HINDRANCES TO THE BUILDING
Today’s problem is not that there is a lack of individual, personal spirituality. The great problem today is the building up of the church. It is a corporate problem. An example of the way we can damage the church rather than build it up is in the way we conduct ourselves daily. If we live by Christ, such a life will save us from the dreaded practice of gossip. This life will even demand that we do not gossip. Oh, gossiping among the saints is a great damage to the church life! Whenever we begin to speak, we must exercise care that the words which proceed out of our mouth may build up the church. We may protest that we have never done anything to damage the church life; yet we may have killed people with our gossiping tongue. It is so easy for germs to be passed from one to another by way of the mouth. If you have experienced the real church life, you are already aware of how much the enemy utilizes the gossipers. Gossip damages the church life and spreads the element of death.
In practicing the church life we must also be careful never to criticize. Regardless of our intention, as long as we criticize we are damaging the church. There are many lessons for us to learn. If we would practice the church in the spirit, our spirit will constantly be on the alert. We will know what we must say and what we must do, and we will never do anything to damage anyone. The church life is a life of building; thus we must learn to live in the way of building up. We may say that we have learned the lessons of the cross. To learn the cross in great issues is easy, but most of the lessons of the cross are in the small matters. It is the cross experienced in the small matters day by day which teaches us the real lessons.
There are many teachings concerning the building in the New Testament. Of these we must be exceedingly clear concerning three major points: first, Christ came that we may have life for the purpose of the building; second, all the gifts and all the gifted persons are for the building; and third, all the members with their functions and services are also for the building. God’s intention is to have a building. Throughout the world today it is easy to meet group after group of Christians who are loving and seeking the Lord, Christians who are seeking to be spiritual. It is very difficult, however, to find a group of believers who are growing up together as one building. Even in places which are well known for spirituality, you cannot perceive the building up. Instead, there is criticism and strife.
Today, among the Lord’s children, the most needful thing is the building. Oh, we have greatly neglected this matter! Because of this, we are weak, and the church is weak. Thus the tide of spiritual life in the church is very low. Let us forget ourselves, our personal spirituality, and our personal victory; let us just care for the building. Then we will indeed have wonderful victory. Pay full attention to the building; forget your personal problems; bring your problems to the Body, and the Body will swallow them up. Learn to care for the Body, and do not damage any member. Oh, this is a real lesson and a good test!
It is abundantly clear that God’s goal is not to have many spiritual persons, but to have a building. In every locality, each Christian must be built up with other saints in that locality. If others will not go along with you, that is their business—you cannot be responsible for that. But you must take the right standing and learn the proper lesson of being built up with others. You will experience victory over all things.
God’s ultimate goal is the New Jerusalem, but today, before that comes into full manifestation, God loves to have His saints in every locality built up as a miniature of the New Jerusalem, as a little expression of Christ. There are many lessons involved here. Yet, praise the Lord, God’s blessings are waiting for us. If we take the right standing, we will enjoy the blessings and have the victory. However, may we not be so stupid as to practice the church life and at the same time damage it by being careless. We may not have the intention to do so, yet damage is done by our carelessness. If we have a critical attitude or participate in gossiping, we spread the element of death and thus destroy the church life. May we learn all these lessons.
We have seen the stages of the building in the Old Testament. First there was a little tent with an altar; then came the tabernacle with the brass altar, and afterward the temple with a larger altar. Finally we saw the prospect in Ezekiel’s vision. Now we have seen the order in the New Testament: Christ came to be the tabernacle, and His intention was that the tabernacle be enlarged. It is for this purpose that He is life to us, and it is for this purpose He has given the church many gifted persons with gifts. Finally, all the members with their functions and services are for this one purpose. This is the meaning of the entire Scriptures. Eventually, in the fullness of time, the New Jerusalem will come as the ultimate manifestation of God’s building. Oh, if we have seen such a vision, we will be caught by it! Whatever we are, whatever we do, and wherever we go, we will be completely for this vision, for God’s building. We will take God’s goal as our goal.
There are many lessons to learn in this matter of building; yet, praise the Lord, we will also experience many blessings. May we be faithful to the Lord, and go on with Him in the fulfillment of His vision. If we are not faithful, the Lord will still go on; He will choose other persons for His recovery. May the Lord be merciful to us.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)