NOT ASSUMING A STATUS BUT SERVING AS SLAVES
I want to speak a frank word to all of you. According to my many years of observation, the biggest problem with the co-workers and the elders is that many of them overly regard their status as a co-worker or an elder. Actually, as co-workers and elders, we have no status. According to God’s love and grace, we are all His children and are of the same species as He. In this sense, we cannot say that we have no status. Our status is that we are God’s species and God’s children. According to His economy, out of His created and redeemed human race on the earth, God wants to gain the church, which is the Body of Christ, and, eventually, to have the New Jerusalem for the accomplishment of His eternal economy. In the process, there is a great deal of work and service, so there is the need to have co-workers and elders.
In the Gospels we can see clearly that Peter, James, and John were the first ones to follow the Lord. They were by the Lord’s side following Him for three and a half years. At the end, the Lord brought them with Him to Jerusalem. He was going there to die for the accomplishment of God’s economy, yet His followers were arguing on the way about which of them was the greatest (Mark 9:34; Luke 22:24). That was truly something ugly and shameful. They had followed the Lord for three and a half years; they had been beside Him and had received numerous revelations from Him. Then on their way to Jerusalem, the Lord told them repeatedly that He was going up to Jerusalem to die and on the third day He would be resurrected (Matt. 16:21; 17:22-23; 20:17-19). Although they heard the Lord saying that He was going to die, they did not hear Him saying that on the third day He would be resurrected. Resurrection was a foreign word incomprehensible to them.
They heard the word that the Lord was going to die, and they were also about to enter Jerusalem. Yet they were by the Lord’s side arguing about who was the greatest among them. James and John were the Lord’s cousins in the flesh, for their mother was the sister of Mary, the mother of the Lord Jesus. Hence, they asked their mother to pay a visit to the Lord Jesus, and she went and asked the Lord, "Say that these two sons of mine will sit, one on Your right and one on Your left, in Your kingdom." When the other ten disciples heard this, they were indignant concerning the two brothers (Matt. 20:20-24). James and John’s bringing in their family relationship with the Lord was truly an ugly matter.
Then the Lord Jesus called the disciples to Him and said, "Whoever wants to become great among you shall be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you shall be your slave" (vv. 26b-27). Slave here does not refer to a hired servant but to a purchased slave. According to Roman law, slaves had no human rights.
As co-workers and elders we are such slaves. Paul said, "For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’ sake" (2 Cor. 4:5). This means that the believers were not to regard Paul, Peter, and others too highly simply because they were apostles and evangelists. Actually, they were the believers’ slaves. Today we also should not regard ourselves as co-workers and elders; rather, we should consider ourselves as slaves of all people to serve all people.
My greatest burden is this: I hope that the Lord will give you mercy through my fellowship in love so that you all will be convinced and realize that to be a co-worker or an elder is to be a slave. Concerning this matter, the Lord Jesus set up a good example for us. He was the Lord and the Teacher, yet He emptied Himself and girded His loins to wash His disciples’ feet, serving them as a slave (John 13:3-5). The Lord also commanded us to do as He did (vv. 12-17). We brothers who are co-workers and elders have been wrong and we all have to repent. I say this with a painful heart because we always assume the position of being above others and do not allow others to say that we are wrong. If anyone says that we are wrong, we carry a grudge in our heart. This is not the proper attitude of a slave.
For this reason, first, we want to fellowship concerning how to be a co-worker and an elder. We must know that to be the children of God does not require learning. After our regeneration, spontaneously we became God’s children, and for this we thank and praise the Lord. However, no one is a co-worker as soon as he is saved, and no one is an elder as soon as he is regenerated. To be a co-worker and an elder requires learning.
(How to Be a Co-worker and an Elder and How to Fulfill Their Obligations, Chapter 1, by Witness Lee)