PAUL BEING A PATTERN TO THE BELIEVERS
We may wonder how we could ever compare to the apostle Paul. But Paul said in 1 Timothy 1:16 that he was saved as the top sinner to be a pattern to all the believers. This indicates that we should do what Paul did. He is a pattern. If there is no possibility for us to be like him, his word is in vain, and this verse should not be in the Bible. But he told us clearly that God has set him up as a pattern to all those who believe in the Lord Jesus. Today we are the believers in Christ, and we all can be like Paul.
How can we be vital? We have to run the race. Have you begun to run? If not, the vital groups are just vain talk among us. I sympathize with many of us. I know that we may have difficult jobs with long hours, but we should not excuse ourselves too much. We have to labor. On this whole earth, everyone is busy. We have to be like those in the Olympics. We must discipline ourselves, exercise self-control, and buffet our body to enslave and subdue it. If we do not take this way to run, I do not believe the vital groups can be among us. The vital groups cannot be with those who are loose, lazy, or sloppy.
PRACTICING TO CONTACT PEOPLE
From now on we all have to run the race by practicing to contact people. This is not an easy thing, because we do not have this habit and practice. We need to have a change in our natural being. We should not excuse ourselves by saying that we were born to be a certain way. We may have been born to be a certain way, but we have been born again. We have had a second birth. We have been regenerated. Our being generated made us an old creation, but in regeneration God has made us a new creation, so we must be new persons.
After regeneration, we experience transformation. Transformation is not an outward correction or adjustment, but an inward, metabolic change. A number of us were born as persons who cannot contact people easily. But this training requires us to have an inward change, a transformation. We need to pray, “Lord, grant me to have a change in contacting people. I don’t like to contact people. I don’t like to be invited by others to contact them, nor do I like to invite people to contact me. I don’t have this kind of disposition. Lord, You know I don’t have this capacity. So You have to transform me, Lord.” We have to cooperate with the Lord to be transformed.
I would propose that from tomorrow morning you begin to contact people by using the telephone. Before you drive away from your home, you can make at least one phone call to someone. This will begin to build you up with a habit to contact people, to know people, and to become interested in people.
We also need to contact people before and after the church meetings, especially the Lord’s Day morning meeting. This can be the best time for us to contact people. On Saturday we could call a certain brother and say to him, “Brother, I have seen you quite often, but I have not had a time to talk with you. How about we come to the meeting tomorrow half an hour earlier to have some fellowship for about twenty minutes?” This kind of contact with the saints helps a lot.
After the Lord’s Day morning meeting is also a good time to contact people. I have observed that many brothers and sisters contact only their familiar acquaintances after the meeting. They do not go to contact the new ones in the meeting. Thus, the new ones are left as orphans. Before the meeting and after the meeting we should create an intimate and loving atmosphere in the hall. When the new ones come in, they should be able to sense the warm care and intimacy among us. A new one may not have even heard the gospel yet. He may not even have believed yet. But he will be impressed with the loving atmosphere, the intimate atmosphere, among the saints in the meeting hall.
When we contact the saints and the new ones in this way, it helps us to function in the meeting; it makes it easier for us to prophesy. Suppose I come every Lord’s Day morning, yet I do not contact anyone, and no one contacts me. Then every face looks cold to me. When I stand up to prophesy, to speak for the Lord, it is difficult because the people seem so cold. After speaking a little bit in such a cold atmosphere, it will be hard for me to continue. But if everyone is so familiar to me, some will smile at me while I am sharing. Their smiling tells me to “sail on” in my speaking for the Lord. We must have such an atmosphere in the church meeting, an atmosphere in which people know that we really love one another. We are really a big, loving, intimate family with brothers, sisters, and parents. Some older ones are really our parents in the Lord (Rom. 16:13; 1 Cor. 4:15).
No human being likes to be isolated. We all like to be flocked together. But in human society, where is a pure flock of people who love one another in an incorruptible way with much encouragement, building up, and help? Every human being would like to join such a group. I feel that we are lacking the proper atmosphere in our church meetings. We need to create such a loving atmosphere in our start of contacting people. We can make appointments with people for the Lord’s Day morning meeting by calling them on the telephone. We should try to do this.
We should also try to invite people to our home and be invited by others to their home. The Lord’s blessing will follow us if we practice this in a loving and intimate way. If a brother received a number of invitations every week, he might not be able to go, but these invitations would encourage him and make him buoyant.
The Lord charged His people, His disciples, to love one another (John 13:34). He brought a group of Galileans together to follow Him every day for three and a half years. They dropped their jobs and followed the Lord Jesus all the time. The Lord blended them together. In the Acts and the Epistles, we can see that the early apostles also carried out the same kind of blending among the saints. I am burdened to help us become blended together. We can do this by three ways: by calling others on the telephone, by contacting others on the Lord’s Day morning, and by inviting others to our home and being invited by others to their home.
When we invite others to our home, we do not have to prepare a rich feast. We should just prepare a simple meal. We are not getting together for eating. We are coming together for blending. When we come together, we talk about the Lord Jesus, about His holy Word, and about our spiritual experiences. This kind of contact will revolutionize the church. We will convert the church into a new one.
In the last message, we spoke of the Lord’s need to have a new generation. This cannot take place merely by prayer but by our contacting of people. You should contact me, I should contact you, and we all should contact one another every day, every week, every month, and every year. When we contact one another, we are meeting. To meet is to blend, and to blend is to know each other. Whoever shepherds the Lord’s flock should know every sheep.
We need to be trained to contact people. If a brother is very cold toward the Lord, how can we make him burning? We can invite him to our home or go to visit him. One day the Lord washed His disciples’ feet to show them that He loved them to the uttermost (John 13:1), and He charged His disciples to do the same to one another in love (vv. 14, 34). Today, the world is dirty, and we, the saints, are easily contaminated. For us to maintain pleasant fellowship with the Lord and with one another, we need spiritual foot-washing with the washing Holy Spirit (Titus 3:5) and the washing word (Eph. 5:26). This can be carried out when we contact one another in love. Our contact with people should not be formal and official but normal and living in every way.
If certain saints are not coming to the church meetings, we can begin to visit them once a week or once a month in a regular way according to what their situation allows. We can give them some copies of the gospel tracts we have published. We can read a phrase or a paragraph to them. Maybe this will stir them up and give them a desire to come to the meetings. There are many ways to shepherd people. My point is this—we need to build up a habit of contacting others. We should not be limited in our contact. If we have the burden to visit our relatives and acquaintances who are unbelievers, we should do this. We need to practice this one lesson—to contact people.
(The Training and the Practice of the Vital Groups, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)