III. THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN
THE ELDERS AND THE WORKERS
The Bible shows us that the elders are appointed by the apostles. The apostles are the workers. But we must know clearly that not all the workers are apostles. If we consider it this way, it is very dangerous. It would be terrible if all it takes to become an apostle and therefore to be qualified to appoint elders is for a person to be a full-time worker. Hence, there is a difference between one worker and another. Some are commissioned, as the apostles were. Others may not have the apostolic commission. Therefore, there must also be a distinction in the relationship between the elders and the workers. With some workers, you can consider them as apostles and can take their leadership. Some other workers are young and are just learning to serve the Lord. They should still be under the leading of the elders. There is a further distinction of boundary here. If one is not clear about this boundary, there will also be confusion in the church.
IV. THE BOUNDARY BETWEEN
THE ELDERS AND THEIR RELATIVES
There is also a boundary between the elders and their relatives and even their family. Almost all the elders have a wife and children. Some elders have parents who are still living. With every family, there are relatives. The elders must know clearly the boundary between them and their relatives.
I have spoken of this matter on more than one occasion in the past. Whenever I have the opportunity, I will point out this matter. In some localities where some brothers function as elders, they also drag their wives in as elders. Some even drag their children and parents in as elders. For them, when a person becomes an elder, his whole family become elders. Perhaps you may say, "What are you talking about?" For instance, a certain Brother Chang may be functioning as an elder. One day after coming home from an elders’ meeting, upon entering his door, his wife may ask him, "What was discussed at the elders’ meeting today?" Brother Chang may say, "Oh, it was terrible! We talked about a divorce case!" Immediately, his son may ask, "Who is the brother?" The elder may reply, "It is Brother So-and-so." His daughter may continue, "Oh, then what will ever happen to his wife?" I tell you, within less than half an hour after the elders’ meeting where the divorce case was discussed, Elder Chang’s entire family are contributing their opinions about the case already. Before eight o’clock at night, when the son goes to the tutorial class, all the brothers in the son’s class also know about it. Before the next morning, all the young brothers and sisters know about it. Perhaps Sister Chang would go to a sisters’ meeting that evening. After the meeting, she would grab the sisters and say, "Sisters, we must all pray. How terrible! Brother So-and-so wants to divorce his wife!" Although they may all have good intentions in their hearts, they will stir up a storm and will make the situation a mess. For Brother Chang to do this is for him to make his whole family the elders. This will bring in an unbearable burden upon the church.
Brothers, suppose Brother Chang knows the boundary between the elders and their families. After the elders’ meeting, when he goes home and his wife asks him about the elders’ meeting, he can gently tell her: "You are not an elder; the elders’ meeting is not a matter for you to take care of." This is to have the boundary. In order to manage the church well, this boundary must be clearly drawn. Otherwise, within a year, many rumors will abound in the church, and these rumors will all come from the elders.
I wish to say this before God with a good conscience; I have no intention to be critical. In some places, the situation is simply unbearable. On the one hand, in the overseeing service of the church, the sisters are strictly kept outside the door. Yet on the other hand, the elders who serve in the church bring all the matters of the church to their wives, to the extent that the wives are even interfering with the affairs of the church. This is absolutely an abnormal situation. I can say solemnly that there is no way for such a church to avoid confusion, because there is no clear boundary between the elders and their families.
(The Elders' Management of the Church, Chapter 9, by Witness Lee)