SETTING UP A GROUP MEETING
We all must endeavor to start a group meeting. However, to form a group meeting is not easy. You probably will not succeed on your first attempt. You have to try again and again. You have to collect all the new ones who are under your care, and if you do not have that many, you can work together with other teams. Three teams may need to gather all their new ones together in one group meeting.
Once you all come together, you have to help the new ones by bringing them into the proper practice of the group meeting. You must be their “coach” because they are all new learners. You can help them by proposing things to them or by asking them questions. You may ask, “Brothers, what troubles have you had in these past few days?” This will help them learn how to fellowship, how to open up to one another. You may say, “In today’s society no one wants others to know his problems, but as Christians we are ‘no longer strangers and sojourners, but…members of the household of God’ (Eph. 2:19). We are brothers and sisters in Christ; therefore, we like to open ourselves to the other members of our family. It is good for us to open up to let others know about our situation.” If one of the brothers opens and lets you know about a problem, what should you do? It may be better if you do not take the lead to pray for him. Instead, you may ask the others, “What shall we do?” Then, someone may say, “Well, we have to help him.” You may say, “That is very good.” Then another may say, “Sisters, what do you feel that we should do?” A sister may answer, “We should pray for this brother.” Another will agree, “That’s right. We should pray for him, and we should pray for each other.” This brings them spontaneously into the matter of intercession.
After praying, we may be able to say something in order to usher them into the matter of the mutual care. If the brother has some sickness, you may say, “Brother, can we do anything to help you? Can we help you go see a doctor or help in some other way? Maybe you have some things you need to do but you need some help. We would like to help you.” This is to have the mutual care. This kind of care shows our genuine love to one another. Regardless of their situation, love always touches people; love always builds people up. If we only stress something so high like “the two great mysteries in God’s economy,” many people may not be able to identify with something so high. They may think, “These people must be angels. I cannot be like that.” However, if you simply come to them with tender, loving, mutual care, everyone will be deeply touched.
However, we must be balanced. If we only practice the mutual care, we will not have a high experience of Christ. We must stress the great mysteries in the Bible, yet we must practice the mutual care with tenderness and love toward one another. This will keep people, and this will build people up. In the past we have been short of this, because to exercise this kind of mutual care without meeting in small groups is very hard.
The mutual care can bring you into the practical shepherding. You may say, “Maybe tomorrow, Brother So-and-so, you can go with me to help this brother?” This is shepherding. In this way you can take the lead in the group meeting. However, you should not have any feeling, any consciousness, that you are taking the lead. Once you have this consciousness, you will become the leader, and this will kill the meeting. No one should feel that you are a leader. They should feel that you are the same as they are. Then they will follow you to do the same things.
If you show the new ones the way, they will learn to follow your example. If they do not know how to ask a question, you can show them. You may ask, “Do you all know that you have a human spirit? Do you all know what your human spirit is?” Give them this question, and let them answer. Their answers are a kind of teaching to one another. Then you may need to add something, but do not answer too quickly. If you speak too soon, it may prevent the new ones from speaking. You must encourage them to speak and give them the opportunity to say something. After their answering, you can add something, then another one may add something, and so forth. Eventually, you will have a complete answer to this question, and that becomes a very good teaching. By this all the new ones will know, see, and understand that they have a human spirit. Also, by asking in this way and answering in this way, you set up an example for them to follow.
At the end of the meeting, one of you may say, “Brothers and sisters, this is the way we have our Christian meetings. We hope to have this kind of meeting once a week. In this meeting we will have fellowship as we did tonight. We will get to know the situations of all the dear ones who meet with us. Then we will be able to pray for them, that is, to intercede for them. Then we can take care of one another and also shepherd one another. I may have some need that I cannot take care of by myself. Then I would need someone to help me. Some others may have needs that I can help them with. Because we are a big family, we like to help each other and to shepherd each other.”
“Tonight, a question was raised for all of us to answer. Do you know that all of our answers were a kind of teaching? All the answers together made up a complete teaching. According to Ephesians 4:12, it is in this way that we are perfected. Although we are not apostles, prophets, evangelists, and so forth, we believe that there are some gifted persons among us tonight who are able to do what we cannot do. However, after about four months, because we are being taught and perfected, we should be able to do many of the same things that they can do. We call this kind of meeting the group meeting, and we consider this meeting as a great part of the practical church life.” Then in the next meeting, you can introduce the basic practices of the Christian life and the church life, such as having morning watch and going out to visit people for the preaching of the gospel.
To change our way from the old practice to the new is not easy. We may want to begin a group meeting with a small number, even four or five can be enough. The best way is to begin mainly with the new ones. Then after we have set up that group meeting, we can bring in more saints. We all must try our best to have group meetings according to these few steps. First, we have to let the attendants open up that we may have fellowship. Following fellowship we will know the situation and condition of the saints so we can pray for one another. This is intercession. Then, based upon our fellowship and prayer we can render some practical care to one another and we can practice the mutual shepherding. In every group meeting, we must have some points to talk about or a question to answer. This is the mutual teaching, not by one person, but by all the attendants. Everyone can say a little bit, and even this little bit should be considered as a part of the teaching. We must try our best to practice the group meeting in this way.
(The Exercise and Practice of the God-Ordained Way, Chapter 28, by Witness Lee)