HOW TO TAKE THE CHURCHES ON
As the leading ones, we need to ask ourselves what we will do as we function in the churches. Shall we remain in our old practice prior to October of 1984? Shall we preach the gospel by inviting people to our meetings and meet on the Lord’s Day morning with a big congregation and a good speaker while the rest sit and listen? We need to ask ourselves where the real functioning of the acting members in the church is. How do the co-workers among us function? Are they perfecting the saints? We are short in our experience of the scriptural way of service. We must cooperate with the Lord.
I do not expect this God-ordained way to be fully consummated among us in five years. Rather, it may take twenty, twenty-five, thirty, or fifty years for the Lord to carry this out. To the Lord one thousand years are as one day. We have published many books concerning the scriptural way of meeting and serving for the building up of the Body of Christ in the advance of the Lord’s recovery today. Sooner or later, some of the seeking saints will pick up some copies of these books and practice what has been released in them.
I do not like to impose this on anyone, but I do have a burden to promote this scriptural way. This way is like a diamond that I am presenting. I will not impose this diamond on you, but if you are wise, you will not miss the opportunity to pay the price to buy it. I realize that some of the churches are not fully ready to take this scriptural way. I am not saying that we need to begin practicing these four major practices right away. But we all have to see that in this age something is coming as a tide. Whether you are for it or against it, the tide will still come. I have the full assurance that this way is easy to work out. We only need to practice it by laboring, striving, and struggling.
In our locality we need to pray and seek the Lord’s leading concerning how to take the church on. It is not necessary for all the churches to be unified at the same time. We need to go on according to what we feel in the Lord and before the Lord. I would like to share something with those of us who have a burden to practice this new way. The best way to begin such a practice is to have a small local conference of three or four messages. In this conference we can present to the saints what the Lord has shown us. We should tell them that this practice is the practice of the New Testament priesthood. Therefore, we all need to have a new beginning in our Christian life every day by being revived every morning. When we have this conference, we should ask the church to pray that we could have the power to stir up all the saints to be revived and ask them to consecrate themselves anew for this practice. Later, some arrangement should be made for the consecrated saints so that they can be formed into groups of three to go out in a regular way to reach people.
The saints do not need to do too much because that will tire them out and frustrate them. It is better not to do too much. Instead we need to labor regularly and constantly. We only need to go out once a week for two hours. If we have the proper practice with adequate prayer, we will get some to believe and be baptized. Once we baptize two or three new ones, we should not go out to gain more people. We need to care for the two or three the Lord has given us by having home meetings with them in their homes. We should have home meetings with them at least once a week. Probably at the beginning we need to visit them twice a week, every three or four days. We have to visit them to nourish and cherish them. Then we gradually need to encourage them to come out of their homes to join the group meetings.
We need to take care of the new believers for at least six months. It is best if we can care for them for a year until they are established. After one year of care, they can be perfected. We should carry out the new way according to all the fellowship we have published in the recent past. If we follow the details of this fellowship in our practice, we will see that it really works. The new ones will be brought on quickly or slowly according to their particular case. As we care for them for six months to a year, they will be ready to present themselves as a living sacrifice to God as Romans 12:1 instructs. Eventually, they should be able to do what we can do in the priesthood of the gospel. Our group meetings will increase and eventually will have to divide.
We hope that at least about one-third of the saints in the church would practice this kind of gospel visitation. Suppose there is a church with one hundred saints. The leading brothers should pray, “Lord, raise up at least thirty-five of the saints to practice the priesthood of the gospel. We even ask You for fifty.” I have the assurance that if we practice this way according to what we have published, every saint who is exercised in this way will bring in two new ones a year. With this kind of endeavor, it is possible for the church to double in a year. Even if the church increases yearly by thirty percent, that would be the fastest growing church on this earth.
I would like to say again that the first step is to have a conference to stir up the saints. Then the saints who want to take this way can be grouped into teams of three to go out to visit people regularly. They can keep going to visit the ones they gain for six months to a year. After one year a group meeting should increase in size so that it can be divided into two groups.
The group meeting occupies eighty percent of the practical church life. The main part of the church life depends on the group meetings. In the group meetings, the saints will be spontaneously perfected to prophesy. Whether or not the saints will prophesy depends upon our practice of the group meetings. We need to take the first step to get people saved and the second step to have home meetings with them in order to raise them up in the way that parents raise up their children. Then we need to bring them into the group meetings so that they can be perfected. Nearly everyone who attends the group meetings constantly and regularly will prophesy. They will be able to prophesy, and they will have a desire to prophesy. In order to practice the group meetings in an organic way, we have much to learn.
We do not want to compel people to take anything or impose what we have learned on others, but we need to have some discernment to know the more excellent things. The four major steps in the advance of the Lord’s recovery today are workable, but they require our constant and regular labor. In Colossians 1:28, Paul said that he announced Christ, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom to present every man full-grown in Christ. Then in verse 29 he said, “For which also I labor, struggling according to His operation which operates in me in power.” We need this kind of labor. This new way will make everyone busy because it will afford everyone the opportunity to function, to serve.
The governing principle of the Lord’s ordained way is that it affords equal opportunity to all the members of the Body of Christ. In preaching the gospel, in home meetings, in the group meetings, in prophesying in the church meetings, the opportunity is afforded to each of the saints. This is God’s way. The traditional way robs the saints of their opportunity to function and gives this opportunity to a small clerical class. Thus, the clergy has all the opportunities, and they do everything. The so-called laymen are left with little opportunity to do anything. In this clergy-laity system, the saints are annulled in their capacity of the divine life. In the divine life there is the capacity, the power, the ability to speak for the Lord. According to the old, traditional way, the believers seemingly have little ability because they are not allowed to participate in anything. They become pew members, coming to a Lord’s Day service to listen to a professional speaker. The Lord’s ordained way releases the saints from the bondage of this system.
Of course, to have any change is difficult at the beginning. To take the new way is not so easy because we are not used to it. I fully sympathize with the elders who are taking the lead and bearing the responsibility of the churches. It is easy to carry on in the old way because so much of the service is carried out in a routine way. There is not the need of much labor. But to carry out the new way, we have to practice diligently to learn something. Then we have to help others to enter into what we have learned to bring them into functioning with equal opportunity. I believe that in another five years, we will begin to see the consequence, the result, the coming out, of the new way. We want to be brought into a situation in which everyone can preach the gospel, everyone can take care of new ones, everyone can perfect others in the group meetings, and everyone can speak forth the Lord into others. Thus, whenever we come together we will have many ministers. We must exercise to discern the excellent things and the excellent way. The new way is the excellent way to organically build up the Body of Christ.
(A Summary of the Study of the New Testament Way of Christian Service, Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)