SERVING IN THE BODY
The Scriptures show us clearly that no one who participates in the Lord’s work can act independently (Mark 6:7; Luke 10:1). All the services are in the church, and the church is the Body of Christ. Since it is the Body, there is no possibility for anyone to act independently. If someone insists on acting alone, no one can do anything about it. This one will have a problem before the Lord. However, according to the Lord’s arrangement and according to the requirement of life, no Christian can serve God independently in a locality. We must serve in the church, in the Body.
WORKING IN THE BODY
How then shall we work for the Lord? If we read Acts or the Epistles, we cannot find one reference to a person working independently for the Lord. In the Gospels no one among the Lord’s followers acted independently, and no one started a work independently. All who participated in the work were in step with one another and in one corporate move. On the day of Pentecost it was not Peter in Jerusalem, John in Nazareth, and James in Paphos; rather, about one hundred twenty people were gathered together (Acts 1:15b). In the church the work of the Holy Spirit does not begin with an individual but with a corporate group of people. Every move in the work must be of the Body, not of an individual.
In the book of Acts, from the first chapter to the last chapter, we can say that all the moves of the apostles were of the Body; there was no individual move. Take for example the case of Barnabas. He was raised up by the Lord and was placed in the flow of the work. Instead of sending him out as an independent worker, the Lord placed him among many co-workers. Regrettably, a problem arose halfway through the flow of the work; there was a sharp contention between Barnabas and Paul. Barnabas had an independent view and brought in an independent action (15:39). The result was that in the book of Acts the name of Barnabas is not mentioned again. From this we see that the Holy Spirit records only the work that is in the divine stream, the work of the Body. Perhaps people were still able to work independently—Barnabas surely brought more people to salvation—but the Holy Spirit did not record his name from that point on.
Therefore, we can see that the Lord’s work is entrusted to many workers; however, these workers do not work individually but corporately. When they move, it is the move of the Body. The entire book of Acts with twenty-eight chapters clearly reveals one flow of the work—flowing from Jerusalem to Antioch, then from Antioch to the land of the Gentiles, passing through Asia, Macedonia, Greece, and eventually reaching Europe. Through it all there was no independent move by any individual; rather, there was only the functioning of a corporate body.
USHERING THE NEW BELIEVERS INTO THE SERVICE
Some of the serving ones can serve only by themselves and are not able to bring others along to serve together with them. Every serving one, however, must be able to bring along some new believers to serve together with him, just like a master craftsman who brings someone along to be trained as an apprentice. This “bringing along” requires the paying of a price. In the Bible, and in the New Testament in particular, there are many examples of apprentices in serving the Lord. In the matter of learning to serve the Lord, there is no school, but there are workshops. When the new believers come into the church, they are not enrolled in a school to be students; rather, they have come to a workshop to be apprentices. For this reason all the serving ones need to have the character of not being afraid of troubles and not being afraid to pay the price but rather being willing to bring along some new ones to serve together with them.
Some of the serving ones are used to being alone and being solitary. They must allow this kind of character to be broken by the cross; otherwise, they can only do their own work alone. Throughout history there have been many serving ones who served to such an extent that they became poor and lonely without anyone coordinating with them, just like a master craftsman who does not produce an apprentice. No good businessman would open a store for ten years and yet not bring in a group of younger apprentices; no good industrialist would operate a factory for five years and yet not be able to produce many apprentices. This is the way of service revealed in the Scriptures. After serving for three years we should be able to help some new believers to become serving ones like us.
Like master craftsmen teaching apprentices, we all need to learn to bring others along to serve together with us. Only those who can bring others along in serving can learn the real lessons. In fact, those who cannot bring others along are unwilling to learn the lessons. To allow the Lord’s work to spread, all the serving ones must learn the lessons, being willing to be broken and restricted, so that they may produce more serving ones. This is the way to work. If we cannot teach others to serve, our work has no reality, and the Lord’s work has no way out of us.
(Dead to Law but Living to God, Chapter 7, by Witness Lee)