NO RANK OR SPECIAL CLASS
In the church life we need to take care of the little ones, the weaker ones, and the uncomely ones. We must not have any rank; the strong ones should not form into a special class of their own. If the elders are always conscious of the fact that they are elders, they should resign. The elders should regard themselves as little brothers. This is the reason we never use the term “elder” as a title or speak of Elder So-and-so. In like manner, we should not have the concept of so-called leading sisters. Yes, we have leading ones both in reality and in practicality, but we should not have titles or the consciousness of position. What a shame it is to seek for position or title in the church life out of ambition!
NO PRIVATE INTIMACY
At this point I need to say a strong word: never have a private intimacy with anyone in the church life. No matter how spiritual we may be, we are still in the flesh and influenced by the flesh. If we are truly for the Lord’s recovery, we must crucify the flesh and never allow it to form a private intimacy. I can testify that I do not have a personal intimacy with anyone. Although I share in responsibility with certain brothers, I rarely go to their homes, and they rarely come to mine. Instead of private friendship or personal intimacy, there should simply be the fact that we are members of the Body.
MINISTERING LIFE AND SHEPHERDING
Genuine spirituality is seen in ministering Christ as life to others. A proverb says that if we water others, we shall be watered also (Prov. 11:25). The spirituality in the church life is not a matter of being in a certain select group; it is a matter of ministering life.
Again I say that there is a great need for shepherding. Do not expect that everyone in the church life will be a spiritual giant. On the contrary, the proper church life is a big family that includes grandparents, young ones, weak ones, and even sick ones. When all the saints are cared for, we shall have a beautiful church life. Please forget about eldership and leadership and take care of the practical needs of the church. I hope that many will have the heart to care for those who are discouraged and not in the meetings. At the very least, call them on the telephone and tell them that you miss them and hope to see them soon. Even such shepherding will help to keep them in the church life. If we love the church, let us change our concept regarding leadership and take care of the members of the Body. If we all do this, what a glorious church life we shall have!
THE FUNCTION OF ELDERS
Let us now consider the function of the elders. Acts 14:23 says that the Apostle Paul and his co-workers appointed elders in every church, and in Acts 20:28 Paul speaks of the elders of the church in Ephesus as overseers. The Greek words for elder and bishop, or overseer, are presbyteros and episkopos respectively. Titles for two types of denominational organizations—Presbyterian and Episcopalian—are taken from these Greek words. According to the Bible, the elders and the overseers are the same people. Their responsibility is to exercise oversight; it is not to do all the practical things. For example, an elder should not spend the whole day sweeping the meeting hall parking lot. Rather, along with possibly doing some cleaning himself, he should exercise the oversight of the cleaning work. Likewise, the elders should oversee the shepherding of the saints to be sure that all are taken care of. This is the right way for the elders to function as overseers.
The main responsibility of elders, however, is shepherding. In 1 Peter 5:1 Peter refers to himself as a co-elder (Gk.). Peter was an elder in one locality, whereas some of those addressed in his Epistle were elders in other localities. The term “co-elder” is very meaningful. It implies that although the elders are in different localities, they should work together with one another as co-elders. We are shepherding one flock, not many flocks, because the Lord Jesus has just one flock. Part of this flock is in Anaheim, another part is in Los Angeles, and still another part is in San Diego. The elders in all the churches are the co-elders, and the Lord Jesus is the head Shepherd. Shepherding is the main function of the elders.
(All Ages for the Lord's Testimony, Chapter 4, by Witness Lee)