It is not enough for an elder to feel that since the Lord has granted him mercy and has set him up as one caring for the church, he would readily accept this arrangement of the Lord and would henceforth serve faithfully and diligently. This attitude is indeed commendable, but as far as knowledge is concerned, it is still very inadequate. An elder must have a very clear revelation and thorough vision concerning the position, the importance, the process, and the consummation of the church in God’s plan. Only then will he know what the church is that he is managing, and what is its position and nature. Only when an elder acquires such knowledge will his management be up to God’s standard.
God’s plan for the church is a big subject. We have to point out this matter in a brief way.
A. God Desires to Have a Body
for the Expression of His Son
First, we must know that from eternity past God has desired to have a Body for the expression of His Son. In other words, God desires to gain a Body for His Son, and this Body is for the expression of His Son. The Bible shows us that the Son of God is very great, full, abundant, and rich. Everything that God is, is in His Son. The more you read the Bible, the more you feel the fullness and the abundance of God Himself; they are truly unlimited. His love is an unlimited fullness. His wisdom is an unlimited fullness. His glory is an unlimited fullness. His power is an unlimited fullness. All that He is in Himself is unlimited fullness. This is beyond man’s imagination and measurement. According to Colossians chapter two, all this fullness of God dwells in His Son Christ bodily. For this reason, God desires to have a Body for His full Christ, so that all the fullness can be manifested in the whole universe. This Body is the church. Hence, God plans to have a church for no other reason than for it to be the Body of His Son in the universe, so that His Son can have a full expression in and through this Body.
Brothers, if you see this vision, it will be a tremendous deliverance for you. You will be delivered from the common religious concept of Christianity. Many Christians think that to believe in the Lord is for deliverance from hell so that they can go to heaven: if anyone fears God today and pleases Him, he will be blessed and will receive peace and prosperity. Some Christians have further knowledge; they realize that a person has to be zealous, to love the Lord, and to learn to be spiritual. But all these are common religious concepts of many Christians. If we have the vision concerning God’s plan for the church, we will see clearly that it is not enough to help others to be saved. It is not enough to help others pursue spirituality and love the Lord. God’s plan in the universe is to have a church. This church is the living Body of the Son of God. In this Body He is expressed. For this matter, there is no distinction between something on earth today and something in heaven in the future.
(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)