LABORING IN THE WORD
In 1 Timothy 5:17, Paul speaks of those elders "who labor in word and teaching." Paul’s word is very inclusive. Laboring in the word does not merely mean to speak the word to others. It also means that the elders have to learn the Word. Paul set himself up as a good pattern in this regard. Even when he wrote his Epistles to Timothy, he was still learning. If he had not learned the Word, he could not have known Leviticus, as indicated by the book of Hebrews. At that time, to know the five books of Moses was not easy. Likewise today, to know the New Testament is not easy.
I have spent close to forty years speaking on Christ as life and the enjoyment and experience of Christ. Hundreds of messages on Christ as life have been given and printed, but I am concerned that many elders among us have not come into a full, thorough view concerning Christ as our life. Many messages concerning the Spirit, the economy of God, and the dispensing of God have been released, but many have not entered into them. We must bear the burden to take care of people in spiritual matters. However, if we do not learn the spiritual things, we will not know how to care for them. Therefore, there is the need to labor in the word.
To labor in the word not only means to minister the word. Before ministering the word, we have to know the Word. This requires much learning, and learning requires much time. Because of this, some elders need to be full-time. Paul indicated in 1 Timothy 5:17 that some of the elders were full-timers, because they were worthy of "double honor," which includes material supply. I would encourage some of the elders to go full-time to take care of the church, but this does not mean that every elder should be a full-timer. The principle is that all the elders should labor in the word and learn in order to be good ministers of Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 4:6).
NOT HAVING AN INTEREST
IN KNOWING OTHERS’ AFFAIRS, WHICH
SPREADS DEATH IN THE CHURCH LIFE
The elders’ interest in others’ spiritual welfare is not an interest in knowing their affairs. To know others’ affairs is a temptation. It is better to be a "dove" among the saints, without any intention of seeing or hearing of others’ affairs. The interest in knowing others’ affairs spreads spiritual death in the church. If there were no knowing of others’ affairs among the churches, there would be no gossiping, and if there were no gossiping, there would be no "killing."
It is difficult to know one’s affairs accurately. When something is told to one person and is spread from that person to others, it becomes inaccurate. Thus, many words concerning the saints’ affairs become false words. The best way is not to know others’ affairs. We may need to know certain things for the purpose of interceding for others, but we must try our best to know the matters accurately by going to that person and listening to them directly. Except for interceding in this way, knowing others’ affairs is always a temptation. To know others’ affairs is not the real interest and concern for people.
(Elders' Training, Book 11: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (3), Chapter 2, by Witness Lee)