HOW TO BE A BUILDING MEMBER OF THE CHURCH
We have seen both the ministry of the Lord Jesus and the ministry of the gifted persons. Now we come to the saints as the members.
By Growth in Life
We all must realize that as members of the Body of Christ we must care for two things: first we need growth in life. This is basic. Without growth in life, the building of the Body is impossible. Today’s Christianity gives people the wrong impression. Most Christians feel that since they have a good pastor with several competent assistants, they need do nothing. But for a proper church life, every member must grow in life. First Peter 2:2, Ephesians 2:21, and Ephesians 4:15 are scriptures which indicate that the building up of the church is possible only by the growth of the members.
The church building is not a composition of so many bricks or dead stones; it is something living. If we do not grow, there is no possibility for the building of the church. We cannot merely use the term “church” and have a proper church. That does not work. Regardless of the name or the label, without the growth of life we are dead and empty. The proper church life depends on the proper growth of the members. We must first deal with our sins, our worldliness, and our self. We must experience the cross of Christ and know Christ as our life. We must live in the spirit, maintaining a constant living contact with Christ. Then we will have a certain amount of growth. It is by such growth that the building of the church exists, and it is in such a way that we will have the real New Testament church. The reality is in the life, not in the label! Growing up unto maturity is the first requirement of all the saints for the building of the church.
By Function in Life
The second requirement of each member is that he must minister; he must function. You may say that you are not a minister. Nevertheless, we are all ministers. You certainly must admit that you are a member. If so, then consider your own body. Is there any member of your body which does not function? We must realize that we are members of the Body of Christ, and that as such we must learn how to function. If you say that you do not know how to function or that you cannot function, it is possibly due to the fact that you have not grown. The function of the members depends entirely on their growth in life. If a member is not able to function, that member is either unhealthy or underdeveloped. All the local saints must actively function in the church life.
THE MATERIALS FOR GOD’S BUILDING
Now we must carefully consider another important point. Let us read 1 Corinthians 3:9-15: “For we are God’s fellow-workers: ye are God’s husbandry, God’s building. According to the grace of God which was given unto me, as a wise masterbuilder I laid a foundation; and another buildeth thereon. But let each man take heed how he buildeth thereon. For other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. But if any man buildeth on the foundation gold, silver, costly stones, wood, hay, stubble; each man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it is revealed in fire; and the fire itself shall prove each man’s work of what sort it is. If any man’s work shall abide which he built thereon, he shall receive a reward. If any man’s work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as through fire.”
When we function or serve in the church, we must always remember that there are two categories of materials: one consists of gold, silver, and precious stones; the other is composed of wood, hay, and stubble. We must be exceedingly careful not to function with materials from the second category. On one hand we must learn to function, but on the other hand we must learn to discern the materials we use in functioning. Gold speaks of the nature of God, silver of the redemptive work of Christ, and precious stones of the work of the Holy Spirit. These are the three items of the work of the three persons of the Godhead. We can only gain these three precious materials through the work of the cross. Thus we must function only by the cross and through the cross. Wood represents the human nature, and hay and stubble represent the things of this earth. We must learn to reject and deny all the human elements, all the things of this earth, by the cross. The Apostle Paul said that he was the wise masterbuilder who laid the foundation. But all the saints, including all the gifted persons, must be clear how to build. The ministry of gold, silver, and precious stones will be a real building up of the church. If, however, we bring in wood, hay, and stubble, we will greatly damage the church life. We must learn to check ourselves by the cross in the way we function. In the church we must always act by the way of the cross.
(The Vision of God's Building, Chapter 15, by Witness Lee)