The Elders' Management of the Church, by Witness Lee


The development of the ability to discern is based upon learning and experience. This is an ironclad rule. The amount of learning and experience we have determines the ability in discernment we will achieve. There is no shortcut or second way here. If I have not been saved, I can never differentiate who is saved and who is not. If I have not been consecrated, I can never sense who is consecrated and who is not. The degree of learning and experience you have before God is the degree of discernment you will have. The most profound discernment comes out of the most profound dealings. If you judge your motive and intention in everything before God, and if you judge and condemn everything that has impure motives or mixed intentions, it will be very easy for you to touch the motive and intention of the brothers and sisters; you will be able to sense them right away. At the same time, if you are one who has learned to judge your flesh and has dealt with your fleshly person, you will find most conspicuous the flesh in another person who is fleshly. You will have a keen spiritual sense of smell. This sense of smell becomes your discernment. We read in the Bible that a priest who serves God cannot have a flat nose (Lev. 21:18). The flat nose denotes a lack of spiritual sense and a lack of spiritual discerning ability.

If you have learned serious lessons in consecration and are fully under the Lord’s authority, you will have a keen spiritual sense in this matter. Whenever you touch a person, you will immediately know if such a one has handed over his own rights before God. Although a person may be a preacher already, he nevertheless may not have given up his rights. Although a man may have sold all that he has and may have given everything away for the Lord’s sake, yet he may still have not given up his rights. Although a person may sacrifice his body for others’ sake and may be willing to be martyred for the Lord, he may still have his rights in his hand. If you have been exercised in the matter of consecration, you will be more sensitive than others in this matter, and no one will be able to deceive you. This special sensitive feeling is your discerning power.

Consider again the matter of truth. If you have never seriously studied the truth or practically learned it, you will not be able to have any discernment when you are confronted with any question regarding the truth; you will feel that everything is more or less the same. But those who have fought the battle in the truth and who have applied the truth will be experienced in the truth, and they will have the discernment in the truth. For example, several words may be similar in spelling. They may look the same, and most people may make a mistake concerning them, taking one for the other. But proofreaders will be able to spot the difference right away. The reason for this is that they are doing this every day. They are particularly experienced in the discernment of the characters. In the same way, there are many spiritual truths which are very similar one to another. There is definitely the distinction in discernment.

When I was young, I once heard a brother who was leading us answer a question involving the truth. I could not help but admire him. A problem arose; two things were very similar, and it was difficult to separate them. But, as soon as the question was raised, he immediately gave the answer and separated the two things clearly one from the other. No matter how many smoke screens there were in the question, once it was asked, he was clear already. His ability to discern truth had reached such an extent that when you asked him a question, he would know immediately what your next question would be. Many people could testify that they had originally intended to ask another question, but the answer to the first question stopped their mouths, and they no longer had any need for further questions. His discerning ability was so keen that no one could be sloppy before him.

In the local church there are also many difficulties and problems; they all appear ambiguous. If we do not have the discernment, we have no way to deal with them; the only thing we can do is let them go on. Please remember that this is the main reason the church becomes weaker and weaker, with sickness after sickness. There does not seem to be a way for anything; there does not seem to be an answer for anything. Everything is in confusion. In order for the church to be strong and have all things on the right track, the elders must have clear discernment. This discernment must not be something worldly or of man’s wisdom and understanding. Rather, it must come from a man who has learned the lessons before the Lord, who has been dealt with, and who is exercised in the matter of truth.

Of course, in such a thing as the management of the church, you can never make anything absolute; everything is relative. Take man’s behavior as an example. It is relative and is not absolute. One thousand persons have one thousand different ways of behavior. The same is true with the way people manage their homes; it is relative and not absolute. Each family has its own practice. In the same principle, the way to manage the church is also a relative matter; it is not absolute. This relativeness is based on the condition of the elders: if the standard of the elders is high, the management of the church will surely be high in standard. If the standard of the elders is low, the management of the church will surely be low in standard. May the Lord have mercy upon us that we will not be discouraged in these things; neither will we be proud. The demands here are relative, not absolute. On the other hand, they are also unlimited and boundless.

(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)