Elders' Training, Book 11: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (3), by Witness Lee

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As we have seen, the purpose of the elders’ contact with people is to gain them for the increase of the kingdom of God, for the feeding and raising up, for the perfecting of the saints, and for the building up of the Body of Christ through prophesying. Our gaining of people, however, should not be through rebuke or condemnation with any kind of negative spirit, attitude, and tone. To be a good elder, the first thing one must learn is not to rebuke people. Through many mistakes, we have learned that rebuking never works. For this reason, Paul said, "And the fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but nurture them in the discipline and admonition of the Lord" (Eph. 6:4). If we do not rebuke our children when we discipline them, we will not provoke them. Provoking comes from rebuking. If a child misbehaves and we rebuke him, he will be provoked. Instead, we should spend a pleasant time with him, and in this time we will be able to pass on the proper knowledge of how to behave.

In our experience, we have discovered that there are two extremes among the elders. The first is that the elders may be those who apparently are so good. They never seem to see or hear of anything negative related to the saints. They prefer to say, "Hallelujah, praise the Lord!" to every situation. These elders are sloppy, defeated, and unprofitable. The other extreme is among those elders who are very responsible. Every responsible elder is keen and sharp. These elders take Paul’s word concerning the overseers (1 Tim. 3:1-2) and say that they must oversee how the saints are going on. It is very easy for such elders to condemn others. The elders, however, should not condemn the persons whom they contact. They should not be sloppy, but they must also not be keen in a way that leads them to condemn others. An elder that can do many things in the church without being at one extreme or the other is a successful elder. An elder needs to be one who does things without being anything. Such an elder does not rebuke or condemn. He is neither sloppy, loose, or idle, nor sharp, keen, and frank in a condemning way.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul strongly rebuked the believers in Corinth. In doing this, however, he had affliction and anguish of heart (2 Cor. 2:4). Moreover, he had no relief in his spirit until the good news came through Titus, telling him of the Corinthians’ positive response (7:6). At that time the great burden in his heart was relieved. This indicates that there was a danger in Paul’s rebuke to the believers. The Lord Jesus at times also strongly rebuked certain people. However, we are not the Lord Jesus. He surely knew how much to rebuke people and when to do it. We, however, have often rebuked people foolishly. Nothing exposes our foolishness as much as our rebuking. The more we rebuke people, the more foolish we are. We are one with Christ, but only to a partial degree. We are still too much in the old man, in the natural life. Unconsciously and unintentionally we often do the wrong things together with the right things. Therefore, it is always safer not to rebuke.

(Elders' Training, Book 11: The Eldership and the God-Ordained Way (3), Chapter 3, by Witness Lee)